Student News

Welcome, Christina McCosker!

By | Student News

The Cammen Lab is excited to welcome Christina McCosker, a new PhD student who is part of the inaugural class of the One Health and the Environment NRT program.

Christina’s interdisciplinary dissertation research will be co-advised by Kristina Cammen and Carly Sponarski, and include aspects of genomics, ecology, and human dimensions.  Christina’s research will focus on understanding the drivers of disease susceptibility in gray and harbor seal populations in the Northwest Atlantic.

Seals on the Penobscot River. Photo by Lauri Leach.

Alayna Hawkins successfully defends her Masters

By | Student News

Congratulations to Alayna (Hawkins) Gigliotti, who successfully defended her Masters in Marine Biology today!  Alayna’s thesis was entitled, “From Phocine Distemper to Avian Influenza: A Study of Immunogenetic Diversity in Two Sympatric Pinniped Species.”  Despite the pandemic, Alayna has had a big summer – moving home to Pennsylvania, getting married, and defending her Masters.  While preparing her thesis for publication, Alayna plans to pursue jobs in the bioinformatics field and apply for PhD positions in marine mammal science.

A screenshot of Alayna’s research question presented during her thesis presentation on Zoom.


Welcome, Julia Sunnarborg and Dara Yiu!

By | Student News

The Cammen Lab is excited to welcome Julia Sunnarborg and Dara Yiu, two new PhD students who joined the ME-eDNA research team this summer.

Dara’s dissertation research will be co-advised by Doug Rasher and Kristina Cammen.  Based at Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences, Dara’s research will focus on developing and implementing eDNA-based tools to study kelp-forest associated ecosystems.

Julia’s dissertation research will be co-advised by Kristina Cammen and Mike Kinnison.  Her research will focus on developing and implementing eDNA-based tools to study seals and their food webs in coastal Maine waters.  To learn more about Julia, check out this recent story in the Maine EPSCoR newsletter.

Meet Maine-eDNA: Julia Sunnarborg, Graduate Research Assistant


Lauri Leach named 2021 Knauss Finalist

By | Student News

Congratulations to Lauri Leach, who has been named a 2021 Knauss Finalist!  One of the most prestigious marine policy fellowships in the U.S, the John A. Knauss Marine Policy Fellowship program places early career professionals in federal government offices in Washington, D.C. for one year starting February 2021. Fellows are placed in both legislative and executive positions, following a placement week this fall.  Stay tuned to find out where Lauri will be next year!

Lauri is a current Masters student in the Cammen lab whose research focuses on pinnipeds in the Penobscot River.  To learn more, check out her research blog and stunning photos from the field.

Holland Haverkamp successfully defends his Masters

By | Student News

Congratulations to Holland Haverkamp, who successfully defended his Masters in Ecology & Environmental Sciences today!  Holland’s thesis was entitled, “Harp, harbor, and gray seal strandings in the Gulf of Maine: A retrospective socio-ecological analysis.” This research was funded by a grant from the NOAA Prescott program and completed in collaboration with Marine Mammals of Maine and Allied Whale.

Congratulations, Cammen Lab graduates!

By | Student News

Sarah Burton and Maddie Jorge sampling seal scat and eDNA on Cape Cod with Lisa Sette from the Center for Coastal Studies

Despite (or perhaps particularly because of) an unusual end to our spring semester this year, May is always a time for celebration on a college campus.  Please join us in congratulating Sarah Burton and Maddie Jorge for graduating with their Bachelors of Science in Marine Sciences from the University of Maine!  Sarah and Maddie have both been part of the Cammen Lab for many years – Sarah joined as a sophomore initially contributing to a retrospective analysis of marine mammal stranding data and then getting her feet wet in the field, the lab, and the marine mammal rehabilitation worlds.  Maddie joined the lab in her junior year as a Maine Learning Assistant for Kristina’s Marine Mammal Ecology and Conservation course, and then transitioned into a research assistant position.  Sarah and Maddie completed a team Capstone project focused on studying the marine mammals of Western Passage using a combination of visual and eDNA surveys.

Cammen lab at WMMC

By | Presentation, Student News

Kristina, Lauri, and Alayna traveled to Barcelona, Spain to kick off the end of the semester at the World Marine Mammal Conference.  This biennial conference, which this year was jointly hosted by the Society for Marine Mammalogy and the European Cetacean Society, attracted over 2700 scientists, policy-makers, conservationists, and other interested parties from around the world.

Alayna and Lauri both presented posters on their Masters research at the conference.

Kristina co-organized a conference workshop on Marine Mammal eDNA.  Six invited speakers shared lessons learned from their experiences using eDNA (environmental DNA, or the genetic material that organisms leave behind in their environments through sloughing skin, etc.) to study marine mammals.  Sixty workshop attendees then discussed their questions, concerns, and hopes about the potential of eDNA to move our field forward.

Emma Newcomb’s research featured by UMaine

By | Research, Student News, Uncategorized

Emma Newcomb has spent this semester conducting research on the cases in our state-wide marine mammal stranding database that involve human interaction with seals.  This work is part of our current NOAA Prescott grant-sponsored research and Emma’s role in the research is supported by an award from the Center for Undergraduate Research.  Emma’s research was recently featured by UMaine in a series on ongoing undergraduate research leading up to our annual UMaine Student Symposium.  Check out her video, produced by Cammen Lab member, Holland Haverkamp.


Congratulations CUGR Fellows!

By | Student News

Congratulations to Emma Newcomb and Liz Piotrowski on receiving fellowships from the UMaine Center for Undergraduate Research (CUGR)!  Both Emma and Liz were named AY 2018-19 CUGR Fellows.  Their fellowships will support research in: “Effects of human interaction on marine mammal strandings and call reports in the Gulf of Maine from 2010 to 2015” (Emma) and “Using eDNA sampling as a mechanism for improving marine mammal conservation through a non-invasive and cost efficient technique” (Liz).


Recruiting PhD student in ecological genomics… of birds!

By | Student News

As part of a new, collaborative NSF-funded research and training program in the genomic ecology of coastal organisms, we are recruting a PhD student who will study genome-phenome relationships in the wild.  The student will be expected to conduct both field work and genomic analyses towards understanding adaptation and the links between plumage phenotypes (color, resilience to wear, and microbiomes) and reproductive fitness across sparrow species.  Field work during summer months may involve supervising field crews in tidal marshes across the Northeast US, from Maine to Virginia.  Genomic analyses will include candidate gene sequencing, gene expression analyses, and microbiome characterization.

The student will be co-advised by Drs. Kristina Cammen ( and Brian Olsen (, through the Ecology and Environmental Sciences program at the University of Maine, located in Orono, an hour to the ocean and an hour and a half to Maine’s highest peak.  The student will also have the opportunity to work in collaboration with a diverse team of investigators, graduate students, and undergraduate students at the Universities of New Hampshire and Maine studying the ecological genomics and eco-evolutionary feedbacks of adaptation in tidal marsh birds.

The successful candidate must have a strong background in ecology and/or genomics. Preferred candidates will have demonstrated experience with field work, in particular, bird mist-netting (previous time as a federal banding sub-permittee strongly preferred), as well as experience in genetics, genomics, and/or bioinformatics. Consistent with our program scope and to advance an integrated understanding of adaptation in nature, we are especially interested in candidates who show promise to work in an inclusive and diverse collaborative environment and to engage intellectually across the diverse scales of genomes, phenomes, and environmental feedbacks. Individuals who are intellectually curious, responsible, willing to learn, team-oriented, and have attention to detail are encouraged to apply. An M.S. in a related field is preferred, but qualified candidates with extensive experience will be considered.

To apply, please send a cover letter describing your qualifications, including your commitment to diversity and inclusion in collaborative science, a curriculum vitae, unofficial transcripts, and the contact information for at least three references to and with “Ecological Genomics PhD Student Search” as the subject line of your email. All applications received before November 14, 2018 will receive full consideration, and applications will be accepted on a rolling basis thereafter until the positions are filled. A start date of January 2019 is strongly preferred.