Skip to content


PEP-II offers a second summer experience for students who have already completed a summer with us for PEP.

The goal of PEP-II is to expand upon the existing PEP internship and create a post-baccalaureate focused summer research opportunity in Woods Hole for researchers from underrepresented minority groups to develop the skills, networks, and experiences required to competitively enter the marine workforce or graduate school.  The project also partners with public K-12 schools in Falmouth to develop marine and environmental science lesson plans.


The 2022 PEP-II Symposium was held on Thursday, August 11.

9:00 - Welcome and Remarks

Onjalé Scott Price, PEP Co-Director

Peg Brandon, President, Sea Education Association

9:05 - Ayinde Best

An Economic Evaluation of Recreational Shellfish Fishing in Cape Cod

9:25 - Rhegan Thomason

Effects of environmental quality on early stage juvenile shellfish growth and survival: An aquaculture approach using in situ eutrophication and coastal acidification gradients

9:45 - Hector Delgadillo

Examining the tidal elevation positions of two marsh cordgrass species

10:05 - Graduation


Ayinde Best

BS, Environmental Science, Wheaton College

Project Title: An Economic Evaluation of Recreational Shellfish Fishing in Cape Cod

Mentors: Hauke Kite-Powell and Yaqin Liu, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution


This study worked to provide an economic evaluation for recreational shellfishing in the 15 towns of Cape Cod using the travel cost model and demographic information. Previous studies have found a value using the willingness to pay (WTP) method, but in this study the travel cost model was selected because it focuses on actual costs that are incurred by the respondent. The WTP method only surveys hypothetical costs. A travel cost model can be broken into two sections, fixed and variable cost; such as the distance to a shellfishing site and the mode of transportation used to get there. The data for this study was collected through a survey distributed in 2021 which consisted of eight sections including permit and residence information, frequency of trips taken in 2019 and 2020, details such as distance traveled and method of transportation, and basic demographics such as age, income, education level, and race. The survey results were then analyzed using the programming language R. When observing the demographics, an overwhelming number of the respondents were white and male (89% white and 77.8% male) and most permit holders only fished with one to two people (54.6%). Studies like this are important not only to keep a consistently accurate value for a popular activity, but also to support regulatory decisions for shellfishing made at the county level. The next step for the project is to apply the travel cost model to the survey results in order to achieve an estimated value for recreational shellfishing.

Falmouth Public School Collaboration

FPS Teacher: Carmela Mayeski

For my collaboration with the Falmouth Public Schools I’ve been working with Carmela Mayeski, an 8th grade science teacher, to create a lesson plan centered around how to do a scientific survey. Students will have the chance to design and distribute surveys with my project as an example.


Rhegan Thomason

BS, Biological Science, University of Texas at El Paso

Project Title: Effects of environmental quality on early stage juvenile shellfish growth and survival: An aquaculture approach using in situ eutrophication and coastal acidification gradients

Mentor: Jennie Rheuban, WHOI / Woods Hole Sea Grant


Shellfish are sensitive to ocean acidification. As the ocean becomes more acidic, their calcium carbonate shells dissolve more easily, and fewer carbonate ions are available to build them. In Massachusetts, acidification in coastal embayments is also caused by poor water quality due to unmanaged wastewater runoff. This leads to eutrophication, increased organic matter inputs, and enhanced respiration and CO2 release. Shellfish aquaculture is a major part of the Massachusetts economy. Therefore, knowledge of the adverse effects of coastal acidification is important to keep the industry informed. Laboratory studies show strong reductions in shellfish growth and survival rates under acidified conditions, but often poorly replicate natural variability and in-situ conditions. As such, industry members often report not seeing any effects of acidification on their shellfish.
Using the Three Bays estuary in Barnstable, we deployed juvenile oysters at five sites along a eutrophication gradient to observe the effects of coastal acidification along with eutrophication and then assessed these impacts on later growth. 1500 individual oysters were deployed at each site using mesh bags secured in cages along with instrumentation to take measurements of temperature, salinity, dissolved oxygen, pH, and Chlorophyll concentration every 15 minutes. Every few weeks we returned to measure growth, mortality, switch to larger mesh bags, and collect water quality samples to be analyzed by different laboratories. After reviewing our environmental data, we found that our shellfish are resilient, even in unfavorable conditions. Through our five sites, pH ranged from 7.6-7.9, and our fastest growth rates were initially observed at sites with low pH and poor water quality. This pattern is the opposite of what we hypothesized.

Falmouth Public School Collaboration

FPS Teacher: Caitlin Church

Caitlin and I worked to create a week-long project that will end with students creating a mind map to demonstrate knowledge of the relationships between phytoplankton, oysters, and seagrass in a healthy estuary. This will include stations for all three, with background information, visuals and a hands-on activity.


Hector Delgadillo

BS, Marine Biology, California State University, Long Beach

Project Title: Examining the tidal elevation positions of two marsh cordgrass species

Mentors: Alice Besterman and Rachel Jakuba, Buzzards Bay Coalition


Salt marshes are globally distributed coastal ecosystems that provide crucial ecosystem services. Having highly productive vegetation and low carbon turnover rates, these ecosystems are high in carbon sequestration. However, rising sea levels pose a threat to marsh grasses due to an increase in marsh inundation and subsequent erosion. Spartina alterniflora and Spartina patens have well-documented zonation patterns, with the former occupying lower elevations that are inundated more frequently and the latter higher elevations that are inundated less frequently. Additionally, it has been shown that S. alterniflora can dominate the high marsh in the absence of S. patens, but S. patens cannot tolerate the conditions of the low marsh.
This research analyzes the relative tidal positions of S. alterniflora and S. patens within eleven Buzzards Bay marshes in 2020. The tidal positions of the two species were compared within each marsh and across all marshes. We found that S. patens was significantly higher than S. alterniflora in six of the marshes, but no differences were observed in four of the marshes. One marsh had no S. patens present but had a relatively low mean S. alterniflora position. Overall, S. patens was found significantly higher than S. alterniflora with a generally narrower tidal range in Buzzards Bay. These results show that S. alterniflora is not constrained to the low marsh and may vary, though species zonation is conserved. S. patens does not vary as much and has few low marsh outliers. As sea level rise exerts pressure on these marsh habitats, S. alterniflora’s ability to exist in a wide tidal frame allows for upward migration and therefore greater resistance to marsh erosion.

Falmouth Public School Collaboration

FPS Teacher: Kristina Woods

This summer I collaborated with Kristina Woods to gather material for the creation of an educational ArcGIS storymap. The storymap consists of 5 sections that overview the importance of and current threats facing wetlands.