Current students

The following is a list of students that are official advisees – I also work with quite a few other students on projects, but this group occasionally needs a signature from me.  I may have some comments, but the text and pictures are largely supplied by the students. In the last year a  recap of what they were doing over fall/winter break and over the summer of 2017 at  the marinestudiesatcoa blog, the links are here. and here.


Graduate students

Giulia Cardoso.  I fell in love with the ocean on a very special island in the Indian Ocean (that shall remain unnamed) when I was 20 years old, and I have been catching up on the time lost ever since. While studying for my undergraduate degree in Geography at King’s College London, UK, I took every opportunity I could to get involved in marine research and conservation. I went SCUBA diving in Cuba to study the ecological drivers of invasive lionfish abundance for my undergrad thesis, I patrolled the endless beaches of Sal, Cabo Verde to protect nesting loggerhead turtles from poachers and I spent a summer on the island of Madeira, Portugal to earn my divemaster certification. Not having had enough of island life and warm weather, I moved to stunning Eleuthera, The Bahamas, where I worked at the Cape Eleuthera Institute/The Island School for a little over a year. I divided my time there between sharks and stingrays, the deep sea and drone-based research, with the occasional dip into the world of corals and turtles. I also got a chance to learn some life-changing skills such as cracking open a fresh coconut and not setting your boat on fire (it was not my fault). Co-advising a research class for a small group of Island School students and leading experiential education sessions for visiting groups opened up my interest in teaching, and after stopping by in Italy to quickly restock my pasta supplies I took up a three-month stint on Cape Cod, MA, at the Atlantic White Shark Conservancy as an educator. In the meantime, I successfully wore down Chris to the point that he accepted me as his new grad student – which has led me to yet another (much colder) island and COA. Here, I will be focusing on my newfound interest for fisheries and work with downeast Maine fishing communities. I’m looking forward to the next two years as part of an institution that supports a well-rounded education, and that lets me explore my interests in art, videography and community building.

Class of 2019

katie-mussels-spring-2017Katie Clark. I first fell in love with the ocean and its amazing creatures while traipsing around San Francisco’s Aquarium of the Bay with my father as a small child. He was an employee, so I was able to go behind the exhibits, and I was fascinated by the unique creatures that I saw in each tank. Many of my early weekends were also at the beach that was only a ten minute walk away from my grandma’s house. That stretch of beach is still my favorite spot in the world. This interest in the ocean and its creatures led me to COA to study marine science and conservation, and my interests have since expanded to include ecology, sustainable fisheries, and environmental communication. I spent the summer of 2016 living at the college’s research station on Mount Desert Rock studying seal wounds. During the summer of 2017, I interned at the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center (SERC) working on a project to determine how the number of oyster larvae introduced to a given substrate affects the survival rates of those oysters. In my next two years at COA, I will continue to explore and blend my interests in marine biology, sustainable fisheries, and environmental communication.

heathersiegerHeather Sieger.  I became fascinated with marine science when I was young and would visit the beach during the summers. I loved digging in the sand to find crabs and other critters. My passion for marine conservation began in high school when I attended Coastal Studies for Girls, a semester school focused on leadership and marine science. I also attended Conserve School, an environmental stewardship semester school, and The Woolman Semester School, a Quaker semester school focused on peace, justice, and sustainability.  At College of the Atlantic, I am studying environmental science with a focus on marine conservation. I love working with children and enjoy combining these passions to teach young people about environmental science and conservation. During the summer of 2016, I worked with Summer Field Studies at COA and taught kids about the natural world. I spent the following fall term in the South Pacific with SEA Semester, sailing from American Samoa to New Zealand with port stops in Tonga and Fiji. After finishing my second year at COA, I took off to County Kerry, Ireland, to intern with Sea Synergy Marine Awareness & Activity Centre.

nick-tontiNicholas Tonti.  Marine science hooked me when I caught my first fish in the rivers of Northeast Ohio. I grew up in Youngstown, where Lake Erie was the closest thing I had to an ocean. Weekend fishing and camping trips to Lake Erie is where I found a connection to nature, a connection that has instilled in me a love for the natural world. My love for river ecology and ichthyology convergently evolved while I was in high school into a broader field–marine science. Marine science was a novel world to me and this new interest lead me to College of the Atlantic. College of the Atlantic gave me the chance to transport myself from the landlocked shores of Youngstown to open waters, from behind class desks to a distant shore; it brings the books to the bay; it brings illustrations to life. My interdisciplinary education has lead me to participate in Williams College Maritime Program–where I spent time sailing, traveling and learning about the different ecosystems of California and Louisiana, and completing my own research projects in oceanography, marine policy, and maritime history. My experiences at College of the Atlantic and Williams College have given me the drive and education to pursue marine research and graduate school. For the summer of 2017 I am doing an internship at the Maria Mitchell Association in Nantucket, mixing science and education with kids of all ages and doing a bit of research on the effects of water temperature on the growth of byssal threads in blue mussels. I will be spending my junior year studying fisheries and ecology at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland.

amruta-surfingAmruta Valiyaveetil.  I was born and raised in India and have lived in both Kerala and Mumbai. Growing up around coastal regions I spent all my free time looking at the ocean and admiring fishermen and surfers. Eventually I got the courage to enter the waters and learn surfing, which I have grown to in the south and several other places (including my favorite surf paradise Bali).
I am also in love with Scuba diving and spent a year and a half in Thailand working using marine conservation techniques and this sparked my interest in scientific research. Growing up in India and being surrounded by a myriad of diseases I always wanted to be a doctor but got sidetracked by my love for the ocean and this made me come to COA where I could do both! During my time at COA I plan to prepare for med school (or vet school) and eventually also go into International wildlife and biodiversity politics.

Class of 2020

allie-with-snails-2017Allie Ceuvorst.  I grew up in a rural mountain town nestled in the Colorado Rockies.  After my freshman year at College of the Atlantic, I returned back to the mountains to pick up a summer job waitressing and looking after disabled children.  The extra income has allowed me to take some wild adventures around the country. In June, I found my way up to Eastport, Maine where I visited some relatives.  I then ventured a little further North into Canada to see the astonishing Campobello Island. Later on in the summer I reunited with more family members in Casper, WY.  In Colorado, I drove four hours to Great Sand Dunes National Park to splash in Medano Creek at the base of the dunes.  In August I will board a plane to Anna Maria Island, FL for some fun in the sun.  Throughout the summer I have been routing a road trip back to Maine and figuring out the logistics of the upcoming academic year.  I can’t wait for the adventures it will hold!

Petka with kidPetka Laucikova.   I was born in Slovakia, in a small mountain town. I am of Gypsy heritage and proud of it. Raised by very traditional Eastern European parents, I grew up eating sauerkraut, a lot of potatoes and helping my grandfather fermenting fruit from his garden into alcoholic liquors. I am the oldest child for my parents and I have always been a rebel. I really wish my sisters would appreciate how low I set the bar for them. Growing up, school was always boring for me. At the age of 14 I started volunteering in Gypsy villages in Slovakia and two years later I was accepted to an international boarding school in Italy. There I had an opportunity to work in a refugee center and fell in love with it. My passion for disaster relief and humanitarian aid work developed during my two gap years which I took after high school. I spent my time working in a refugee camp in Serbia and traveling the world. Knowing that disaster relief work is what I want to do in life, I chose COA for my undergraduate studies. I fell in love with the idea of being able to organize, develop and be responsible for my own education. While in Bar Harbor, I mostly focus on human rights, conflict resolution and humanitarian development work. Next academic year I will be interning at the Permanent Mission of the Slovak Republic at the UN in NYC and after that I am hoping to work with a disaster relief organization.

Bianca canoeingBianca Massacci. I come from Sardinia, a beautiful island located in the middle of the Mediterranean. I grew up hiking and swimming by the sea, activities that naturally led to my passion for being in nature and taking care of it, which is also what brought me to COA. I came to the College with the idea of studying ecology and sustainability, but also of exploring new fields. During my first year, I took particular interest on food related issues, and now I intend to continue my studies within the areas of mathematics, physics, and ecology. CP – This picture is of Bianca during her OOPS trip the weeks before she started her first year t COA.  Yes, she is always smiling.

emmawebEmma Ober. I grew up in Lincoln Vermont, a small town near Middlebury, half an hour from our favorite ski mountain, Mad River Glen. Through many great mentors and experiences in my life, I discovered a passion for science, mainly biology. My interests span from marine studies, to neuroscience, genetics, anatomy, and ornithology. This is supplemented by a love of art, graphic design, as well as theater production. I came to COA to expand my knowledge in a variety of fields and hopefully find a focus among them. CP- Emma is pictured here with a hawksbill turtle from WIDECAST turtle project in Costa Rica. CP – Over the summer of 2017 Emma is an intern at Allied Whale, which gets her to spend half of her time doing research on Mount Desert Island, and half of her time in Bar Harbor where she works both in the office and on whale watch boats as a naturalist. At MDR she is doing an extension of a recent senior project by Alyssa Murad, looking at parasite prevalence in introduced and native crab species. She will also be TA’ing Marine Biology in the fall.



chantal-in-norwayChantal Smeland Toennessen.  CP = Chantal is back in Norway for the summer after her first year at COA.  I met Chantal halfway thru fall term and we have been talking and laughing since then.  Chantal has a broad set of interests, from policy to anthropology to biomedical studies, and  she is a bright, intellectually curious, and engaging student that is great to be around.   This summer she is studying and drawing her way through the summer break, and spending a substantial amount of time out in nature, and hoping to attend some demonstrations against Norwegian neo-nazis.



Class of 2021

Celeste Crowley.

samevans2018Samuel Evans.  In the early morning of Christmas Eve, 1998, my birth in a hospital in Anchorage Alaska was witnessed by my parents, the doctors, nurses, and a bull mouse that was chewing on some bushes in the parking lot. I lived my first 6 years in a small village in south-west Alaska called Aniak. Here I experienced fishing and gutting salmon, blueberry picking, early schooling, and the frigid low temperature of -54 degrees Fahrenheit below zero. I also have a very special memory from this time when I watched a bull moose run through our yard. It stopped to glance at me on the porch of our house and just continued on its way. Ever since I have been fascinated with animals and the natural world. It also helps that both of my parents were science teachers at all levels, from preschool to university. In the summer of 2005, we moved down to Brevard, North Carolina. Finding COA was a purely random event. I found COA through CollegeBoard by search results and, by pure decision to just meet with my counselor, I set off on a journey to Islands Through Time. That program changed me for the better. One name stuck with me and dragged me back years later. John Anderson opened my eyes to the deeper meaning of reality in science and solidified my path. When I returned to COA, I felt as though I had completed my Odyssey. I finally felt at home. Now at COA, I plan to delve into evolutionary biology, ecology, natural history, and anything that captivates my curiosity.

Ekaterina (Katya) Khadonova. 
katya-imageI grew up in Saint Petersburg, a large city on the west side of Russia, where encounters with nature would pretty much be limited to seeing pigeons everywhere. Despite this, my interest in the outdoors and wildlife has always been with me, and so I sought ways to get out as much as I could. I started seriously immersing myself into ecological and biological field studies when I was 9 years old, and have been doing it ever since. When I was 17, I moved to Hong Kong for two years, where I gained even more appreciation for both tropical and marine ecology while doing coral monitoring with WWF Hong Kong and studying biology, chemistry, and environmental sciences. I definitely knew I was going to pursue this path, and that is pretty much how I ended up applying early to COA. Here I indeed have a lot of opportunities to focus and deepen my interests in wildlife ecology, physiology, and conservation, as well as take the full advantage of the amazing outdoors traveling opportunities here in Maine. My current plans include leading an OOPs trip in August-September 2018, and then a while after spending my winter term in Costa Rica for a monster course in Neotropical Ecology & Conservation Biology. I’m hoping to make this journey as challenging, meaningful, and rich as possible, and I’m already sure it will happen.

aliza-leitAliza Leit. I am a first-year student at College of the Atlantic. Raised in Rochester New York, I grew up sailing on Lake Ontario and enjoying Rochester’s eclectic art scene. Every summer my family and I would make our way up to a working lobster village, Friendship, Maine, to sail on the bay and swim in frigid waters with my great grandmother. Exploration of the environment around me was a large part of my life whether playing on Maine’s rocky intertidal coast, tending to organic vegetables at The Harley School, or hiking in Alaska on a National Outdoor Leadership Course.  Everywhere that I travel I seek out the waterfront snorkeling in the Red Sea or the Pacific Ocean. After studying marine biology this fall, I am interested in learning more about sustainable aquaculture and sustainable harvesting practices of marine species.


Truth for webTruth Muller.  My interests are ocean life, birds, bats, conservation of all three, collecting a myriad of things both commonplace and bizarre, and reading when and wherever possible. I run an environmental organization, Buddies for Bats, founded in 2011, and I have a lot of experience as both a public speaker and environmental writer. I love to learn! I was born in Kansas, but grew up and identify as a New Yorker, and my roots are in the Catskill Mountains of upstate New York, the land of Washington Irving and John Burroughs. I was homeschooled from 4th grade through high school, and actively competed in state, national, and international science competitions. I’m a strong believer in community service, logging over one thousand hours throughout high school and receiving the presidential community service award. I was drawn to College of the Atlantic by its ocean setting and unique philosophical take on science and humanities, making it the perfect place to begin my studies of marine science and environmental advocacy. It’s my dream to emulate my idol, Jacques Cousteau, as a prominent marine scientist, naturalist, inventor and communicator. I am not an environmental activist, but an environmental advocate, and I want to devote my life advocating for love and protection for the world’s oceans and the life within their deep blue green folds.

Class of 2022.

Natasha Diamondstone-Kohout. As a young girl, my summers were spent running barefoot through the grass, swimming with my father in the river below our home, and painting pictures of the magical realm where my mind dwelt. I haven’t changed all that much, except I now have an unyielding desire to heal the world around me, to make some difference for the better. The question that faces me is: how do I do this?
I have been teaching wilderness skills and mindful living to children for the last five years through Oyase Wilderness School, Otter Day Camp, Kroka Expeditions and Wolf Tree. The winter, spring, summer, and fall find me in the woods showing children how to create a coal with a bow drill, how to track turkeys or how to close your eyes and listen to the woodland creatures move about you. I believe this union with the earth is essential to creating a healthier world. My own wilderness education “peeked” as I climbed a 19,000ft Andian glacier after a four-month expedition through Ecuador in my gap year.
Art of all kinds continues to captivate and nourish me. I was commissioned to illustrate Pathways-The Ontario Journal of Outdoor Education, have had multiple art exhibitions, and sell prints and originals independently (along with designing logo’s for local businesses, and tattoos).  I hope to combine, Anthropology, Art, Spirituality, and Environmental Education, we shall see where that leads me…