Kristina Cammen

Assistant Professor of
Marine Mammal Science   
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I approach marine mammal science with a broad focus on ocean health that incorporates interconnected components of animal, human, and ecosystem health. My research program utilizes genetic and genomic techniques to study evolutionary adaptation, population ecology, and conservation biology. I am driven by questions of how individuals have adapted to survive threats in their environment over evolutionary and ecological timescales, and how genetic variation (or lack thereof) affects resistance to these threats in the face of rapid environmental change. My research focuses primarily on marine mammals that are sentinels of ocean health and species of conservation concern, though I have also investigated questions of adaptation to natural and anthropogenic stressors in estuarine fish and saltmarsh birds.

Current Lab Members

Shannon Brown

Undergraduate Research Assistant, Marine Biology

I am currently a sophomore marine science major with a concentration in marine biology at the University of Maine. I am originally from the Boston area and I came to Maine to pursue my dream of being a marine biologist. In the Cammen lab, I am currently currently entering and analyzing data on past marine mammal standings along the coast of Maine. In the future, I hope to either become an aquatic veterinarian or work in the rescue and rehabilitation of marine mammals.

Sarah Burton

Undergraduate Research Assistant, Marine Biology

I am currently a junior at the University of Maine, studying Marine Sciences with a concentration in Marine Biology. I moved from Connecticut to Maine with hopes of pursuing my interests in the world’s oceans and the extraordinary marine mammals that inhabit them. As a research assistant in the Cammen lab, I have been fortunate to study and analyze the marine mammal stranding patterns along the coast of Maine in hopes of understanding why these strandings occur and what we can do to help prevent them. Moving forward, I hope to continue my path in marine research and ultimately begin my journey to becoming a marine veterinarian.

Holland Haverkamp

M.S. Student, Ecology & Environmental Sciences

The focus of my research is to utilize marine mammal stranding data in the Gulf of Maine to 1) assess the abundance, distribution, and health of the marine mammals that make the Gulf home, 2) analyze interactions between humans and marine mammals, specifically harassment, and finally, 3) with an awareness that marine mammals are sentinel organisms (indicator species of the status of their broader ecology), use these data to assess ocean and human health. I am further interested in a body of work that classifies cetaceans as “non-human persons” and exploring the idea of transitioning it from a theoretical to applied practice. I have four children and am joined by my wife at UMaine, whom is pursuing her Ph.D. in Anthropology and Environmental Policy.

Alayna Hawkins

M.S. Student, Marine Biology

I am currently a Master’s student at University of Maine studying Marine Biology. Originally from Pennsylvania, I moved to Maine to fulfill my passion of studying marine mammals. More specifically, my research interests include using genetic techniques to answer questions of marine mammal health and evolution in response to environmental issues. My Master’s research involves analyzing genes within the Major Histocompatibility Complex in gray and harbor seals to investigate immunity against viruses. I am very excited to be a part of the Cammen Lab and look forward to the knowledge and experience I will gain from my research. In the future, I hope to continue such research while earning a Ph.D.

Kai LaSpina

Undergraduate Capstone student, Ecology & Environmental Sciences

Originally from Long Island, New York, I have always been fascinated by the ocean. It seems like second nature that I’ve ended up in marine sciences, studying the very thing that fascinates me most. I am currently a senior in the Ecology and Environmental Sciences program with a concentration in Marine Ecosystems. In the Cammen Lab, I am completing a study of genetic relatedness in Atlantic white-sided dolphins to help us understand why this species has a tendency to mass strand on beaches from Cape Cod to Ireland. My goal in studying marine science is to make a positive difference on the natural world, and to hopefully see my research play a role in solving conservation/pollution issues. Following my undergraduate studies, I hope to pursue graduate research in how anthropogenic noise pollution affects marine mammals and their ability to survive.

Lauri Leach

M.S. Student, Marine Biology

I joined the Cammen Lab in 2019 as a Master’s student after spending several years participating in seasonal research projects. My previous work has included aerial and vessel-based surveys of North Atlantic right whales, population assessment of Hawaiian monk seals, and monitoring productivity of piping plovers and common loons. I came to the University of Maine to study the potential impacts seals are having on fish species of conservation concern in the Penobscot River. I will also be creating a photo-identification catalog of seals that use the river so that we can learn more about individual patterns of use. My other research interests include marine mammal health, toxicology, and conservation. I am especially interested in the effects marine debris and microplastics have on marine mammal health, reproduction, and survival.

Emma Newcomb

Undergraduate Research Assistant, Marine Biology

I am currently a sophomore marine science major with a double concentration in biology and oceanography. Originally from eastern Massachusetts, I came to Maine to pursue my dream of working with marine mammals. At the University of Maine I am a research assistant analyzing spatial and temporal relationships in mammal strandings in the Gulf of Maine and visually observing marine mammals in Western Passage. Working in the Cammen Lab, I have been given the opportunity to follow my passion and work on expanding my understanding of the oceans. I hope to go on and get my doctorate in marine biology to study the effects of anthropogenic factors such as noise on marine mammals.

Elizabeth Piotrowski

Undergraduate Capstone student and Research Assistant, Marine Biology

I am currently a senior Marine Science major with a concentration in marine biology at the University of Maine. I am originally from Buffalo, New York, but came to Maine in order to pursue my interests in marine mammals and our world’s oceans. It has been a dream of mine, ever since I was a small child, to work with and help marine mammals. I am extremely passionate about rehabilitation and conservation efforts, and aspire to be a part of an organization dedicated to this. Some of my most recent experiences include an internship at the Aquarium of Niagara, work as a research assistant at UMaine’s Aquaculture Research Center, work as an educator and aquarist at the Maine State Aquarium (DMR), and crewing on a whale watching boat out of Boothbay Harbor, Maine. At UMaine, I am treasurer of the Marine Science Club and director of recruitment of Tri Delta. For my Capstone research in the Cammen Lab, I am analyzing Atlantic white-sided dolphin sighting data and photographs to test photo recognition as a method of tracking and studying dolphins at a distance. I am also working as a research assistant to develop environmental DNA (eDNA) methods for marine mammal species. Following my undergraduate degree, I hope to advance my interests through graduate research in marine mammal genetics and/or how marine mammal behavior can be affected by changes in the environment.

Emma Spies

Undergraduate Research Scholar, Marine Biology

Growing up in Maine, I have never been more than 15 minutes from the ocean. I have always loved the ocean, so it made sense to pursue my passion and study marine sciences. I am currently a sophomore at the University of Maine, majoring in Marine Sciences with a concentration in Marine Biology. I hope to one day become a shark biologist, to research, observe, and understand more about such a misunderstood species. In the Cammen Lab, I have worked on seal genetics in the past, and am currently working on an independent study. The research I am focusing on is archival research regarding historical shark and seal population trends in the Northwest Atlantic.

Prior Lab Members

Faythe Goins

Undergraduate Honors student, Marine Biology

Faythe completed her Honors thesis project in the Cammen lab in May 2018. For her research project, entitled The effect of temperature on the incubation period of loggerhead sea turtles in Edisto Beach, South Carolina, Faythe was awarded Highest Honors. Her primarily data analysis-driven research project followed four years of volunteer work with the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources on Edisto Beach Sea Turtle Patrol.

Faythe is currently pursuing her veterinary degree at the University of Georgia, aiming to specialize in marine animal medicine and continue to contribute to sea turtle conservation.

Sarah Vincze

Undergraduate Capstone student, Marine Sciences

Sarah Vincze completed her Senior Capstone research in the Cammen Lab in May 2018. Her Capstone paper was entitled Analysis of factors influencing the ongoing occurrence of brevetoxin-associated mass mortality events of bottlenose dolphin populations in the coastal waters along Florida. Sarah was also an active member of our marine mammal genetics research lab, participating in population genetic studies of gray and harbor seals.

Following graduation, Sarah returned to Namibia, where she had previously completed a summer internship in Walvis Bay assisting with bottlenose dolphin field research. As a Peace Corps volunteer, Sarah is currently a secondary education science teacher in Namibia.


Our research is more productive, effective, and fun because of the amazing collaborators we work with. Our lab has ongoing collaborations with the following research groups:

Maine’s marine mammal stranding research collaborative. (left to right) Lynda Doughty (MMoME), Katie Gilbert (MMoME), Emma Newcomb (UMaine), Sarah Burton (UMaine), Holland Haverkamp (UMaine), Kristina Cammen (UMaine) Shannon Brown (UMaine), Lindsey Jones (Allied Whale), Sean Todd (Allied Whale), Dominique Walk (MMoME)

Interested in joining our lab?

Funding dependent, we welcome new undergraduate and graduate students to our lab each year.

Undergraduate students in our lab receive training in molecular lab techniques, data analysis, and scientific writing. If you are interested in completing an independent study, senior Capstone project, or Honors thesis research with our lab group, please send me an email with a brief description of your academic and research interests, and what you hope to gain from an experience with our lab.

Graduate students can join our lab through the School of Marine Sciences M.S. in Marine Biology, dual M.S. in Marine Biology/Policy (requires a Marine Policy co-advisor), and Ph.D. in Marine Biology programs, as well as through the Ecology and Environmental Sciences M.S. and Ph.D. programs. If you are interested in joining our lab, please send me an email outlining your research interests and future career goals. A resume and summary of academic history, including GPA and GRE scores, are also helpful.

If you’re interested in finding ways to collaborate with our research group, please send me an email – I’d be excited to hear from you!

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