Graduate Students

Current Graduate Students


Jennifer Welch: MES The Evergreen State College

For a couple decades I have been intrigued by cetaceans, but felt far from the source growing up in southern Wisconsin. While pursuing a BA in Psychology from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, I took a handful of biology classes (including a few marine) that led to a biology minor. After graduation I went to Maui for a brief internship with the Ocean Mammal Institute, looking at the response of humpback whales to ocean vessels. With a growing interest, I furthered my education with a BS in Biology from the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater with an emphasis on marine biology and freshwater ecology. Blessed with a year of study at Deakin University in VIC, Australia, I followed with three months as an intern at Cascadia Research Collective helping with necropsies, Hawaiian bottlenose and rough-toothed dolphin catalogs, and a master student’s research. I entered the Master of Environmental Studies program at The Evergreen State College in fall 2015 and am currently working on a thesis surrounding the question of age-associated mouthline pigmentation loss of rough-toothed dolphins in Hawaii and its potential for free-ranging age determination. I plan to incorporate an assessment of mouthline scarring due to depredation events in Hawaii based on previous assessments of Hawaiian resident false killer whales and pygmy killer whales (Beach 2015) for use in appropriate modifications for Hawaiian fisheries. I traveled to O Grove, Spain for an internship with the Bottlenose Dolphin Research Institute in January to learn more about the resident population of bottlenose dolphins within Spain’s highest mussel producing region and the potential implications for the behavior and ecology of delphinid populations near coastal aquaculture operations. For kicks, in my free time I enjoy photography, new places and faces, fishing, running, expanding my food and wine palate… many other things… and catching up with family in WI.

Heather Gibons: MES The Evergreen State College



Growing up in the Pacific Northwest, I have always been enamored with the ocean and all its intricacies.  Out of high school I decided to attend the University of Washington where I got my degree in Aquatic and Fishery Sciences, with a minor in Marine Biology.  At the beginning of my junior year I spent a quarter at the UW’s Friday Harbor Labs, where I solidified my interests in marine systems and particularly marine mammals.  During that quarter I completed my undergraduate thesis, on sea bird feeding flocks and their relationship to tidal cycles, at the southern point of San Juan Island.  After graduating, I completed an internship with Cascadia Research, focusing on matching with the Hawaii group, mostly the pilot whale and rough-toothed dolphin catalogs.  I also later interned with NOAA Seattle and their Steller Sea Lion surveys in Alaska, counting a lot of sea lions.  I then decided to attend graduate school at the Evergreen State College’s Masters in Environmental Studies program, in fall 2016.  I’m looking to do my thesis on pigmentation patterns in rough-toothed dolphins with Cascadia’s Hawaii Project, to see if there are any similarities within groups of dolphins.  In my free time I enjoy drawing, camping, playing with my dog, Raven, and going to the beach!

Past Grad Students


Melanie Magnan​: MSc University of Perpignan

I am from France and actually in my 1st year master’s degree program in biodiversity with a focus on marine biology in the University of Perpignan. A requirement for my program is an internship, and as travelling is my passion along with marine biology I immediately tried to find some intern programs in this field abroad. Being fluent in English, and also particularly interested in seals and whales, America seemed like the best place to find one. I am thrilled to intern with Cascadia Research, as this will allow me to get practical knowledge and skills in marine biology for my future career. This will also help to improve my English as it is mandatory in the Science world. 

Caroline Coster:  MES The Evergreen State College

I am a master’s student at The Evergreen State College's Graduate Program on the Environment. I am interning with Cascadia focusing on public outreach primarily focusing on gray whale education, preparing materials to exhibit in the Langley Whale Museum on Whidbey Island. I am currently working on my thesis which is examining public outreach/advocacy methods for non-profits focusing on whales.  My goal is to encourage public knowledge of cetaceans through education as opposed to entertainment settings such as SeaworldSeaquariums and whale watching.

Whales are threatened by human activity such as ship strikes, habitat destruction, boat traffic, noise pollution and entanglement from fishing/crabbing gear. Even if people do not come into contact with whales or do not live near coasts, human-caused pollution and contributions to climate change affect the whales. However, who is educating the general public about their impact on whales and how they can improve whale conservation?   

My thesis will examine the role of non-profits in educating the public through public outreach and educational programs. While researching both global and local non-profits who aim to educate the public about whale conservation and whale habitat protection, I will synthesize their methods to create outreach designs for similar organizations. 

Elske Rotshuizen: MSc Wageningen University, The Netherlands

My passion for cetaceans has been the reason to start the MSc Marine Resource Management & Ecology, for which I am doing my final thesis at Cascadia Research Collective. After finishing my Bachelor of Applied Sciences in Wildlife Management, I wanted to do a master to get more experienced in doing scientific research. My goal is to pursue a career in cetacean research and contribute to the conservation of these magnificent animals. I grew up in The Netherlands, and after working with whales in Australia and South Africa, I am very excited to get the opportunity to work in the USA. I am confident that I will learn a lot about doing research in the brief time that I am here.

The inside waters of Washington State, called the Salish Sea, used to have an abundance of humpback whales. But the eastern North Pacific humpback population has been depleted by whaling in the past and no humpbacks were seen for decades within these waters. Now humpback whales are present again in the Salish Sea, although the size of this population is not known. Furthermore, there is little knowledge why humpback whales have returned to the Salish Sea and what part of the breeding and feeding stock they represent. Therefore my thesis is focusing on increasing the information on stock structure and the habitat use of humpback whales within the Salish Sea.


Kelly Beach: MES The Evergreen State College

Kelly Beach is from Pennsylvania and graduated with a BS from the University of Delaware and is currently a graduate student at the Evergreen State College’s Masters of Environmental Studies program. This past summer she interned at Cape May Whale Watch and Research Center, photographing and cataloging the local Atlantic Bottlenose Dolphin population. She is interested in marine ecosystems and hopes to pursue a career in marine mammal conservation and protection. Kelly is excited to be participating in Hawaiian odontocete photo ID at Cascadia Research!

Using Mouthline Injuries as an Indicator of Fisheries Interactions in Hawaiian Odonotocetes

I used a multi-species comparison of mouthlines to examine interaction rates between different species and sub-populations. I used photo data from Cascadia's species archives to categorize and score odontocete mouthlines for injuries that could be due to interactions between toothed whales and Hawaiian fisheries. This research will result in deeper understandings of rates of fisheries interactions in small resident populations of odontocetes around the main Hawaiian Islands.

Renee Albertson:  Ph.D. Oregon State University, Corvallis, OR. Worldwide phylogeography and local population structure of the rough-toothed dolphin (Steno bredanensis). 

Angela Szesciorka: MSc Moss Landing Marine Lab

Humpback dive behavior and ship strike risk

Natasha Milne: MSci University of Glasgow

I am currently working on a Marine & Freshwater Biology Work Placement Masters (Msci) at the University of Glasgow.  I am here at Cascadia working on the Hawaiian Pilot Whale ID catalog in order to investigate the seasonality of Cookie Cutter Shark foraging before travelling on to the University of St Andrews to complete my Masters placement.  My main interests are in elasmobranchii and marine mammal ecology and conservation.

Rachel Stendahl: MES The Evergreen State College

Rachel is a graduate student in the Masters of Environmental Studies Program at Evergreen State College. She is collaborating with Cascadia Research Collective to finish her thesis titled “Examining Humpback Whale Ship Strike Risk in Northern Washington State”.  She has always been passionate about marine biology and conservation which led her to receive a B.S. in environmental science with an emphasis in marine ecology from Western Washington University, in Bellingham, Washington. After graduation from Evergreen, she plans on continuing to work on marine conservation issues with a state agency or non-profit.

Examining the Ship Strike Risk of Humpback Whales in Northern Washington State

A basic spatial analyses to attempt to understand where the whales are in the Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary and around the entrance to the Strait of Juan de Fuca in relation to the shipping traffic in the region.


David Anderson: MES The Evergreen State College

Harbor porpoise Return to the South Puget Sound: Using Bioacoustic Methods to Monitor a Recovering Population.

A C-POD ultrasonic echolocation click detector was deployed to monitor the presence and activity of harbor porpoise off Steilacoom, WA. Once the most common cetacean in the Puget Sound, harbor porpoise were extirpated sometime between the 1950s and 1980s. Regular sightings began in the early. While porpoise were detected at the site every day of the 3 month study, their presence varied widely between months, time of day, and were most commonly detected during slack and slowly incoming tides.

Eric Keen: Scripps Institute of Oceanography


Eric Keen is at Cascadia for the autumn of 2013.  He grew up in Florida, went to undergrad at Sewanee: the University of the South in Tennessee, and then pursued a variety of projects for a few years: bike tours, long hikes, a Fulbright in Indonesia, outdoor education, a season as a fire-tower lookout, and volunteering with whale research outfits around the world. He is now heading into his third year at Scripps Institution of Oceanography in San Diego, but his dissertation fieldwork takes him to the Great Bear Fjordland of northern British Columbia. Eric is interested in the largest whales, specifically their foraging strategies, particularly in fjords. He hopes to write, teach, and mentor students in a small town someday. He also writes corny kids songs!

Britt O'Leary: MES The Evergreen State College

Britt O'Leary is a student at Evergreen State College in the Masters of Environmental Studies program. She is interested in all forms of animal life particularly marine organisms and birds.
Kerry Foltz: MSc Hawai’i Pacific University Cytochrome P4501A1 in the blubber of free-ranging and stranded Hawaiian odontocetes.
Sabre Mahaffy: MSc Portland State University Site fidelity, associations and long-term bonds of short-finned pilot whales off the island of Hawai’i
Sarah Courbis: PhD. Portland State University Population structure of island-associated pantropical spotted dolphins (Stenella attenuate) in Hawaiian waters
Cornia Leahy: MSc Evergreen State College Causes and Patterns of Harbor Seal (Phoca vitualina) Pup Mortality at Smith Island, Washingon, 2004-2009

Jessica Aschettino: MSc Hawai’i Pacific University

Population size and structure of melon-headed whales (Peponocephala electra) around the main Hawaiian Islands: evidence of multiple populations based on photographic data
Kristen Rasmussen: MSc Moss Landing Marine Laboratory Studied humpback whales (Megaptera novaeangliae) off the Pacific Coast of Central America

Jeremy Goldbogen: MSc Scripps Institution of Oceanography

Kinematics of foraging dive and lunge feeding in fin whales (Balaenoptera physalus)