2022 Speaker Bios
Samesha Barnes, Ph.D.
Director of the McNair Scholars Program at the University of Florida
Dr. Barnes is originally from August, G.A. She completed bachelor's degrees in Chemistry and Chemical Engineering at Clark Atlanta University and Georgia Tech through their dual-degree engineering program. As a PhD student in Materials Science and Engineering, Dr. Barnes was a Graduate Mentor for four years. Dr. Barnes has served as director and lecturer with the McNair Scholars Program since 2011. In her spare time she enjoys writing, blogging, singing, cooking, and traveling.
Michael Bowie, Ph.D.
Assistant Dean and Clinical Assistant of the College of Veterinary Medicine
Director of Ecology and Management and Co-Founder, Blue Finance
Angelique is a marine biologist with over 20 years of coral reef related experience, blending science, management, art and more recently, sustainable finance for conservation. Prior to joining the Blue finance team where she coordinates scientific and management approaches, Angelique headed the Marine Research Section of the Coastal Zone Management Unit (now Ministry of Maritime Affairs & the Blue Economy) in Barbados, for over a decade. Her work involved developing and implementing coral reef related research projects; as well as management of reef systems within an Integrated Coastal Zone Management (ICZM) framework and communication of the results. She has further developed specific knowledge and expertise on Payment for Ecosystem Services (PES) for marine conservation in the Caribbean and South Pacific Region, with a focus on beach protection. Angelique is a creative, scientist, with excellent communication skills, whose work history embraces both the public and private sectors. Her career has included working as a Dive Instructor, Co-Pilot on a recreational submarine, Crime Scene Investigator for Corals and Manager of a remote marine base in Mexico. Deeply passionate about marine matters, she often employs her love of different art forms (e.g. dance, visual, music, theatre) in conveying and promoting her conservation message.
Daniel Cicenia, PhD
Noé U. de la Sancha, PhD
Associate Professor at Chicago State University, and Research Associate at the Field Museum of Natural History
Dr. Noé de la Sancha is an associate professor at Chicago State University and Research Associate at the Field Museum of Natural History. He is a classically trained mammalogist, primarily focusing in field ecology. He is interested in questions dealing with the effects of anthropogenic habitat disturbance on patterns of biodiversity and health of population in these habitats ranging from landscape ecology to biogeography. His lab incorporates statistical modeling, geographic information systems (GIS), morphometrics, and phylogenetics to field and museum data, with the aim to improve our understanding of various dimensions of biodiversity primarily in the tropics.
Raul E. Diaz jr., MA, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor of Biology, Southeastern Louisiana University
Anne Donnelly, MBA, Ph.D
Director, Center for Undergraduate Research, University of Florida
Dr. Anne Donnelly holds a B.A. in Biology, an MBA in Finance and a Ph.D. in Education and Curriculum, the latter from the University of Florida. She has over 30 years of professional experience in the field of education as both a teacher and administrator including her current position as Director of the UF Center for Undergraduate Research. As the founding Director of this center, she has developed a one-stop-shop for students of all disciplines who are interested in undergraduate research. In recognition of her efforts encouraging and supporting students from diverse backgrounds, in 2015 she received the Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Mathematics, and Engineering Mentoring from President Barack Obama at a ceremony in the Oval Office of the White House.
Catherine Early, PhD
Barbara Brown Chair of Ornithology , Science Museum of Minnesota
Dr. Catherine Early is the Curator of Ornithology at the Science Museum of Minnesota. She studies the evolution of the brains of birds using museum specimens of both extinct and extant species of birds. She earned her PhD in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology from Ohio University and was funded by the NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program.
PhD Student, Biology Department and the Florida Museum of Natural History, University of Florida
Adania Flemming spent her formative years in Trinidad and Tobago, a twin island nation in the Caribbean. Fascinated by water and aquatic systems she earned a bachelor’s degree in marine biology at the University of Tampa, followed by a Master of Science in zoology. Adania is interested in exploring the ecology of fishes, their role and niche in the environment, their life history as well as understanding how form relates to function. Adania is also interested in using natural history collections as a gateway to introduce students of underrepresented backgrounds to Science Technology Engineering Art and Mathematics (STEAM) careers. For her PhD she is combining her interest in education with Ichthyology, through an interdisciplinary research project where she will evaluate the impact of experiential learning within collections on students understanding of science and less known scientific fields as Ichthyology, while exploring life histories of fishes. Her ultimate goal is to work as a researcher and educator in a science center (museum/aquarium) in Trinidad and Tobago. However, upon graduation she would like to work as museum faculty, between the intersection of the research collections and the education department. As an underrepresented person in STEAM she would tell her younger self to get as much experience as possible to help realize one to two main interests and focus on developing her understanding of those interests. She would also encourage herself to always put her best foot forward, stay positive and just keep swimming.
MarSci-LACE Project Coordinator, CEO of Minorities in Shark Sciences
Jasmin specializes in elasmobranch ecology and evolution. Her past research interests include smalltooth sawfish movement ecology and hammerhead shark phylogeny. She is a member of the American Elasmobranch Society and served on their Student Advisory Committee for two years. Jasmin completed internships with the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center, Fort Johnson Marine Lab and FWC Division of Marine Fisheries Management. She worked as an instructor for the Saturday at the Sea program through the Florida State University Office of STEM Teaching Activities. Jasmin has a passion for science education and making science more accessible for everyone. She is the Project Coordinator for the MarSci-LACE project, which is focused on researching and promoting best practices to recruit, support and retain minority students in marine science. Jasmin is also the CEO of Minorities in Shark Sciences, an organization dedicated to supporting women of color interested in shark science. She is excited to help open doors for more underrepresented minority students to join the exciting field of marine science.
Jessica Hernandez Ph.D.
Postdoctoral Research Fello, National Science Foundation, University of Washington Bothell
Dr. Jessica Hernandez (she/e) is a transnational Indigenous scholar, scientist, and community advocate based in the Pacific Northwest. She has an interdisciplinary academic background ranging from marine sciences to forestry. Her work is grounded in her Indigenous cultures and ways of knowing. She advocates for climate, energy, and environmental justice through her scientific and community work and strongly believes that Indigenous sciences can heal our Indigenous lands. In 2020, she became the first alumni from her high school in South Central Los Angeles to receive a doctoral degree. She is the founder of Piña Soul, SPC, an environmental consulting & artesanias hybrid business that supports Black & Indigenous-led conservation and environmental projects through community mutual aids and micro-grants.
Her current research is investigating the role energy plays in addressing climate change impacts, from an environmental physics lens. By formulating energy justice pillars and deriving solutions from case studies that focus on sustainable energy and mitigation strategies (primarily those implemented by Indigenous communities), this research will help physics education recognize the historic and present-day inequities in the energy industry.
She currently holds appointments at Sustainable Seattle (Board Member), City of Seattle's Urban Forestry Commission, and the International Mayan League (Climate Justice Policy Strategist). Her book, Fresh Banana Leaves: Healing Indigenous Landscapes through Indigenous Science, is forthcoming this Spring '22.
CEO, Lacy Consulting Services, LLC, Interim Director, Metro Denver Nature Alliance, Podcast Host, The Green Mind
Leander Lacy is the founder and owner of Lacy Consulting Services. His company focuses on helping environmental organizations and sustainability-minded business meet their goal of improving human and community wellbeing through conservation action. Leander has worked on projects such as dam removal, deer management, building trust between fishers and conservation groups, five-state collaborative to protect the U.S. shortgrass prairie, assessing discrimination in U.S. farming and ranching, and updating the Conservation Standards with a focus on how to include Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion into conservation programming. He is trained traditionally as a wildlife ecologist and received his M.S. in Human Dimensions of Natural Resources where he did his thesis work on how to improve the quality of life of the urban poor through environmental action. Prior to starting his company, he worked on global teams with The Nature Conservancy and has been an advocate for increased social science in conservation projects. He recently became Interim Director for the Denver Metro Nature Alliance. They seek to bring equitable conservation to communities in Denver, Colorado. He also has a podcast called The Green Mind that focuses on people working at the nexus of people and nature.
Brett Woods, PhD
Interim Dean of the School of Natural Sciences at High Point University
Dr. Brett Woods is the Interim Dean of the Wanek School of Natural Sciences at High Point University. He earned his PhD in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at the University of Kansas. He studies marmots. His research focuses on the processes that govern fat deposition as well as behaviors that lead an organism to gain mass, specifically in preparation for hibernation. Dr. Woods has worked directly and/or indirectly with over 150 URM students in STEM fields. Dr. Woods was a 2014 recipient of the University of Wisconsin System Regents Diversity Award.
Undergraduate student, Astrophysics/Liberal Arts and Sciences, University of Florida
Derod Deal is a sophomore and undergraduate researcher at the University of Florida, majoring in Astrophysics. Since he was a child, he had a passion for exploring the natural world, whether that may be from building weather stations in his backyard to exploring masers in distant star-forming regions in space. To make his passion for becoming an astrophysicist reality will take raw effort and diligence. His time as a freshman at UF has already taught him unforgettable lessons on how to build his bridge to success with organization, commitment, and consistency. With the knowledge he has acquired over his freshman year, he plans to inspire others to accomplish their dreams and achieve his own to become a prestigious astrophysicist.
Brittney N. Dixon, PhD, MPH, CPH, TTS
Clinical Assistant Professor, Department of Health Services Research, Management, and Policy and the Social and Behavioral Sciences concentration, College of Public Health and Health Professions, University of Florida
Dr. Brittney Dixon received both her Bachelor of Science degree and Master of Public Health degree from Florida State University. She received her PhD in Public Health (Social and Behavioral Sciences concentration) from the University of Florida in August 2020. Dr. Dixon's research focuses on identifying and examining factors impacting health and quality of life for underserved populations. Her research also centers on understanding how geographic health disparities impact health for those in rural versus urban communities. Furthermore, Dr. Dixon's research expands across areas such as the built environment, obesity, adverse childhood experiences, resilience, and community-based research.
Lauren Esposito, PhD
Curator of Arachnology, California Academy of Sciences
Dr. Lauren Esposito is the Assistant Curator and Schlinger Chair of Arachnology at the California Academy of Sciences. Lauren’s current research investigates the patterns and processes of evolution in spiders, scorpions, and lesser-known arachnids. Originally from the US-Mexico borderlands, she completed her undergraduate degree at the University of Texas at El Paso, and went on to obtain an MS and PhD from the American Museum of Natural History in collaboration with the City University of New York. Lauren is also the co-founder/director of a science, education, and conservation non-profit called Islands & Seas, and the co-creator of 500 Queer Scientists, a visibility campaign for LGBTQ+ people working in STEM careers. Lauren is also a passionate educator, and during her research expeditions across the globe, has organized education programs on the importance of conserving biodiversity in local communities.
Biology Graduate Student, Florida State University
Natasza Fontaine is a natural science illustrator, amateur photographer, and biology graduate student at Florida State University. Her experience working at the New York Botanical Garden and FSU herbaria has developed her passion for collecting and mounting plant specimens. Her love of plants is deeply intertwined with her love of birds. Her thesis is focused on understanding plant diversity and distribution to assess bird habitat associations for conservation management. In addition, Natasza has a passion for behavioral bioacoustics and how bioacoustics are used to monitor biodiversity. She enjoys volunteering as a Shorebird Steward for Florida Audubon and public engagement, especially by way of visual arts.
Ph.D. candidate, Department of Biology, University of Florida
Aditi is from Bangalore, India- the place with the perfect weather. She graduated with a master’s degree from Bangalore University and went on to explore frogs, lizards, and snakes in the Western Ghats. She is currently getting her Ph.D. in Zoology from the University of Florida. She loves her research on bats in the Mammalogy Collections and likes to take slow motion videos of them. In her spare time, she likes photographing creepy crawly things and reading books.
Headshot: In the Caribbean- She was chasing bats and this was taken above Dean's Blue Hole.
Ph.D. student, Plant Pathology Department, University of Florida
Nattapol Kraisitudomsook is a Ph.D. student in the Plant Pathology Department. He studies mushroom taxonomy and evolution. His current project is on the evolution and systematics of bird’s nest fungi. In his free time, he enjoys swimming, writing, and reading fictional novels.
Undergraduate Student, University of Florida
Symphany Lindsay is an undergraduate student at the University of Florida double majoring in Biotechnology and Psychology with a minor in African American Studies. She aspires to obtain her MD in women's health, specifically in Obstetrics and Gynecology. Currently, she is in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and has an interest in genetics and genetic modification.
JP Michel is on a mission to change the way we prepare people for their careers. His work in human resources consulting gave him the opportunity to work with and learn from some of the world’s largest organizations. JP took these lessons learned to start his company, SparkPath, where he does career and leadership development with youth and leaders. JP has a masters degree in industrial-organizational psychology and is the recipient of the 2017 Outstanding Career Professional award from the Career Professionals of Canada.
Coordinator II, Advising, Student Financial Aid and Scholarships, University of Florida, University of Florida
Amber Moebs has a Master’s degree in Higher Education with a concentration in Student Affairs. She began her financial aid career as a student assistant while earning her undergraduate degree, and has served in a professional capacity in the field for three years. She started her position at the University of Florida as a Coordinator II one year ago and she enjoys being a gator! Her favorite thing about working with students and their families is taking information that can seem overwhelming and providing the necessary details and guidance to help make understanding the financial aid process simpler.
Community Science Manager and Wildlife Biologist, Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County
Miguel joined the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County in April 2013. He is currently a manager in the Community Science Office within the Research and Collections Department. Prior to working at the museum, he worked as a wildlife biologist for federal and state institutions throughout California. At NHMLA, his role as a biologist involves studying local urban wildlife species of Los Angeles such as bats and carnivores. His role as a community science manager involves promoting and creating community science projects, recruitment of community scientists, and community science training. He also initiated a jaguar camera trap study in southwestern Nicaragua, where his family is from. Besides constantly exploring local nature of Los Angeles, he is very focused on improving as an educator so that he may inspire a more diverse next generation of scientists.
PhD Candidate, Florida Museum, Biology Department, University of Florida
Jeanette is a fourth year PhD candidate at the Florida Museum of Natural History (through the Biology Department), focusing on vertebrate paleontology. She studies a new population of 4-tusked elephants called Gomphotheres that were discovered near UF. She was awarded an NSF Graduate Research Fellowship to conduct her research. She received her Bachelor’s of Science in Marine Biology at the University of California, Santa Cruz. She is first generation Latina-American and the first in her family to go to college.
Assistant Director/Pre-PhD Program Director, Office of Graduate Diversity Initiatives The University of Florida Graduate School
Erin is the Assistant Director for the Office of Graduate Diversity Initiatives (OGDI) in the newly formed Division of Graduate Student Affairs (DGSA) within the Graduate School. Erin is responsible for managing and developing programs and events within OGDI and DGSA. These events and programs include, but are not limited to Triple P Undergraduate Research Program, Graduate Student Appreciation Week, Graduate School Information Day, and The Board of Education Summer Fellowship Program. Additionally, Erin handles student inquiries, event communication, and advertisement.
Erin earned her bachelor’s degree from the University of Florida in Sociology with a minor in Mass Communication and her master’s degree in Management from the University of Florida Hough Graduate School of Business. Erin’s professional experience includes campaign management for the United Way, recruitment, and business management.
Collections Assistant for the Ichthyology and Environmental Archaeology collections at the Florida Museum of Natural History
Sori Ruiz-Escobar (she/her) is a Collections Assistant for the Ichthyology and Environmental Archaeology collections at the Florida Museum of Natural History. She recently graduated with a B.S. in Marine Sciences from the University of Florida and would like to study fish morphology in graduate school.
Coordinator II, Advising, Student Financial Aid and Scholarships, University of Florida
Trellis Williams, MS, has 20 plus years of managerial experience in both educational and corporate settings. She currently serves as a Coordinator in the Office of Student Financial Aid and Scholarships at the University of Florida. A PhD candidate in Organizational Leadership; Trellis is a servant leader who works with non-profit organizations and small businesses as a management consultant and change agent. A lover of STEAM; she holds bachelor degrees in Biology and Mathematics from Johnson C. Smith University, where she presented research at The Annual Biomedical Research Conference for Minority Students (ABRCMS). She also holds a Master’s Degree in Organizational Leadership from Bethune-Cookman University. When not doing all things financial aid she can found serving in her community with various organizations including Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority. She is currently working on a podcast entitled Pers-Nicki-ty, which is scheduled to launch by mid 2021. Over the years she has assisted hundreds; if not thousands of students and families navigate college admissions, financial aid and successful matriculation through higher education.