Sarah E lester, PI
Sarah is an assistant professor in the Department of Geography at Florida State University (FSU). Her research interests include marine conservation and protected areas, natural resource management and policy, marine spatial planning and ocean zoning, sustainable seafood, fisheries management, and biogeography. Ongoing research projects focus on understanding the effectiveness of marine protected areas, applying tradeoff analysis to marine spatial planning, designing ocean zoning and fisheries management around small island states, and understanding offshore aquaculture siting and development – she applies an interdisciplinary lens to all of these research topics. She received her PhD in marine ecology from the University of California Santa Barbara, and prior to coming to FSU, was the Research and Program Director of the Sustainable Fisheries Group at UCSB.
Rebecca Gentry, Post-Doctoral Scholar
Becca’s research focuses on spatial ecological and socio-economic questions related to marine aquaculture development. She is particularly interested in the interactions between aquaculture and other uses and values in the marine environment (such as fishing and conservation), sustainable management of marine aquaculture, and in understanding aquaculture’s effect on global food security. Becca recently completed her PhD at the Bren School of Environmental Science and Management at UC Santa Barbara. As a post-doctoral researcher, she is investigating global patterns of marine aquaculture development in order to better understand how and when aquaculture expands, and the drivers (environmental, social, and economic) that most often lead to this expansion.
Jennifer McHenry, PhD student
Jenn is broadly interested in complex interactions, feed-backs, and dependencies between human and coastal marine systems. Her dissertation seeks to understand the spatial dynamics of ecosystem service delivery in seagrass meadows along the Florida Gulf coast. Prior to starting in fall of 2017, Jennifer earned a B.Sc. in marine sciences in 2010 and a double M.Sc. in marine biology and marine policy in 2014 from the University of Maine. She also worked as a fisheries biologist at NOAA's Northeast Fisheries Science Center and then as a research technician and lab manager in labs of Dr. Sarah Lester and Dr. Andrew Rassweiler (Biological Sciences) at FSU.
eLIZABETH "BESS" rUFF, PhD student
Bess uses GIS and participatory mapping techniques to inform and design comprehensive marine management strategies that address both conservation objectives and human activities. She has conducted survey work for a variety of marine spatial planning projects in the Caribbean and, prior to FSU, provided research support as a graduate fellow for the Sustainable Fisheries Group. Bess graduated from Washington & Lee University with a B.A. in economics and earned a master’s degree from the Bren School of Environmental Science & Management at the University of California Santa Barbara, where she specialized in conservation planning as well as coastal and marine resource management.
Tyler Lynn, MS STUDENT
Tyler is interested in utilizing remote sensing techniques and tools to address environmental concerns, specifically those in coastal environments. His thesis research focuses on creating comprehensive maps of seagrass cover in the Florida Gulf Coast region to better understand the spatial and temporal changes that have occurred. Previously, Tyler served as a center lead for NASA DEVELOP’s Mobile County Health Department location after graduating from Auburn University with a B.S. in natural resources management in 2015.
Ally Dubel, RESEARCH TECHNICIAN
Ally is interested using statistics to research a wide spectrum of topics including marine biodiversity and how it is changing over time due to environmental change and population dynamics of reef fish species. Ally has B.A. in Theater Arts from Florida State University and a B.A. in Mathematics from George Mason University. She received an M.P.S. in Marine Conservation from University of Miami studying the invasive lionfish population in the Dry Tortugas National Park.
Brandon Witmer, undergraduate researcher
Brandon is a senior in the Department of Biological Sciences at FSU studying ecology and conservation. Brandon completed directed independent study research in the Lester Lab focused on assessing spatial patterns of seagrass associated biodiversity in Florida through literature review, field observations, and synthesizing available data. While continuing to volunteer in the Lab, Brandon is also completing internships with the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission on black bear management and with the Gulf Specimen Marine lab on animal husbandry and sea turtle rehabilitation. In the future he hopes to engage in graduate research focused on the population and behavioral dynamics of marine species.
Elizabeth “Ellie” Grunder, Undergraduate Researcher
Ellie is a senior in the Department of Geography at FSU studying Environment and Society and minoring in Spanish. Ellie’s honors thesis research in the Lester Lab examines and maps seagrass restoration efforts along the Florida Gulf Coast with the aim of understanding the motivations and potential outcomes of proposed projects. After earning her bachelor’s degree, she intends to pursue a master’s degree in Urban Planning, focusing on the effects of urban areas on wildlife and potential mitigation strategies.