My research group is comprised of diverse, dynamic, enthusiastic and collaborative folks. I encourage you to get in touch with them to learn more about their research.


Caitie Kuempel


Caitie Kuempel is a conservation scientist working at the interface of science and policy. She is passionate about finding ways to meet the needs of the growing human population while minimizing impacts on the environment – particularly in the world’s oceans. Her expertise lies at the nexus of spatial conservation planning and sustainable food production. She joined NCEAS in September 2018 and is part of the “Comparing the environmental impacts of global food systems” working group. Currently, her work is focused on quantifying, mapping and comparing the environmental impacts of major food systems across the land and sea. Caitie completed her PhD at the University of Queensland in December 2018, where her research analyzed trade-offs in meeting quantitative and qualitative protected area objectives under the umbrella of international conservation agreements. Caitie also holds degrees in marine biology (M.S. Northeastern University, 2013), environmental science (B.S., University of Iowa, 2012) and French (B.A., University of Iowa, 2012).


Maya Almaraz

MayaMaya Almaraz is a Biogeochemist and Environmental Scientist whose research focuses nitrogen cycling, climate change, and food systems. Maya is currently a Postdoctoral Fellow working with World Wildlife Fund and the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis on a sustainable food systems project. Before NCEAS, Maya was a National Science Postdoctoral Fellow in Biology at UC Davis, where she studied the feedbacks between agriculture, air quality, and climate change. Maya received her doctorate from Brown University in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, as well as undergraduate degrees from UC Berkeley in Public Health (BA) and Conservation and Resource Studies (BS).


Whitney Friedman

FriedmanW_CroppedWhitney is an interdisciplinary scientist aiming to bridge science and community engagement to promote sustainable marine ecosystems and resilient coastal communities. Her research has spanned across multiple systems, from social and cognitive complexity of wild bottlenose dolphins to the dynamics of the California Current Large Marine Ecosystem. Whitney joined NCEAS in September 2018 as a NatureNet and SNAPP postdoctoral scholar. Her current work focuses on whether geomorphic features of global marine ecosystems are consistently associated with increased productivity, and whether protection of these areas is likely to promote resilience. Whitney is also working with the SNAPP Coastal Outcomes group to identify the kinds of management strategies that increase ecological and social benefits under different types of socioeconomic contexts. She previously worked as a postdoctoral scholar at NOAA Fisheries and received her PhD from UC San Diego.


Halley Froelich

halley_picHalley Froehlich is a postdoctoral researcher for the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis, involved with the SNAP working group evaluating the sustainability of open-ocean aquaculture around the globe. Halley received her Ph.D. in 2015 from the School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences, University of Washington. As a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellow, she took an interdisciplinary approach studying the effects of human and natural-based low oxygen disturbances (i.e., hypoxia) on marine organisms. A key facet of Halley’s graduate and postdoctoral research is linking important ecological questions with conservation and management objectives.

Mireia Valle

 MireiaValleMireia Valle is a postdoctoral researcher from the Basque Centre for Climate Change (BC3). She will be based on NCEAS for the first two years of her postdoctoral research program, which will last 3 years. With her research, she wants to envision the social-ecological future of seascapes under climate change to help us address some of the problems that marine ecosystems are facing around the world. To do so, she will focus on marine fish functional and cultural traits. Mireia has been involved in the Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) Regional Assessment of the Americas. The objective of this initiative is to provide relevant data to support decision making for conservation policy and management worldwide. She collaborated on Chapter 5 of the Americas assessment, “Current and Future Interactions between Nature and Society”.

Graduate Students
Alexa Fredston-Hermann

official headshot 1__1392752080_192.111.218.8Alexa Fredston-Hermann is a PhD student at UC Santa Barbara, focusing on marine ecology. Previously, she completed a two-year High Meadows Fellowship at Environmental Defense Fund, collaborating with stakeholders to improve management of the West Coast groundfish fishery. Alexa’s undergraduate work in the Ecology and Evolutionary Biology department at Princeton University included paleoecology research on shifting baselines in Caribbean coral reefs.
Patricia Cecelia Faundez Baez
Patricia_photoPatricia is a marine biologist, interested in marine conservation. She studied at the University of Concepcion in Chile, where she also was trained as a researcher working in an interdisciplinary scientific team. After that, she worked as an environmental consultant in Chile on a variety of conservation projects including biodiversity strategies and MPA planning, always in collaboration with stakeholders. Recently, she has worked as a GIS technician in the Gaines’s lab and McClintock’s lab at the Institute of Marine Sciences at UCSB, where she focused on making a diagnostic for marine spatial planning processes in Latin America and the Caribbean.
Michael Burgass
IMG-20140623-WA0001Mike is a PhD student at Imperial College London where he is working on applying the Ocean Health Index to the Arctic and Southern Oceans, including mapping and forecasting of cumulative impacts from current and emerging uses. Mike has previously been working as an environmental consultant, primarily focused on producing environmental impact assessments for a variety of terrestrial and marine projects in the Middle East and Caspian regions.
 MollyWilsonMolly Wilson is a Ph.D. student at U.C. Santa Barbara interested in integrating both social and ecological research to improve small-scale fisheries management. Her current research aims to assess the behavioral effects of fishing on coral reef ecosystems in Antigua and Bonaire, as well as the social and ecological implications of changes in fish behavior. Molly is also part of an ongoing project utilizing social network analyses, community surveys, and spearfishing selectivity studies to better understand drivers of fisher behavior in the Dominican Republic.
Sebastian Tapia
 SebastianSebastián is a PhD student at the Bren School, hoping to generate a better understanding of human responses to climate change in coastal systems. While documentation and predictions of marine species’ responses to climate change have greatly increased in recent years, we still know little about the human dimensions of adaptation to climate change. To date, the study of these human dimensions has focused on the idea of adaptive capacity, which addresses the ability of individuals and societies to cope with and respond to change. However, these studies have been mainly theoretical or descriptive and mostly based in case studies. For his PhD dissertation, Sebastián is exploring the human dimensions of climate change adaptation using a national-wide interview campaign coupled with agent-based modelling. First, Sebastián is assessing potential relationships between Adaptive Capacity indicators and actual adaptations of small-scale fishers to climate change effects in fisheries catch. He will then address the overall effect that these human responses have on the ecosystems that these fishers depend on. Sebastián hopes his research will inform and shape the evolution of existing institutions so they can integrate resilience-based management for small-scale fisheries in the light of a changing environment.
Casey O’Hara
caseyCasey’s interests in marine conservation, science communication, and environmental equity inform his work with the Ocean Health Index, adapting the OHI framework to understand the unique social, economic, and ecological context of British Columbia’s coast.  As part of his Masters thesis project at UCSB’s Bren School, he developed a spatial analysis tool to help the Bermuda government understand tradeoffs among ecological and economic values of offshore wind energy development.  He wrote on environmental issues for The Oregonian as an AAAS Mass Media Fellow in summer 2014, and remains active as a Senior Teaching Fellow with the Knowles Science Teaching Foundation.

Research Scientists
Julie Stewart Lowndes
Juliejulie portrait2 a marine biologist interested in bridging science and resource management. She does this as part of the Ocean Health Index team by facilitating the adaptation of the OHI methodology to scales at which political decisions are made. Her PhD dissertation at Stanford University’s Hopkins Marine Station was also highly collaborative and aimed to inform the potential effects of Humboldt squid on coastal fisheries.

Courtney Scarborough
Scarborough_website1Courtney is an Assistant Project Scientist working on the Ocean Health Index and Ocean Tipping Points projects. Her research interests lie at the intersection of innovative marine science and applied management solutions.

Jamie Afflerbach
jamieJamie is a research assistant working on the Arctic Options project and the Ocean Health Index. She earned her B.Sc. from the University of Miami and a Masters degree from the Bren School of Environmental Science and Management at UCSB. Previously Jamie has worked on projects in coral reef ecology, small scale fisheries and marine mammal conservation. At NCEAS Jamie uses open-source analytical tools to explore and synthesize spatial data to better understand human impacts to the global oceans.

Melanie Frazier
FrazierWebPhoto2Melanie works on the analyses and software development of the Ocean Health Index.  She likes finding novel ways to make complex data accessible and useful.


Committee Member
I also have served on the thesis committee for several students, including Gerald Singh (UBC), Erendira Aceves (UCSB), Emma Hodgson (UW), and Becky Wright (UCSB).

Past members of my research group include:

Katie Longo (now at Marine Stewardship Council)

Mary Hunsicker
Caitlin Crain
Crow White (now a professor at Cal-Poly San Luis Obispo)
Jennifer O’Leary (now at Stanford University)

Graduate Students
Cris Elfes
Shaun Walbridge (Masters, 2012; now at ESRI)

Ben Best
Darren Hardy (now at Stanford University)
Colin Ebert
Ning Jiang
Dan Yocum

Research Assistants
Marla Ranelletti (now at Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History)