AOML Welcomes 2023 Summer Interns

On National Intern Day, AOML is celebrating our 2023 summer internship class ranging from high school students to post doctoral fellows. They are joining us from schools across the country, from Hawai’i to Florida, and are researching corals, microbes, hurricanes, air-sea interaction, ocean acidification, communications strategies, and much more.

Some of the 2023 interns are Ernest F. Hollings Scholars and William M. Lapenta interns, which are both NOAA programs that provide hands-on opportunities for undergraduate and graduate students in the fields of Ocean and Atmospheric Sciences.

Meet the interns below!

Kelly smiles into the camera wearing glasses and a black long sleeve shirt.

Kelly Neighbour is a rising senior at the University of Georgia majoring in Atmospheric Sciences & Geography, minoring in Spanish, and will be receiving a certificate in Geographic Information Science. Kelly joined AOML’s Hurricane Research Division as a NOAA Ernest F. Hollings Scholar Intern this summer to assess the airborne Tail-Doppler Radar data quality control method that is currently used in NOAA Hurricane Reconnaissance missions.

My favorite thing about being here at HRD/AOML is that every day is a learning experience. Everyone here has been so welcoming and eager to teach me something new!

Autumn Reyna Dellorso is a current graduate student at the University of Miami Rosenstiel School for Marine, Atmospheric and Earth Sciences earning her Masters of Professional Science Degree (MPS) in Tropical Marine Ecosystem Management. As an intern with AOML’s Coral Program, she has developed a project focused on: “Comparing the Microbiomes of Corals Susceptible and Non-Susceptible to Stony Coral Tissue Loss Disease in a Transmission Experiment.”

Samantha Donner is a William Lapenta Intern from Rutgers University working in the Physical Oceanography Division (PhOD) as a student intern under the guidance of Shenfu Dong, Ana Vaz, and Marlos Goes. Her current research is entitled: “Water Mass Transformation induced by Tropical Cyclones.

Ashvin smiles at the camera with brown hair and a silver tee shirt in front of a red door.

Ashvin Namboodiri is currently enrolled at the University of Miami’s Rosenstiel School of Marine, Atmospheric and Earth Science, pursuing a Master of Professional Science degree in the Natural Hazards and Catastrophes degree track. During his time at AOML, Ashwin will primarily be working and interacting with the HRD scientists and researchers to develop an inventory of products and techniques that have the potential to go into the Advanced Weather Interactive Processing System (AWIPS).

Lorelei Ing is an Ernest F. Hollings Scholar completing her internship at AOML over the summer under the guidance of Michael Studivan, Ph.D. Ing is looking into the algal symbiont characterization of urbanized, inshore corals compared to those of offshore reefs found beyond urban environments to better understand differences among coral populations and potential stress resilience. Beyond her work at AOML, Ing is working towards her Bachelors of Art in Biological Sciences and Classical Studies at Smith College.

“Being a part of the urban corals project has really emphasized to me the importance of this work for future coral restoration initiatives, especially in light of increasing anthropogenic impacts, and I hope to continue to be a part of this research.”

Taylor Gill prepares small test tubes in a lab setting on top of a black counter surrounded by lab equipment and yellow and green boxes. She's wearing a gray tee shirt, a hat and blue gloves.

Taylor Gill is the current AOML Coral Program Intern through the University of MIami’s Cooperative Institute of Marine and Atmospheric Studies (CIMAS). Gill’s project focuses on assessing larval recruitment of urban coral habitats in the Port of Miami through in-situ fluorescence imaging.

Alfred Augsto Brewer Leon joined AOML’s Physical Oceanography Division as a MAST (Maritime and Science Technology) Academy high school intern in September 2022. Alfred is working with the Argo Program under the guidance of Claudia Schmid, Ph.D., co-principal investigator of U.S. Argo.

Zachary Zagon poses for the camera in a blue collared shirt with his robes on as he graduates. He holds two pieces of coral in his hands, completely white. The background is faded though we can see an aisle of palm trees on both sides of him.

Zachary Zagon is a current student at the University of Miami’s Rosenstiel School for Marine, Atmospheric and Earth Science earning his Masters of Professional Science (MPS) in Tropical Marine Ecology. He is interning with the AOML Coral Program and has designed a project to assess algal symbiont characterization of corals from CIMAS Scientist Ana Palacio’s, Ph.D. research and determine whether multiple stressors impact coral and algal associations as well as disease susceptibility. While an intern, Zagon has oriented this hands-on experience to complete his MPS degree at the University of Miami and will graduate in early August.

Sterling smiles at the camera with a hat and gray rain jacket on to shield from expected rain. Fishing poles and blue ocean are behind him.

Sterling Butler is a graduate student at the University of Miami’s Rosenstiel School for Marine, Atmospheric and Earth Science working towards his Masters of Professional Science (MPS) in Tropical Marine Ecology while a student intern in the Coral Program at AOML under the guidance of Ian Enochs. While this internship is oriented towards completing his degree, Sterling’s research involves looking into the potential parasitic bacteria Candidatus Aquarickettsia rohweri abundance in Staghorn Coral (Acropora cervicornis) for insights on growth, coral disease susceptibility and overall survivorship. This research will culminate in a final presentation for his degree as he is set to graduate in early December.

Cameron Bennett is an EPP/MSI intern working with AOML’s Dr. Lew Gramer, Dr. Sundararaman Gopalakrishnan (Gopal), and Dr. Gus Alaka on a project entitled “Use of the AOML Hurricane Model Viewer for understanding HAFS forecasts.” Cameron is physically hosted by NOAA’s Weather Program Office in Silver Spring, Maryland. He is a rising Junior at Jackson State University in Jackson, Mississippi.

Brandon Feole is a William Lapenta Intern from Johns Hopkins University working under the guidance of Chris Kelble, Ph.D., Luke Thompson, Ph.D., and Enrique Montes, Ph.D. as a Student Intern within the Ocean Chemistry and Ecosystems Division (OCED). With his internship, he is currently contributing to the ongoing project: “Generating a Time Series Record of Biodiversity in South Florida Waters Using eDNA Observations” while performing DNA extraction and bioinformatic analysis along with collecting samples on a research cruise in his second to last week at AOML.

Alexander Radames Balladares joined AOML’s Physical Oceanography Division as a summer intern from Florida International University. Alexander is working with the Engineering Group, under the guidance of Pedro Peña, to learn about the technology and instruments used in oceanography so as to better understand the tools for ocean conservation.

Kenzie Cooke wears a red collared shirt with a pony tail and white globes as she handles a piece of coral in a blue lab with blue aquarium tanks behind her and a red ladder on one end.

Kenzie Cooke has been working with Dr. Palacio as an Undergraduate Student Assistant through the University of Miami CIMAS. Cooke assists the Coral Program at AOML in experiments and related water chemistry analysis, as well as helping with current and future design and manufacturing needs. She is currently earning a B.S. in Marine Biology and Ecology at the University of Miami. 

Lara Zadeh first joined AOML’s Ocean Chemistry and Ecosystems Division (OCED) as a MAST Academy High School Volunteer intern working with Enrique Montes, Ph.D. Under the guidance of Dr. Montes, Lara has led the construction of a PlanktoScope application.The PlanktoScope is an open-source plankton imager that can be built using off-the-shelf parts. Now an undergraduate student at the University of Miami, she is working with Dr. Montes on using this instrument to process preserved zooplankton samples collected across South Florida waters as part of the South Florida Ecosystem Restoration cruises aboard the R/V Walton Smith.

Akili Ligons smiling and wearing a green, leaf patterned button down and looking off into the distance

Akili Ligons is an Ernest F. Hollings Scholar from the University of Hawai’i at Manoa interning at AOML under the guidance of Luke Thompson, Ph.D., Enrique Montes, Ph.D. and Chris Kelble, Ph.D. within the Ocean Chemistry and Ecosystems Division (OCED). During his internship, he has contributed to the ongoing research entitled “Generating a Time-Series of Marine Biodiversity in South Florida Using eDNA Observations,” a joint effort between AOML and The Marine Biodiversity Observations Network (MBON). This has involved collecting water samples that contain environmental DNA (eDNA) at different locations in the Southern Florida waters and extracting the eDNA from those samples. This allows Akili to amplify and sequence the eDNA for ‘Omics analyses, ultimately leading to a better understanding of the biodiversity in South Florida. He is currently working towards his Bachelors of Science (BS) Degree in Marine Biology.

Hannah Hunter is a NOAA Ernest F. Hollings Scholar from the University of California –  Los Angeles interning at AOML within the Ocean Chemistry and Ecosystems Division (OCED). Her research at AOML has culminated in a project entitled “Bioavailable Phosphorus in New England Forest Soils” focused on gaining a better understanding of how soils adsorb and release phosphate. She is currently working towards her Bachelors of Science (BS) in Chemistry. 

Maia Berthier joined AOML’s Physical Oceanography Division as a Barnard College Pathways Scholar. Maia will be collaborating with Dr. Renellys Perez, Dr. Greg Foltz, and Dr. Philip Tuchen to study interannual to decadal variations of tropical instability waves in the Pacific Ocean. A recent study, led by AOML’s Dr. Philip Tuchen, found decadal trends in surface temperature, salinity, sea level, and velocity energy signatures of these waves in the Atlantic Ocean (i.e., becoming more energetic). Maia is working to see whether or not similar trends exist in the tropical Pacific. 

ALT: Emma Grvaes wearing glasses and smiling while holding up a test tube

Emma Graves is a William Lapenta Intern from Old Dominion University working in the Ocean Chemistry and Ecosystems Division (OCED) under the guidance of Emily Osborne, Ph.D. and Luke Thompson, Ph.D. Her current research is focused on: “Tracking the Ocean Biological Carbon Pump Using ‘Omics Approaches.” This has involved performing DNA extractions from sediment trap samples from the Gulf of Mexico as well as Polymerase Chain Reactions (PCRs) to prepare for sequencing of the eukaryotic and prokaryotic communities found in the samples, followed by bioinformatics analysis. 

Salvador Horna joined AOML’s Physical Oceanography Division as a summer intern from Berkeley University. Salvador is working with Dr. Hyun-Sook Kim to build a database of tropical cyclone based numerical model output for NOAA’s new Hurricane Analysis and Forecasting System (HAFS) model.

ALT: Gabriella Lirio smiling, sitting in front of a desk that holds scientific tools

Gabriella Lirio is a William Lapenta Intern working within the Ocean Chemistry and Ecosystems Division under the guidance of Emily Osborne, Ph.D. During her internship, she has designed a project entitled: “Using the Fossil Record Preserved in Marine Sediments to Understand Climate Change Impacts on the Gulf of Mexico Region.” She is currently working towards her Masters degree in Environmental Science at Florida A&M University.

ALT: Marike Pinsonneault smiling in front of a blue background, wearing a knitted shirt

Marike Pinsonneault joined AOML’s Office of the Director as a University of Miami-Cooperative Institute Communications Intern. Marike completed her BS degree at Dalhousie University (Nova Scotia, Canada) with a double major in Marine Biology and Cinema and Media Studies and is currently working toward a Master of Professional Science degree in Marine Conservation, with a focus in Science Communication, at the University of Miami’s Rosenstiel School of Marine, Atmospheric, and Earth Science. For the next year, Marike will collaborate with the AOML Communications Team to promote the lab’s research efforts by writing scientific articles for the AOML website, producing photos and videos, supporting and growing the lab’s social media presence, assisting outreach initiatives, and more!

Alt: Chris Malanuk grimaces at the camera in front of a dock with a green roof. He has a white shirt and a cloudy sky with a single palm dangling above him.

Chris Malanuk joined AOML’s Ocean Chemistry and Ecosystems Division (OCED) as a University of Miami-Cooperative Institute Communications Intern. He holds a Bachelors of Science (BS) Degree from Davidson College having majored in both Biology and English. At the University of Miami, he earned his Masters of Professional Science (MPS) Degree in Marine Conservation with a final project culminating in the production of a comparative legal analysis on the complexities of international ocean governance pertaining to deep-sea mining in the area beyond national jurisdiction (ABNJ). For the next year, Chris will be working with the AOML Communications team to promote all current research being performed across OCED with the goal of bringing greater awareness to the crucial work being done at AOML.

ALT: Nina Castro Alves smiling with a skyline behind her, wearing a hat and glasses

Nina Castro Alves is a recent high school graduate from Gulliver Preparatory School, and is heading to Duke University this fall. During her time at AOML, Nina will be working alongside Laura Chaibongsai and the AOML Comms team, gaining valuable hands-on experience with education, outreach, and media relations. Additionally, Nina will be assisting Neal Dorst with updating the aircraft mission historical database to ensure up-to-date digital records.

“I am thrilled to be learning and gathering insights of NOAA’s research, scientific communication, and public service that lays a strong foundation for my future and allows me to engage in something greater than myself.”

Jackie Bloom, a communications intern at AOML in 2023.

Jacqueline Bloom joined AOML’s Communications Team as a volunteer intern during her gap year between high school and starting college abroad. During her internship, she learned how to create an animation with water color paintings to outline a story about how ship ballast water impacts coral reefs. Jacqueline will attend Leiden University in the Netherlands in the fall to study international relations.

“My favorite part of the internship was learning more about things that are happening locally, and having the opportunity to talk to the scientists who published those articles.”