Kayla Filjon is a Morton Fellow in her senior year pursuing a bachelor’s degree in Marine Biology at FAU’s Harriet L. Wilkes Honors College.
Under the Morton Research Forum, Kayla will evaluate heat stress’s effects on fragmented sponge tissue regeneration. In comparing the growth of high and low microbially abundant sponge species, she hopes to observe the relationship between the degree of symbiosis and the ability to regenerate under stress.
Kayla is fascinated by marine invertebrates and wishes to dive deeper into the research of reef health in the wake of climate change. Moving from her birthplace, South Africa, to Texas, and then to Florida, Kayla hopes to have a global career and extend her research efforts across country borders.
As you might see, Kayla’s best friend is her dog, Ava, and she loves to spend every minute with her she can on the beach or at local parks.
Ainsley Battista is a senior at FAU’s Harriet L Wilkes Honors college pursing a bachelor's degree in marine biology and scientific illustration.
Coming from central Florida, Ainsley has always had a fascination for the marine life she grew up with. In her studies she hopes to bring together areas of both science and art.
Through her work in the lab, she hopes to dive deeper into her interest in marine invertebrates and investigate the development and anatomy of such organisms.
Braden Giebels-Haggart is a junior at FAU's Harriet L. Wilkes Honors College. He is a Henry Morrison Flagler scholar pursuing a bachelor's degree in Marine Biology and Environmental Studies.
Braden is currently evaluating sponge buds (asexual reproductive structure) attachment and survival in our Sponge Nursery. However, his primary interests lie in the population dynamics of cetaceans. He has experience in research aboard a whale watch, where he collected behavioral data and participated in photo identification efforts on humpback whales. He hopes to further understand these animals on a genomic level to explore their relationships and diversity.
Braden aims to earn his Ph.D. and pursue research and education. He aspires to inform and influence conservation efforts for threatened and endangered populations. In his free time, he enjoys diving, kayaking, and playing the piano and viola.
Camila Rimoldi Ibanez is a Junior at Florida Atlantic University's Harriet Wilkes Honors College majoring in Marine Biology and minoring in Environmental Studies. She is currently participating in Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institutes' Semester by the Sea program.
She has worked on hard coral and sponge interaction research and now is working on her Honor's thesis, "Sound Perception and Emission in Corals". In her thesis, Camila aims to understand if corals may communicate with sounds and if this is affected by stress from increased temperatures induced by climate change.
Originally from Argentina and then Central Florida, Camila has carried her passion for science across continents. She loves to use research as a way to better understand the marine world. As a career, Camila hopes to attain a Master or Ph.D. and continue marine research to help advise in legislation to protect the marine environment. In her free time, she enjoys yoga, baking, and listening to music.
Ashley Bobnar is a Morton Fellow in her senior year at the Harriet L. Wilkes Honors College of Florida Atlantic University, pursuing a bachelor’s degree in Marine Biology.
Ashley’s research focus is on the growth and development of sponge recruits in our land-based nursery to determine a timeline of the post-settlement developmental stages in four species of marine sponges.
While she has an affinity for the ocean as an entirety, her specific interests are directed towards elasmobranch ecology, in terms of habitat-use, movement and migration patterns, predator-prey interactions, fisheries interactions, and conservation. Ashley hopes to attend graduate school for her master’s degree and doctorate degree, where she aims to continue with marine research.
In her free time, she can usually be found in the water snorkeling or diving, or at the gym working towards fitness goals.
Camille Berardone is in her senior year at the Harriet L. Wilkes Honors College of Florida Atlantic University, where she is pursuing a double major in Marine Biology and Environmental Science. She is also a member of the Morton Fellowship Research Forum.
Camille’s research focuses on the fecundity and larval settlement of three species of brooding sponges, a project which is a part of our novel land-based nursery.
Growing up in South Florida, she has always had a deep connection with the outdoors and marine life. After graduation, Camille will be participating in HBOI’s Summer Internship Program with Dr. Annie Page-Karjian and later attending the College of Charleston’s Graduate Program in Marine Biology for her master’s degree, where she will focus on studying sea turtle ecology and marine conservation.
In her spare time, Camille can be found at the beach, reading, or spending time with her friends.
Bilal graduated with a bachelors degree in Cellular Neuroscience from FAU’s Wilkes Honors College. He obtained the Outstanding Scholar Medallion Award, one of the most prestigious awards at the FAU- Wilkes Honors College.
Bilal completed his honors thesis, “Tedania ignis Cell Fractions: their Symbionts and Serotonin”. He diligently learned, organized and improved lab protocols. He gave an outstanding presentation of his thesis results at the Wilkes Honors College - 20th Annual Symposium for Scholarly and Creative Research on April 1, 2022.
Since he can can remember, Bilal has always considered himself a naturalist and outdoor enthusiast. Bilal is also interested in medicine, and hopes to attend medical school in the future.
Valentina Garcia-Nunes (Fall 2021 - Spring 2022)
Valentina graduated with a bachelors degree in in Marine Biology with minors in Environmental Science and Spanish Literature from FAU’s Wilkes Honors College.
Her thesis "Larvae release potential in five brooding sponge species" focused on sponge larvae and sponge reproductive cycles. She presented her thesis results at the Benthic Ecology Meeting in March 2022.
Growing up in Venezuela and then in Florida, with two scuba diver parents, Valentina has always been surrounded by marine life.
In the future, she hopes to work on conservation and focus her research to help implement effective conservation measures internationally.
Alexandra Perez (Summer 2021 - Spring 2022)
Alex graduated with a bachelor's degree in Marine Biology and Environmental Science from FAU’s Wilkes Honors College. Her thesis
"Do sponges Niphates digitalis and N. erecta survive a multi-year coral reef bleaching event? won an outstanding thesis award at the Honors College.
She has a passion for conservation of both marine and terrestrial organisms. Alex love in marine biology started at a young age after she saw her first shark snorkeling when she was five. She is specifically interested in the effect of microplastics on marine organisms and how they transfer throughout the food web.
She is planning in attending vet school to become a wildlife vet focusing on rescue, rehabilitation and release of marine vertebrates.
Kasey was a Morton Fellow and did research on the survival and recruitment of sponge larvae and buds in our pilot sponge land-based nursery.
Kasey is a current student in her junior year at FAU’s Harriet L. Wilkes Honors College working toward a bachelor’s degree with a concentration in Mathematics.
She grew up in Florida, always a stone’s throw away from a body of water. She loves the ocean, with a special interest in marine mammals and coral reef ecosystems. In her free time, Kasey can be found at the beach with a book in hand.
Amanda is a current student in her senior year at FAU's Harriet L. Wilkes Honors College working toward a bachelor's degree with a concentration in Marine Biology and a minor in Environmental Science. She grew up in Florida and has always had a deep love for the ocean with specific interests pertaining to shark and ray morphology, and population ecology of sponges. In her future research she hopes to study the impacts of climate change on coral reef creatures, and understand the specific impacts from ocean acidification, sea temperature rise, and storms.
Shannon Bieniek (Fall 2020 - Fall 2021)
Kinar Oguz (Fall 2020 - Spring 2021)
Kinar is a senior year student at FAU's Harriet L. Wilkes Honors College working toward a bachelor's degree with a concentration in Biology. Her honors thesis is a meta-analysis to estimate the anti-cancer potential of sponges from the Indian River Lagoon.
She has been accepted at the PBA- Pharmacy school.
Maggie Boing (Summer 2020 - Spring 2021)
Christelle Alcinor (Fall 2020 - Spring 2021)
Christelle is in her senior year at FAU's Harriet L. Wilkes Honors College working toward a bachelor's degree with a concentration in Biology. She grew up in Haiti and Florida and is interested in biotechnology and pharmacy. Christelle's honors thesis is on evaluating techniques to measure serotonin (5HT) on marine sponges. She enjoys her time in the lab. Christelle also enjoys reading books and would like to write a book one day.
Meghan Riddle graduated from the FAU- Wilkes Honors College in May 2020. She plans on attending graduate school at the University of Miami.
Meghan transferred to Florida Atlantic University in the Fall of 2018, after finishing her college softball career at various universities, including Duke University and Florida Gulf Coast University.
Meghan did her honors thesis on taxonomy and ecology of sponges from the Indian River Lagoon (IRL). Beside sponges, her research interests include sharks, environmental consulting, and environmental legislative policy.
As an undergraduate, Meghan was a laboratory assistant at St. Thomas University, where she focused on drug discovery and anti-cancer agents affecting breast cancer. She also worked alongside research scientists tagging bull sharks and studying their movements, migration patterns and behaviors in the Loxahatchee River system.
Kyle graduated with a bachelor's in Marine Biology from FAU Wilkes Honors College in May 2019. His honors thesis was on the ecology of two reef fish communities in SE Florida. Since graduation, he has been volunteering in our Lab, and he is currently doing research on the reproduction of the octocoral Pseudopterogorgia sp..
His interest in marine ecology stems from the desire to understand how physical environmental factors impact the ecology of marine environments. Outside of the lab, he is an avid diver, kayaker, and hiker.
Kyle looks forward to continuing his research as he pursues higher education, he plans to attend graduate school in 2020 and study marine ecology and biological oceanography.
Mateo received a bachelors with a major in Public Management and a minor in Nonprofit Management from Florida Atlantic University in 2017. However, he got into scuba diving and he discovered a whole new world full of life and wonder that he couldn’t stand to be apart from. His interests include marine conservation and coral reef ecology. As an honor student, Mateo joined the lab for two terms, and then decided to focus his career on the Scuba Diving Business in Jupiter, FL. He has always lived in South Florida and have loved the outdoors and the ocean. To quote Jules Verne, "The sea is everything. It covers seven tenths of the terrestrial globe. Its breath is pure and healthy. It is an immense desert, where man is never lonely, for he feels life stirring on all sides."