Amber Stubler is a PhD student entering her third year at SoMAS. A former Petra M. Udelhofen Memorial Fund recipient, Amber was a member of the first graduating class of marine science undergraduates from Stony Brook. As an undergrad, she traveled to the island of Jamaica as part of the Tropical Marine Ecology course in 2006, and has been working in Dr. Bradley Peterson’s lab ever since.
Amber’s research interests are diverse. Her first project (and soon to be first publication) investigated herbivory on nutrient-enriched seagrasses in Discovery Bay, Jamaica. Because of her great work with seagrasses, Dr. Peterson welcomed her into the lab where she continues to do some seagrass research. However, to Amber, the most exciting aspect of her dissertation research is her biannual travels to Jamaica to conduct research on sponges.
The Discovery Bay Marine Laboratory, operated by the University of the West Indies, provides a research facility that affords Amber a unique opportunity to investigate sponge diversity, abundance and recruitment at both impacted and pristine reefs along the north shore. The major threats to these systems are mega-resorts, whose constant beach replenishment activities create an almost constantly turbid environment at nearby reefs, with devastating effects on reef health. Says Amber, “The problem is that everyone wants that perfect beach vacation, even when there isn’t naturally a beach there. Jamaica’s economy caters to its tourists and, consequently, the environment takes a back seat.” She is advised on this work by Dr. Peterson and Dr. Alan Duckworth of the Blue Ocean Institute.
Just this past year, Amber’s work with sponges has brought her to many different places around the world. In January, she again participated in the Tropical Marine Ecology course, this time as a teaching assistant and to conduct sampling for her sponge research. In March, she traveled to Wilmington, North Carolina to present her research at the Benthic Ecology Meeting. During the summer, Amber attended a 3 week sponge course in Panama. “Panama was amazing,” Amber enthuses. “Every day was filled with sponge taxonomy training, field collections and independent projects. I met some of the world’s top sponge researchers, made some great friends, and practiced my Spanish.” Next was the summer trip to Jamaica to collect more samples. And recently, after returning to the States for only a few weeks, Amber was off to Spain to present her research at the VIII World Sponge Conference.
But when she is not traversing the globe or running samples in the lab, Amber likes to shoot darts, go sailing, play with dogs, and answer the following questions….
What made you choose SoMAS?
“Honestly, I completed my undergraduate degree here, and expected to go to a different school for my graduate work. However, I took a year off after I finished my undergrad degree and worked in Brad Peterson’s lab. He does a lot of really cool ecology work, and after talking to him about my options for grad school, he offered me a spot in his lab. So really, working in Brad’s lab is what made me decide to stay at SoMAS.”
What is it like traveling to distant shores to do a significant portion of your research?
“It’s fantastic! I get to meet a lot of really great people who are doing research on the same system that I am, and there are a lot of opportunities to collaborate with researchers from around the world. The best part is that I am extremely productive when I am in the field, generally working for 10-14 hours, most of which are spent underwater or on a boat. It’s amazing how much you can get done when you are not sitting at a desk answering emails and being distracted by everyday life.”
Your favorite place to dive?
“Well, everywhere is a little bit different. In the Atlantic I would say that Cozumel, Mexico has the most interesting diving; in the Pacific it’s a toss-up between Thailand and the Great Barrier Reef.”
Favorite canal – Panama or Shinnecock?
“Definitely the Shinnecock Canal! I mean, sure the Panama Canal has size and history on its side, but the Shinnecock Canal and I go way back.”
Jerk chicken or Jamaican beef patties?
“Hmmm…that’s a tough one. Jerk chicken is probably my favorite, although everyone loves a good beef patty. Anyone who knows me knows that jerk is more my style.”