Environmental Science Alumni

Richard Botta

Rich earned his B.A. in International Business and Trade from FAU in 2007. While completing this degree, he realized his true interests were elsewhere. As a young boy he spent much time outdoors, both in the states and in Argentina. Many days were spent with the wilderness as his playground. With this in mind, he returned to FAU to gain the tools he needed for a career in environmental science.

After taking classes in ecology and GIS, he volunteered in the Avian Ecology Lab at FAU, working on a large scale project studying aquatic prey concentrations for wading birds in the Everglades. This only opened his appetite for research in these fields, and lead to him becoming a technician for the Fauna Concentration Project. Afterwards, he worked as a technician for a project with avian communities in the Stormwater Treatment Areas in the Northern Everglades. He received my M.S. in Environmental Science from FAU in May 2014. For his thesis, he used environmental factors, including vegetation and hydrology, to create a habitat suitability model for wading birds in Lake Okeechobee and validated the model using Lake Okeechobee nest effort data.

Rich is currently an Environmental Scientist with the South Florida Water Management District.

Corey Callaghan 

Corey grew up in a small town in Western New York and has always been enthralled by the outdoors. He received a B.S. in Environmental Sciences and Mathematics in 2013 from Canisius College located in Buffalo, NY. Through his undergraduate studies, he became enveloped in birds and birding. He then did undergraduate research focusing on the nocturnal flight-calling behavior of warblers. He has conducted bird surveys as a biological technician for the USFWS and the Rocky Mountain Bird Observatory. His experiences and avid interest in birds led him to Dr. Dale Gawlik’s Avian Ecology Lab at FAU, where he received he received his M.S. in Environmental Science in August 2015. For his thesis, he studied the Purple Swamphen and conducted the first formal study on the species in North America. He analyzed their diet contents to investigate any selectivity they may be showing. He also used a modeling approach to investigate how/if exotic birds spread from urban to natural areas.

Corey earned his Ph.D. at the University of New South Wales, and is currently a reseacher at the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research.

Leonardo Calle

Leo got introduced to ecology in 2005 after reading Alan Beck's book on the "Ecology of Stray Dogs". Beck's research focused on the impact of stray dog populations on public health. He investigated, successfully, relationships between the distribution and abundance of stray dogs in Baltimore, socioeconomics, trash pick-up days, nutrient distribution, and rodents. He found these observations to be incredibly keen and creative, and they were what had initially inspired his pursuit of ecology. He returned to college in 2006, and shortly thereafter, in 2008, he volunteered as a field technician in FAU's Avian Ecology Laboratory. His first real experience in ecology was flying in a helicopter to remote parts of the Everglades. He was hooked. The folks in the lab, and Dr. Gawlik, were incredibly supportive and great mentors. In his time at FAU he was involved in a variety of research projects and ecology education outreach programs, including the Ecological Society of America's SEEDS program and the SEEDS chapter at FAU.

He received a B.S. in Biological Science from FAU in 2010, and his M.S. in Environmental Science in 2014. For his thesis research, he examined the effects of hydrological and habitat factors on intertidally foraging wading birds and developed a predictive model of wading bird foraging habitat for intertidal systems.

Leo is currently pursuing his Ph.D. at the University of Montana.

Ali Courtemanche

Ali received her B.S. in Biology at Florida Atlantic University in 2014. Soon after, she started working in sea turtle conservation and rehabilitation at Gumbo Limbo Nature Center in Boca Raton, FL. When deciding to go back to school, FAU’s Master’s program in Environmental Science seemed like the best fit in relation to the work she was doing and gave her an additional opportunity to obtain the GIS Graduate Certificate. For her thesis, under the advisement of Dr. Sarah L. Milton, she studied inundation mortality during the embryonic development of loggerhead and green sea turtles. She also examined sediment characteristics and flooding effects on nesting, hatching, and emergent success with Dr. Tiffany Roberts-Briggs.

Jacquelyn Evans

Jacquelyn grew up in Arizona and received her B.S. degree in Applied Ecology from Arizona State University in 2016. While she pursued her Bachelor’s degree, she was an aquatics research intern for Arizona Game and Fish Department and an undergraduate researcher for the Borderlands Research Institute at Sul Ross State University in west Texas,  where she assisted a grad student studying wetland seed banks. After graduating, she worked for the University of Montana as a passerine nest searcher in northern Arizona. Her undergraduate and field experience lead to her captivation with wetland ecosystems and subsequently to Dr. Gawlik’s Avian Ecology Lab at FAU. She joined the Gawlik lab as a graduate student in 2017 and earned her M.S. in Environmental Science in 2020. Her research focused on the physiological responses of wading bird nestlings to changes in environmental conditions.

Natalie Faron

Natalie is originally from St. Louis, Missouri and received her B.S. in Biology from the University of Dayton, where she also worked as an intern. After moving to Florida she worked as an intern at the Everglades Foundation, which ignited her passion for studying and protecting South Florida’s unique ecosystem. Broadly speaking, her interests focus on the effects of climate and anthropogenic disturbances on coastal environments; in particular, on how Everglades restoration will change processes occurring at the ecosystem level. For her thesis work with Dr. Brian Benscoter she studied soil respiration in mangrove forests and how pneumatophore forests roots contribute to the overall CO2 roots flux in the system.

Jeffrey Herr

Jeffrey received his B.A. in Neuroscience, with a minor in Environmental Studies, from FAU’s Harriet L. Wilkes Honors College in 2017. Following graduation he worked for FAU’s Comparative Medicine at the Brain Institute in Jupiter. He realized he did not want to spend the rest of his career in a traditional laboratory setting (never seeing the sun), and preferred to spend his time out in the field. His main area of interest is herpetology, and he has been a hobbyist keeper for many years. For his Master’s thesis research in with Dr. Jon Moore he studied the habitat usage and population dynamics of Diamondback Terrapins in South Florida, focusing on the Southern Indian River Lagoon.

Bridget Huston

Bridget graduated from the University of Florida in 2016 with a B.S in Biology and a Minor in Wildlife Ecology and Conservation. Soon after graduation, she worked at a botany research facility, where she assisted with international confidential plant trials and helped maintain the ongoing work, and conservation efforts, of the Research and Development Department. As a student in the Environmental Science Master’s Program at FAU she worked at FAU’s Center for Environmental Studies (CES) with Dr. Colin Polsky. For her thesis project she was focused on characterizing and increasing resilience within Broward County communities by researching and documenting personal accounts within climate events. She has also worked as the Sustainability Intern for the Utilities Department of Sunrise, FL where she helped create and write environmental initiatives and policies and assisted with conservation projects spanning a variety of concentrations - wildlife, energy and water. She was a Communications Intern for the Tropical Audubon Society, a position through which she was able to spread awareness about conservation and sustainability by creating informational outreach materials.

Rachel Larson

Rachel is originally from Minnesota and received her B.S. in Wildlife Ecology from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 2017. As an undergraduate she became interested in avian research and wetland ecology after conducting wetland habitat evaluations and waterfowl surveys for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. In 2018 she joined the Gawlik lab to pursue her Master’s Degree in Environmental Science. Her thesis research was focused on wading bird colonies in Lake Okeechobee. She tested the use of passive acoustic sampling for estimating nestling provisioning rates and colony nest densities based on wading bird vocal activity rates. She also investigated the use of alternate habitats by wading birds by comparing annual nest abundances between subregions of the Greater Everglades ecosystem.

Daniele Leoce

After receiving her B.S. in Geography from FAU in 2016, Daniele dove into FAU’s M.S. program in Environmental Science as a part-time student. Her other time was spent as a Science Educator for grades K-5 at the Children’s Science Explorium in Boca Raton. She originally committed to the non-thesis track, but as her DIS project grew in scope, she decided the thesis option was right for her. Under the guidance of Dr. Maria Fadiman, she used a Grounded Theory approach to explore how Italian-Americans navigate the food system in South Florida.

Lizzie McNamee

Originally from Boston, Lizzie worked in the tropics and subtropics for almost a decade. She received a bachelors in Marine Science from Boston University. After graduation, she worked in marine science outreach and education across the Tropical Western Atlantic. Her thesis research with Dr. John Baldwin focused on how artificial reefs may affect natural reefs and their food webs. Lizzie is currently the Diving and Boating Safety Officer for FAU’s Office of Environmental Health and Safety.

Lauren Melanson

Lauren received her undergraduate degree from FAU in Biological Sciences with a certificate in Environmental Science. For her thesis research in the Environmental Science Master’s Program she worked with Dr. Evelyn Frazier to study the vertebrate commensals of the gopher tortoise populations throughout south Florida. Lauren is currently the Assistant Director of the LEARN Program in FAU’s Office of Undergraduate Research and Inquiry.

Hallee Meltzer

Hallee received her B.S. in Ecosystem Science & Policy from the University of Miami in 2017. As an undergraduate, she interned with the Southern California Coastal Water Research Project through the NOAA Hollings Scholars program. While there, she studied the impacts of El Nino conditions on Southern California coastal lagoons as a predictor of climate change effects. She also served as a student assistant for UM’s Office of Emergency Management and Photo Editor for The Miami Hurricane. Under the guidance of Dr. Colin Polsky, her thesis project examined the coupled natural human systems of Baltimore residential lawn management. Hallee currently works as a Research Assistant at the Florida Center for Environmental Studies at FAU.

Ivana Serra

Ivana earned her M.S. in Environmental Science working with the sea turtle research team under the direction of Dr. Sarah Milton. She studied the affects of temperature on the cognitive ability of hatchlings. She has participated in sea turtle nesting research for many years and loves all herpetology-related work.

Brianna Villegas-Vindiola

Brianna earned her B.S. in Biological Sciences from FAU in 2016. Her undergraduate experience in the Honors Thesis Research Program introduced me to Dr. Jeanette Wyneken’s Sea Turtle Research Lab, where she transitioned her undergraduate experience into a master’s thesis project. Brianna’s work examined nest to surf mortality of Florida’s east and west coast loggerhead sea turtles.