I formally and informally advise, mentor, and collaborate with a diverse group of passionate, creative, and intellectually curious graduate and undergraduate students (and some who are on their way!). Through my Research Associate position at the California Academy of Sciences, Senior Felow position at Middlebury's Center for the Blue Economy, and in collaboration with students' home institutions, I teach/lecture, serve on their committees, help fundraise, conceive thesis projects, and work in the field with them as much as my schedule permits. 

Our focus is on producing the knowledge needed to solve urgent planetary problems. The other research can wait. To say that I am proud of each of them and that they are making the world a much better place would be an understatement, as you can read for yourself. Best of all, we seem to become lifelong friends and have a good time together doing what we love to do!

Louise Brooks (former MS student, Moss Landing Marine Labs) [GRADUATED!]

Louise Brooks completed her Master’s degree at Moss Landing Marine Lab.  Her award winning research focused on the movement of juvenile green turtles in Estero Banderitas, Bahia Magdalena, BCS, Mexico.  What we found most interesting was that the young green turtles move up and down the estuary with the tides, riding in and out, in a predicable manner.  We spent many long days and night tracking green turtles by kayak, one of the most memorable field experiences ever.

Stephen Delgado, University of Arizona, Tucson, former PhD student

Amanda Ellis, Riverhead, NY

I was fortunate to work on an Animal Planet documentary with Amanda and her great family. We remain in regular contact.  Her proud (rightly, so!) father David Ellis provided her bio, below:

Amanda Ellis, is a student at Pulaski Street School in Riverhead, NY.   She is currently studying science, math and Latin (voluntarily, I might add).

In the summer, Amanda spends every daylight hour either outside or at the beach, collecting and analyzing the behavior of various crabs (she's collected over 60 at a hand).  Her primary passion is insects.  She'll spend hours every day looking for, collecting, analyzing and observing any and all species of insects native to Long Island.  She converted a 6 foot display case into a butterfly cage which she uses to watch butterflies (naturally), moths, ladybugs and aphids.  She also keeps a butterfly enclosure in her bedroom, for night viewing.  During the winter months, Amanda likes to spend her time at the Atlantis Aquarium in Riverhead, NY.

She's also not shy about sharing her knowledge, giving up bits of information about diets, life cycles, mating habits, etc. to anyone who will listen.  When we're on the beach, the younger children flock to her like the Pied Piper, eager to see what new cool creature she pulls out of the water next.

Amanda wants to learn how to shoot and edit her own naturalist videos.  I just finished a 3 day crash course in digital video editing to help her on that end.  We'll have to spend the winter learning the basics of filming but should be ready to hit the ground running this spring. (I look forward to seeing them!, -WJN)

Elena Finkbeiner, Duke University, former MEM student, GRADUATED.  Currently PhD student, Stanford Univ.

Elena’s strong passion for the ocean environment helped paved the way for her present academic work in sea turtle conservation. Upon graduation from the University of California, Santa Cruz with a degree in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, her sea turtle conservation experience commenced with a summer internship on the Pacific coast of Costa Rica. She then moved to Charleston, South Carolina, to work on several loggerhead nesting beaches with USFWS and as a sea turtle educator on a private island. Her work continued in Santa Cruz, CA where she conducted literature reviews for several loggerhead research projects and worked along side J. on his various endeavors. She currently works for the International Sea Turtle Society and attends the Nicholas School of the Environment at Duke University. At Duke, Elena is pursuing a Master’s in Coastal Environmental Management. Her research interests are community-based environmental management, conservation tourism, mitigating sea turtle bycatch, and sea turtle ecology. Elena is most at peace when out in the ocean (or on land with salty eyelashes).

Read Elena’s MEM thesis: Establishing a Socio-economic Baseline of Sea Turtle Ecotourism in Baja California Sur, Mexico

Katy Garland, University of Florida, former PhD student [GRADUATED]

Amanda Jaksha, University of Arizona, PhD student [GRADUATED]

Amanda Jaksha became passionate about sea turtles and environmental conservation after taking part in an Earthwatch expedition in high school.  As an undergrad she studied sea turtles in Sarasota, Florida focusing on nesting habitats.  Since then she has been working to engage students in projects and programs designed to encourage their environmental awareness.  She is currently finishing her 3rd year of teaching high school science in Tucson and looking forward to beginning her PhD in Teaching and Teacher Education at the University of Arizona. Her dissertation research focused on learning more about how students express their environmental identities as they participate in an environmental learning program. The whole goal of her study was to understand more about how students see themselves in relationship to the environment and how their environmental identity is influenced by their experiences in education programs. Instead of focusing on content knowledge the study focused on non-traditional variables in education such as how students talk about their relationships with non-human species, how their values and life goals relate to the environment and the emotions students express related to environmental fears and threats. "I think one of the most important things that came out of the study is that we can't only focus on facts and content around teaching science and solving environmental problems. We also need to think about emotions, feelings and and a sense of connection to the environment...we need to educate for a blue mind." -Dr Amanda Jaksha

Kristin Küyük, National Science Foundation (former MS student, Oregon State) [GRADUATED]

Kristin Küyük has a special interest in integrated conservation of cultural and natural resources.  After a life-changing study abroad experience in Kenya as an undergrad, her conservation-oriented focus shifted from endangered wildlife to local resource-dependent cultures.  Her work in Baja California Sur involved research on the cultural significance and use of sea turtles within the local fishing communities of the Bahia Magdalena area.  She also was involved in documenting the early stages of community-based action and the formation of cross-regional collaborations among different fishing cooperatives in the region, sharing local knowledge and a growing dedication to sea turtle conservation.  After completion of her research in Baja, Kristin spent several years working for the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, before relocating again to the east coast for a position at the National Science Foundation.  Kristin’s academic background is in Wildlife Management, Anthropology and Environmental Ethics.  She holds degrees from the University of New Hampshire and Oregon State University.

Thesis: Community-based sea turtle conservation in Baja, Mexico : integrating science and culture

Sara Laimon [GRADUATED!]

Sara is the founder of, an educator at Environmental Charter High School and has been a positive light within the sustainability movement for the past ten years. At age 17, Laimon ran for the City Board with a platform for greening her hometown of Pewaukee, WI, losing by only three votes. This loss did not stop Laimon form pursuing her passion to create change. At age 20, Laimon started a dairy farm in Zimbabwe which was the green spark that led her to understand how the United States systems needed to change in order for the rest of the world to have a sustainable model to follow. Since that time she has spent her life educating youth about sustainability and seeking unique and varied ways to reach this important audience. Laimon, a National Board Certified Candidate, teaches the importance of actively contributing and being a steward of this planet. During her career as a classroom teacher, she has guided classes and school groups to create cob benches, convert a diesel car to run on veggie oil, create bio-diesel, and eat organic. Sara has traveled to Brazil, Colombia, Argentina, Haiti, Greece, and Galapagos finding, sharing, and learning solutions. Furthermore, she is devoting her life to creating and nurturing eco-activists to be empowered to share the solutions of hope. Beyond that, Laimon is dedicated to making every school the center of green solutions, within every community across the nation and ultimately the world. (pictured above with “Lonesome George” a Galapagos giant tortoise)

Melania Lopez Castro, University of Florida, PhD student [GRADUATED]

Antonio Mariscal Loza, Universidad Autónoma de Baja California Sur, La Paz, Mexico UABCS, MS student [GRADUATED!]

Download his thesis HERE

Antonio is a Master’s student at UABCS in sustainable management.  His thesis title is “Population status of Chelonia mydas on feeding grounds of Baja California Sur, Mexico”.  He has worked for three years with the Grupo Tortuguero analysing sea turtle monitoring data and presenting results in varios meeting and conferences.  His interest is in continuing research on endangered species conservation.

Estudiante de maestría en ciencias marinas y costeras, con orientación en manejo sustentable. Tesis “Estado de la población de la tortuga prieta Chelonia mydas en las áreas de alimentación de la península de Baja California, México”.  Tres años trabajando con el grupo tortuguero de las californias, analizando los datos de capturas y presentándolos en las diferentes reuniones anuales.  Interesado en seguir trabajando en la investigación para la conservación de las especies.

Amanda Martinez, MIT, Science Writing, MS student [GRADUATED]

With a B.A. in playwriting, it may be said that Amanda loves the ocean as the ideal mise en scène for the perdurable conflict between the preservation of nature and humans’ constant quest for resources.  She made her initial contribution to ocean conservation while working as an environmental journalist in Santa Cruz, California.  Her goal was to write a series of articles that explored one of the most challenging concepts for general readers to grasp about the ocean—its finite nature. These articles; featured migratory marine species that, with the aid of sophisticated tracking technology, have revealed previously uncharted ocean waters; investigated trash (most of which is plastic) that is currently aggregating in remote areas of the ocean by the ton; and described the work of scientists working at the intersection of human culture and ocean ecosystems, and their attempts to broker a balance between utilizing the ocean as a resource and preserving its ecosystems.  Beginning in the Fall of 2009, Amanda will further develop her skills as a science writer at MIT. Upon graduation, she will continue her quest to meld information about critical ocean issues and new discoveries in ocean science with stories of the people who advocate for a healthy, sustainable ocean. Through her writing, she hopes to inform and inspire as many people as possible to the cause of ocean conservation.

Hoyt Peckham, University of California at Santa Cruz, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology Dept., [GRADUATED!]

Hoyt is a doctoral candidate working on loggerhead sea turtle ecology and fisheries bycatch issues along the Baja California coast.  To his research he brings a wide range of media and communication skills.  Read more about Hoyt’s work HERE.

Natalia Rossi, Colombia University, PhD student

Natalia is from Argentina and is a Master’s student at Columbia University (NYC) on a Fulbright Fellowship.  She has worked with sea turtle conservation programs throughout Latin America.

Jesse Senko, University of Florida, Florida Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit and Department of Wildlife Ecology and Conservation, MS student [GRADUATED], PhD student, Ariona State University

Jesse Senko first fell in love with sea turtles when he swam on the back of a green turtle in the Cayman Islands as a young child. The turtle, keenly aware of his presence, took him to the surface to breathe approximately every 30 seconds. This experience inspired Jesse to pursue a career in which he could help save these beautiful creatures. Currently, Jesse is a Master's student in the Department of Wildlife Ecology and Conservation at the University of Florida. In collaboration with the Earthwatch expeditionTracking Baja's Black Sea Turtles , Ocean Conservancy and Grupo Tortuguero, his research focuses on the fine scale movements, habitat use and foraging ecology of black sea turtles in San Ignacio Lagoon, Baja California Sur, Mexico. He really likes turtles.

Mabruri Tanjung, Indonesia, MS Student.