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Potential Projects and Mentors for 2021

This list is being provided to give potential PEP applicants an idea of the kinds of research projects PEP students may do in 2021. Potential applicants might also review the research projects PEP students have done in recent years (2018-2020).

PEP does not guarantee that successful applicants will be matched with their first choice project/mentor. The PEP staff and the research mentors will work together to match students in labs where they can be successful. If you apply to the 2021 program, you may indicate on your application which mentors or projects interest you. If we offer you a spot in the 2021 program, we will take your interests into account when we match students with mentors. Soon after we extend offers (in March) to participate in PEP 2021, we will assign mentors and will put students in touch with their mentors to discuss potential projects.

The Potential Research Mentors List will be renewed and updated periodically, as more mentors/projects become available.

Kenneth Foreman

Mentors and Lab: Dr. Kenneth Foreman 

Institution/Department: Marine Biological Laboratory/Semester in Environmental Science

Research Interests: effects of nutrient loading and eutrophication in the coastal zone – especially shallow bays and estuaries that receive the majority of their nutrient inputs through submarine groundwater discharge.

Potential 2021 Undergraduate Projects: Undergraduate projects typically involve the study of groundwater biogeochemistry, nutrient cycling and nutrient contamination from wastewater on estuaries and coastal ponds. If it is possible to have students in residence in Woods Hole in 2021 for field-based work, project will involve sampling nutrients in well network on Little Pond/or working with wood chip reactors to remove nutrients at the Wareham Wastewater Treatment Facility.  Field work will require knowledge of basic chemistry.


Meagan Eagle

Mentors and Lab: Dr. Meagan Eagle

Institution/Department: USGS Woods Hole Coastal and Marine Science Center

Research Interests: the interface of land and sea; building new tools to address coastal hazards.

Potential 2021 Undergraduate Projects: Coastal wetlands are critical ecosystems at the interface of land and sea that offer a multitude of ecosystem benefits. Our lab studies how wetlands are involved in the climate system via cycling of carbon and greenhouse gases. Interns may have the opportunity to conduct field studies in Cape Cod marshes related to this topic, or if residency in Woods Hole is impossible the student may work on analysis of data related to greenhouse gas and carbon fluxes through the coastal environment.


Adam Subhas

Mentors and Lab: Dr. Adam Subhas

Institution/Department: Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Marine Chemistry and Geochemistry

Research Interests: All of the organisms that grow calcium carbonate shells in the ocean, and their relationship to the marine carbon and alkalinity cycles. Some of the lab’s work can be viewed here

Potential 2021 Undergraduate Projects: Our lab is interested in on global solutions to the CO2 emissions crisis – 2021 summer project will examine the biological and chemical consequences to adding alkalinity to the ocean as a carbon sequestration strategy. If interns can be resident in Woods Hole, the project will involve foraminifera dissolution experiments or potentially some incubations to test the effects of enhancing ocean alkalinity on marine microbes.  If the research component must be done remotely, the 2021 intern(s) will continue the 2020 project of analyzing sediment trap data.


Lauren Mullineaux

Mentors and Lab: Dr. Lauren Mullineaux

Institution/Department: Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Biology (Department Chair)

Research Interests:Ecology of the seafloor; Larval dispersal, Deep-sea biology,  Population connectivity, Community resilience. More at:  Mullineaux Benthic Ecology Lab

Potential 2021 Undergraduate Projects: (1) Colonization and resilience of deep-sea hydrothermal vent communities: analysis of field samples and images; (2) Behavior of larvae in turbulent flow: laboratory experiments with live larvae or numerical simulations; (3) Role of parasites in coastal marine habitat: field exploration of diversity and function of parasites in local marshes.


Sofie Van Parijs & Jennifer Turek

Mentors and Lab: Dr. Sofie Van Parijs and Jennifer Turek

Institution/Department: NOAA Northeast Fisheries Science Center, Protected Species Branch

Research Interests: The Passive Acoustics Group uses innovative passive acoustic technologies to evaluate the impacts of various human-produced sounds on acoustically sensitive marine animals, to aid in management, monitoring, and conservation efforts.

Potential 2021 Undergraduate Projects: Project involves preparation of material for outreach and education projects. Internship will focus on creating and adapting existing webpages, creating sound clips and spectrograms of marine animals, finding images and helping write text to explain our research projects.  New things are discovered by using bioacoustics - see this suspected new marine mammal species identified from its unique sound pattern!  As the field of bioacoustics is increasingly used for immediate conservation efforts (as is being shown here with the North Atlantic Right Whale), the Passive Acoustic Group is wanting to have assistance making this information more available for outreach and education purposes.


Ann Tarrant

Mentors and Lab: Dr. Ann Tarrant

Institution/Department: Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Biology

Research Interests: Use of molecular tools to better understand how animals detect and respond to signals and stresses in the marine environment. More here

Potential 2021 Undergraduate Projects:  Two potential projects, the first is a bioinformatics project that could be done either remotely or in person: (1) How do environmental conditions affect physiological condition of an Antarctic copepod? Samples of two copepod species have been sampled along the Western Antarctic Peninsula, and RNA-seq data is in hand to study the molecular physiology of these copepods. The two copepod species have different diets, metabolic characteristics, and "winter survival strategies." We are hoping to learn more about how they are adapted to their habitats and how they might respond to future environmental change. We are looking for a PEP student who would be interested in exploring the relationships between environmental conditions at the sampling sites (e.g., temperature, chlorophyll, community composition) and the differences in gene expression. A good match for this project would be a student willing to learn how to explore large datasets using the R computer language. No previous computer coding experience is necessary, but the project would require spending time working through computer tutorials, both with guidance and on your own.

The second is a lab-based project: (2) How might a common environmental pollutant affect stress tolerance of coastal invertebrates? Glyphosate is an herbicide that is widely used in agriculture and landscaping (e.g., in "Roundup"). Possible impacts of glyphosate on animals would be an unintended effect of its use. Glyphosate works by inhibiting a specific metabolic pathway that plants and some microbes use to make amino acids. The chemical is often thought to be safe for animals because most animals don't have this pathway. It's recently been shown that this pathway is present in reef-building corals and their relatives the sea anemones. Corals and anemones seem to particularly rely on this pathway to make a specific type of amino acids that absorb ultraviolet radiation ("UV") and can serve as natural "sunscreens." We propose to test whether glyphosate exposure affects "sunscreen" production and UV tolerance in sea anemones. A good match for this project would be a student who would be interested in learning more about environmental pollutants and willing to spend time caring for and observing marine invertebrates (sea anemones). No specific previous experience is necessary.


Matt Long

Mentors and Lab: Dr. Matt Long

Institution/Department: Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Marine Chemistry and Geochemistry

Research Interests: the ways that natural and anthropogenic processes influence the structure and function of marine ecosystems, studied through unique engineering solutions, advanced instrumentation, and technology development. Studies of biogeochemical cycling, physical transport processes, and bio-physical interactions are principal components of research into carbon and nutrient cycling in coastal environments. More here.

Potential 2021Undergraduate Projects: Project could be done remotely and involves analyses of water quality monitoring program data. Project may involve the National Estuarine Research Reserve system for this, which has 29 sites, and would provide projects for multiple students. Project will involve use of MATLAB and potentially R or possibly Excel.


Chris Neil

Mentors and Lab: Dr. Chris Neill

Institution: Woodwell Climate Research Center

Research Interests: Understanding the factors that enhance the success of ecological restoration of wetlands and grassland and the ways that ecological restoration, and the ecosystems services that restored ecosystems provide, can contribute to regional resiliency in the face of climate change.

Potential 2021 Undergraduate Projects: Potential to participate in studies of the effects of restoration of former cranberry agriculture on soils and water quality. Summer field projects (if possible) could focus on understanding soil topography and moisture, soil denitrification rates, and vegetation responses to restoration, and effects of restoration on stream water quality. Projects could also participate in analyses of data on soils, vegetation, water quality, and fish movements before and after recent wetland restoration projects.


Jennifer Watts

Mentors and Lab: Dr. Jennifer Watts

Institution/Department: Woodwell Climate Research Center

Research Interests: patterns and mechanisms of change in terrestrial environments, particularly the tundra, wetlands and forests in the Arctic-boreal regions of Alaska and Canada; Also, the semi-arid grasslands in the Rocky Mountain West.

Potential 2021 Undergraduate Projects: Four potential projects, all of which can be done remotely:

1) Using drone and small-sat imagery, in situ fluxes, and other geospatial data to identity spatial patterns and drivers of methane in a boreal wetland;

2) Understanding the vulnerability of Arctic-Boreal communities to climate change using geospatial data and a hot spot analysis;

3) Exploring how ecosystem properties and land use affect the ability of rangeland systems to sequester CO2 in the Rocky Mountain US;

4) "Signals in the Trees" - exploring what solar-induced fluorescence (SIF), L-band microwave signals, and other remote sensing indicators can tell us about the seasonality of CO2 uptake in boreal forests.


Carolyn Tepolt

Mentors and Lab: Dr. Carolyn Tepolt 

Institution/Department: Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Biology Department

Research Interests: How – and how quickly – marine populations respond to novel or changing conditions, with a focus on using marine species invasions as natural experiments in rapid adaptation. More at:

Potential 2021 Undergraduate Projects:

  1. (virtually or in-person): a comparison of how heart rates change with temperature in two high-impact invasive crab species, to predict their future spread and response to a warming ocean.
  2. (virtually or in-person): an examination of genetic markers in invasive green crabs, to better understand their rapid spread and success across a wide range of temperatures. If in-person, this project would include some genetic benchwork; if virtual, it would be entirely genetic data analysis.
  3. (in-person only): experimental infection of host crabs with an invasive body-snatching parasite, to test how susceptibility varies depending on whether or not the crab has been exposed to the parasite in the past.

For all of these projects, a good match would be a student with an interest in learning data analysis and visualization (mostly in the R programming language), both with lab guidance and independently. For the parasite project specifically, a good match would be a student with an interest in working with and caring for live animals (small crabs). No specific prior experience is necessary for any project, just a willingness to learn and enthusiasm for understanding how marine animals adapt.


Samuel Laney

Mentors and Lab: Dr. Samuel Laney 

 Institution/Department: Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Biology Department

Research Interests: Oceanography and engineering with broad interests in marine phytoplankton ecology. The questions that motivate me the most are those that examine how phytoplankton respond to changes in the oceanic light environment. My research aims to decipher the complex photosynthetic behaviors we see in phytoplankton in order to gain more insight into how these critical marine microbes contribute to oceanic processes such as primary production.

Research is strongly interdisciplinary and novel instrumentation & engineering approaches play an important role in my laboratory and field studies. Engineering efforts focus on autonomous, 'robotic' sampling of phytoplankton properties, especially in ice-covered polar regions where little is known about the distributions and ecology of algae in and under sea ice. More here:

Potential research areas for 2021 PEP students:

  • Satellite remote sensing: Studying the ocean from space using satellite data. This would be primarily computer-based and a student could expect to develop some skills with retrieving and interpreting satellite ocean data. Can be done as a virtual project in 2021.
  • Ocean instrumentation & automation: Modern oceanography is highly dependent on instruments and sensors. A range of projects involving different types of ocean sensors are possible. Kits and actual ship sensors can be shipped to students to work on at home. Project would be hands-on, requiring some use of computers, and not necessarily any background in technology or computers.
  • Polar oceanography: Both of the above projects are available with research involving the Arctic Ocean.


Melisa Diaz and Catherine Walker

Mentors and Lab: Dr. Catherine Walker and Dr. Melisa Diaz 

Institution/Department: Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Applied Ocean Physics and Engineering; Geology and Geophysics

Research Interests: climate change in Earth's polar regions (i.e. Arctic and Antarctic); mapping; remote sensing; satellite imaging; laser altimetry. More here

Potential 2021 Undergraduate Project(s): The usage and applications of satellite imagery to study evidence of modern climate change in Antarctica are still relatively new. We propose an exploratory undergraduate project using satellite imagery and possibly ICESat-2 satellite data to locate and map ponds in the Transantarctic Mountains, Antarctica. Once the ponds are identified, the student will dive into historic records to measure lake/pond level change over time and relate these data to long-term temperature trends throughout the region. No prior knowledge of Antarctic geomorphology, mapping, satellite imagery, or computer programming is required, though these skills would be beneficial. This project would best suit a student with an interest in the cryosphere and remote sensing.


Heidi Sosik

Mentors and Lab: Dr. Heidi Soski -  Northeast U.S. Shelf LTER

Institution/Department: Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Biology and Physical Oceanography Departments

Research Interests: Biological, chemical, and physical oceanographers work together in a multi-disciplinary team to study the Northeast U.S. Shelf ecosystem.

Potential 2021 Undergraduate Projects: The Northeast U.S. Shelf (NES) Long-Term Ecological Research (LTER) project integrates observations, experiments, and models to understand and predict how planktonic food webs are changing, and how those changes impact the productivity of higher trophic levels. In 2021 NES-LTER seeks PEP students in the fields of biology, engineering, mathematics, and physics. The project may include modeling and/or the impact of long-term changes in the physical environment on the ecosystem.


Anna Michel

Mentors and Lab: Dr. Anna Michel

Institution/Department: Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Applied Ocean Physics and Engineering

Research Interests: Understanding of ocean chemistry and its role in the current age where human activity is significantly impacting climate, environment, and ocean health. My research focuses on the development of in situ optical sensors to achieve this goal.

Potential 2021 Undergraduate Projects: Our interdisciplinary (engineering and chemistry) research focus is on advancing environmental observation through the development and deployment of novel sensors for measurement of key chemical species. In my lab, we design, build, and deploy advanced laser-based chemical sensors for environments ranging from the deep sea to Arctic environments. We are especially interested in bringing new technologies to the field for measurement of the greenhouse gases methane and carbon dioxide. An additional focus of our lab is on bringing adaptive sampling to ocean and earth science. More recently, we have been developing approaches for detecting microplastics in the ocean.

If we are fully remote, include analyzing environmental data sets(possibly with machine learning approaches), designing components for ocean instrumentation used CAD, or if possible, working on a hands-on sensor project or a plastics project. Examples of remote hands-on projects could include testing sensors outside and under different conditions or working with plastic samples to investigate how they weather in the environment. If we are in-person for summer 2021, projects can include developing and testing small gas sensors, investigating microplastics in ocean environments, advancing small platforms (including underwater remotely operated vehicles, surface vehicles, or drones) for making environmental measurements, and using machine learning approaches for data analysis.  Our group includes members with interests in environmental chemistry, engineering, computer science, and physics, but we welcome anyone with interests related to our research. Students can expect an interdisciplinary research experience.


Matthew Charette

Mentors and Lab: Dr. Matthew Charette

Institution/Department: Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Marine Chemistry and Geochemistry

Research Interests: the transport of materials from the land to the ocean and their impact on ocean biogeochemical cycles.

Potential 2021 Project: Ocean Mud and How it Can Regulate the Chemical Composition of Seawater and Even Earth’s Climate – Are you interested in how sediments can influence the chemistry of the ocean, and even potentially help to regulate Earth’s climate? In the Charette lab, we are dedicated to seeking knowledge on how ocean boundaries – from coastal aquifers to deep sea sediments – supply elements and compounds that are essential to life on our planet. We use radionuclides, in particular the isotopes of radium, as tracers of these important processes.

Potential undergraduate project in our lab will focus on interpretation of a radium isotope dataset in samples collected from a cruise to the Pacific Ocean in 2018. The intern will be introduced to various radiochemical techniques, data reduction, and data interpretation using other measurements collected on the cruises. Intern will have the opportunity to interact virtually with other members of our dynamic lab group, including students, postdocs, and research technicians. Please visit the lab group website at for more information.