Awards & recognitions

PhD student Anagha Payyambally featured in UConn Today

Our PhD student Anagha Payyambally was featured in UConn Today to celebrate her achievement of receiving the Quad Fellowship. Anagha is one of only 100 recipients out of over 3000 applicants to receive this fellowship to her graduate studies. This new fellowship program supports exceptional students who are citizens of the United States, Australia, India, and Japan to support their graduate studies in the United States and build collaboration among scientists and technologists.

Read the story here with quotes from Anagha and her advisor Dr. Manning. Congratulations, Anagha!


Best Poster at Gordon Research Conference 2023

Mengyang receives best poster award. Photo credit: Molly James

Congratulations to Mengyang Zhou on receiving the best poster award at the recent Gordon Research Conference on Coastal Ocean Dynamics (link: in June of 2023. His poster entitled “Constraints on the bottom water residence time in an economically-important embayment of the Southern Benguela Upwelling System” is work that is part of an NSF-funded project led by Pf. Julie Granger (link: and Pf. Samantha Siedlecki (link: in partnership with colleagues at the University of Capetown. Mengyang ran a series of particle tracking experiments in a high-resolution simulation to quantify the residence time of bottom waters plagued with hypoxia. Interannually, years with short bottom water residence time experienced little hypoxia. This work is part of his Ph.D. dissertation research with Pf. Julie Granger.

Brendon Goulette awarded Connecticut Sea Grant Undergraduate Research Fellowship

Congratulations to Brendon Goulette, an undergraduate student in our department who was awarded a Connecticut Sea Grant Undergraduate Research Fellowship for the work he is doing with Professors Catherine Matassa and Samantha Siedlecki and PhD student Halle Berger. Brendon is researching how climate change is affecting sea scallops, a significant commercial fishery in New England.
Caption: Brendon Goulette measures scallop shells in Samantha Siedlecki’s lab at the UConn Avery Point campus. 

Professor Siedlecki awarded tenure and promotion to Associate Professor

Congratulations to Professor Samantha Siedlecki who was recently awarded tenure and promotion to Associate Professor from the University of Connecticut! We are so proud to have Prof. Siedlecki as a member of our department and to see her awarded tenure.

Professor Siedlecki has been a highly valued member of our department since her arrival at UConn in 2017 and has played many leadership roles in our department and the broader scientific community. Dr. Siedlecki’s research group focuses on coastal biogeochemistry using a combination of simulations and observations to characterize historical and ongoing change and forecast future trends. A particular focus of her group’s work is on coastal carbon and oxygen cycling, including the impacts of decreasing ocean pH (ocean acidification) and decreasing oxygen (deoxygenation) resulting from climate change and other human impacts.

Her research accomplishments have been recognized through an Early Career Faculty Innovators Program Fellowship from NCAR and a Kavli Fellowship from the US National Academy of Sciences. Since her arrival at UConn, she has received approximately 16 grants totalling over $4 million in funding from organizations including NOAA and NSF, including serving as co-lead PI on a $1 million grant on assessing the vulnerability of sea scallops to ongoing ocean change. 

Her teaching contributions have included developing two new courses, Ocean Expedition (a very popular course for our graduate students) and Biogeochemical Modeling, and teaching Environmental Reaction and Transport, a course that allows undergraduate students to develop their quantitative and problem solving skills. She has mentored numerous personnel in the department, and currently supervises two PhD students, one masters student, one research associate, one research scientist, and multiple undergraduate students.

Dr. Siedlecki has been highly active in departmental service, having served on several departmental committees, including the Advisory Committee to the Head, and was a founding member of the department’s Justice, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion committee. She was recognized with a Climate, Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Award from the UConn College of Liberal Arts and Sciences in 2022 due to her contributions to fostering an inclusive climate in our department and at UConn.

Outside of UConn, she has had substantial contributions to research organizations and activities at the regional, national and international level, including serving as co-coordinator for the Northeast Coastal Acidification Network (NECAN) and serving as a member of the international scientific committee for the 5th International Symposium on Oceans in a High CO2 World, and also gave an invited plenary presentation at this conference. Dr. Siedlecki makes stakeholder engagement and outreach critical components of her research program and has participated in numerous outreach activities with members of the aquaculture industry and management organizations along with members of her research group. 

Dr. Siedlecki has co-authored approximately 36 publications and some of her recent publications are listed below.

Now that she has been awarded tenure, Prof. Siedlecki looks forward to finalizing her group’s work with east coast coastal communities through a regional vulnerability assessment of scallops and the communities who rely on them. She plans to conduct similar assessments in other regions with the international research community and is currently preparing a proposal with South African colleagues.

Congratulations to Dr. Siedlecki! We are excited to watch the future accomplishments by you and your team!

Recent publications:

Seasonality and life history complexity determine vulnerability of Dungeness crab to multiple climate stressors” by Berger et al. (2021) in AGU Advances. This paper was led by Siedlecki lab graduate student Halle Berger.

Coastal processes modify projections of some climate-driven stressors in the California Current System” by Siedlecki et al. (2021) in Biogeosciences.

Projecting ocean acidification impacts for the Gulf of Maine to 2050: New tools and expectations” by Siedlecki et al. (2021) in Elementa: Science of the Anthropocene.

Prof. Siedlecki at the Avery Point campus


Prof. Siedlecki and PhD student Halle Berger in Norway following a research conference.


Prof. Siedlecki on the R/V Connecticut during the Oceanographic Expedition graduate course in 2022

Bridget Holohan – MVP technician

By Ewaldo Leitao

Easy and hard to find – her door is always open but without a name tag – ready to help, and to give advice (for 5 cents), Bridget Holohan has been in the marine sciences community for over two decades. Bridget is currently working for two labs helping in many projects. Bridget is always ready with a sharp, witty joke, which is always appreciated and welcomed. Bridget kindly agreed to be interviewed and to tell us more about her path and career.

Bridget Holohan at the Avery Point campus

Ewaldo: What was your academic journey before you got here?

Bridget: I grew up in Michigan, and I wanted to be an oceanographer. The only school close to where I grew up that had an oceanography program was the University of Michigan, and I wasn't quite ready to go across the country at 18. When I was finishing up there –this was before the internet so finding a job to apply for was harder than it is now–I didn't quite know what I was going to do for a job and decided to go to graduate school. Okay, maybe it wasn’t the best decision to go based on that. I went to the University of Rhode Island and got my master's degree. I thought about whether I wanted my PhD, but I decided that I like to be the one getting my hands dirty, not the one writing a proposal or writing the paper. I wanted to be the one doing it. So, I decided if I got a PhD, more than likely, that wouldn't be what I was doing. I stopped at a master’s degree, which was a good decision for me. As I was finishing up there, I saw a job in the state of Connecticut at the Williams Mystic program. They were looking for a TA.

Ewaldo: And how did you decide to be an oceanographer?

Bridget: I decided to become an oceanographer when I was the age of 12. My family went on a cruise down in the Caribbean and one of the things we did was snorkel. The first time I went snorkeling, I was blown away. I had no idea that there were all these amazing things under the surface of the water. No idea. I grew up in the Midwest. I knew about fish, we have the Great Lakes, but the organisms under the water in the Great Lakes do not look like in the tropics. It was just so incredibly fascinating. I wanted to study the ocean but at that point it was just a fantasy doing research on the ocean. I was planning to become a pharmacist because that seemed more sensible. However, when I started thinking about applying to colleges, I asked myself: why would I be a pharmacist? What I really want to do is oceanography.

Ewaldo: Williams-Mystic program. What is it?

Bridget: It's an off-campus study program of Williams College, which is conducted at Mystic Seaport. And it's entirely based around the ocean. Students come in for one semester. It's like a semester abroad, only it is a domestic program which is focused on the ocean. And they take either marine biology or oceanography. They also take maritime history, marine literature, and marine policy. They read Moby Dick, as you might imagine. They totally get immersed in the program.

Bridget and Evan Ward placing a chamber over coral to collect TEP in Bermuda

Ewaldo: That’s super interesting. What was your master’s degree in?

Bridget: My master's research was on the ecology of Ceriantheopsis americanus, which is a burrowing mud anemone.

Ewaldo: And why didn't you follow up on that particular topic?

Bridget: There's not a lot of jobs for that particular topic. So, I found a job that was mainly education. But it was a horrible salary. Like a third of what you students make. So, in the summer, I went to an oceanography summer camp and worked there. Then after a couple of years, I was like: “Okay, I cannot make a living at this”. I was searching around not being so successful. In the meantime, I did another environmental education job down in Virginia, which was fun.

Ewaldo: All the way down! So when did you come back up to the Northeast?

Bridget: As I was finishing that up, my former boss said: “I got a Pew Foundation Grant, and I put in money for a research assistant. Do you want to come work with me?” I said yes and I went to work with him, but it was only a two-year grant. As that was coming to an end, I saw a job by a man named Evan Ward. I didn't really know anything about culturing phytoplankton, which was what he wanted. But I figured I could learn. Why not? Right. So yeah, that's how I got here. And that was in 1999.

Ewaldo: It's been 24 years! And what was your position then – and currently?

Bridget: I was a research assistant when I started. Now, I'm a research assistant three, but in a lot of ways, my job is very similar. The only thing that has really changed is that as funding got tight, I started to work for Rob Mason as well. I also worked with Claudia for some time, because her job was expanding. I like the fact that there's a lot of variety. I hate being bored.

Ewaldo: You have done a lot of different things and learned a lot of things in this dynamic way. What were your biggest challenges and also biggest joys here?

Bridget: You know, I really enjoy working with bivalves, I like running experiments. Even though sometimes they can be a little crazy. I like seeing the whole process, from what we are proposing to do, to making it happen, and analyzing the data. And then luckily, I don't have to write it.

Ewaldo: Would you have advice for grad students?

Bridget: Boy, that's a really good question. One of the things in this is just kind of funny, because writing is not my favorite thing to do. But people often get hung up on the writing portion, thinking to themselves: “Okay, I need to write the perfect sentence”. Sometimes you just need to write. The beauty of the computer is that you can delete it, you can move it, you can copy and paste it into a different document. So you just have to get your ideas down on “paper”, and then refine them later. Just write it down, get it on the computer, and then fix it.
Also, I recognize that there can be a weird power dynamic between students and professors. But with most professors, you can really just say, “I need help with this….” Rather than wasting a bunch of time, being afraid to ask. Professors will be more receptive than if you wait five months and say you haven't been able to get this to work for five months. That is especially true when students are first starting out, and I see that is an easy role for me to fill. Because students are more comfortable coming to me and saying: “Hey, I don't know what's going on here”. Usually I can point them in a direction or even facilitate the conversation. And of course, there have certainly been times that my advice has been about things having nothing to do with oceanography.

Ewaldo: This is all great advice. Thank you. Maybe the final question, what's the story behind the five cents for advice in your door?

Bridget: I came back to my office one day, and we had a new nameplate and my title was wrong. Nobody told us they were going to change nameplates. I was not happy, so I took it off. I, of course, calmed down. I was going to put the correct title and make it more legible by making our names bigger (I shared an office at the time). It wasn’t a priority for me, so I took my time replacing it. One day I came back to my office and the Lucy character from the Peanuts comic was there. In the Peanuts comics, she had a little booth where she gave advice for five cents. One of my colleagues put it in there because sometimes people come to me for things other than science related advice. I found out later that it was Jeff Godfrey. I thought it was super funny, so I just left it. And one day I came back and there was a little bag of nickels.

Ewaldo: Who did that?

Bridget: It was Lydia Norton

Ewaldo: I guess that sounds about right! Hehe. Thank you so much, Bridget!

Graduated Master and PhD students 2022-23

The Department of Marine Sciences congratulates all our recent Master and PhD graduates! You worked hard, earned your degree, and enriched our community. Thank you, and best of luck for your next career steps!


Annalisa Mudahy (M.S. 2022)

Major advisor: Craig Tobias

Thesis: Spatial and Temporal Patterns of Water Column Respiration in an Urban Estuary Revealed Using Automated Respiration Chambers


Mathew Holmes-Hackerd (M.S. 2022)

Major advisor: Hans Dam

Thesis: Naupliar Exposure to Acute Warming Shows no Carryover Ontogenetic Effects on Respiration Rates, Body Size, and Development Time of the Copepod Acartia tonsa


Annette Carlson (M.S. 2022)

Major advisor: Samantha Siedlecki

Thesis: Quantifying Interannual Variability of Shelf Nutrients and Associated Hypoxia in St. Helena Bay with New Metrics and Tools


Lingjie Zhou (Ph.D. 2022)

Major advisor: Senjie Lin

Dissertation: Estimate Phytoplankton Carbon Biomass using DNA


Mary McGuinness (M.S. 2022)

Major advisor: Penny Vlahos

Thesis: Examination of Controlling Parameters for Total Alkalinity in Long Island Sound Embayments


Yipeng He (Ph.D. 2023)

Major advisor: Robert Mason

Dissertation: Air-Sea Exchange of Mercury and Its Species in the Coastal and Open Ocean


Patricia Myer (Ph.D. 2023)

Major advisor: Robert Mason

Dissertation: A Critical Examination of the Factors Controlling Methylmercury Uptake into Marine Plankton


Josie Mottram (M.S. 2023)

Major advisor: Julie Granger

Thesis: Refining the Use of Cold-Water Corals as a Proxy for the Marine Nitrogen Cycle Through the Comparison of the δ15N of Diet, Tissue, and Skeleton of Balanophyllia elegans


Michael Mathuri (Ph.D. 2023)

Major advisor: Julie Granger

Dissertation: Physiological Mechanism of Nitrogen Isotope Fractionation During Ammonium Assimilation by Marine Phytoplankton


Kayla Mladinich Poole receives R. LeRoy Creswell Award for Outreach and Education

Kayla Mladinich Poole, a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Marine Sciences, was awarded the R. LeRoy Creswell Award for Outreach and Education through the National Shellfisheries Association (NSA). Kayla was selected for her extensive communications and outreach experience with the public and in STEM, as well as for her work as an active volunteer at the annual NSA conferences. Kayla is the first recipient of the award created to honor R. LeRoy Creswell’s life and impressive work in outreach and extension services. Congratulations, Kayla!


Kayla and Prof. Evan Ward collecting samples in the field
Kayla analyzing samples in the lab

Prof. Catherine Matassa wins UConn-AAUP Teaching excellence award


23 March 2023. DMS is proud to share that Prof. Catherine Matassa has been selected for a 2023 UConn-AAUP Excellence Award in the Early Career Teaching category. This is well deserved, because since joining our department, Catherine has distinguished herself as one of the most cherished, effective and innovative educators for undergraduate and graduate students of our Department and CLAS. Her enthusiasm for Marine Biology and her innovative approach to teaching Quantitative Methods and Experimental Design are a true enrichment to students and faculty alike.

Here are some excerpts of what colleagues and students had to say about Catherine's teaching:

"In addition to providing the foundational basis of marine ecosystems, she facilitates transformative learning experiences with hands-on laboratory and field activities where students apply their knowledge and conduct independent research. Courses where students conduct independent research require much larger investment of time and energy from the instructor." Prof. Heidi Dierssen

"Almost from the time I arrived at UConn in 1995, I heard colleagues in Marine Sciences discussing the need for an Experimental Design/Statistics course for our students. Being located at Avery Point has always limited our participation in Storrs-based classes, so we tried, and failed, several times to develop a course of our own. When Catherine arrived, the problem was solved. Her class, MARN 4210Q Experimental Design in Marine Ecology, covers the basics of hypothesis testing and gives students a good working knowledge of R, the state-of-the-art computing environment for scientific statistics." Prof. George McManus

"Catherine created the experimental design and analysis course to address the demand for a course that covered statistics, coding and design. The course provided us with real data to run analyses on in R and posed questions, which we addressed with experimental design. The homework was dynamic and helped me hone my abilities coding in R and interpreting statistical results. I took a statistics class during my undergraduate studies but gained a much better understanding of analyses with Catherine's hands-on approach." Kayla Mladinich, PhD student

"I took Dr. Matassa’s Marine Biology course in the Fall of 2022. I personally was impressed with how innovative and diverse the content that she included in the class was. The laboratory experiments perfectly complemented the lecture period and helped me relate the information on the slides to real life situations. The ability to write and explore our own independent projects as well provided creative freedom that many other class labs seem to be lacking, and she did well to encourage critical thinking and exemplify how our experiments relate to real marine problems. Her inclusion of science communication in the curriculum was also a refreshing innovation to the lecture period, and something I had not experienced before in a STEM class." Greg Aniolek, undergraduate student

"Dr. Matassa coordinated an engaging field trip to Avery Point that was an exciting opportunity for students to expand their knowledge outside of the classroom. This opportunity included a tour of the Long Island Sound on a Project Oceanography research boat. While the tour was guided by two Project Oceanography educators, Dr. Matassa took every chance to communicate additional information that related to our classroom studies and energetically answered the questions that were raised. Dr. Matassa had something interesting and relevant to say about every species that we collected on the boat." Lukas Liebowitz, Senior Biology Major 2023

Jamie Vaudrey selected for Faculty Environmental Leadership Award


16 March 2023. DMS is proud to announce that Prof. Jamie Vaudrey has been selected for the 2023 Faculty Environmental Leadership Award (ELA). This award recognizes individuals who have worked alone or as part of organizations to support sustainability efforts at UConn and beyond.

Since 2005, the Office of Sustainability, within the Institute of the Environment has honored faculty members, students and staff members who have made a positive impact on the environment through their leadership in the classroom, lab, or in the communities which UConn serves

Dr. Vaudrey was nominated, because of her exemplary role as an environmental leader over the past years. She sets the standard for outreach in the Department of Marine Sciences. Communicating science is the fiber that runs through all of her research and teaching. She does this across a broad array of stakeholders often with competing interests. Her outreach extends well beyond advisory to active partnerships with citizen scientists, regulators, municipalities, and industry. It has helped to shape the stewardship trajectories of waters and watersheds regionally, and seagrass ecosystems worldwide.

Her leadership roles in professional societies and on advisory councils have pushed for more integration of scientific results into decision making and broadened participation of underrepresented groups in marine science. Dr. Vaudrey’s key role in gathering the momentum for establishing the Connecticut National Estuarine Research Reserve was her crowning achievement of years of meticulous, patient teamwork, where she led countless meetings to bring experts, policymakers and public stakeholders to the table and eventually, through dialogue and her own unique way of gentle persuasion, make the CT NERR a reality in 2022.

In addition, Dr. Vaudrey has led numerous, hands-on team efforts in recent years to work on sea grass restoration and living shorelines initiatives, where she has been inspiring students and volunteers by practically working alongside them in the field. Dr. Vaudrey’s compassion for nature and the future of Long Island Sound emanates from her everyday work, which is a key motivating force for every member of her team.

Dr. Vaudrey also works with Save the Sound and helped develop an Environmental Report Card for Long Island Sound which has engaged senators and other state and federal agencies to seek additional funding for research on environmental impacts on local waters. Jamie is also the Coordinator for the Niantic River Watershed Committee, and she is an outspoken advocate for environmental issues in our local marine waters. Her impact on understanding of environmental and sustainability impacts in CT’s local waters reaches far beyond the classroom, but she is devoted to educating the next generation of scientists and managers on these important issues.

Anagha Payyambally awarded Quad Fellowship

Congratulations to Anagha Payyambally, a PhD student in Professor Cara Manning’s research group, who has been selected as part of the inaugural class of Quad Fellows. Anagha is one of 100 recipients out of over 3200 applicants across all STEM fields to be selected for this fellowship, which is administered by Schmidt Futures (a philanthropic initiative of Eric and Wendy Schmidt). The rigorous selection process involved a written application, reference letters, and two interviews, and was designed to assess candidates’ academic excellence, intellectual rigor, interest in the intersection of STEM and society, capacity to bridge differences, and orientation towards results.Here is some info on the award, from Quad:
“This program sponsors 100 exceptional American, Japanese, Australian, and Indian master’s and doctoral students in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) to study in the United States. The fellowship develops a network of science and technology experts committed to advancing innovation and collaboration in the private, public, and academic sectors, in their own nations and among Quad countries. The program builds foundational understanding among Quad Fellows of one another’s societies and cultures through cohort-wide trips and robust programming with each country’s top scientists, technologists, and politicians.”

The next application for Quad Fellows is expected to open in November 2023.