Highlights From Our Recent Graduates

This Friday, the School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences will celebrate our graduating students at Convocation, where 101 undergraduate and 36 graduate students will have their degrees conferred.  Profiles for a few of our graduating students are highlighted below.

Congratulations to our graduates and best of luck on your future endeavors!


Ashley Landrein (second from left in the image on the right) picked the Ecosystems and Human Impact major out of all of the majors at SBU because she liked the idea of solving environmental problems. She wants to get an advanced degree in Evolution or Environmental Science, but she could be a stand-up comic in the way she addresses issues–personal and academic–with the same deadpan analysis. You blink at something she’s just said, and then you either laugh because she’s delivered a killer joke, or you say, “Oh, yeah. I wish I’d have thought of that.”

Ashley conducted her Honor’s research in the Worm Lab because she wanted to know more about how a common herbicide, Roundup, impacted the environment and non-target organisms like earthworms. She knew from a literature review that many ecotoxicologist had studied the impact of glyphosate, the active ingredient of Roundup, on earthworms, but the effect of the Roundup formulations remained unstudied. She thought this was crazy because no one uses glyphosate to kill weeds. They use Roundup formulations. Under her leadership, her group found that Roundup Ready To Use has a stronger environmental impact than Roundup Super Concentrate, and that both formulations were more deadly to earthworms than was glyphosate alone. There are dozens of Roundup formulations out there, all used in different ways. Ashley understands that we need to assess the costs of using these week killers even as we appreciate the benefits.

Shauna Wright completed a double major in Environmental Design, Policy, and Planning and in Coastal Environmental Studies. In the picture on the right, Shauna (center) is with her team in EDP 404: Environmental Design Project presenting their Wopowog Garden proposal to the Faculty Student Association in East Side Dining. She was also a student co-chair of the Earthstock Planning Committee.

This summer she will study coral reef restoration at the Mote Marine Laboratory and Aquarium in Florida.

Yuman Xu (far left in the picture on the right) cares passionately about environmental issues in both China and the United States. With her GPA of 3.8, every door is opened for her, but she has her sights set on an environmental career that requires both hands-on action and intellectual skills. Yuman’s public speaking skills are second-to-none, and she raises the academic bar for students who collaborate with her on any project. As a member of the Worm Lab, she studied the impact of artificial turf on earthworms, looking specifically for damaged mitochondrial DNA. She’ll make a great asset for any scientific consulting or environmental group!

Maria Grima is an outstanding Environmental Studies student who has demonstrated that her enthusiasm for a fulfilling life extends beyond the classroom. She embraces making the world a better place through her actions. Most recently, she played a major role in SBU’s Earthstock event, giving the “Green Pledge” to the many participants at the opening ceremony. She also stepped in at the last minute to participate in Earthstock’s “Great Debate,” which required considerable late night studying. She represented her position admirably.

Maria (far right in the picture on the right) was an undergraduate winner of the 2017 Evan R. Liblit Memorial Scholarship, given for outstanding academic accomplishments in the environmental sciences including waste management, for her numerous efforts to promote sustainability and the environment. This is the largest award for an undergraduate in SoMAS and is extremely competitive. Her acceptance speech at the award ceremony was extremely gracious and powerful. The audience was so impressed that one of the engineering consulting firms offered her a job on the spot.

Christina Giordanella completed a double major in Coastal Environmental Studies and Sustainability Studies. Her Honors College project focused on growing algae both to remove excess nutrients from water and to use a source of biodiesel. She founded the Stony Brook University chapter of the Climate Reality Project.

Christina will begin law school in the Fall, but first plans to tour England, Scotland, and Wales with her grandmother this summer.

Growing up on Long Island, Peter Larios has always had a fascination with the ocean. Whether it was fishing, clamming, or SCUBA diving, he knew since he was a child that the water would shape his career path. Now as a graduate of Stony Brook University’s School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences with a degree in Marine Sciences, the journey is just beginning.
This coming June and November he will be participating in the ADEON project with professor Joe Warren, spending three weeks on the continental shelf (150 miles offshore) on the University of Rhode Island’s R/V Endeavor.
For 2 weeks in August he will be participating in a renewable energy capstone project in Iceland as part of the GREEN Program.
And in the spring of 2018 he will be returning to Stony Brook to complete his advanced graduate certificate in geospatial sciences, with his ultimate goal being employment by an environmental consulting company.

When Dr. Sharon Pochron first met Brooke Arena (far right in the image to the right) as her Major Advisor, she remembers her saying how she “wanted to be a conservation biologist more than anything in the world.” Brooke had dyed the tips of her blonde hair green, her backpack was covered with environmental pins and patches, and all she wanted to talk about was animals. She had a high GPA, but when it was suggested that she apply to graduate school, Brooke literally froze. She didn’t think she had it in her to take the chemistry and calculus. But she did. She took those hard classes and aced them.

Brooke conducted an Honor’s thesis in the Earthworm Toxicology Lab, leading a group of students as they tackled an environmental question of civic importance. They wanted to know if people could be eating livestock pharmaceuticals when they ate the peas grown in their back yards. After assessing the contamination pathway (from horses with worms, to medicine, to poop, to compost), Brooke led her team through the rigors of creating potentially contaminated plants and testing them for contamination. The answer does not exist in the literature, but Brooke and her team demonstrated clearly that your garden peas are capable of bioaccumulating pharmaceuticals meant to kill intestinal worms in cows, sheep and horses. When Brooke graduates with her Bachelors in Ecosystems and Human Impact, she’ll be entering the MS program in Ecology and Evolution here at Stony Brook University.

If you’ve attended Earthstock or catch the Stony Brook News, Matthew McDermott should be a familiar face at Stony Brook University. Matthew, an Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences major, is also a member of the Stony Brook Meteorology Club, where this year he serves as Treasurer.  Last year he was the Journalism Coordinator for the club.  He has taken full advantage of the collaborations between SoMAS and the School of Journalism and delivers the weather in the weekly Stony Brook Newscast.  He even suited up in the rain for an in-the-field report on the live broadcast at this year’s Roth Regatta!

But where Matthew may be most recognizable is at Earthstock, where he has helped celebrate Earth Day at Stony Brook University hidden behind the mask of our lobster.  Matthew’s enthusiasm and dancing ability provide a welcoming personality to our lobster, and he has been captured in many photos at Earthstock. His favorite memory as the lobster was “dancing around crazily and of course photobombing everyone’s photos.” And even better is the fact that he “can talk to people through the costume, but a lot of the time, they have no idea it’s me!”

Matthew is currently applying for jobs once he graduates, but he would really like to travel a bit across Europe and in the U.S.  He’s not ruling out graduate school, either.

Abigail Higgins is a Biology major with a minor in Ecosystems and Human Impact from upstate New York.  She has always been interested in the way plants and animals interact with their environment and this has carried over into the research she has been a part of here at Stony Brook. Her interest in research began when she decided to take an Entering Research Workshop offered here at Stony Brook the spring of her sophomore year, and in the fall, she joined Dr. Ivan Chase’s lab.  While being a part of this lab, she has aided in experiments on dominance behaviors in African Cichlid. This past summer, she also took part in an experiment looking at the morphology of local hermit crabs. Last summer, Abigail also joined Dr. Heather Lynch’s lab and has been analyzing at-sea bird distributions in the Southern Ocean with her mentor Michael Schrimpf. This semester Abigail took a class on research in ecotoxicology in Dr. Sharon Pochron’s lab. She presented her research project from the Lynch lab and a group project from Dr. Pochron’s lab at the 2018 URECA Symposium.  Outside of performing research, Abigail loves to be outdoors and has been a part of the Stony Brook Sierra Club for the past two years, currently serving as secretary. After graduation, she plans on taking a gap year before attending graduate school to continue to pursue research in ecology. This summer she will be working at Old Westbury Gardens as an Environmental Education Intern.  She was one of 10 students featured as the May 2018 URECA Researchers of the Month.
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