College of Science & Mathematics
Master of Science in Marine & Environmental Science

Welcome 2021 Cohort!


Current Students-2020 Cohort

Previous Cohorts - Current Students

  • Kayla Budd - Hello! My name is Kayla Budd, and I am from the small town of Hymera, Indiana. Growing up, I was always fascinated by nature and especially by the ocean. I earned a B.S. in Ecology and Environmental Biology from the University of Wisconsin - Eau Claire. There the Ronald E. McNair Postbaccalaureate Acnievement Program encouraged and enabled me to participate in several undergraduate research projects and to study abroad. During an internship at the Charles Darwin Research Station in Galapagos, Ecuador, I reafirmed my love for marine life, research, and marine ecology. My passion lies in finding effective solutions that work both for the environment and for the people who depend upon it. I am currently working with Dr. Richard Nemeth to address terrestrial sedimentation and inform watershed management by engaging the public through a social media app and examine the fate and behavioral changes of  coral-associated cleaner gobies following disease outbreaks. I spend my free time volunteering as part of the St. Thomas Coral Disease Strike Team or photographing the beautiful island I now call home. Contact:
  • Kaya Carrion-Banuchi - I was born and raised in Puerto Rico and have always been in love with boats, fishing, and diving. I completed my BS in Florida International University where I worked in a seagrass ecology lab focused on monitoring seagrass meadows through the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. Although I loved my time in Miami and the Keys, I missed life in the Caribbean, which led me to St. Thomas. Here at UVI, I am working as a research assistant for Tyler Smith’s lab on ciguatera fish poisoning, a marine food-borne illness caused by the consumption of reef fish containing toxins produced by dinoflagellate species of the genus Gambierdiscus. For my thesis, I am exploring patterns of toxicity in red hind groupers, Epinephelus guttatus, across varying environmental factors and comparing the toxicity of these fish with Gambierdiscus community compositions and abundances. My goal is to find hotspots for ciguatoxic fish and increase our understanding of this global health problem.  
  • Maksym Cohen - Hello! My name is Maksym Cohen and I graduated from the University of San Diego with degrees in Environmental and Ocean Sciences and International Relations. I spent much of my undergraduate career surveying coastal areas for microplastic density and assessing its impacts on local marine life. My background is in physical oceanography and ocean circulation which has led to my interest in the work of Dr. Sennai Habtes. My research at UVI will be centered on the impacts of wave and current action on Red Grouper larval distribution. I hope that work in this field will create opportunities for myself in fisheries in the future.
  • Sophie Costa - Hello! My name is Sophia Costa, and I am originally from Austin, Texas. Growing up in the beautiful Texas Hill Country, I spent countless summer days enjoying the beauty of the lakes and river systems in central Texas. My passion for marine biology grew when I began diving at the age of 11. After graduating from Rhodes College with a Bachelor’s of Science in Environmental Sciences and minor in Spanish, I moved to Belize in order to pursue a career in marine conservation biology. Since Belize, I have lived in Key Largo, Florida, where I worked as a biologist at Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. I will be completing my Master’s Thesis working with Dr. Nemeth looking at the effects of the invasive seagrass, Halophila stipulacea, on juvenile yellowtail snapper populations. If you have any questions feel free to contact me at:
  • Alexys Long, National Science Foundation ScholarMy name is Alexys Long,and I am from southern Maryland, right outside of Washington, D.C. I loved watching documentaries about the ocean when I was a child, which piqued my interest in marine science. I graduated with a B.S. in Biology from Norfolk State University in Spring 2019, where I played four years of Division I college basketball. Through an internship with UCLA during my senior year, I studied the effects of herbivory and nutrients on different size classes of the tropical macroalgaTurbinaria ornata. As a student at UVI, I am eager to learn more about marine ecology and how anthropogenic factors and phase shifts affect ecosystem efficiency and composition on coral reefs.I will be workingin Dr. Tyler Smith’s lab to determine the effects of herbivory and nutrient enrichment on the invasive macroalga Ramicrusta sp. I enjoy community outreach programs and beach clean-ups (especially ones where I get to dive!).
  • Madyson Miller, National Science Foundation ScholarHey everyone, my name is Madyson! I'm from Florida and received my undergraduate degree from the University of West Florida with a B.S. in Marine Biology. While at UWF I conducted my own research project looking at Mysid Ingestion of Microplastics from the Great Lakes, study abroad in Indonesia, and experience a 2-day expedition on the R/V W.T. Hogarth with Florida Institute of Oceanography. I'm excited be working in Dr. Cruz-Rivera's lab for my thesis, genotyping seagrasses! My favorite things on island are hanging with the bats (Greater Bulldog Bats are my favorite) and participating in local beach clean ups put on by VI-EPSCoR! 
  • Danielle Olive, National Science Foundation ScholarHi! My name is Danielle Olive and I was born and raised here in St. Thomas, USVI. I graduated with my B.S. in Biology in May of 2019 from the University of the Virgin Islands and chose to further my education here at UVI as well with the MMES Program because of my love for my home and all the exquisite natural resources and organisms we are surrounded by. My previous research experience ranges from exploring current regulations protecting deep-sea coral in U.S waters, the effects of hypoxia on the clearnose skate, as well as hermit crab personality. I have also been involved with various local marine activities through VIMAS such as an assistant instructor for the swimming program and a camp counselor for the Youth Ocean Explorers Program. For my thesis, I will be investigating life history traits and population connectivity of the Mutton Snapper with Dr. Richard Nemeth. I am also particularly fond of shark and ray research and conversation, and in my free time I enjoy snorkeling, photography, reading, and gardening.  
  • Annie Savage -  Hi I’m Annie Savage. I’m from Arkansas and received my undergraduate degree from Arkansas State University for Environmental Science with a minor in Marine Science. I knew I was interested in Marine Biology since I was a little girl. I loved books on fossils and dinosaurs and was a big fan of nature documentaries. My passion for these convinced me that I wanted to pursue a career where I could spend all day in nature. Of all the places on the planet, I found the ocean to be the most mysterious and interesting and I knew that I wanted to spend my time learning all I can about the it and the creatures that live in it. Currently, I’m a master’s student in the MMES 2019 cohort under the joint advisor ship of Dr. Paul Sikkel and Dr. Marilyn Brandt. For my thesis, I plan to explore how the arrival of Stony Coral Tissue Lost Disease and its impact on St. Thomas coral reef communities has altered the amount of fish ectoparasites within the reef systems. While here in St. Thomas, I look forward to exploring the island better and to getting to know the local community better through outreach and volunteer opportunities. 
  • Kelsey Vaughn, National Science Foundation Scholar - I am from Fayetteville, Arkansas. I graduated from the University of Arkansas with a Bachelor of Science in Animal Science with a concentration in Equine Sciences. I worked as a research assistant in the Animal Science department and uncovered an interested and affinity for research. From a young age I have always had a deep passion and interest in animals and a love and curiosity for the ocean. My interest in marine biology then led me to an internship at an aquarium and rehabilitation center in North Carolina. As a first year MMES student, I have decided to pursue my passion for sea turtles. My thesis project will focus on the relationship between total wave energy and other oceanographic effects on sea turtle bay use and selection in the bays of St. Thomas. 
  • Matthew Souza - Hi, I grew up in Massachusetts with the ocean an hour drive to my east and the mountains to my north and west. My childhood was spent camping, hiking and spending time on Cape Cod.  I received my B.S. degree in Environmental Science with a concentration in marine science and minors in biology and environmental anthropology from the University of Massachusetts, Boston. While there I worked as a laboratory assistant in the Byrnes Laboratory and assisted in a study looking at the impact of rising sea levels on salt marsh zonation.  My undergraduate research project examined factors influencing crab species abundance and distribution in Nantucket seagrass beds. After graduation, I worked as a teaching assistant at Shoals Marine Laboratory in Maine. My research interests include the interaction between anthropological impacts and the coastal marine habitats. At  UVI I will be studying the impacts of the invasive seagrass (Halophila stipulaceaon) on the queen conch (Lobatus gigas) under the mentorship of Dr. Edwin Cruz-Rivera.  I enjoy teaching and am currently a teaching assistant in the undergraduate class, Natural World:The Caribbean. My hobbies include skiing, biking, hiking, and anything on the water.
  • Brad Arrington - Hi I’m Brad Arrington! I grew up in Minnesota and got my undergraduate degree from the University of Minnesota in Scientific and Technical Communications. My interest in marine biology arose when I first got certified to scuba dive in Mexico at 13 years old. I’ve loved diving ever since and decided that with Climate Change impacting the reefs I should do more than just complain in Minneapolis, so I joined the MMES program to make positive impacts on the environment (and escape Minnesota winters!). I will be looking at how coral recruitment is affected by sponges and macroalgae with Dr. Marilyn Brandt. Contact:
  • Hema Balkaran - Hema was born on the island of Trinidad, where she completed high school and then moved to the U.S. Virgin Islands. She achieved a B. S. degree in Biology at the University of the Virgin Islands in 2012. During her undergraduate, she was a MBRS-RISE scholar which granted her many research opportunities. She travelled to several universities, where she conducted research mostly in the genetic field. Hema has also conducted research at UVI, most of which was done with Dr. Alice Stanford, where she looked at the allele variation in a number of differing banana varieties.  After graduating from UVI, she was positioned as a research analyst for Geographic Consulting, where she worked with Brian Daley on St. Croix on studying the growth of native trees on a variety of soil types. She’s now a graduate student at UVI obtaining a masters’ degree in marine and environmental science. Her research includes looking at the genetic population of the velvety free-tailed bat, Molossus molossus, among St. Thomas, St. Croix and St. John for conservation of their species. She love animals and believes that they are so awesome!!!
  • Carolyn Courtien - After working in New York Real Estate for a number of years, I am now pursuing a Masters in Marine and Environmental Science. I love so many aspects of the field that it is going to be very difficult to narrow things down for study, and I am so excited to continue this journey with the University of the Virgin Islands! 
  • Olivia Diana - Good Day! My name is Olivia Diana. I am originally from Massachusetts but finished my undergrad at Virginia Wesleyan University with a B.S. in Biology. Three months later I moved to Saint Thomas, USVI to pursue my masters and work with Dr. Cruz Rivera on comparing beaches for microplastic density depending on the sargassum density. I completed research on using death assemblages as indications of environmental recovery and presented the work at the International Crustacean Conference 9 (ICC9) in May 2018. I decided to study in the Virgin Islands after study away trips to both Belize and Costa Rica taught me about the ecological importance of protecting the tropical coasts. Contact:
  • Kristine Funk - Starting fall of 2017, I have been playing dual roles as a student in the Master of Marine and Environmental Science program and a working professional at Coral World Ocean Park. I have worked at Coral World for over eight years and am currently the Assistant Curator of Marine Mammals and Birds. I am excited to bring marine mammal research to Coral World and share what we are learning with our visiting guests. My thesis research will involve training the sea lions to tell us when they hear changes in the volume of alternating sounds. This will allow us to determine what the minimum difference between the two sounds is before the sea lions can no longer detect the difference. This is called their difference threshold. Since there is currently no information available about how well South American sea lions can hear, this research will fill an important gap in our knowledge about an important biological function for this species.
  • Martha Raymore - I graduated from University of Washington with a Bachelors degree in environmental science and minor in marine biology. Growing up in the Pacific Northwest  the natural world and environment has been a staple of my daily life and I'm super excited to branch out into more tropical ecology. I have studied different types of plant animal dynamics within changing environmental climates and with increased urbanization, although here at UVI I am looking at waste culture and behavior for my thesis.  I have had a long career working as a licensed veterinary technician and always find that animals play an important part of my daily life and I even work part time at the humane society here on the island.  In my free time I enjoy jogging, SCUBA, singing, and hanging out with my dog Morgan.