Leeann Alferness : M.S. Student

Leeann Alferness

M.S. Student

While in the Deheyn lab I was earning my B.S. and M.S. in Marine Biology at the University of California, San Diego. I was working on completing a short thesis for the Scripps Undergraduate Honors Program. The project is based on isolating the photoproteins in a species of bioluminescent brittle star, Ophiopsila californica. Upon successful extraction and purification, we will then work on characterizing and identifying the sequence of the photoprotein. I was a member of the UCSD women's basketball team for three years and I enjoy SUCBA diving and snorkeling in my free time.

Michael Allen : Staff Research Associate

Michael Allen

Staff Research Associate

Andre Briscoe : Volunteer

Andre Briscoe


I am a graduate from the University of California, San Diego with a B.S. in Marine Biology and a minor in Chemistry. Currently I am researching the chemical and physical color properties of the seeds belonging to Magnolia grandiflora trees. In the future I aim to continue to do research though more focused on aquatic organisms.

Annick Bay : Postdoctoral Researcher

Annick Bay

Postdoctoral Researcher

I'm interested in the light propagation in natural photonic structures. I want to know how light goes from the inside to the outside of a bioluminescent organisms. I look at the structures that could influence the way light travels through the animal. This knowledge will help to make light emitting diodes more efficient and therefore more economic in terms of energy consumption.

How do animals influence light with their body parts and what can we learn from it to make lighting less energy consuming?

Max Bergstrand : Volunteer

Max Bergstrand


I am an undergraduate student at the University of California, San Diego studying towards a degree in General Biology but with the hope of specializing further into my studies. Currently, I am working with Kara Wiggin, a graduate student in the lab, on the impact of microfibers in the environment. We examine water samples taken globally with hopes of the data we collect could contribute to a database of microfiber hotspots within the oceans.

Nicole Bisente : STARS undergraduate summer intern

Nicole Bisente

STARS undergraduate summer intern

I’m an undergraduate ecology major at the California State University, Northridge. This year marks my first year in research through the CSUN BUILD PODER lab. I’ve been interested in exploring different research areas within biology and ecology and I was able to do that during my START summer internship in the Deheyn lab. My research in the Deheyn lab investigates the conditions necessary to degrade Polylactic Acid in anaerobic and marine environments. I’m interested in exploring the different research areas in ecology. I’m still trying to refine my research interest but I had a lot of fun exploring new topics and ideas in their lab.

Natalie Blea : M.S. Student

Natalie Blea

M.S. Student

I am honored to be working in the Deheyn Lab during my Master of Advanced Studies program in the Center for Marine Biodiversity and Conservation at SIO. Even through my upbringing in the desert of New Mexico I have always been intrigued with ocean, especially by the production of light by marine organisms. I am currently researching the neurotoxic effects of Polybrominated Diphenyl Ethers (PBDEs) on a bioluminescent species of Brittle Star, Amphipholis squamata.

My interests are to learn more about the implications of contaminant loads that we are chronically exposed to by studying bioluminescence as an indicator of health. Through analyzing the effects of these emerging pollutants on the health of benthic marine organisms we can provide more information about their persistent effects the health of our bodies and environments. I hope to continue research that will allow the communication of science to the public regarding the effects of environmental health on our world at large.

Nicole Capacete : Undergraduate Student Intern

Nicole Capacete

Undergraduate Student Intern

I am a transfer student in Environmental Systems with a focus on Ecology, Behavior and Evolution at UC San Diego. As a volunteer intern at the Deheyn lab, I am assisting in research on sea anemone fluorescence as a potential indicator for the health of coastal marine ecosystems, focusing on responses to metal stressors. I am hopeful this research will not only provide a non-invasive method of monitoring our coastal waters, but also help understand human impact on our oceans.

I am extremely passionate about combating climate change and believe the path to inspiring unity and collaboration towards that cause lies in exploring and developing new approaches to educating the public on the interconnections between us and our planet's ecosystems through entertainment and inspiring compassion. I am extremely excited to be working at the Deheyn lab and look forward to bringing some new light to understanding and combating climate change.

Marie Charron : Undergraduate Student Intern

Marie Charron

Undergraduate Student Intern

I am a biology student at the University of La Rochelle in France. I was supposed to do my three-month internship at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography. Unfortunately, public safety considerations related to the Coronavirus (COVID-19) did not allow me to go to San Diego. So I virtually joined the Deheyn lab to work on plastic microbial biodegradation.

I have always been interested in the microbial world as well as the marine world. My research focuses on the definition of biodegradation in general and the mechanism of microbial degradation. This subject is really interesting because plastic pollution is becoming very worrying nowadays and it is also very interesting to discover how bacteria can degrade plastic. It is an honor for me to be able to participate in the research conducted in this renowned laboratory.

Carla Costa : Undergraduate Student Intern

Carla Costa

Undergraduate Student Intern

I am an undergraduate French student in Biology and Biochemistry. In order to validate my degree, I'm realizing a 3 months internship at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography.

I joined the Deheyn lab from April until June 2019 in order to work on the evolution of microfibers in the coastal waters of California. My goal is to evaluate the amount of microfibers in the ocean from 1983 to today and to understand their impact on the environment.

I have always been passionate about the ocean and its mysteries, and being able to participate in an environmental topic in this laboratory is a huge opportunity.

Allison Delgado : Volunteer

Allison Delgado


My name is Allison Delgado and I have been a member of the Dehyn Lab for about a year now. I just finished my undergraduate degree at UCSD in Environmental Biology and Earth Science. In lab, I work very closely with Mary Ann Hawke on our pollen adhesion project. We are trying to understand the phenomenon of various types of pollen (7 types: olive, pecan, poplar, ragweed, sunflower, dandelion, and kentucky bluegrass) adhesing to various surfaces such as glass, polystyrene, surfasil, etc. We use a flow chamber with water and air at a multitude of speeds (mL/min) to identify the percentage of coverage from start to finish. We are hoping to understand the forces that are happening between the pollen and different surface textures when adhesion occurs. I played water polo for the UCSD Women's Water Polo Team all four years and continue to stay active with yoga and kayaking in the La Jolla Cove. I also enjoy journaling and painting in my spare time.

Evelien De Meulenaere : Staff Research Associate 3

Evelien De Meulenaere

Staff Research Associate 3

"Where does the light in the ocean come from?"

A surprisingly large amount of marine animals produce light for various reasons, including camouflage as well as revealing themselves or others. My research focuses on the biochemistry of light production of the parchment tube worm Chaetopterus sp. and on optical properties of the nudibranch Flabellina (Spanish Shawl), the sea slug Navanax, and the blue Traveller's palm seed. In the mucus secreted by Chaetopterus, we found a super fast ferritin that we are now further characterizing.

I obtained my Masters degree in Biochemistry and my PhD in Bio-engineering at the University of Leuven (Belgium), where I first studied a proposed inhibitor of HIV integrase, and later the nonlinear optical properties of fluorescent proteins along with the (nonlinear) optical properties and the behavior of small molecular dyes inside living cells. I started as a postdoctoral researcher here at Scripps Oceanography in 2014.

Caín Elizarraras Galván : Volunteer

Caín Elizarraras Galván


I am an undergraduate student at the University of California, San Diego studying Electrical Engineering and Photography. I am a P1 scholar in the Pathways to STEM Program. I am interested in research involving imaging and image processing. In the Deheyn lab, I will be continuing to conduct research on the adhesive holding pads of the Ficus vine, better understanding its adhesion, structure, and function for inspiration in developing engineered adhesives in the future. Overall, I am excited to be out in the field taking photos of the mechanisms that nature has engineered.

Zachary Evans : High School Student Volunteer

Zachary Evans

High School Student Volunteer

I enjoy applying chemistry concepts to determine the ways dynamic systems function. As I just graduated from high school, I am still learning these concepts and background knowledge. My research focuses on the electrical stimulus of mucus from the Chaetopterus worm to characterize the chromophore responsible for light production and determine the optimal protocol for light emission.

Farnaz Farhang : Master's Student/Staff Research Associate

Farnaz Farhang

Master's Student/Staff Research Associate

I am passionate about improving ecosystem health monitoring by incorporating parasites into the greater understanding of ecosystem health. My research currently focuses on combining the two fields of parasitology and ecotoxicology. My goal is to use parasites as indicator of anthropogenic pollutants and monitoring marine pollution for better wetland management.

Ruby Gamboa : Volunteer

Ruby Gamboa


I am a second-year undergraduate student at UC San Diego studying Mechanical Engineering. I am a P2 Scholar in the Pathways to STEM Program. My research interests include clean technology, biomimetic design, and biodegradable single use items. In the Deheyn lab, I am working on the potential of color and/or melanin content of feathers, and how that affects thermoregulation ability in birds. The results will further our understanding of how feather color/chemistry can affect thermal properties, which can also be used for biomimetic design. I am very excited and grateful for the exposure I am getting to certain scientific research methods in this type of lab.

Lucille Gendre : Undergraduate Student Intern

Lucille Gendre

Undergraduate Student Intern

I am an undergraduate student from France and I'm currently doing an internship in the Deheyn's lab to complete my formation in biology. I have always been fascinated by the ocean, its living organisms and the mystery that still remains about it. I decided to work on bioadhesion and especially on the adhesion of the particles responsible for marine fungi's reproduction, the spores. Our goal is to understand the link between the type of surface the fungi attach to, and the ultrastructure of spores, in order to understand and then avoid the adhesion of these organisms on boats, maritime platforms or fabrics.

Kelly Govenar : Master Student

Kelly Govenar

Master Student

I received my bachelor's degree at the University of California, San Diego. I am currently pursuing my Master of Science degree in marine biology. My research focuses on sea anemones and their fluorescence as a potential indicator of coastal waters health. I am particularly interested in environmental toxicology and how metals are affecting the intertidal zone with an aim to find a proxy for early stress in this particular environment. Fluorescence of sea anemones as a proxy would provide a non-invasive assay that is fast and efficient. My other passion is geology. I am an appreciator, collector, and seller of fine minerals found in nature. I also enjoy scuba diving, kick-boxing, jewelry making, and painting. I am grateful to be a part of the Deheyn lab and I look forward to my future research.

Austin Grodt : Volunteer

Austin Grodt


I am a student researcher working on my B.S. in Environmental Chemistry at the University of California, San Diego. With the Deheyn Lab, I am currently studying the differences in material properties of local barnacle species in order to determine how each species adapts to the varying stresses of their unique environment.

Noah Hamlish : SURF Undergraduate Student Intern

Noah Hamlish

SURF Undergraduate Student Intern

This summer I am working in the Deheyn lab as a SURF (Scripps Undergraduate Research Fellowship) participant. I am finishing up my undergraduate degree in molecular biology and biochemistry at Wesleyan University in Connecticut. I am interested in understanding biological phenomena in the oceans at the molecular level. This summer I will be studying the biochemistry of light production in the parchment tube worm and trying to assess the role that iron plays in light production.

Jasmine Haskell : B.S. Student

Jasmine Haskell

B.S. Student

For the past year at the Deheyn lab, I have spent the majority of my time understanding the biochemical properties exhibited by the Chaetopterus variopedatus. Not only does this species exhibit fascinating luminescent properties, but it also has the ability to transform a viscous "slime" into a highly ordered three dimensional solid structure. Once created, this structure becomes its cozy abode. My research focuses on this transformation.

My background lies in Biochemistry and Cell Biology with an added emphasis in Marine Sciences. The bountiful discoveries made about the ocean continue to amaze me every day, and I am very thankful to be able to contribute by working in the Deheyn lab. I have always loved the ocean and I aspire to put my skills that I have acquired in this lab to good use in my future career.

Taylor Hernandez : PhD Student

Taylor Hernandez

PhD Student

I am a PhD student who joined the Deheyn Lab in my second year of my PhD. I received my MA in physical chemistry from Rice in 2018. I am interested in the structure and function of optically active nano-structures which evolve in marine organisms. Organisms which evolve these structures often have a shiny or iridescent appearance due to their presence in the skin of the animal, such as nudibranchs, some crustaceans, jellyfish, and octopus!
In my free time, I enjoy video and board games, climbing, backpacking, and my two furry feline children.

Esther Hua : B.S./M.S. Student

Esther Hua

B.S./M.S. Student

Currently a master student, I joined Deheyn lab as an undergraduate student with a major in marine biology. My research interest lies in investigating different bioluminescence mechanisms. During my senior year, I worked on the comparison of bioluminescence mechanism of a deep-sea anemone, Umbellula magniflora, and its shallow-water relative, Renilla reniformis. Right now my master thesis project focuses on the light production in the mucus of a marine tubeworm, Chaetopterus variopedatus, and the role of iron and ferritin in this process.

Bor-Kai Hsiung : Postdoctoral Researcher

Bor-Kai Hsiung

Postdoctoral Researcher

My research expertise falls under the umbrella of Biomimicry (i.e. sustainable innovations inspired by nature), where the research topics that I am interested in include molecular self-assembly, biomechanics, and functional biological materials, especially biological photonic structures (structural colors). Currently, I am working on a research project sponsored by DARPA to investigate whether or not organisms can communicate with each other via radio frequency without the use of human technology.

I received my Masters in Molecular&Cellular Biology from National Tsing Hua University (Taiwan), and in Biomedical Sciences from UC Riverside, accordingly. Then I obtained my Ph.D. from The University of Akron in Integrated Bioscience with an emphasis on Biomimicry, where I helped Fortune 500 companies brought Biomimicry into their R&D process in the hope for igniting sustainable innovations within these companies.

Maddison Laeber : Volunteer

Maddison Laeber


I am currently an undergraduate student at UC San Diego majoring in Environmental Systems: Ecology, Behavior, and Evolution and minoring in Education Studies. While volunteering at the Deheyn Lab, I have been assisting with research on the impact of light exposure to sea anemone fluorescence as well as their viability as an indicator of coastal water health. My current research involves exposing corals to microfibers commonly found in the oceans to observe the health impacts and changes in fluorescence faced as a result of this contamination.

Kira LaFace : M.S. Student

Kira LaFace

M.S. Student

I am currently a student at the University of California, San Diego studying for a BS in Marine Biology with a minor in Environmental Systems, and volunteering as a research assistant in the Deheyn Lab. I have helped with chromatography experiments on brittle stars, taken many photographs of both marine and terrestrial species with the stereoscope (focusing on color, iridescence and light producing organs) and analyzed samples for fluorescence levels using a spectrophotometer. I am currently working on a project to determine if reflectin is the protein responsible in the color formation of the nudibranch species, Navanax. I look forward to more exciting projects with the Deheyn lab in the future!

Clara Legallais : Undergraduate Student Intern

Clara Legallais

Undergraduate Student Intern

I am a French student from ENGEES Strasbourg, and I am doing an undergraduate internship in the Deheyn lab from May 2019 to July 2019. I will graduate next year as an engineer in waste treatment. As I have always been passionate about oceans and its wildlife, for my fourth-year internship I wanted to study marine pollution to lock the two subjects: coming to SCRIPPS Oceanography had been the best idea I could have ever thought about!

The objective of my internship is to assess the concentration of microfibers all over the earth. I use samples of seawater, but also of air and sediments. Microfibers are microscopic fibers usually smaller than 5 micrometers (60 to 80 times smaller than a hair diameter!). These microfibers come from our clothes and textiles: as they are not filtered neither by our washing machines nor by wastewater treatment plants, they end up into our rivers and oceans. They are so small that they can be ingested by fish and penetrate cells and tissues!

Fawn Liebengood : Volunteer

Fawn Liebengood


I am an aspiring marine conservationist specializing in marine debris prevention and removal and in the Deheyn lab I am studying different types of fabric's degradation rate in seawater. I am currently a Master student in Marine Biodiversity and Conservation. My goal is to understand marine debris from a comprehensive perspective in order to drive behavioral change, empower communities, and make a difference in the fight against marine plastic pollution.

I grew up in Portland, Oregon, captivated by marine life. When I began seeing the impact of marine debris, I felt compelled to step up and do something about the marine debris epidemic plaguing our oceans. I graduated with high honors from the University of Hawaiʻi at Manoa with a BA in Psychology and later earned an MBA in Nonprofit Management, and an Entrepreneurship Certificate from Chaminade University. I love to freedive, try new recipes, and watch science fiction movies in my spare time.

Kotachi (Zida) Liu : B.S./M.S. Student

Kotachi (Zida) Liu

B.S./M.S. Student

I am an engineer and biologist fascinated by the innovative potential found in nature's materials. I am interested in understanding and emulating their structures and assembly processes that grant them unique and multifunctional properties their constituents do not possess alone. I am working towards completing my masters degree in Marine Biology at the University of California, San Diego (UC San Diego), working with Dr. Dimitri Deheyn and Dr. Marc Meyers (Center for Biological, Bioinspired and Bio-materials). I use the Chaetopterus worm's housing tube as a model to study the rapid-assembly process of complex and resilient biological materials for the development of engineered materials.

I am passionate about both ocean life and technology. I am working with Dr. Jules Jaffe (Underwater Imaging Laboratory) to develop a remotely operated vehicle that transmits live video for the Birch Aquarium to provide visitors with an interactive experience. I received my B.S. in Chemical Engineering and my B.S. in Physiology & Neuroscience from UC San Diego.

Aidan Lucas : Volunteer

Aidan Lucas


I am an engineering student studying nanotechnology and materials science with a minor in marine science at the University of California, San Diego. I have helped with light scattering measurements on hydrogel scaffolds, using scalar irradiance micro-sensing, and with collection of fluorescence and absorption spectra with a spectrophotometer. At the moment, I am working on a project involving the characterization of the pigment(s) responsible for the bright blue color of Traveler's Palm seed arils.

Zack Mahan : Volunteer

Zack Mahan


My name is Zack Mahan and I am currently a student at University of California San Diego studying Marine Biology, Chemical Biology, and Cell Biology. Within the Lab I am a research volunteer whose main purpose is to assist the other researchers with their experiments and lab work. Being a first time lab student, my interests are very broad and encompass many different fields of Biology (both aquatic and terrestrial) and chemistry. I hope to continue volunteering at Scripps Institute of Oceanography for the years to come and eventually join the ranks of other professional researchers.

Pau Masdeu Monclus : Undergraduate Student Intern

Pau Masdeu Monclus

Undergraduate Student Intern

I am an undergraduate biology student at University of Barcelona in Spain joining the Deheyn Lab from February to June 2021. My research focuses on the bioluminescence of the marine parchment tube worm Chaetopterus sp. I am interested in characterizing the components of the biochemical reaction that produces blue light taking place in the mucus secreted by the worm. These unknown organic compounds could have numerous applications in biomedicine and biotechnology.
I am passionate about marine life and the ocean and enjoy surfing, scuba diving and snorkeling. I also like exploring the beautiful city of San Diego. I am grateful to be part of the Deheyn Lab and to have met wonderful people during my time here.

Holly Nelson : Volunteer

Holly Nelson


I am currently an undergraduate student at the University of California, San Diego working towards a BS in Environmental Systems: Ecology, Behavior, and Evolution, along with dual minors in Marine Sciences and History. I have been volunteering with the Deheyn Lab for over two years and have helped on projects focusing on ecotoxicology and the impacts of effluent medications on marine life, the affects on pH variation on bioluminescence of brittle stars, and the environmental implications of continued use of microplastics and fibers. I am looking forward to continuing my work at the lab and completing more projects in the future!

Enid Partika : Master Student

Enid Partika

Master Student

As a MS Candidate in Chemistry at UC San Diego, I am currently studying the biological, physical, and chemical methods of bioplastic and plastic degradation in anaerobic digesters and marine environments. I am also developing bioreactors to simulate the degradation of these plastics in marine, composting, and anaerobic environments. Because plastics are found in every part of the globe - from the oceans, to the soils, to even Antarctica - my research will provide greater insight into how companies can better design upcoming bioplastics, and degradation rates of plastics that have already entered natural landscapes can be improved.
I have always been inspired to find creative solutions to mitigate climate change and pollution, and enjoy spending my free time in nature, whether it be running, hiking, kayaking, biking, or skimboarding. I also enjoy playing the violin and singing.
Cheyenne Payne : Volunteer

Cheyenne Payne


I study marine biology and computer science at UC San Diego. In the Deheyn lab I characterize the biochemical pathways responsible for light production in novel bioluminescence systems, such as those of the marine annelid Chaetopterus and a new, deep-sea octocoral. I have more information about my activity in this lab and others at Scripps and UCSD on my website: https://cypayne.github.io/

Klara Peumery : Undergraduate Student Intern

Klara Peumery

Undergraduate Student Intern

I am a French student in biology and bioengineering, mostly focused on food science, at the University of La Rochelle. To validate my degree, I have to complete a three-month internship, which I have the honor to do at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography. Sadly, because of the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic it had be to be done online. I joined the Deheyn lab in order to work on bioluminescence focused on brittlestars. I work on the identification of the photoprotein involved in the bioluminescence, and on the mechanism that explains how bioluminescence occurs in this organism.

A science nerd at heart, I also read, collect fossils and do movie marathons in my free time.

Michael Pinover : Volunteer

Michael Pinover


As a volunteer in the Deheyn Lab I have been working on developing a protocol to generate microfibers from various fabric types. I hope this research can be used to further our understanding of how microfibers enter into the environment and affect different organisms. My background is in dinoflagellate bioluminescence and the cell signaling pathways of Lingulodinium polyedra

Allison Prange : Master's Student

Allison Prange

Master's Student

My background is health science with a focus on human health; I have worked in the hospital environment and labs from the medicine side of science for 19 years. When I began my Masters at Scripps Institution of Oceanography, I wanted to explore seafood safety and the possible link to human health. I am currently working on a project that analyzes bioaccumulation of metals in two species of Southern California sea urchins. My goal is to monitor metal accumulations in the marine ecosystem of Southern California and beyond to clean up human-caused pollution.

Christy Puzzanghera : Volunteer / former STARS undergraduate summer intern

Christy Puzzanghera

Volunteer / former STARS undergraduate summer intern

I am a second year undergraduate marine biology student at UC San Diego. My research in the Deheyn lab focuses on helping discover how the worm Chaetopterus sp. gets its bioluminescent properties. I am also very interested in biology research related to biomimicry, in which we can look at structures and processes in nature and use them through science to create better and more efficient technology for humans to use — I believe that Marine Biology is a good place to look for such types of nature to imitate. I am also interested in studying cephalopods, especially the way they are able to change color to help them camouflage. I'm a very passionate scientist, and am really excited to be a part of this lab.

Lauren Quiros : Undergraduate Student Intern

Lauren Quiros

Undergraduate Student Intern

My research is focused on microfibers that are leaching into the ocean from our clothing. I built and implemented two experiments that are currently running simultaneously. The first experiment is demonstrating different textile degradation processes while exposed to the seafloor environment. The second experiment, observes the same fiber samples within a more controlled environment (within the lab). I take this project very seriously as I am incredibly passionate about spreading awareness to the general public with regard to the variety of ways plastic has and is negatively affecting our natural environment. Especially how very few people realize that a lot of our clothes are made out of plastic, such as polyester and nylon, which have now become the more apparent micro-plastic plaguing our oceans.

I enjoy learning from a variety of countries and cultures. I have lived in Denmark, Australia, Spain and I recently completed my first year at Utrecht University in The Netherlands. I am currently at Scripps Oceanography for my internship. Besides trying to better understand microfiber dynamics, I am also passionate about marketing and how to change consumers’ perspective towards single use plastic and a more sustainable lifestlye.

Mariah Reilley : Volunteer

Mariah Reilley


I am an undergraduate at UC San Diego majoring in Environmental Systems(Ecology, Behavior, and Evolution) with a minor in marine science. I am interested in research regarding ecotoxicology and biomimicry. I have been involved in projects exploring the composition and structure of Chaetopterus tubes, nudibranchs, and microplastics. My current project focuses on microfiber production and degradation. I hope to develop a method in which microfibers can be generated to study how they interfere with light-producing organisms.

Sarah-Jeanne Royer : Postdoctoral Researcher

Sarah-Jeanne Royer

Postdoctoral Researcher

My research interest focuses on processes related to plastic degradation and fragmentation in the environment. Prior to this post-doctorate, I investigated on the emissions of greenhouse gases from plastics in the environment at the Center for Microbial Oceanography, Research and Education at the University of Hawaii. I also conducted research on pathways and the fate of marine debris in the ocean at the International Pacific Research Center at the University of Hawaii.

My goal is to pursue plastic research to understand better the degradation and fragmentation processes of plastic and its fate in the ocean with a special emphasis on microfibers and its biodegradability and geographical distribution in the ocean and in the atmosphere. My long-last objective is for policymakers to use data from scientists and volunteers to design better laws and policies to reduce plastic production & consumption from the source.

I obtained my PhD at the Institute of Marine Sciences at the University of Barcelona in biological oceanography and biogeochemistry where I started a running group in 2009 to clean our shorelines to prevent plastic items from getting into the ocean. Since then I have been involved with different organizations to protect the ocean. In 2015, I joined Sustainable Coastlines Hawaii, which is the biggest organization of beach cleanups in Hawaii. For four years I served as their science advisor and started using data collection from volunteers for citizen science projects.

Mackenzie Saideman : Volunteer

Mackenzie Saideman


Mackenzie Saideman is an undergraduate student at the University of California, San Diego working towards her bachelor in Marine Biology with a minor in Environmental Studies. She is interested in conservation and learning more about the way humans impact the environment. She will work on figuring out the distribution of GFPs in corals in hopes to learn more on how to help the species as a whole.

Kelsey Schoenberg : Volunteer

Kelsey Schoenberg


I'm studying Marine Biology at UCSD, gaining a scientific background that I intend to apply towards the reformation of business and government practices and policies that are detrimental to marine ecosystems, as well as the invention and implementation of restorative programs. As oceanographer Sylvia Earle (my hero) frequently remarks, “No blue, no green!” My current research in the lab addresses the mechanism which the shrimp species Palaemonetes paludosas uses in order to keep its figure translucent. The methods I find successful in experimenting on the shrimp will then be transferred to studying the same mechanism found in the glass catfish species, Kryptopterus vitreolus.

Talley Sagot : Volunteer

Talley Sagot


I am a student researcher acquiring lab experience skills. I have a B.S. in Marine Biology from the University of California, Santa Cruz. In the Deheyn lab I study ferroxidase activity assays in order to compare differing levels of efficiency between species. I am a certified scientific diver and enjoy snorkeling, hiking and tennis in my free time.

Mohammad Sedarat : Graduate Student

Mohammad Sedarat

Graduate Student

My PhD research explores the impact of climate change on the kelp forest environment across varying spatial scales. The knowledge gained from this examination is crucial when dealing with endangered species, and it is especially relevant to white abalone population restoration, which is the focus of my work with CDFW (California Department of Fish and Wildlife) and NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration).
I earned a Bachelor of Science degree in marine biology at UC San Diego and conducted fisheries research at NOAA before beginning graduate school at Scripps Institution of Oceanography. As a marine ecologist, I place strong emphasis on field technique and observation.

Jenny Tu : Master's Student/Staff Research Associate

Jenny Tu

Master's Student/Staff Research Associate

I study how green fluorescence works as a stress indicator in corals and sea anemones in response to ocean acidification conditions. Fluorescent proteins make up roughly 14% of the coral's total protein content but their physiological role has yet to be determined. I worked on correlating the relationship of GFP to antioxidant capability, maintaining intracellular pH, and the task of calcification under ocean acidification conditions.

There are currently no available methods to determine coral reef physiology except by disruptive sampling. However, coral reefs have already been in such a dramatic decline that it would not be beneficial to remove these animals from their environment. This process would quickly deplete the already-declining coral reef coverage. Thus, there is a great demand for an in vitro non-invasive method to determine coral reef health.

Inga Van den Bossche : Undergraduate Student Intern

Inga Van den Bossche

Undergraduate Student Intern

Fascinated by color in nature, I was immediately attracted to the amazing research and biomimicry performed at the Deheyn lab. In particular, it is the strong emphasis of research performed on marine biology such as cephalopods, nudibranchs, and corals that intrigued me to join as a volunteer.

A first year undergraduate Materials scientist and engineer (MEng) from Imperial College London, I am currently using my knowledge to further discover mechanical, thermoregulating, and optical properties of various types and compositions of melanin in the local giant keyhole limpet species (Megathura crenulata). Working with technology such as tensile testing, IR-imaging, and oceanographic spectrometers, I have received so many exciting opportunities! I look forward to pursuing a career related to marine biology and biomimicry; Scripps Oceanography is a great place to learn and be inspired!

Julie Van Ferneij : Undergraduate Student Intern

Julie Van Ferneij

Undergraduate Student Intern

I am a biology student at the University of La Rochelle in France. In order to validate my degree, I had the opportunity to do my three-month internship at the renowned Scripps Institution of Oceanography. I joined Dr. Deheyn's laboratory in order to work on microfibers. My subject is to analyze the degradation of different textiles under natural conditions. For this reason my subject is divided into two different parts. The first experiment aims to observe the alteration of the different textile coupons over time. While the second experiment quantifies the amount of microfibers detached from textile coupons. This subject is very interesting because it reflects today's problems concerning environmental pollution caused by plastics, microplastics, but also microfibers released in very large quantities as a result of textile washing.

It is therefore an honor for me to participate in environmental research and to work with the Deheyn lab team.

Bridget Vaughan : Volunteer

Bridget Vaughan


My role in the lab has largely centered around projects to determine the effect of pesticide treatment on coral fluorescence. I hope to contribute to the establishment of new sub-lethal indicators of coral health, which will help future researchers less destructively test coral resilience. I am especially interested in the biomedical and technological applications of such light production and ecotoxicology studies, and determining the role anthropogenic sourced toxicants play in a marine environment.

Daniel Wangpraseurt : Marie Curie Fellow

Daniel Wangpraseurt

Marie Curie Fellow

I am interested in understanding the various light harvesting strategies and design solutions of photosynthesizing underwater organisms with an emphasis on coral reef organisms. My current research focuses on the development of bioinspired approaches for improving photosynthetic efficiency in biofuel production. I enjoy working at the interface between biology and optics and incorporate aspects of microalgal photobiology and ecophysiology, optical modelling and imaging as well as 3D printing in my research. If you want to learn more about my work, visit biomicfuel.com

Nicolas Wibart : Undergraduate Student Intern

Nicolas Wibart

Undergraduate Student Intern

I am a French undergrad biology major and I am interested in learning about marine biology and especially about bioluminescence. I believe that the ocean offers an incredible source of information to learn about a large diversity of organisms. The Deheyn's lab studies different concepts of marine life to improve our scientific knowledge.

I am working on a project about photoprotein reaction involved in light production. Indeed, the parchment tube worm produces a bioluminescent mucus. Studies show that the mucus light production is highly specific to iron and not shared with other elements. However, we believe that the affinity between iron and the photoprotein prevents a reaction with any other element. My goal is to remove iron using different treatments and add other metals to see if the light production is affected.

Kara Wiggin : PhD Student

Kara Wiggin

PhD Student

My current research aims to understand how degradation and bio-fouling contribute to the fate of microfibers in the environment. In addition, I am developing methods to better detect and characterize microfibers from various marine and terrestrial environments. My overall goal is to influence local and national policymakers to better manage plastic pollution and reduce the amount of single-use plastics used and discarded.

I received my B.S. from Northeastern University in Environmental Science and my M.S. from California State University Long Beach in Biology where I focused on the detection of small sized microplastics in the highly urbanized rivers and harbors around Long Beach, and assessed the effects of environmentally relevant levels of microplastics on invertebrate zooplankton.

Sarah Wolfe : B.S. Student

Sarah Wolfe

B.S. Student

I am currently an undergraduate student at UC San Diego majoring in Environmental Systems: Environmental Chemistry and double minoring in Computer Science and Urban Studies. Within the Deheyn lab, I have been studying the toxicity of sunscreen products on brittlestars using bioluminescence as a proxy. As the amount of sunscreen and other UV-filter containing substances increases in the ocean, particularly in coastal waters near tourist beaches, the effects on complex organisms are largely unknown and potentially harmful.

Luis Zarate : Volunteer

Luis Zarate


I am a fourth year studying Marine Biology at UC San Diego. I am studying how a ghost shrimp is able to maintain its transparency. My research will focus on finding how to reverse the transparency of the ghost shrimp in order to further understand how this mechanism works. In my spare time I enjoy keeping and breeding dwarf shrimp and dwarf crayfish. I am thankful for being part of the Deheyn lab and excited to do research.

Bryan Zhu : Volunteer

Bryan Zhu


I am currently pursuing my B.S. in Bioengineering at the University of California, San Diego. I have always been fascinated with the idea of mimicking nature and the use of nature's innovation to solve problems we face today. I joined the Deheyn lab at the end of 2016 and I am extremely excited for the opportunity to explore the possibilities of biomimicry. I am currently working with Dr. Jennifer Taylor to characterize barnacle shells and with Dr. Daniel Wangpraseurt observing photosynthesis in coral reef organisms. In both of these projects, I am also excited to explore the possibilities of also implementing 3D printing. I am also on the men's volleyball team at UCSD and enjoy playing basketball when it is not volleyball season.