2015 & 2016 Cohort Updates

Amanda Tokash-Peters. “I work with mosquitoes and am simultaneously horrified by mosquitoes. They’re gross. There’s no denying that. They spread some of the nastiest diseases one could think of. Gross. Before leaving for Rwanda, my nervous mind was hyper-fixated on this. My work with mosquitoes and disease made me a bit leery prior to traveling abroad to sub-Saharan Africa, which sees 91% of global malaria cases annually. As someone who had never traveled abroad before, combined with about a dozen vaccines and medications needed prior to the trip, I was a little bit too nervous about traveling. Anyone traveling with me could have told you this- this was not a secret to anyone. So how on Earth did I wind up jumping on a motorcycle to enjoy the twists and turns of the hills (“streets”) in Kigali after a solo trip to Kimironko market following a series of meetings about coming back for more mosquito work?
            Traveling to Rwanda with the IGERT Coasts and Communities program changed my life, personally and professionally. I got to see firsthand that it’s the most beautiful place I’ve ever been to (and some of the best coffee too). I saw the vibrant, kind, and hard-working people who would become my collaborators and ultimately friends. I saw a country at a tipping point into greatness, with environmental programs that the US could certainly learn from. I also saw firsthand the difference that my dissertation work could have for the people of Rwanda. At even the slightest mention of my work with mosquitoes, peoples’ ears immediately perked up. Mosquito-borne disease is a very real, tangible problem in Rwanda, and something that most people have dealt with either directly or with a loved one. Seeing this and hearing stories from people we met on the trip, it had finally hit me that, Yes, mosquitoes are gross, awful, horrible organisms, but I can do something about the problems that they leave in their wake. I finally realized that my work on mosquito microbiomes was directly applicable here, in this beautiful place. Sometime in the coming months, I hope to return and sample mosquitoes extensively in Rwanda through my collaboration with the University of Rwanda. Through my work stateside and in Rwanda, I hope to find probiotics that can be used to mitigate pathogen transmission in mosquitoes. Dissertation work aside, I am eager to get back to the Land of a Thousand Hills. In some strange way it feels like a homecoming. To think that I felt so nervous before seems ridiculous now. While I have a lot of planning to do before continuing my collaborations in Rwanda, I am ready to jump on a plane and head back now. I certainly was bitten by some kind of bug- just not a mosquito.”
Catie Tobin. My work focuses on the interaction between oysters and microfibers. Microfibers are the dominant form of microplastic pollution in the environment. This summer will be a busy, yet exciting time! I will be primarily working in the laboratory where I will be exposing oyster larvae to microfibers of varying concentrations. Additionally, I will be finishing analyzing water and adult oyster samples collected last summer in Boston Harbor. The combination of data collected last summer and this summer will assist me in the evaluation of social preferences towards oysters and how that may change as a result of the impacts of microfiber pollution.
Emily Moothart. Congrats on graduation, Emily!
Kelly Luis. 2016 Fellow Kelly Luis has been awarded the prestigious Ford Foundation Fellowship, which will support her as she finishes her PhD.
Patrick Sheldon. Patrick passed his qualifying exams this Spring– congrats!
Peter Boucher.
Sean McNally. Sean will be continuing work stemming from his involvement/experience from the innovation clinic last year working with to further develop the Massachusetts Shellfish Initiative (MSI) with the Scott Soares, the coordinating consultant for the MSI, in partnership with the Massachusetts Aquaculture Alliance (MAA), Cape Cod Commercial Fishermen’s Alliance (CCCFA), and the Nature Conservancy (TNC). In addition to Sean’s work with the MSI he is also working with the Massachusetts Department of Marine Fisheries (DMF) on the Massachusetts Aquaculture Permitting Plan (MAPP) under an Atlantic State Marine Fisheries Commission Grant (ASMFC).
Shannon Davis.


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