ECI-Affiliated Graduate Students

ECI-Affiliated Graduate Students

Maya Almaraz, Brown-MBL PhD StudentMaya AlmarazMaya Almaraz

B.S. Conservation and Resource Studies, UC Berkeley, 2009
B.A. Public Health, UC Berkeley 2009

Maya Almaraz is a Ph.D. student in the Brown-MBL Program. She is advised by Assistant Professor Stephen Porder (Brown-EEB) and Senior Scientist and Brown-MBL Program Director Chris Neill (MBL). Maya is interested in tropical terrestrial biogeochemical cycling, with a particular emphasis on nitrogen cycling related to global change. Denitrification is a process resulting in gaseous end members that range from inert dinitrogen to the potent greenhouse gas, nitrous oxide, and for which the controls are still poorly understood. As a participant in the PIRE project, she will focus her dissertation studies on the environmental consequences of increased fertilizer use in Sub-Saharan Africa. Her research will focus on the way nutrient additions affect the fate of nitrogen, and the potential for deleterious losses to the atmosphere. This research is geared towards maintaining crop yield in countries strongly affected by hunger while informing management decisions that are environmentally conscious. Maya is also interested in looking at tropical forests to explore the controls on denitrification and she is currently exploring this topic in the El Yunque forest of Puerto Rico.

Zac Bischoff-Mattson, Geological Sciences PhD StudentZac Bischoff-MattsonZac Bischoff-Mattson

Zac is a PhD student in the Geological Sciences program.  He is advised by Dr. Amanda Lynch.  Zac's background is in natural resources management.  His academic and professional experience spans ecological research, conservation practice, and policy.  He has been involved in threatened species policy work, large carnivore research and management, botany, forestry, wildland fire, and rangeland management.  He has worked in a variety of capacities and venues, including government agencies and NGOs.

Zac's interest centers on policy and governance, specifically social and policy process as they relate to natural resources management.  His research focus is water management in the Murray-Darling River Basin, Australia.  With Dr. Lynch he is interrogating the social and biophysical complexities of managing freshwater resources in a dynamic and contested system.  His approach is explicitly interdisciplinary and integrative, with emphasis on analytic frameworks for addressing complexity and uncertainty.  A specific focus of his attention is trans-boundary / trans-jurisdictional policy development and implementation in the Australian states of New South Wales and Victoria.

Lindsay Brin, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology PhD StudentLindsay BrinLindsay Brin

B.A. Swarthmore College (Biology and Environmental Studies), 2005
M.A. Boston University Marine Program (Biology), 2008

Lindsay is interested in the biogeochemistry of coastal systems, and, specifically, the environmental and anthropogenic controls that alter estuarine biogeochemical cycles. In her research, she takes a broad ecological perspective on questions relevant to the reciprocal interaction between humans and our environment, while using a more detailed approach toward investigating the rules that define functioning of estuarine ecosystems at a very basic, chemical level. She is working on a dissertation project with Jeremy Rich (CES) and Anne Giblin (MBL) that will focus on the role of temperature as a key driver of ecosystem processes along a latitudinal gradient. Lindsay will investigate how temperature regulates the magnitude and types of estuarine N cycling processes, by affecting both the rates of processes and the relative abundance of different functional groups within microbial communities.

Mengdi Cui, Brown-MBL PhD StudentMengdi CuiMengdi Cui

Mengdi is a 1st year Ph.D student in the joint Brown-MBL program and co-advised by Meredith Hastings and Jim Tang.  She is interested in biogeochemical cycles and climate change. Mengdi graduated from Peking University in 2011 with a B.A in Ecology and B.A. in Economics. For her undergraduate thesis, she worked on the response of spring vegetation green-up dates to climate change in the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau. She used satellite-derived NDVI to determine the green-up dates over the Plateau for over two decades. Her research emphasizes the influences of latitude and temperature on phenology in the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau. Now she is working on greenhouse gas emission measured by eddy covariance in an agricultural system at Deerfield, Massachusetts. She is also interested in greenhouse emission and nutrient cycles in tropical agricultural ecosystem in Africa.

Bronwen Konecky, Geological Sciences, PhD StudentBronwen KoneckyBronwen Konecky

Bronwen is a third-year Ph.D. student with James Russell in the Department of Geological Sciences. She is interested in applying a paleoclimate perspective to understanding abrupt climate change and precipitation variability in the tropics. Her current research focuses on East African hydroclimate variability, applying organic geochemical paleoclimate proxies to sediment cores from the African rift lakes. Bronwen received a B.A. in Environmental Science in 2005 from Barnard College, Columbia University, where she studied ecological responses to tropical deglaciation in the Andes. Before coming to Brown she worked for a sustainable development initiative at the Earth Institute at Columbia University, coordinating environmental research and development activities in rural African villages.

Chelsea Nagy, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, PhD StudentChelsea NagyChelsea Nagy

B. Phil. Environmental Science, Miami University, 2005
M.S. Forestry, Auburn University, 2009

Chelsea Nagy is a Ph.D. student in the Brown-MBL Program and she is advised by Assistant Professor Stephen Porder (Brown-EEB) and Senior Scientist and Brown-MBL Program Director Chris Neill (MBL). Her research focuses on the effects of land use change on the structure and function of two prominent forest types: riparian forests and regrowing secondary forests. Conversion of transitional forests in the Brazilian Amazon for soy production may be degrading riparian forests left as mandated by Brazilian law. These riparian zones are influenced by the edge effects commonly associated with forest fragments (e.g. altered microclimate, changes in species composition, increased tree mortality) as well as altered hydrology due to the removal of forest within the watershed. Secondary forests make up an increasing proportion of forested land throughout the tropics. In the Atlantic Forest of Brazil, secondary forests are expanding through abandonment of former agricultural land and targeted restoration projects. However, the trajectory of secondary forest regrowth depends on the land use history. She will study how nutrient limitation and productivity differ among secondary forests on land formerly used for pasture and Eucalyptus plantations and how these compare with primary forests in the region.

Chelsea Parker, Geological Sciences, PhD StudentChelsea ParkerChelsea Parker

BSc in Physical Geography, University of Bristol, U.K. in 2010

Chelsea is a second year graduate student in the Geological Sciences department working with Professor Amanda Lynch on numerical weather modeling of particularly intense tropical cyclones that made landfall in Queensland, Australia.  She is interested in investigating the physical parameters that governed the cyclones’ intensity and track and their sensitivity to changes in environmental factors such as sea surface temperature and vertical wind shear. Chelsea is coupling this work with quantifying the effect of intense tropical cyclones on reef ecosystems using remotely sensed data and survey data collected over the reefs in collaboration with the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority.  This can indicate how resilient reef ecosystems are to these natural hazards and how they may be expected to recover following the event.

In her undergraduate research, Chelsea ran global climate models of intermediate complexity to forecast possible changes to global ocean biogeochemistry, particularly pH and aragonite saturation under different CO2 emissions scenarios and how this may affect cold water corals in the North Atlantic.  Before starting at Brown University, Chelsea worked as a research assistant for a U.K. NGO on a marine conservation project in Fiji for 3 months collecting baseline survey data to contribute to a database of reef health over time and completing a BTEC diploma in Tropical Habitat Conservation.

Kara Pellowe, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, PhD StudentKara PelloweKara Pellowe

BSc in the Science of Natural and Environmental Systems, Cornell University

Kara is a first year Ph.D. student in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology advised by Professor Heather Leslie. Prior to coming to Brown, Kara received a Bachelor’s degree in the Science of Natural and Environmental Systems and a concentration in Environmental Biology from Cornell University. While at Cornell, Kara spent two field seasons studying metacommunity ecology at Shoals Marine Laboratory (Appledore Island, Maine) and one year traveling the world to study the manifold impacts of globalization on human and ecological health. Five summers spent at Shoals Marine Laboratory taking field courses, conducting research, and eventually managing the lab’s academic and research functions, were formative in Kara’s decision to pursue graduate studies in marine conservation science.

With Dr. Heather Leslie, Kara is interested in the development of metrics to quantify coastal ecosystem health, with a particular emphasis on integrating both ecological and socio-economic indicators. Kara plans to study how changes in coastal habitat affect populations of economically-important marine organisms, especially those exploited by humans for food. Her research will aim to develop indices that are appropriate to regionally-specific sets of ecological and socio-economic factors.

Miguel Segura, Geological Sciences, PhD studentMiguel SeguraMiguel Segura

MSc in Meteorology, University of  Barcelona
BA in Geography, University of Valencia

Miguel is a PhD student under the advisement of Professor Amanda Lynch. He finished his BA in Geography in 2010, collaborating actively in several external projects and participating in some international conferences. Miguel also obtained the ‘young researchers fellowship’ for two consecutive years at the Spanish Highest Research Council (CSIC), working in climate change impacts and policies in the Valencia region. He coursed his last year of undergraduate at the University of Salford, getting a broader knowledge in fields such as hydrology and glacial systems. He also became part of a project at the University of Exeter working in modeling and reanalysis of the climate change in the UK and its impacts in the British river’s temperature.

Before coming to Brown, Miguel obtained his Master in Meteorology at the school of Physics where he got a more technical and deeper knowledge of the Earth´s atmospheric system. With Professor Lynch he works in the role of cyclones in the oscillation of sea ice extension and snowpack over the Arctic. He uses numerical models, including the interaction with the oceanic system, in order to analyze their physical changes in the actual context, and so, to predict the potential impact that they could have in the climate of the region. His work is a part of an interdisciplinary project that aims to understand the changing patterns of migrations of the Polar bear in the American Arctic and the implications over the native population of that region.

Stephanie Spera, Geological Sciences, PhD StudentStephanie SperaStephanie Spera

Stephanie graduated from Washington University in St. Louis in 2011 with a B.A. in Earth and Planetary Science and love of and interest in writing and communication. As a research assistant in Wash. U.'s Remote Sensing Lab, she realized how versatile and applicable remote sensing tools were to studying all facets of the earth. While studying abroad at the University of Canterbury in 2010, she designed a research project in which she was able to apply both her geology background and interest in science communication. Her research on the volcanic hazards associated with an eruption at Mount Ngauruhoe emphasized the importance of communication between scientists, politicians, and the general population: a theme she hopes to expand upon in her research. Stephanie is currently a Ph.D. student in the Department of Geological Sciences working with Jack Mustard. She is interested in quantifying and understanding the drivers behind land-use and land-cover change. This topic is especially pertinent as the world addresses issues of growing population size and food security. Her current research is focussed on large-scale land-use/land-cover change in Mato Grosso, Brazil.

Satrio A. Wicaksono, Geological Sciences, PhD StudentSatrio WicaksonoSatrio Wicaksono

Satrio “Io” Wicaksono is a PhD student in the Geological Sciences Department; working with Dr. James Russell. Hailing from Jakarta, Indonesia, at Brown he gets a chance to study Indonesian past climates. He uses various proxies recovered from Sulawesi lake sediments to develop high-resolution late Quaternary climate and hydrological records. Io is interested in understanding the fundamentals of climate-related systems in the tropics such as the Intertropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ) and El-Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO), especially in relation to abrupt climate changes in the past. Io received his BA from Wesleyan University in 2010. His interest in the intersection of climate sciences, environmental policy and development studies had led him to double major in Earth and Environmental Sciences and Environmental Studies and also obtain the Certificate in International Relations at Wesleyan. In addition to geological research, some of his past research has also focused on Indonesia’s recent forest policies and the feasibility of implementing REDD (Reduced Emission from Deforestation and Degradation) mechanisms in Indonesia.


Xi Yang, Geological Sciences, PhD StudentXi YangXi Yang

Xi is interested in the interdisciplinary research of remote sensing, terrestrial ecosystem ecology and climate change. He focuses on understanding the environmental factors that drive vegetation phenology, the impact of changing phenology on ecosystem functioning and the seasonality of leaf traits using a combination of field work and remote sensing technique. Xi used remote sensing and phenology models at regional scale to monitor and predict the change in vegetation phenology and also designed the Standalone Phenology Observation System (SPOS) to monitor vegetation phenology on the island of Martha's Vineyard, MA. I use spectroscopy to understand the relationship between leaf traits and leaf spectroscopic properties.