December 20, 2014

Current Students


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.  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.



Angus Angermeyer is a graduate student in the Ecology and Evolutionary Biology department at Brown. His work with Julie Huber at the MBL focuses on the exploration of microbial diversity in deep-sea hydrothermal vents. By studying the extent and composition of microbial assemblages in this system he hopes to gain insight into the process that drove early evolution on earth and, possibly, other planets.






Sarah Crosby works with Heather Leslie, Assistant Professor in Brown University’s Center for Environmental Studies and Department of Ecology & Evolutionary Biology, and Linda Deegan, Senior Scientist at the MBL Ecosystems Center. She is interested in the impact of multiple stressors (including climate change) on coastal marine ecosystems, particularly rocky shores and salt marshes.





Will Daniels is interested in how lake ecosystems respond to changing climate and nutrient regimes and how those changes are recorded in lake sediments.  He is currently examining how nutrient cycling, bacterial activity, and algal communities are affected by whole-lake fertilization experiments in the Toolik Lake region of Arctic Alaska.  He just finished participating in a diatom taxonomy course in Iowa and plans to apply this tool to his ongoing work.  Will is co-advised by Anne Giblin of the Ecosystem Center and Jim Russell in Brown’s Department of Geological Sciences.




Catherine Luria recently completed her third year in the Brown-MBL Graduate Program, advised by Linda Amaral Zettler at the MBL and Jeremy Rich at Brown University. She works annually at a field station on the Antarctic Peninsula, where she participates in the Palmer Station Long Term Ecological Research (LTER) project. Catherine is examining not only how microbial communities in this region change across study sites, seasons, and years, but also what factors drive microbial seasonal succession on a backdrop of rapid climate change. She is particularly interested in the effects of annual sea ice advance and retreat on microbial communities. She will return to Antarctica to continue her research throughout her studies.




Marc Mayes studies processes driving land cover/land use change and their impacts for terrestrial carbon (C) and nitrogen (N) biogeochemistry, as well as availability of other natural resources (wood, water) at landscape spatial scales.  He is passionate about pursuing research on policy-oriented science questions with relevance for communities at local scales as well as global issues.  His research combines development and testing of satellite remote sensing and GIS tools for studying landscape change with field and lab work to study vegetation and soil chemistry.  Ultimately he plans to incorporate study of feedbacks between land cover/use and climate change into his PhD research.   Marc has been involved in paleoclimate and terrestrial biogeochemistry research in East Africa since 2007, and via his M.S. research, study of the effects of land use and soil parent materials on soil carbon and nitrogen stocks in the Konya Basin, central Turkey (ongoing).  In the Brown-MBL program, Marc is involved in the NSF-PIRE project (PI: Chris Neill), which is studying the impacts of Millennium Village Project agricultural development interventions on C and N cycling.  At Brown, Marc is advised by Jack Mustard, and at MBL by Dr. Jerry Melillo.



Chelsea Nagy, advised by Chris Neill at the MBL and Stephen Porder at Brown, studies how land-use changes impact forest health in the Amazon soybean-growing region of Brazil.  Chelsea recently received a three year EPA Star  (Science  to Achieve Results) Research Award.





Apollonya Porcelli
is a graduate student in the department of Sociology. She works both with Leah Vanwey of the Sociology Department and Chris Neill of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology and MBL. She is affiliated with the Environmental Change Initiative (ECI), the Population Studies Training Center (PSTC) and the Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies (CLACS). She is interested in studying coupled human and natural systems. Her primary study site is in Brazil, focusing on the effects of the Belo Monte dam on fishing communities and fish populations. By narrowing in on a specific culture group, she will be able to study specifically the implications that culture has on social networks, migration and access to natural capital.




Victor Schmidt, a Ph.D. student in the Ecology and Evolutionary Biology Department at Brown, is advised by Linda Amaral Zettler at the MBL and Katherine Smith at Brown.  He is primarily interested in the influence microbial community shifts can have on disease development, pathogen transmission, human and ecosystem health. His current research follows the microbiomes associated with ornamental fish across a trade route, the influence of a sewage outfall in a saltmarsh, and a meta-analyses of human pathogens from previously sequenced datasets of host-associated and environmental samples publicly available on the VAMPS website.




keithSpanglerphotoKeith Spangler is a Ph.D. student in the Department of Geological Sciences studying regional climate and land use in the Brazilian Amazon. He is working with Chris Neill at MBL, Mike Coe at Woods Hole Research Center, and Amanda Lynch and Jack Mustard at Brown to develop a comprehensive climate and land use model for the Mato Grosso region. His work is part of an interdisciplinary research group in the Environmental Change Initiative at Brown that considers physical and social dimensions of environmental change in Brazil.




pic2Akash Srivastava, a Ph.D. student in the Molecular Biology, Cell Biology and Biochemistry Department at Brown, is advised by Marko Horb at the MBL’s Bell Center for Regenerative Biology and Tissue Engineering. The project in which he is involved focuses on cell-based therapies in diabetes research.   Cell-based therapies in diabetes research are primarily focused on using stem cells to produce pancreatic beta cells in vitro for transplantation. An alternative strategy is to generate pancreatic tissue from other tissues already present in the body, which would provide for an abundance of tissue and eliminate the risk of transplant rejection. Previous studies have shown transdifferentiation of liver cells to pancreatic cells by overexpressing pancreas-specific transcription factors Pdx1-VP16 and Ptf1a-VP16 into the liver of Xenopus larvae, but the molecular mechanism of this process is currently unknown. Furthermore, in order to use this strategy for the treatment of diabetes it is important to understand the genetic network, which is responsible for producing pancreatic “beta cells” in the transdifferentiated liver. Akash is interested in understanding the molecular mechanism of this process which will help convert liver cells into pancreatic cells in a more controlled manner


Mai Tran is a graduate student in the Physics Department at Brown. At the MBL, she works with Rudolf Oldenbourg in the Cellular Dynamics Program. She is interested in the use of light field imaging using polarized light to characterize the 3 dimensional distribution of birefringence in biological tissues such as collagen matrices. Important aspects of the 3D architecture of the tissue can be monitored using polarized light field microscopy. Her general research interests include optics and photonics, biophysics and nanoscience and nanotechnology.





Yinsui_Zheng_photoYinsui Zheng is a first year Ph.D student in the Department of Geological Sciences at Brown. She is co-advised by Yongsong Huang at Brown and Maureen Conte at the Ecosystems Center at MBL.  She is interested in the study of paleoclimate change and paleoecology systems and will conduct research by analyzing the elements of samples with XRF, compound specific hydrogen and carbon isotope analyses and other geochemistry and paleoecological approaches. Yinsui will use these organic geochemical tracers to study the past climate of the Northern Amazon and its sensitivity to large-scale Atlantic climate forcing. She will be analyzing the precipitation and paleoecological records of a lake sediment core from Lac Toponowini in French Guiana.