1-week Internships


Patricia Albano


Degree: Bachelor of Science, Marine Science.  Bachelor of Science, Biology.  Minor, Chemistry.  Minor, Psychology.  (All in progress)

Education: University of Miami

Residency: Pembroke Pines, FL 

Citizenship: U.S.A.

Languages: English, limited proficiency in Spanish 

"My week at MCERC has been absolutely incredible.  Before coming here, I expected to learn a lot about whales and cetaceans but I am pleasantly surprised to be leaving Puerto Rico with a new approach to scientific thought.  It has been such a thrill to go out into the field and get hands-on experience with a subject I am truly passionate about.  This course has definitely confirmed my decision to study marine mammals and their behavior.  Living in the field house with everyone was such a great time and I’m so glad I got to know the research team and Mithriel who really taught me a lot.  My time at the Marine and Coastal Ecology Research Center has been so valuable! Thank you for teaching me so much!"


Nicole Alderete


Degree: Bachelor of Science, Biology

Education: Our Lady of the Lake University at San Antonio

Residency: El Paso, Texas

Citizenship: United States of America

Languages: Spanish and English

"This week has definitely been a week of “firsts”! Our schedule was packed with field experience and has opened my eyes to how important whales and our environment is to our everyday lives. It is very difficult to choose one thing that I enjoyed because it was all phenomenal; beginning with my first experience in snorkeling, learning to use Ishmael software (for acoustics analysis), spending time at Rincon scanning for whales, and being in a boat observing humpback whale behaviors. This will be something I will never forget and has certainly made me think through what I want to do upon completing my undergraduate degree."


Allison Adams


Degree: Bachelor of Fine Arts

Residency: San Fransisco, CA

Citizenship: US

Languages: English, limited French and Spanish


After this week, I feel much more prepared to begin my master’s degree in marine biology.  It is a great introduction to many aspects of marine research that can be applied to future studies.  Data collection from the boat was exciting and my favorite part of the experience!!!



Neah Baechler

Degree: Geology and Geosciences

Education: College of Charleston

Residency: Portland, Oregon

Citizenship: United States of America

Languages: English, limited proficiency in Spanish


"The MCERC Field intensive Program has given me an understanding of the nuances of research practice through living in a field house and interacting with others who are as passionate about science and exploration. The experience educates students, graduates and science enthusiasts in field technique, critical thinking, ecological interaction, and career building in a fun and supportive way. Mithriel MacKay’s research is fascinating, and the role each volunteer plays is hands on and critical to the success of the project, making every individual important. Mithriel is a strong researcher and excellent instructor and I found my time here not only educational in the traditional sense but inspirational in the development of my career goals and the direction I would like to take my professional life."


Maria Isabel Rios Batres


Degree: Bachelor of Science, Nutrition and Psychology

Education: San Diego State, California, USA

Primary Residence: Guatemala City, Guatemala

Primary Citizenship: Guatemala

Languages: Spanish, English, Italian, German

“This program was a great learning opportunity for someone who doesn’t have a background in marine biology. It did give me a taste of what research in this area is about. The crew is very welcoming and helpful, which makes this experience even better.”


Julia Behler

Degree: Bachelor of Science, Animal Science, The University of Maryland, USA

Education: Master of Science, Biology. The University of Central Florida, USA

Primary Residence: Baltimore, Maryland, USA

Primary Citizenship: USA

Languages: English

“My current research is focused on bottlenose dolphin feeding ecology in Pensacola Bay, Florida, USA; however, I have always had a great interest in humpback whale behavior and biology.  This is a great opportunity to learn more about marine mammals, field research, and the ecology of Puerto Rico for undergraduates and graduates alike.  My appreciation goes out to Mithriel and the interns for their help and hard work.”      


Sheila Behling


Degree: Bachelors of Science in Widlife Ecology Research and Managemet and Biology with a minor in Captive Wildlife

Education: University of Wisconsin Stevens Point

Hometown: Madison Wisconsin

Citizen: USA

Language: English


"I decided to participate in the MCERC humpback whale research program in Puerto Rico to not only get hands on experience in the field of marine biology but to also gain more knowledge of the south Atlantic ecosystem. I have always been fascinated with the undiscovered mysteries of the sea, but growing up in the Midwest has little opportunity for hands on discovery. This course exposed me to the critical aspects of data collection in the field and the many environmental pressures of marine biology research. Collectively, this course has taught me that I know very little but that there is a lot of research to learn from and a lot to discover."


Terenia Anne Berlie

Degree: Masters of Marine Sciences

Education: Goa University

Residency: Banglore, India

Citizenship: India

Languages: English, limited proficiency in Hindi, Marathi, Spanish, French


"The Humpback Whale Field Intensive Program taught me a great deal about the research process. I recommend this course for gaining experience in the field studying marine mammals. “Thanks!” Mithriel, Jo and Jacque for a wonderful time in Puerto Rico."


Trashon Boudreaux

Degree: Bachelor of Science, Marine Biology

Education: Texas A&M University at Galveston

Residency: Houston, Texas, USA

Citizenship: USA

Languages: English


"I joined MCERC to expand my knowledge of research techniques and gain experience in the field. While studying in San German I have worked with a theodolite for tracking cetaceans and boats and collected and analyzed data using the Mysticetus and Ishmael software programs. I am currently a protected species observer and passive acoustic monitor .  I hope to apply the science I have learned here with my current position and (in the future) as a masters candidate in an accredited graduate program studying marine mammal ecology."


Natasha Bowman

Education: University of Colorado at Boulder.

Degree: Major in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology

   Minor in Geology.

Residency: Boulder, Colorado.

Citizenship: Dual Citizenship with the U.S. and Colombia

Language: Fluent in both Spanish and English.


"I thoroughly enjoyed this fast-paced field internship course. Not only is it set in a great location, it’s teeming with intriguing biodiversity! Additionally, I found the length of the course to conveniently fit in between semester breaks. Personally, I have never taken a marine biology course, so, this internship allowed me to expand my background in biology and ecology. Listening to a humpback whale for the first time in my life was especially exciting."


Ximena Boza


University: College of Charleston

Degree: Marine biology

Residency: Panama City, Panama

Citizenship: Panama

Languages: English and Spanish


"This intensive week studying humpback whales gave me the opportunity to gain knowledge about these charismatic marine mammals. We were submerged in the process of how to study marine mammals, including set up and application of field equipment. My favorite part of the course was definitely listening to the whales! Thank you Mithriel, Jo, and Jacque for giving me the opportunity to have an unforgettable experience!!"


Roberta Aleksandra Betti Albiero Brink

Degree: Bachelor of Science, Biology

  minor: Marine Science and Environmental Science 

Education: The University of Tampa, Florida, USA

Primary Residence(s): Tampa, Florida, USA and Madrid, Spain

Primary Citizenship (s): Brazil, Denmark, Italy, 

Languages: English, Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, Danish, French. Limited proficiency: Arabic, Russian

“I have a year left before I finish my degree and I wanted to take marine specific field classes. Participating in the Humpback Whale Field Intensive Program in Puerto Rico, USA was my opportunity to experience my future first hand, learn as much as I can, and take it back with me to finish college. Humpback whales are magnificent animals and I definitely want to learn more about their life history and related ecology. My primary interests include glacial sharks off the coasts of Antarctica, and marine mammals. Being in Puerto Rico is an amazing experience, and I believe this is the best way to spend my spring break.” 


Amanda Calvird


Degree: Bachelor of Science Biology with a Pre-Veterinary Emphasis

Education: Valdosta State University

Primary Residence: Cumming, Georgia, U.S.A

Primary Citizenship: USA

Language(s): English, limited proficiency in Spanish and German

“I came to MCERC for my first experience with field research, and I’m going to apply the techniques I learned to upcoming projects and graduate education. My interest in hands-on education was fostered by Mithriel and her interns, who were extremely helpful and provided a friendly working environment. My experience with MCERC gave me confidence in my ability to learn new methods of data collection and analysis. I was provided with an unforgettable educational experience that has spiked my interest in biological research.”


Alex Carroll

Degree: Bachelor of Science in Marine Science 

Education: Eckerd College, St. Petersburg, Florida, USA

Residency: Oregon, U.S.A.

Citizenship: U.S.A.

Languages: English, limited proficiency in French

"Working side by side the MCERC staff has been invaluable, and delightful.  My experiences have expanded my familiarity with acoustic and behavioral ecology research, while providing me with new skill sets. This program has definitely provided me with a newfound confidence in research techniques/equipment for boat- and land-based survey.  Mithriel and the team are incredibly supportive, passionate, and eager to help further your aspirations by building up your thinking skills, while simultaneously expanding upon your strengths.  My experience in Puerto Rico will help me obtain internships and ultimately a graduate program focusing on cetaceans."


Cassidy Carter

Degree: Bachelor of Science marine biology

Education: College of Charleston

Residency: Summerville, South Carolina

Citizenship: United States of America

Languages: English and limited French


"My experience in Puerto Rico was breathtaking and a once in a lifetime experience! I was overwhelmed by the beauty of the city as well as by the ocean. It was awesome to see humpback whales with my own eyes and hear their beautiful singing. I had planned to study the captive population of dolphins before this program. I learned so much during this week of research that I realize I loved the field research!"


Jessica Cervens

Degree: Bachelor of Science, Biology/Marine Science

Education: The University of Tampa, Florida, USA

Primary Residence: Madison, Virginia, USA

Primary Citizenship: USA

Languages: English

“This Humpback Whale Field Intensive Program was such a great experience for me! I learned more in a week that I ever imagined I could. It was fast paced and there was never a dull moment with Mithriel and the interns. It was great! I had such an amazing time over the past week and I would definitely go through it again. I would absolutely recommend anyone interested in marine mammals or field research consider this program. You won’t regret it!” 

Le Qin Choo


Degree: Natural Sciences

Education: Cambridge University

"I found out about this field programme in the MarineBio.org Facebook page. I spent some time during my gap year working on identifying marine invertebrates and researching marine mussels, and so, was interested in studying another aspect of marine biology, such as cetaceans. This was definitely an eye-opening experience into the different research methods associated with humpback whale research, and I learnt many things that could be applied elsewhere, such as working with theodolites and acoustic imaging software."


Heidi Church


Graduate Degree: M.S. Environmental Science, focus: northern fur seals foraging behavior, Alaska Pacific University (in progress)

Undergraduate Degree: B.S. Marine Science and Biology, University of Miami

Residency: Anchorage, Alaska, U.S.A.

Hometown: Ipswich, Massachusetts, U.S.A.

Citizenship: U.S.A.

Languages: English, proficiency in French


"I chose to do the Humpback Field Intensive Program with MCERC to gain additional field experience and earn credits towards my master degree. My time in Puerto Rico has been absolutely amazing! I learned far more than I ever imagined about Humpback whales and various field and analysis techniques than I ever thought. I gained hands-on experience collecting data by boat and using a theodolite on land. I learned how to use Mysticetus, Ishmael, and Audacity. Mithriel and her team are all very qualified, intelligent, and great people who work incredibly hard to make sure you can get the most out of your experience. This program is the perfect way to boost your resume while learning invaluable techniques in a time-frame that is easy for people to take off. Plus, while you’re working hard, you’re surrounded by beautiful Puerto Rico."


Connor Cornell


Degree: Senior Biology Major

School: University of Central Florida

Residency: Orlando, FL

Citizenship: U.S.A

Language: English


"The week I spent with the MCERC crew was one I will never forget. Going into the week I expected to learn a lot, but I had no idea just how much I would learn. Not only did I gain valuable knowledge in a variety of field techniques, but I also got to experience the raw Puerto Rican culture. I am a senior in biology major at the University of Flordia with plans to work as an enironmental consultant after I graduate."




Suzanne Cresswell


Degree: Masters of Physio Therapy

Education: University of British Columbia

Residency: Redding, California

Citizenship: United States of America and Canada

Languages: English


"I am a physical therapist keenly interested in the health and well-being of all living creatures.  This field experience provided me with the most amazing once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to learn methods of whale research, observe whales up close, and be a part of a cohesive research team.  Mithriel is a gifted scientist and educator.  I am inspired by her and will endeavor to apply her skills of inquiry and compassion to the human population that surrounds me."


Rheaa Cypert


Degree: Bachelors in science in Biology and Chemistry

Education: Texas Tech University

Residency: Lubbock, Texas

Citizenship: United States of America

Languages: English, limited proficiency in German



“I was raised in a landlocked city and haven’t had many opportunities to travel to beaches or islands, so I enrolled myself in this course to see if I liked marine biology. In this course I learned several very useful techniques with programs, observation, equipment and data recording that will be extremely useful in the future, even outside of marine biology. Through this experience I have learned so much and have gained confidence in field study and ecology. I highly recommend this program to anyone curious about field techniques and marine biology because they really immerse you in that environment." 


Madison Evans


Degree: BSc Marine Biology, Dalhousie University, NS, CA

Hometown: Penetanguishene, ONT, CA

Residency: Halifax, NS, CA

Languages: English and French as a Second Language 



"My time at the Marine and Coastal Ecology Action Centre (MCERC) has been exceptionally valuable. I feel very fortunate to have had the opportunity to learn how to use various field tools and analysis programs through the Humpback Whale Field Intensive. I gained training and practice of Theodite, Ishmeal, Audacity, IMatch, and Mysticetus. Mithriel and the Research Assistants were great teachers and were diligent to explain everything in a clear and concise way. They made sure I got the most out of the program and got to experience as much of the MCERC humpback whale research as possible. I gained plenty of unique field experience in addition to traveling to and learning about the ecosystems in Puerto Rico. Hearing the humpback whales sing through the hydrophone was incredible and reinforced my passion for cetaceans. I believe the skills I have learned over the week will be extremely advantageous to me when I graduate in the spring and start applying for jobs and internships. In the future, I hope to find work in cetacean research."


Shangnon Fei


Degree: Biology with a concentration in Neurobiology

Education: Duke University

"I’m completing a major in biology, concentrating in neurobiology, and plan on applying to medical school – but I have also always harbored a love for research and marine science. This program was an ideal way for me to explore this interest, gain experience conducting humpback whale research in the field, and be able to learn about whales and marine mammals from a perspective that few are given the opportunity to experience. Not only was I able to help collect data on the behavior of these organisms, but I also was able to see humpback whales and listen to them sing in their natural habitat. The opportunity to observe live whales in the wild, discuss current debates in whale research with experienced scientists, and help provide a meaningful contribution to the body of existing knowledge about humpback whales is one that I will always be grateful to have taken."


Lindsey Fitzgerald


Degree: Bachelor of Science, Marine Science

Education: University of Maine, Orono

Residency: Reading, MA

Citizenship: USA

Languages: English


"The humpback whale course was a great experience working in the fields and learning how to achieve a common goal with other members of your team. The team really made me think for myself, which was an important part of this program. Not all answers were given directly but the guidance to solve those questions was always available. I believe this is an important tool to have in order to succeed in this field, and a tool I now have. You can hear whales on a CD or the internet but it is not the same as hearing it through headphones while using a hydrophone, which was one of the highlights of the program for me! This was a great program to test the waters of field work while gaining valuable scientific experience. Thank you for a memorable week and for giving me valuable skills that I will continue to use throughout my schooling and career. "


Christine Ford

Degree: Bachelor of Science, Marine, Estuarine & Freshwater Biology, 2014

Education: University of New Hampshire

Residency: Newmarket, New Hampshire

Citizenship: United States of America

Languages: English


"I really enjoyed the hands-on experience of learning the different aspects of field research.  Humpback whales are amazing animals to study, even when they don’t do what you think they will.  Watching a group of whales surface right next to the boat was awe-inspiring."


Chelsey Gloor


Degree: Bachelor of Science, General Biology


Study at: Biola University

Residency: USA

Hometown: Brownsville, TX

Language: English



The MCERC Humpback Whale Field Intensive program was an experience that I will never forget. I was challenged in more ways that I expected and really learned a lot about not only humpback whales, but myself as well. Mithriel and her team of research assistants really know what they are doing and I think it’s amazing that they are willing to take time out of research to expose less experienced students to opportunities like this. They were able to bring out my passion for studying cetaceans and provide insight for me.



Candace Grimes


Degree: Bachelor of Science, Biology with minors in Spanish and History

Education: University of Oklahoma

Residency: Norman, Oklahoma

Citizenship: United States of America

Languages: English and Spanish


"This program is very educational (humpback whales and conceptual thinking) and exciting (snorkeling and humpback whales). Learning to use theodolite and Ishmael Acoustic software will be very useful for my goal for a career in marine biology. I really liked the breakdown of the course (fun day, lab day, boat days, and theodolite day) and, of course, the people!!!"


Caroline Gussler

Degree: Biology

Education: University of Georgia

Hometown: Athens, GA



"I am currently a Junior studying Biology at the University of Georgia. I have always had a great interest Marine Biology. Unfortunately, UGA does not have a marine biology major, so I am trying to get in as many Marine Biology electives and other opportunities whenever I can fit them into my schedule. Along with MCERC, I have also worked with Loggerhead Sea Turtles for the past 10 summers. MCERC taught me much more about marine mammals as opposed to reptiles, and how different all of the research fields can be within marine biology. Although I have a great interest in marine biology, I really hope to pursue veterinary school when I finish my undergrad. All sciences interact, so I know that this extra marine biology background will help me with whatever field I decide to pursue."


Arianna Gustafson

Degree: Environmental Science

Education: Baylor University

Residency: Lake Stevens, Washington

Citizenship: United States of America

Languages: English, Russian (limited proficiency) 


"Participating in the Humpback Whale Field Intensive Program has opened my eyes to a completely new way of thinking. The program is very hands on and really focuses on materials that can help you in your future endeavors. I appreciated that everyone was here to learn and made it a great program to be a part of. All in all it has been an amazing experience and I couldn’t have asked for anything better."


Adam Haley

Degree: Bachelor of the Arts, self-designed major in Natural History

Education: Sterling College in Craftsbury Common, VT

Residency: Vermont, U.S.A.

Citizenship: U.S.A.

Languages: English


"With little experience in field research I feel like my week with MCERC has given me a great number of new skills based in acoustic, land and water based surveys. I also came away from my week in Puerto Rico with a new found appreciation for scientific publications and the people who write them. The MCERC field station is delightful and the team who run it are energetic and dedicated while light-hearted and welcoming. Thank you to Mithriel and the Research Assistants, I plan to make a strong finish in my natural history major using the skills I learned here, and will feel more confident moving forward onto a masters program or into the job market. I would confidently recommend this program to anyone with an interest in Cetaceans."

Desiree Harman

Degree: Veterniary Technician 

Education: McLennan Community College

Hometown: Waco, TX

"I am currently in the Veterinary Technician program at McLennan Community College, also I have a AA in Behavioral Sciences from Hill College. I was interested in this field research because I am fascinated with animal behavior and how their environment affects them, so I thought this would be a great experience to expand on this. I have had a love and passion for marine mammal ever since I could remember. Eventually I want to work as a marine mammal vet tech at some form of rescue, rehab facility, etc. Be able to study more marine mammal behavior would be an interest as well."


Stephanie Harry


Degrees: Bachelor of Arts in History, Master of Arts in American History, Master of Library Science (in progress)

Education: Dickinson College, University of Maryland


"I am originally from Connecticut and have been whale watching and following the humpback whales off of Cape Cod since the early 1980s.  Although I wanted to become a cetologist when I was younger, I earned my Bachelor of Arts degree in history and American studies from Dickinson College in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, in 1994, and my Master of Arts in American history from the University of Maryland in College Park, Maryland, in 1999.  My work generally involves photo and video collection management, and I worked for eight years with the video collection of a well-known scientific and educational organization.  Currently I am a part-time graduate student at the University of Maryland pursuing a Master of Library of Science degree.  After working on a sequence of projects involving the North Atlantic Right Whale Catalog last semester, I thought it would be interesting to participate in the Humpback Whale Intensive Program.  My particular cetacean-related interest is in the photo identification and life histories of North Atlantic humpbacks, and it has been interesting delving into the scientific literature regarding whale behavior and participating in field research with MCERC, particularly listening to humpbacks sing in the wild."


Kayla Hartigan


Degree:  Bachelor of Science in Marine Sciences

Education:  Senior at Stony Brook University, School of Atmospheric Sciences

Residency:  Troy, New York, USA 

Citizenship:  USA

Languages:   English

"This was really my first chance to go into the field and get hands on experience and the MCERC Humpback Field Intensive Research was one of the greatest experiences I’ve had!  I’ve always been interested in studying marine mammals, but I was getting discouraged by people telling me how difficult getting funding for research is, and how getting work in this field is near impossible.  Being a student in this program and learning all about marine biology  and the current research that is being done really re-vamped my interest. I can see this research is attainable making me more motivated and excited for the future.  This program teaches you a wide variety of skills that can apply to any field.  The week I spent in Puerto Rico has definitely taught me valuable skills and ideas that will help me in my career, and they will be memories I cherish forever."


Trever Harting


Degree: Bachelor of Science, Marine Vertebrate Biology

Education: Stony Brook University 

Residency: East Greenbush, New York

Citizenship: United States of America

Languages: English, limited proficiency in French.

"I have a passion for marine biology, especially elasmobranches (sharks, skates, and rays). I would highly recommend this experience to anyone who loves the ocean and the creatures that inhabit it. In just one week my outlook on ecosystems (not only whales!) has transformed. It is hard to even think about leaving this amazing program! "


Jamie Hawley

Degree:  Marine Vertebrate Biology

Education:  Stony Brook University

Residency:  New York, NY

Citizenship:  USA

Language:  English


"Working with whales has always been a dream of mine.  I have read countless books and seen dozens of documentaries, but none of them prepared me for real life sightings of these beautiful humpbacks here in Puerto Rico.  From the moment you spot a blow, or a fluke, or a dorsal fin, to the first time you hear the whales singing songs through the hydrophone, it’s all one unforgettable trip.  The Humpback Whale Field Intensive Project was an awe-inspiring experience and I have learned so much in one week.  I gained useful skills like how to use hydrophones, how to identify individual whales by their flukes, how to use a theodolite.  In addition, I learned about the biology, behaviors, ecology, and conservation of humpback whales.  Mithriel and her team are incredibly knowledgeable and eager to help volunteers get the most out of their time here.  They are a fun, compassionate group of scientists who will make you feel part of the team."


Bridget Hott


Degree: Bachelor of Science, Marine Biology

Study at: College of Charleston, SC

Residency: USA

Hometown: Great Falls, VA 

Language(s): English, Russian

"The MCERC Humpback Whale Field Intensive program is a great opportunity for anyone who wants to get hands-on experience observing and collecting data in marine environments. As someone who had never been a part of a field team before, this program really helped me get a look at what the job really entails and I am now more excited than ever to begin my career as a marine biologist. Thanks to Mithriel and her awesome team of research assistants, I have learned more about the nature of whales this week than I have in my whole life. I’ve always been interested in large marine mammals but I didn’t realize just how fun tracking Humpback Whales could be. Spending the day following whales showed me the true grace of these creatures and reiterated my passion to protect our world’s wildlife, regardless of the species at hand. I hope to continue with what I have learned here and contribute to the understanding of our oceans so that we can one day live in a world that puts the safety of our wildlife before all else."


Laura Hunsinger

Degree: Marine Biology 

Education: College of Charleston, Charleston, SC

Residency: Charleston, SC

Language: English

Citizenship:  USA


"I am a junior at the College of Charleston. This field intensive was the first time I had actively participated in field research and it was an excellent introduction to field work. After completing this MCERC program, I hope to go on to work with manatees in the West Indies."


Courtney Jackson

Degree: Northern Michigan University, USA

Education: Bachelor of Science, Zoology

      Minor: Psychology

Primary Residence: Traverse City, Michigan, USA

Primary Citizenship: USA

Languages: English

“It was an amazing experience full of hands on research, including enthusiastic and welcoming peers and instructors! I am so thankful for this opportunity to step my foot in the door towards a career in marine mammal research. Mithriel and her crew are supportive, patient, and upbeat which set the perfect setting for learning! I gained a lot of valuable research skills and I would recommend this experience to anyone interested in studying marine mammals.”

Courtland Kelly


Degree: Bachelor of Science, Organismic and Evolutionary Biology

Education: Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA

Primary Residence: Gloucester, Massachusetts

Primary Citizenship: USA and Canada

Languages: English, limited proficiency in German


"This program gave me a great taste of life as a field biologist, as well as teaching me a great deal about whales and teh surrounding ecology. Living with itnerns was a great experience, and it created an environment in which I learned a lot without realizing it. I highly recommend this program for students considering studying marine mammals or with an interns in doing field research."


Bridget Knutson

Degree: Major in Marine Biology

      Minors: in Environmental Science and Theater

Education: College of Charleston; graduating in 2017

Residency: Charleston, SC

Language: English

Citizenship: USA

"My name is Bridget Knutson and I was a freshman at the College of Charleston when I came to MCERC. I came into the humpback whale field intensive and MMO Training knowing next to nothing about marine mammal research. I had no idea what to expect during my week in Puerto Rico. When I got to the island I was immediately immersed in the life of a field biologist. I learned so much from this experience and did not feel left behind at any point. The interns and Mithriel are very considerate with all their students’ levels of prior knowledge on the subjects covered and they make sure to leave no one behind. From this experience I plan to further my research and training in the marine mammal field and hope to work in marine mammal conservation biology."


Erin Larragoite

Degree:  Bachelor of Science, Biology

Education: University of New Mexico

Residency:  Albuquerque, New Mexico

Citizenship: United States of America

Languages: English

"I greatly enjoyed learning all the different aspects of conducting field research and now understand the efforts required to study marine mammals.  Seeing a group of humpback whales aggregate, display aggressive behaviors, and breach up close was absolutely amazing and something I plan on getting to see very often.  This program was a great way to clarify what direction I want to take my studies and to challenge myself in the field of marine biology."


Mason Lee

Degree: Wildlife and Fisheries Sciences

Education: Texas A&M University

Residency: San Antonio, Texas

Citizenship: United States of America

Languages: English


"I came into the course knowing very little about humpback whales and marine life. I came home filled with knowledge and hands-on experience in field data collection. In addition to learning just about humpback whales, I also learned a lot about what it takes to conduct field research, and the importance of the correct methods for the question we are trying to answer. It was a great experience that will be very helpful as I go on to conduct my own research."


Kristina Legland 

Degree: Bachelor of Science, Marine Vertebrate Biology and Art Studio

Education: Stonybrook University

Residency: New York, USA

Citizenship: USA

Languages: English

"I went to Puerto Rico for the Field Intensive Program and enjoyed every minute of it! I plan for to go to Veterinary School and this was a great stepping stone in that direction. I learned all aspects of research many people do not get to see, all while being immersed in a different and interesting culture. I learned so much about whales and about being able to leave my comfort zone, trying something new, and learning to think in a new way. What I found most interesting about this program was there was no skill level required (a science background, for example); anyone is welcome and we start off at the basics and work our way up to becoming our own individual thinkers and researchers!"


Ellen Leighton 


Degree: Marine Biology  

Education: University of Wisconsin Superior

Residency: Minnesota, US

"Being here in San German, Puerto Rico has been such a huge eye opener for me. Never did I think that I would love being here as much as I did. Mithriel and all of the research assistants were so kind and open to teaching everyone with patience. They taught us how to collect the data that was needed to help with Mithriel’s research. It was great to talk about the whales, it was another to listen to them and actually hear them through the hydrophone in real life! 

This is such a great experience for anyone who wishes to be apart of any Marine Research team.  It's great being allowed to collect and analyze data, along with learning software programs that will help in the future. I cannot wait for more!"


Jacquelyn Lord


Degree: Bachelors of Science Marine Biology

Education: University California Santa Cruz    

Residency: Santa Cruz, CA

Hometown: Linden, CA 

Languages: English, minimum French 

"My career aspirations have a bit of variety in them. The two fields that I am interested in include Marine Ecology and Oceanography. Within Marine Ecology I would like to go towards the education side and teach students about marine conservation of local areas. I think reaching out to students at a young age and teaching them how the ocean works using hands-on education is a great way to engage students and get them excited about learning science. With oceanography, I would like to study how anthropogenic factors affects marine organisms.

Through the MCERC Humpback Field Intensive Program I have had a learning experience of a lifetime. Over the past several days I have learned more than I could ever learn in a classroom. Learning comes from experience by being in the boat, where numbers are being yelled out while there is a whale breaching at the same time. Through this course I have learned how to use the programs Mysticetus, Ishmael, Imatch, and Audacity. I have gained experience on a boat, using theodolite, with fluke identifications and ecology of a different area other than California. Mithriel and her team are the best type of people; they are welcoming, experienced, intelligent and overall amazing human beings. They will make sure you get the most out of this experience but they will also make you work for it. This course has brought me more experience than I had ever hoped to achieve here in Puerto Rico. "


Elisa Lovejoy


Degree(s):  Doctoral Candidate- Veterinary Medicine

Education: University of Arizona and University of Wisconsin- Madison

Primary Residence: Madison, Wisconsin, USA

Primary Citizenship: USA

Language: English

“I have a strong interest in aquatic animal medicine, research, and conservation.  I participated in the Humpback Field Intensive in order to attain a foundation of knowledge necessary for a successful career in aquatics.  I learned an immense amount of material during the week I was here.  The entire MCERC team is extremely passionate, friendly, and helpful.  It is evident that Mithriel thoroughly enjoys teaching, and does so with patience and enthusiasm.  My long term goals include completion of a veterinary internship followed by a career in aquatic animal health, research, and public education.  I sincerely hope this is not the last time I will be working with the MCERC research team. “ 


Brijonnay Madrigal


Degree: Bachelor of Science, Marine Biology; Bachelor of Arts, Communication

Education: University of Hawai’i at Mānoa

Residency: Honolulu, HI

Citizenship: U.S.A and Mexico

Languages: English, moderate proficiency in Spanish

"This experience represented a pivotal moment in my education because it confirmed for me that I am pursuing my passion and following the right career path of becoming a cetologist field researcher.  I have a passion for cetacean acoustics and communication research. So naturally, I have always wanted to listen to humpback whales in the field. During this field intensive program, I heard whales in the field for the first time! I learned how to think as a scientist on a new level with the help of Mithriel and her fantastic interns. With their guidance, I learned how to use research instruments I had never been exposed to before and learned to implement protocol for conducting boat and land marine mammal surveys! The level of knowledge I was able to gain about humpback whales, far exceeded the baseline knowledge I had before the field intensive program.  But, the most amazing moment for me during the week was being closer to humpback whales on the boat than I had ever been in my whole life. This program was better than I ever imagined and far exceeded my expectations!"


Amy Marshall


Degree: Marine Science Major and Environmental Science Studies Minor

Education: Stony Brook University, Long Island, New York, USA

Residency: Saratoga Springs, New York, USA

Language: English

Citizenship: USA

"Taking part in the MCERC program was an amazing opportunity and gave me a look into what my major course of study has in store for me.  I gained an understanding of skills used in the field along with more knowledge about humpback whales that I could have imagined.  This program immerses you in the field and provides hands on opportunities.  I learned things that can’t be learned in a classroom including being confident in your answers and working/getting along people you have never met before. Overall, this was the experience of a lifetime and anyone who has the chance should participate. I guarantee you won’t regret it.  I have made a ton of memories, new friends, seen sights I wouldn’t usually get to see and had fun all while spending a week in Puerto Rico."


Stephanie Marston


University: College of Charleston

Degree: Bachelor of Science Marine Biology

Residency: Charleston, South Carolina

Citizenship: United States of America

Languages: English


"The Marine and Coastal Ecology Research Center was a great experience that helped me decide to pursue a marine biology degree. I learned what it truly means to be a part of a team. Mithriel always includes the students with the work, and the interns (Jacque and Jo) were always willing to help.  They taught us how to use all the equipment before working in the field, so we felt confident. MCERC never left me bored and was tons of fun. Given the chance I would definitely do it again!"


Hallye Meeks


Degree: Bachelor of Science, marine biology

Education: College of Charleston

Residency: Madison, Mississippi

Citizenship: United States of America

Languages: English and Spanish


"As a marine biology major, I am very interested in finding out more about marine mammals and marine ecology. This course offers information about both of these things, as well as a look into what field research is like.  I have never felt a strong inclination towards research and field work, but after studying humpback whales under Mithriel’s instruction, meeting all of her wonderful interns and my fellow team members, I’ve realized that this is a path I would love to pursue. I also realize all of the opportunities that are available to me and feel like I have gotten my foot in the door. I am so excited to use the skills and information I have learned to further my marine biology experience."


Sarah Dier-McComb


Degree: Bachelor with honours in marine biology with a certificate in animal behaviour

Education: Dalhouise University 

Residency: Canada

Citizenship: Canadian

Languages: English, Spanish


"I learned an amazing amount of information in a short time! It was a great experience with, knowledgeable, patient, and super fun people! I’m glad we had the opportunity to get experience with all the research equipment! My favourite part was Friday, bright and early, when we saw a mom, calf, and escort. This was my first up close encounter with marine mammals in their natural environment!  This was a great week and I did not want to leave MCERC."


Ashley McCarthy


Degree: Marine Biology 

Education: Texas A&M University at Galveston 

Residency: Tinley Park, IL 

Citizenship: U.S.A 

Languages: English

"I was enrolled as a student through the University of Alaska because I was apart of the National Student Exchange at Illinois State University. Through the intensive coursework, engaging and active professors and remarkable experiences, I was able to decide to transfer to Texas A&M at Galveston to major in Marine Biology. The Tropical Marine and Coastal Ecology course in Puerto Rico was in addition to my coursework through Alaska.  It was well worth the cost, time and effort that were some of the worries that I had before deciding to enroll in the course. The time spent in Puerto Rico working with MCERC has reassured my goals in working in the Marine Biology department and establish where I want to go next. I hope others can walk away from this experience with a positive outlook on the program as I have."


Tara Meggett

Degree: Bachelors of Science in Marine Vertebrate Biology

Education: Stony Brook University

Residency: Long Island, New York

Citizenship: United States

Languages: English

"Being of Hawaiian heritage and having a mother who loves the ocean, I always had an attraction to the ocean, the animals that live in it, and how everything is connected. I found MCERC’s Humpback Whale Field Intensive program through Stony Brook’s internship website. I haven’t had many chances to do research or get a ‘hands-on’ experience in the marine biology field, so it was a great opportunity to be a part of this program. Even though it was only a week long, I learned so many field and research techniques. I have become familiar with the theodolite, boat surveys, fluke identification, a bioacoustics program called Ishmael, and a program called Mysticetus Observation System. I even became certified as a Marine Mammal Observer. Mithriel has given me the chance to take a peek into the life of a marine biologist and it is better than what I imagined. My time in Puerto Rico has not only opened my eyes to the world around me, but has refueled my passion for the ocean. I plan to use my new found knowledge to find more field experience and job opportunities that focus on the conservation of marine mammals and sea turtles."


Maura Palacios Mejia


University: Texas A&M University, Galveston

Degree: Ph.D

Residency: College Station, Texas

Citizenship: US

Languages: English, Spanish, Chinese


"I was able to learn methodology, concepts, and the ecology associated with humpback whales off Puerto Rico. I really enjoyed the discussions, field trips and especially the staff and participants who made the experience much more memorable. The feeling captured when you observe the humpback whales in their natural habitat reinforced the efforts of MCERC."


Michaela Miller

Degree: Bachelors of Science in Marine Vertebrate Biology, Minor in Ecosystems and Human Impact

Education: Stony Brook University

Residency: Stratford, Connecticut

Citizenship: United States of America

Languages: English


"The program is extremely educational, interesting and enjoyable! There is an immense amount of knowledge regarding field projects (including procedures, data collecting and analysis) that is taught in a clear and comprehensible way. As a student in this program, I was part of the research team and there was an equal level of responsibility and participation in data collection. This experience enhanced how I think, speak and act as a field scientist. This program definitely confirmed that this is what I would like to do with my career!"


Mara Migdalski


Degree: Bachelor of Science Marine Biology 

Education: Brandeis University

Residency: East Lyme, Connecticut

Citizenship: United States of America

Languages: English, Spanish


"I have never been so awed. Researching these incredible animals close-up was humbling and inspiring.  I enormously enjoyed learning about humpback whales in the field and in discussion, yet I believe the greatest take-away was learning how to approach science. Mithriel and the interns challenged our ways of thinking about everything from island ecology to scientific literature. Another unique aspect of this program—which I really appreciated—was getting the chance to use the equipment myself, helping collect data directly from the theodolite and hydrophones. Thanks to this experience, I have an even deeper curiosity for the natural world and skills to help satiate it."


Stephanie Mincielli

Degree: Biology and Marine Sciences

Education: Stony Brook University

Residency: Laurel, New York

Citizenship: United States of America

Languages: English, limited proficiency in Spanish

My interest in the ocean was sparked at an early age and led me to study marine science. I did not know a lot about marine mammals and joined MCERC excited to learn more while doing field work.  This has been a great experience, I highly recommend this program to anyone interested!


Jessica O’Hara

Degree: Sophomore- Bachelor of Science, Biology

Education: College of Charleston, South Carolina, USA

Primary Residence: Charleston, South Carolina, USA

Primary Citizenship: USA

Languages: English

“This program is great for students who want a hands-on field research experience. The Humpback Whale Field Intensive is flexible; full of instructive and useful skills applicable to any career. The short format is especially accommodating to tight school schedules and budgets. The fast pace submersion into the field work gives you a solid introduction into field research for anyone who is undecided which direction to take their career path.  It’s the perfect opportunity to meet people with similar career goals and enjoy the learning experience.”

Michelle De Jesus Ortiz


MS Degree: Environmental Biology & Ecology

MS Education: Interamerican University of Puerto Rico-Bayamon Campus

BS Degree: Natural Resources & Coastal Marine Biology

BS Education: University of Puerto Rico-Humacao Campus

Home town: Ponce, Puerto Rico

Citizenship: U.S.A.

Languages: English & Spanish


My experience with the Marine and Coastal Biology Field Station in San German was very interesting. When I signed up, I didn't know what to expect. I guess I thought it was going to be serious and a whole bunch of theoretical stuff that you teach in a classroom, and I was wrong. I loved the way we discussed theoretical work, meaning published articles and programs, as a team and I thought it was nice and a different way to interact with one another. I also loved that Mithriel let us in to what she is doing and taught us all different techniques there is to collecting data and identifying whales off shore and in land.  This past week was a “hands on” and team effort experience, and I like that very much. I saw in each of the team members the way they take care for each other and their equipment to get things done in an orderly fashion, not a lot of people do that. I got to see whales and other marine mammals that I never had seen before in their own habitats, and I will never forget it. It was AWESOME! I would do it again. In one week you truly can’t appreciate everything, but I know this experience will help me search the right job and even help me decide what area of research I would like to get my PhD, and I now know I definitely want to do something in marine mammal behavior.


Alex Pearse

Degree: Bachelors of environmental science, marine biology


Education: Deakin University

Residency: Warrnambool, Victoria, Australia

Citizenship: Australian

Languages: English


"The MCERC program was a great experience. It helped me to understand how a field house works and how to work as part of a team. The best part of my time in Puerto Rico would have to be the beautiful weather and going out on the boat to do acoustics.  It was cool to see everyone working as a team and see how excited everyone was when we saw the whales!"

Monica Pepe


Degree: Bachelor of Science in Marine Science

Education: The Richard Stockton College of New Jersey

Primary residency: Plymouth, Massachusetts, USA

Primary Citizenship: USA

Languages: English


Elizabeth Perez-Rodriguez


Degree: Bachelor of Science in Biology

Education: University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff 

Hometown: San Juan del Rio, Mexico 

Citizenship: Mexico

Languages: English and Spanish

"Definitely this course will enhance my competitiveness for Graduate School. I am very lucky to have participated in the Humpback Whale Field Intensive  where I learned a vast amount about Humpback whales and the equipment used to study them. Learning under the tutelage of Mithriel and the research assistants was a great experience. The most fascinating thing was to listen to the whales through the hydrophone. In the future I would like to obtain a Masters of Science in a marine-related field and join conservation of marine environment efforts in Mexico."


Nicole Pittoors


Degree: Bachelor of Science, Biology/Ecology

Education: Northern Michigan University

Residency: Detroit, Michigan USA

Citizenship: USA 

Languages: English

"Living so far away from the ocean, it was so refreshing to learn about coastal ecology, and Humpback whale behavior! My goal is to study biological oceanography in the future, but I also wondered what it was like to study humpback whales. I appreciated the opportunity to come out here and learn what marine mammal research is really like, and everything that it entails. I also enjoyed being able to learn the software that is used to analyze flukes and whale songs, while learning what is currently going on in the cetacean research community. I will never forget the first time I saw a whale breach and sing for the first time! Thank you to Mithriel and the RA’s for taking the time to take us in and teach us so many valuable skills!"


Courtnee Pool

Degree: Bachelor of Arts of in Psychology and a Business Minor

Education: Texas A&M University

Residency: College Station, Texas, USA

Citizenship: USA

Language: English

"As a senior psychology major having no prior experience with field research and little knowledge of marine mammals, my time in Puerto Rico with the MCERC was an eye-opening, educational, and challenging experience. I have always been fascinated with wildlife and conservation, and couldn’t refuse the opportunity to come learn about humpback whales in the wild, as well as experience the ins and outs of field research firsthand. My week in San German was everything I expected, and more- I was challenged to think in new ways that I can apply even outside of marine biology. I would encourage anyone with a thirst to learn about marine mammals, ecology, conservation, or wildlife in general to consider this opportunity. I will always remember my time in San German!"


John Rainey


Degree: Major in Marine Science

Education: Coastal Carolina University

Citizenship: U.S.

Language: Fluent in both English and French

"The MCERC field intensive humpback whale program was an extremely fulfilling experience. Mithriel and her research assistants provided excellent instruction on a variety of field instruments as well as practical explanations behind important concepts. This program’s unique set-up allowed for not only a greater understanding of humpback whales off of the beautiful island of Puerto Rico, but also valuable insight on the marine environment as a whole. The program allowed students to get a good idea of how to work together and live in a field house. I would absolutely recommend this to aspiring marine life scientists of any concentration!"


James Risdon


Degree: Bachelors of Arts Biology with an emphasis in Astrobiology and Exogeology

Education: University of Alaska Southeast

Residency: Juneau, AK, U.S.A.

Citizenship: U.K., U.S.A.

Language: English, limited proficiency in Spanish


"The MCERC allowed us to study varying climates, different geological zones, and marine am coastal ecosystems. I am currently working towards a bachelors in biology, I hope to focus my undergraduate research in preparation of graduate school at the University of Washington's Dual-Title Ph.D Astrobiology program. My research will be geared towards studying deep sea geology and extremophiles that simulate extraterrestrial conditions suitable for life-sustaining conditions."


Stephanie Ray

Degree: Northern Michigan University, USA

Education: Bachelor of Science, Behavioral Analysis

    Minor(s):  Biology, German, and Human Services

Primary Residence: Marquette, Michigan, USA

Primary Citizenship: USA

Languages: English, German, limited proficiency in Spanish

“Staying with Mithriel and her crew of intelligent, patient, and wonderful interns has given me such a great hands on experience for research in the field. This wonderful opportunity has opened many doors for my future and I thank the great people at MCERC for allowing, let alone trusting me, to help them with their research. You can read a textbook a million times and memorize it word-for-word, but you will still learn far times more being out in the field with hands on work.” 

Jonathan Reid

Degree: Bachelor of Science with honours marine biology and coastal zone management

Education: Lancaster University

Residency: St Bees, Cumbria, United Kingdom
Citizenship: United Kingdom
Languages: English, Spanish, French


"This course was a fantastic opportunity for me to develop and learn new field work skills which I can use in the future. Having never participated in a research course before, I did not know what to expect but I was pleasantly surprised. Hopefully, future projects will be as educational and fun as this one was. The MCERC director  (Mithriel) and MCERC interns (Jacque, Jo and Sarah) have given me an experience that I will never forget. Thank you!"


Patricia Ries


Degree: Masters of Science with a focus on Aquatic Sciences

Education: University of Wisconsin - La Crosse


"I recently graduated, earning a master of science with a focus on aquatic sciences. Searching for job opportunities post-graduation was a difficult task but in it I found the opportunity to assist the MCERC for a week long field intensive program on humpback whales.  This program was an incredible opportunity to further expand my knowledge on marine systems.  Through hands on learning this program has taught me new techniques and programs for field research projects.  Nightly round table discussions encouraged me to think outside the box and look at peer reviewed papers with a new perspective.  Overall this program really has helped shape me into a more well-rounded scientist."


Elizabeth Roy 


Degree: Bachelors of Science Marine Biology

Education: Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science at the University of Miami

Hometown: Arlington, Virginia

Languages: English, Spanish, Portuguese

"I’m especially interested in marine mammals, so I was delighted to spend a week in Puerto Rico getting hands on field experience and observing whales. This was my first time out in a small research vessel, and I had never seen (or heard!) humpback whales in the wild before. It was an incredible experience during which I gained a lot of knowledge and practical skills that have helped prepare me for future internships and jobs in the field"


Jenna Schwerzmann


Degree: B.S. in Marine Vertebrate Biology

Education:  Stony Brook University 

Residency: Watertown, NY

Citizenship: United States

Languages: English and some Spanish

"I feel really lucky to have participated in this program!  I got a good grasp on new skills that I probably wouldn’t have been able to obtain anywhere else.  I definitely think this course will make me a more competitive candidate for jobs.  I think marine mammal behavioral ecology is fascinating, so I hope to continue mastering skills like these in the field! Also, it was great to work under Mithriel’s expertise, and the interns were great to live with and learn from, too!!  Thanks for everyone who made this is a wonderful experience for me--I wish I could stay longer!"


Emily Sgarlat



   Major: Bachelor of Science in Natural Resource Conservation, 

   Minor: Environmental Science 

   Certificate: Marine an Coastal Biology

Education: University of Massachusetts Amherst

Hometown: Centerville, Massachusetts

Citizen: USA

Language: English


I had an excellent time learning how to use all the different equipment to hear and track whales. I was amazed by how effective the hydrophone and directional were at picking up whale songs. This was the first time I had ever heard humpback whales in the wild, I learned how complex and beautiful their songs could be. I didn’t expect to be able pick through scientific publications to understand the core of the subject while being able to digest it and put it into my own words. I learned the importance of knowing the authors of the publications as well as the publication years to determine how accurate and current they were. Mithriel and her team were knowledgeable and very good at communicating information while ensuring a good time out in the field. This trip was more than I imagined: Puerto Rico is a beautiful place with the perfect environment for learning about humpback whales.  


Christopher Shelton

Degree: Marine Biology

Education: Texas A&M University- Galveston

Residency: St. Pearland, Texas

Citizenship: US

Languages: English


"I highly recommend this program for everyone that is interested in science. This program teaches a lot of useful skills such as theodolite tracking, photography, and how to collect data for humpback whale research.  Seeing humpbacks in their winter habitat and listening to the song from the hydrophone deployed from the boat is by far my favorite part of the field program."


Tammy Silva


Degree: Master of Science Marine Biology and Bachelor of Science Biology, 

Education: University of Massachusetts Dartmouth (masters) and Stonehill College (bachelors)

Residency: Fall River, MA, 02724 USA

Citizenship: United States of America

Languages: English, Conversational Portuguese and Spanish


"I absolutely loved the Humpback Whale Field Intensive! Although I’ve worked with humpback whales in the Gulf of Maine, seeing them in Puerto Rico gave me a completely different perspective on their biology. Hearing the whales sing was amazing!  I gained such valuable experience with multiple field techniques that I may not have been able to obtain if it were not for this program. The MCERC director (Mithriel) and MCERC interns (Jacque, Jo and Sarah) were wonderful and I learned something from each of them. This was definitely an experience I will never forget."


Samantha Silvestri


Degree: Bachelor of Science, Marine Vertebrate Biology; Minor, Environmental Studies

Education: Stony Brook University

Residency: Melville, New York

Citizenship: United States of America

Languages: English

"One of the best decisions I have ever made was participating in the MCERC Humpback Whale Field Intensive program! I have seen and learned things that I would not have had the chance to experience anywhere else. This entire program has been the experience of a lifetime and anyone who has the chance to participate, should!"


Tanner Smith


Degree: General biology and Spanish literature

Education: University of California-San Diego

Residency: Texas

Citizenship: United States of America

Languages: English, Spanish, schweya 3arabiya


"The Humpback Whale Field intensive met and beat my expectations.  Intensive might be the key word; it’s a quick trip, but you’re going to do and learn A LOT.  It’s one thing to read about a hydrophone and picking up whale song in a book, but it’s totally different to be straining to hold on to one bobbing on a boat in the middle of the Caribbean so you can hear the magical sounds of a distant whale through static, fish, and snapping shrimp.  I had a great time, and if you’re even a little curious about whales (and especially if you want to know if this is for you), you should go!"


Valerie Skinner

Major: Environmental Science (Education & Communication Track)

Minor: Climatology

Education: University of Minnesota, Twin Cities

Residence: Minneapolis, MN

Citizenship: USA

Languages: English, Spanish

"I participated in the Humpback Whale Field Intensive program in Puerto Rico because I have always been interested in humpback whale behavior and ecology, so I was excited at the opportunity to learn more about it. My experience with MCERC was both challenging and exhilarating! As my first field research experience, I was exposed to lots of new information about research tools, techniques, and software. The skills we built over the week in San German are especially valuable because they are applicable to lots of areas of science and research, not just marine biology. The HWFI was a great way for me to broaden my horizons to gain hands-on experience."


Shannon Smallwood


Degree: Bachelors in Marine Vertebrate Biology

Education: Stony Brook University

Residency: Long Island, New York, USA

Citizenship: USA 

Languages: English

"I have  always been determined to combine my two major interests (oceanic environments and animals significantly larger than the average human) into one career. The MCERC field intensive, with Mithriel and accompanying research assistants, certainly helped me “get my feet wet” in terms of team cooperation and data collection. The access we had to the surveying techniques and technological devices has definitely helped me prepare for my ideal career path. By the time I have finished my undergraduate education, my time here will have prepared me to assist researchers in their groundbreaking studies."


Kathryn Smaus


Degree: Bachelor’s degree in Marine Biology with an emphasis on biomedical sciences 

Education: Texas A&M University at Galveston

Residency: Austin, Texas, United States

Citizenship: United States of America

Languages:  English and limited Spanish

The Marine and Coastal Ecology Research Center gave me valuable experience towards my future as a Marine Biologist. Every experience was hands on. When Mithriel and the interns (Jacque and Jo) were working on research, students were always included participating in everything. Seeing a humpback whale from 50 meters away will always be a highlight of my time in Puerto Rico, but the knowledge I gained while researching these amazing animals will stick with me through out everything I do in my future. Thanks to the MCERC team!


Kelsi Starling


Degree: Bachelor of Arts

Education: University of Oklahoma 

Residency: McAlester, Oklahoma

Citizenship: United States of America

Languages: English


"In a week I learned above and beyond what I had previously thought was possible. The days were packed with experiencing, developing, and utilizing a wide variety of field skills that are essential for anyone interested in a career in marine mammal biology. It was hard work but even that was part of the learning experience Mithriel has established to teach us what life in the field is like. I’ll never forget my first adventure out of the states and into this sea of knowledge, or exactly what Tyack wrote about his 1983 paper (smiles to those “in the know!”-MMM)." 


Nicole Strawderman 

Degree: Bachelor of Science, Biology

Education: Bridgewater College, Virginia, USA

Primary Residence: Norfolk, Virginia, USA

Primary Citizenship: USA


“The Humpback Whale Field Intensive Program is a wonderful experience for someone who does not have a lot of experience in the marine biology field. Mithriel and the interns were incredibly helpful in the learning process and I cannot thank them enough for all their encouraging words. It has been a whirlwind of a week but one I would certainly love to relive over and over.”


Mike Taylor


Degree: Bachelor of Science in Environmental Resource Management

Education: Cornwall College

Residency: Newquay, United Kingdom

Citizenship: United Kingdom

Languages: English


"As a mature student from England, this course gave me a unique opportunity to see and hear humpback whales up close. I was so lucky to see whales exhibiting many behaviors while collecting data from the boat. We recorded humpbacks singing through the hydrophone system used by Mithriel and the team. We were looked after brilliantly by the interns and I learned how to scan the ocean in an effective manner. I have made many memories and some new friends all with a common interest in marine wildlife. Overall it makes me want to do so much more to help cetaceans back in the southwest of England."

Carlye Tatum


Degree: Bachelor of Science in Biology

Education: University of Central Oklahoma

Residency: Edmond, Oklahoma

Citizenship: United States

Languages: English


"The time I spent at the Humpback Whale Field Intensive Program is priceless. Mithriel and the interns are wonderful at explaining every question and really helped me understand the importance of this research project.  Mithriel is a wonderful teacher and really makes you think like a scientist! Not only did I learn about humpback whales, but all about the ecology and environment. I will never forget the first whale I saw and will never forget the tiresome journeys we took to do the most we could for the project. This is a great opportunity and would do it over and over again! Thank you, Mithriel, Jacque, Jo, and Sarah for all your hard work! Blow!"


Andrew Thomason


Degree- Bioresource Management 

Education- University of Alaska Southeast

Residency- Juneau, Alaska, USA

Citizenship- USA

Language- English

I'm studying the integration of marine biology and cultural anthropology, specifically marine mammals and aboriginal cultures of Southeast Alaska. Ethnobiology is emerging as a valuable tool to conservation biologists and I hope to contribute to this field. I intend to pursue paleoecology in graduate school and work with federal and/or local governments in tandem with cultural groups to develop/maintain sustainable resource utilization

Jessica Toledo


Bachelors of Science, Environmental Studies

Nova Southeastern University, Ft. Lauderdale, FL

Hometown: Elizabeth, NJ

Residency: Clermont, FL

Languages: English, Spanish


My experience with MCERC was unforgettable. I really enjoyed learning new research techniques and having the chance of a lifetime to study humpback whales and seeing them firsthand out in the field. It was a privilege and an amazing opportunity to see these magnificent creatures up close and observe the behavior of different groups. I’ll never forget when the mother and calf came close to the boat and seeing the mother breach out of the water what seemed only a few meters away in slow motion. It was breathtaking and really enjoyed working with the research team. The research team welcomed us as their part of a family and working together, we were able to end the week with a whale of a time.


Michelle Trifari

Education: The Richard Stockton College of NJ

Residency: Pequannoock, NJ


"My experience participating in the Humpback Whale Field Intensive program was great! As someone who has always wanted to research cetaceans but didn’t have any experience, this gave me the opportunity to get out there in the field and see exactly what it was like. It was even better than I expected. Mithriel and the research assistants taught me so much information and a variety of techniques that I will be able to take with me to pursue my future career goals in marine mammal research. I had a week full of fun, hard work, and excitement all in one with great people to spend it with."


Shana VanGilder


Name: Shana VanGilder

School: University of Central Missouri

Degree:  Biology: Wildlife and Natural Resource Conservation

Residency:  United States:  Holden, MO

"Before traveling to Puerto Rico to participate in this program I only had one other field experience and it was nothing like this.  This opportunity has broadened my understanding for the way an actual field station is run and how everyone’s responsibilities carry into one another.  I have always found cetaceans very interesting and was captivated by sea life at a young age, especially sharks.  However, living in the middle of the U.S has afforded me very few opportunities to actually see any of the ocean animals that interest me.  Programs like this give you that opportunity and hands on experience.  I have learned a lot of valuable information in my short time here.  The importance of accurate data collection and reliable back ups of back ups is a good example.  It was great to be able to actually work with the equipment and be able to use the hydrophones and be part of the team.  The publication and ecology lessons were also very useful and forced me to adjust my way of thinking to try and connect all the pieces together in ways that I previously wouldn’t have thought.  This experience will be one that I will use to make my skill set stronger and help advance me into my career."


Madelaine Verbeek


Degree: Bachelors of Science- Ecology, Evolution, and Biodiversity

Education: New College of Florida, Sarasota, Florida

Residency: Plant City, Florida

Citizenship: United States of America

Language: English

"My time with Mithriel and the MCERC team was undeniably wonderful. Not only was I surrounded by research assistants who were driven to see me excel but I was also joined by three really brilliant marine science students that gave me a fresh and challenging perspective on all things. This whole team was lead by a fearless leader determined to guide us to our own conclusions and guarantee an amazing learning experience with or without whales. As a fourth year thesis student at New College of Florida studying human interactions with dolphins I came in with incredibly high expectations and they were far surpassed at every step of the way. From the detailed explanations of classic theories, to the hands-on work with high tech equipment, and multiple visits to the various ecosystems present in beautiful Puerto Rico, MCERC has something to offer for all students, degrees, and career fields. I know that with whatever choice I make in the future, whether it is graduate school for ecology with a masters in marketing or a job as a marine biologists who is lucky enough to travel the world, I know I will use what I learned here at MCERC in every aspect of my professional career."

Molly Vogt

Degree: Bachelor of Science, Marine vertebrate biology

Education: Stony Brook University
Residency: Glen Cove, New York
Citizenship: United States of America
Languages: English


"In one fast-paced week I learned more about working in the field than I have in my four years as an undergraduate student. This program encompasses so much more than whales, touching on the importance of understanding ecology, using field instruments, and the PhD process. It was a fun and informative experience!"


Breanna Wagner

Education: Bemijdji State University

Residency: Bemijdji, MN

Languages: English


"My experience with the Humpback Whale Field Intensive Program was one I’ve never had before. I had the privilege to be a part of an awesome team doing an ongoing project studying humpback whales here in Puerto Rico. I learned so many field techniques and software programs within the week that I was here. One of my favorite parts of the trip was hearing humpback whales sing through the hydrophones for the first time. I appreciate the program because they give students the chance to gain experience and knowledge in the field."


Rebecca White

Degree: Bachelor of Science,  Marine Biology

Education: Dalhousie University

Residency: Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada

Language: English

Citizenship: Canadian

"I have always had a strong desire to build my future career around marine animals and conservation. My week-long experience with the MCERC team was a confirmation of this desire and allowed me to develop the fundamental knowledge and skills to embark on this career. The hands-on experience was truly unique and unforgettable. The week was a non-stop learning experience that opened my eyes to new ways of thinking. The team was welcoming, dedicated, passionate, and introduced me to the work involved in becoming a researcher and marine biologist. We joined the team and  trained to use the equipment and directly participating in data collection are skills I would have never otherwise gained. The week was an amazing experience."


Heidi Wilson

Degree: Bachelor of Science zoology

Education: University of Oklahoma

Residency: Norman, Oklahoma
Citizenship: United States of America
Languages: English, Intermediate Spanish


"The experience was wonderful, exciting, and incredibly educational.  Witnessing the whales surfacing and hearing whales singing is breathtaking.  Participating in the field research and the information provided along the way helped elevate my understanding of scientific processes and key concepts of marine biology and ecology."


Victoria Wolfgang


Degree: Bachelors of Science, Biology

Education: Sweet Briar College, Amherst Virginia

Residency: Richmond, Virginia

Languages: English

"The time I spent with the Marine and Coastal Ecology Research Center has been absolutely incredible. Not only was I able to gain hands on experience working with sophisticated marine science equipment, but I was also counted on as an important member of the research team. The program offered me the opportunity to live in a field house with other biologists, sharing chores and looking out for each other, which is valuable real-world experience that is hard to come by as an undergrad. I can’t thank Mithriel, Carlye, Clayton, Jonny, and Shelby enough for their instruction and support. I was able to bond with the team and my fellow students in a way I had not predicted prior.  I’ll never forget my first Humpback Whale sighting, or hearing them sing through the hydrophone."


Clayton Yancey

Degree: Bachelors of Science, Marine Biology

Education: Southwestern College 

Hometown: Seminole, OK, USA

Languages: English

"Before I went to MCERC, I did not have any field experience in the marine sciences.  Being in the field with Mithriel has helped me understand how exciting and hard science can actually be. This has prepared me for my future in marine sciences.  I love the passion and work that Mithriel and the interns showed for the project.  This motivates me to have my own project one day and to help people like Mithriel has helped me.  Mithriel has pushed me to be better a scientist and to do everything to the best of my ability."


Carlin Yu


Degree: Degree in Marine Vertebrate Biology

Education: Stony Brook University

Residency: Brooklyn, New York, USA

Citizenship: U.S.A

Languages: English, Chinese, Intermediate Sign Language

"Begin part of MCERC was a great first step to my future research. I was always interested in whales because there is so much more to learn about them. After my first visit to the aquarium I feel in love with marine animals.  From this program I learned a lot about whales and the skills I needed to study them. It was a great experience and I highly recommend anyone to participate in this program even if you are not studying marine science!"

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