Skip to content

Potential Projects and Mentors for 2023

This list is being provided to give potential PEP applicants an idea of the kinds of research projects PEP students may do in 2022. Potential applicants might also review the research projects PEP students have done in recent years (2017-2022).

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 2023 program, you may indicate on your application which mentors or projects interest you. If we offer you a spot in the 2023 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 2023, we will assign mentors and will put students in touch with their mentors to discuss potential projects.

The Potential Research Projects and Mentors list will be updated periodically as more mentors/projects become available. We anticipate a broad range of projects to be available, including but not limited to: microbiology, science communication, ecosystems management, biogeochemistry, marine biology, coastal processes, geology, fish ecology, and wetland restoration.

Mentor(s) and lab:  Dr. Heather Goldstone

Institution/Department:  Woodwell Climate Research Center Communications Team

Research Interests:  Science communication, data visualization, storytelling, multimedia design

Potential 2023 project(s): The Woodwell Communications team is offering a Multimedia Climate Science Communication Intensive project. The student will work collaboratively with multiple members of Woodwell’s Communications Team to convey research findings and climate science through multimedia storytelling. They will create a series of photo essays or multimedia-heavy stories using new and archival content, and create multimedia materials to promote those stories via social media, email, and web. Mediums of focus can be shaped by the student’s interest; there are opportunities in mapmaking and StoryMaps, infographic/graphic design, video editing and production, photo stories, and social media content generation.


Mentors and Lab: Dr. David McElroy, Giovanni Gianesin, and Lindsey Nelson

Institution: NOAA Northeast Fisheries Science Center, Cooperative Research Branch

Research Interests: Fisheries biology, marine ecology, habitat ecology

Potential 2023 Project(s): The NEFSC Bottom Longline Survey conducts a biannual industry-based survey that is designed to collect increased data in structured habitats in the Gulf of Maine. These complex structured habitats can be challenging to sample with mobile fishing gears. At each randomly selected fishing location, a short video of the bottom habitat is collected to help verify the substrate and the presence of important benthic macrofauna. These data can then be paired with the other data at each station to improve our understanding of habitat and fish abundance. This work supports the NEFSC’s mission to manage and understand the fishery resources and habitat in the Gulf of Maine. The student will help in the annotation of these videos and conduct some preliminary analyses. An interest in fisheries biology or marine ecology is recommended but not required.


Mentors and Lab: Dr. Adam Subhas

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

Research Interests: The Subhas Lab is generally interested in organisms that grow calcium carbonate shells in the ocean, and their role in the global carbon cycle.  We are interested in this cycle because it controls how much carbon the ocean can take up and sequester away from the atmosphere.  We may be able to use this cycle to store anthropogenic carbon dioxide, helping to solve global warming and ocean acidification. This process is known as ocean alkalinity enhancement. There are many practical challenges and unknowns on the topic of ocean alkalinity enhancement, both from the engineering side and from the ocean impacts side. Some of the lab’s work can be viewed here

Potential 2023 Project(s): There are several summer projects available in the lab involving ocean alkalinity enhancement in the Subhas Lab. The first is a set of experiments to measure calcification rates in seawater using a carbon isotope spike – this would be really useful to understand how fast organisms grow their shells in the first place – and further more it will help measure the impacts of ocean acidification – and alkalinization -- on these organisms. I also have a project looking at how fast some different types of silicate rocks (like serpentine) dissolve in seawater and produce alkalinity.  These reaction rates are crucial to understanding how fast these rocks can neutralize carbon dioxide, and will help us understand if we can use these rocks to sequester anthropogenic carbon dioxide in the ocean.

Mentor(s) and lab:  Chris Sherwood

Institution/Department:  US Geological Survey, Woods Hole Coastal and Marine Science Center

Research Interests:  Remote sensing of coastal change with aerial photography, fixed remote cameras, and satellites

Potential 2023 project(s): We use a variety of photogrammetry and machine learning techniques to observe and analyze coastal changes on beaches in Massachusetts and North Carolina. Students can select from some projects we have in mind (analyze video to measure velocities of overwash, model wave run-up, determine coastlines from camera imagery) or they can look over the data and design their own project. Student projects will offer opportunities to learn about image processing, and geographic data analysis using software and, if students are interested, coding in Python. Limited fieldwork opportunities may be available.


Mentors and lab:  Dr. Jenny Watts, Kathleen Savage

Institution/Department:  Woodwell Climate Research Center

Research Interests:  Forest ecology, climate change, greenhouse gas fluxes

Potential 2023 project(s):  Methane (CH4) is second only to carbon dioxide (CO2) in its contribution to human-induced climate change. Understanding the emission (source) and uptake (sink) of CH4 from ecosystems is of critical importance if we are to implement global emission mitigation strategies, yet we understand very little about CH4 flux in forests, the processes and feedbacks driving net flux, and how emission or uptake will change under future climate. As part of this work, the student will conduct controlled laboratory temperature and moisture incubations at the Woodwell laboratory, on microcosms of soils collected from the Howland Research Forest in Maine. This work aims to understand the drivers and responses of CH4 source/sink CH4 transitions under future climate change conditions predicted for the northeastern US.


Mentor(s) and lab:  Hillary Sullivan

Institution/Department: Woodwell Climate Research Center

Research Interests:  salt marsh restoration, biogeochemistry, nitrogen cycling

Potential 2023 project(s): We are implementing a new restoration strategy, called runnelling, in a marsh in  Waquoit Bay. This technique involves digging a shallow channel to help drain standing water off the marsh, and to restore it to natural conditions. We know that marshes are often a nitrogen sink, using and removing nitrogen from nearby coastal waters. We do not know how the installation of runnels and alteration of hydrology will impact the marsh’s nitrogen removal capability.  In 2023, we will be taking pre- runnel installation measurements of nitrogen cycling processes. This will involve a 50/50 split of lab work and field work. Because this is a new project, a student would have the potential ability to ask a research question and design a research project.


Mentors and Lab: Dr. Yaamini R. Venkataraman and Dr. Carolyn Tepolt

Institution/Department: Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Biology Department

Research Interests: green crabs, ecophysiology, climate change, invasive species, adaptation

Potential 2023 project(s): The European green crab (Carcinus maenas) are one of the world’s most successful marine invasive species, partly due to their ability to withstand broad temperature conditions. In order to better manage green crab spread, we need to understand why this species has a wide thermal tolerance. The PEP student will conduct a controlled laboratory experiment exposing green crabs to two different temperatures, then switching a subset of those crabs to a different temperature and measuring their performance. They will learn how to experimentally assess how organisms respond to a change in their environment using physiology techniques including respirometry and heart rate measurements. Based on the student’s interest, there is the opportunity to expand the research question and assist with a larger laboratory experiment.


Mentors and Lab: Dr. Kristin Gribble 

Department: Marine Biological Laboratory, Bay Paul Center for Comparative Molecular Biology and Evolution

Research Interests: Parental effects on offspring health, lifespan, and fitness; biology of aging; transgenerational inheritance; epigenetics; life history plasticity; phytoplankton and zooplankton

Potential 2023 Project(s): In many animals, offspring from older mothers have shorter lifespan, lower reproduction, and decreased health than do offspring from young mothers. Our lab uses rotifers (microscopic aquatic invertebrates) to study how a mother’s age affects her offspring’s phenotype. In either the following potential projects, students will learn to culture phytoplankton and zooplankton, measure hatching rate and lifespan, and will use methods including microscopy, molecular biology, respirometry, and/or simple biochemistry:

  1. Investigate the effects of maternal age on offspring mitochondrial function, health, and reproductive success.
  2. Compare levels of maternal investment in offspring from young and old mothers.