Research Assistant - SpongeDNA

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email: NHM & LJMU

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Hi, I’m Erika (she/her). I join Professor Mariani’s group as a Research Assistant for the SpongeDNA project. The project explores using the innate filter feeding ability of sponges as a means of collecting DNA— which organisms shed as they swim. We hope to describe the efficacy of sponges as a biomonitoring tool and in turn describe the biodiversity of a range of marine environments!

I earned a B.Sc. in Marine Biology from the Florida Institute of Technology and a M.Sc. in Marine Sciences from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. From my degrees, I am formally trained as a community ecologist and biological oceanographer. During my time in the Mariani group, I would like to hone my skills as an ecologist and bioinformatician as well as learn about applications of genetics and genomics to conservation. I am particularly excited to be involved in SpongeDNA because it presents a novel way to explore the biodiversity of remote places like the deep sea and to manage marine protected areas. My career goal is to become a lead scientist and improve our understanding of how climate change and environmental stressors affect marine ecosystems at management relevant scales. I’m interested in innovative ways to observe ocean ecosystems and would like to help push these boundaries to provide better data to parameterize ecosystem models, often used for management decision-making—ultimately, I hope to help humans better conserve living marine resources.

Outside of science I love eating coconuts or coconut products (think coconut water), cuddling with my cat, and playing ultimate frisbee.

If you are an undergraduate or anyone considering a career in science and you would like some help finding scholarships or have questions about academic research/marine biology/etc. please do not hesitate to contact me via email or social media. I love chatting about these things. Science is creative. Science benefits from people of many backgrounds and different strengths. Science is for everyone.

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