Our students have access to a wide variety of field practices and experiential learning opportunities. Our mentors support our program in a variety of ways, including meeting with students during the academic year to discuss career opportunities and science interests, mentoring interested students during the year on a limited research project, and host interested students to spend a day showing the work they do. Some of our mentor include individuals from the U.S Geological Survey, the Puerto Rico Department of Natural and Environmental Resources, the Jobos Bay Estuary Research Reserve, and the Vieques Conservation and Historical Trust.

UT and UMET have access to advanced students within and external to their institutions who can act as near-peer mentors for our geosciences students. UMCES provides access to graduate student mentors well-versed in oceanographic research and co-mentoring younger students.

Maria F. Barberena-Arias

Co-Program Director and Principal Investigator
Universidad del Turabo – Gurabo, PR

mbarberena1@suagm.edu

Professional Preparation:
PhD in Biology (2008), University of Puerto Rico

Areas of research interest:
Tropical ecosystems: arthropods in terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems, soil biology, litter decomposition (nutrients, temperature, humidity, fauna), community succession, conservation biology

Catalina Davila Aguer

Assistant Professor
School of Natural Sciences and Technology
Universidad del Turabo
Gurabo, P.R.

davilac2@suagm.edu
787-743-7979 x. 9-4266

Professional Preparation:
Universidad de los Andes, Colombia, B.S. Microbiology, 1999
University of Puerto Rico, Ph.D. Biology, 2015

Areas of research interest:
Microalgae diversity in marine and freshwaters, molecularcharacterization of toxic algal blooms, microalgae as a feedstock for energyproduction and other valuable products, removalmof nutrients from wastewaterswith microalgae, use of microalgae for the simultaneous treatment of urbanwastewaters and bioenergy production.

Maria Del C. Cotto-Maldonado

Assistant Professor
Department of Chemistry and Physics
School of Natural Sciences and Technology
Universidad del Turabo
Gurabo, P.R.

mcotto48@suagm.edu
787-743-7979 x. 4491

Professional Preparation:
University of Puerto Rico, Rio Piedras Campus, B.S. Biology, 1992.
University of Puerto Rico, Medical Science Campus, M.S. Environmental Health Science, 1997.
InterAmerican University, Metropolitan Campus, B.S. Chemistry, 2006.
Universidad del Turabo, Gurabo Campus, Ph.D., Environmental Science, 2012.

Areas of research interest:
Synthesis of new materials: titanium oxide nanowires, capped/hollow magnetite nanoparticles, zinc oxide particles, iron oxide nanowires, carbon nanotubes, cupric oxide nanowires, graphene and others. Advanced Oxidation Processes (AOPs), Hydrogen production by water-splitting. Synthesis and development of new nanomaterials for medical purposes. Potable water treatment systems (biological & chemical), environmental risk assessment and public health.

Lora A. Harris

Co-Program Director and Principal Investigator
UMCES Chesapeake Biological Laboratory–Solomons, MD

harris@umces.edu
410-326-7391

Professional Preparation:
Ph.D. University of Rhode Island
B.A. Smith College

Areas of research interest:
Coastal ecology, biogeochemistry, numerical modeling, metabolic rates, Primary producers from phytoplankton to macrophytes, Diversity and inclusion in geosciences

Pedro M. Maldonado

Pedro M. Maldonado

Co-Program Director and Principal Investigator
Universidad Metropolitana – San Juan, PR

um_pmaldonado@suagm.edu

Professional Preparation:
CUTB—BS. Field Of StudyComputer Science
Rensselear Polytechnic Institute—MS Field Of StudyComputer Science

Areas of research interest:
Twelve years teaching experience at college level. Director of Information Systems with experience supervising staff, and overseeing the complete technology infrastructure of a company. Software developer with experience in the design, development, implementation and maintenance of client/server, web based and mobile business applications.

James J. Pierson, Ph.D.

Headshot of Jamie Pierson

Co-Program Director and Principal Investigator
UMCES Horn Point Laboratory – Solomons, MD

jpierson@umces.edu
410-221-8218

Professional Preparation:
University of Washington—PhD Oceanography
University of Washington—MS Oceanography
University of New Hampshire—BS Marine and Freshwater

Areas of research interest:
Specializing in zooplankton ecology in estuaries and coastal regions, his particular interest in how zooplankton individuals and populations function within an ecosystem. His work has focused on marine copepods, in the context of the entire pelagic food web. He incorporates field observations, laboratory experiments, and numerical modeling to answer questions about how copepods interact with their environment and how the conditions of their habitat affects their life history and productivity.

Ivelisse Irizarry

Visiting Faculty
School of Natural Sciences and Technology
Universidad del Turabo
Gurabo, PR

irizarryi3@suagm.edu

Professional Preparation
Universidad de Puerto Rico, Mayagüez B.S. Industrial Microbiology, 2006
Universidad del Turabo, Master in Environmental Science, 2010
Rutgers University, PhD in Plant Biology (Pathology track), 2017

Areas of research interest:
Tropical plant biology, beneficial plant-microbe interactions and theeffects of these interactions on plant morphology and abiotic and biotic host stresstolerance, plant pathology, plant physiology, bioprospecting for plant growthpromoting microbes and potential biofertilizers, plant gene expression,biocontrol of bacterial and fungal phytopathogens, interactions betweenplant-associated bacteria and fungi.

Maria Elena Ocasio Torres

Assistant Professor
School of Natural Sciences and Technology
Universidad del Turabo
Gurabo, P.R.

ocasiom1@suagm.edu
787-743 7979 x. 9-4814

Professional Preparation
University of Puerto Rico – Humacao, B.S. Coastal Marine Biology, 2007
University of Puerto Rico – Río Piedras, Ph.D. Biology, 2014

Areas of research interest:
Animal behavior, predator-prey interactions, foodwebs, community ecology, morphology, fish, aquatic invertebrates, freshwaterbiology, marine biology.

Noemi Soto-Nieves

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Affiliation: Metropolitan University (UMET)

Project goal/objective: PCR and molecular assays of estuarine microorganisms