Graduate Student & PostDoc Mentors

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Prospective Mentors — Research 

These mentors are actively seeking undergraduates to assist with new and ongoing research activities. These mentors can also assist with the development of professional tools (e.g., CV, resume, application materials) and provide career advice. 


Olivia Boisen 

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Research description: My research will focus on assessing eelgrass restorations in Oregon from the perspective of fish and invertebrate communities. Eelgrass serves as important nursery grounds for commercially important groundfish species and we seek to evaluate their performance in restored habitat through their diet, stable isotope analysis, and otolith aging.

Location: Hatfield Marine Science Center (field sites Newport and Coos Bay)

Position description: I plan to start sampling this summer and would love help with field and lab work! The field work would include monthly seine netting for fish in the estuaries (over two years) where we will identify, measure, and elastomer tag fish. We will also use sediment cores, crab traps, and plankton nets to sample invertebrates. In the lab, we will be identifying invertebrates, prepping samples for genetic ID and stable isotope analysis, and aging otoliths. There are lots of different opportunities to get involved with this project depending on your availability and research interests. Most of this work will be in Newport, with the option to use the lab space in Corvallis when trained. Currently, this would be a volunteer opportunity but my hope is to guide you through applying for funding (scholarships, research awards, etc.) as this would greatly benefit your future career. Please contact me if you are interested! olivia.boisen@oregonstate.edu

 

 

 


 


Prospective Mentors — Non-research

These mentors do not have research opportunities but are available to provide assistance with the development of professional tools (e.g., CV, resume, application materials) and career advice.


Benjamin Wiley

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Potential mentorship topics: Career pathways, field-specific insights

Ben graduated from Lincoln Memorial University in Tennessee with a B.S. in Conservation Biology in 2020. At LMU, he conducted research using environmental DNA (eDNA) to investigate crayfish species composition in a southeastern river. After undergrad, Ben worked fisheries technician jobs for the Wyoming Game and Fish Department and Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency. Next, he worked as a Fisheries Scientist in the Native Fish Lab of Marsh & Associates in Arizona where he led a collaborative project using acoustic telemetry to research impacts of invasive Northern Pike on federally threatened June Sucker in Utah Lake, UT and assisted with monitoring populations of Razorback Sucker in the Lower Colorado River Basin. As a M.S. graduate research assistant in OSU's State Fisheries Genomics Lab, Ben is using quantitative eDNA analysis to investigate occupancy, distribution, and abundance metrics of Bull Trout in eastern Oregon. Ben can be contacted at ben.wiley@oregonstate.edu.

 

 

 


Kyra Bankhead

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Potential mentorship topics: Career pathways, research opportunities

I received my Bachelor's degree with a marine emphasis at Western Washington University, where I worked with Dr. Acevedo-Gutierrez's Marine Mammal Ecology Lab. I developed an immense interest in marine mammal behavioral ecology, and started researching cultural transmission in cetaceans where I came across many of Dr. Cantor's papers. Thereafter, I obtained my current position in Dr. Cantor's Lab for Animal Behavioral Interaction Research in the Ocean, and am currently investigating the spreading dynamics of human-induced food provisioning by Sarasota dolphins. The major goal of my study is to identify the mechanism by which key individual dolphins spread the begging behavior in Sarasota to help stop the conditioning of dolphins to direct and indirect provisioning by humans. Apart from the lab, I spend my time outside, specifically at the beach swimming and scuba diving!

 


Lizz Blackburn

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Research interests: Bioenergetics, species interaction, smallmouth bass, steelhead

Potential mentorship topics: I am happy to mentor in any capacity that I can. I graduated from OSU in March of 2020 and shortly after started working for the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW), I have been with ODFW John Day Fish Research office for a little over 3 years now. With ODFW, my work focuses on monitoring wild spring chinook and wild summer steelhead populations at varies spatial and temporal scales to provide restoration implementers with recommendations. My thesis project is funded through ODFW and aims to quantify the impact, through bioenergetics modeling, nonnative smallmouth bass have on wild summer steelhead in Thirtymile Creek, a tributary to the lower John Day River.

 

 


Jasmine Williamson

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Research interests: amphibians, salamanders, disturbance, forest management, microhabitat

Location: Accepting Corvallis and ecampus students

Potential mentorship topics: My research focuses on how habitat disturbance impacts sensitive forest taxa. I'm currently looking at how logging and wildfire impact salamanders in the western Oregon Cascades. I'd love to provide guidance to mentees related to education/grad school/careers in wildlife-related fields. I'll be in the field in spring season and would be happy to offer some minimal experience with my field crew and integrate into my lab, but I don't have any specific research duties that need to be accomplished by the student. My field season will mostly involve searching for salamanders in forest plots and prepping vials for tissue samples in the lab.

 


Madison Bargas

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Research interests: groundfish, ecology, climate change, lab

Potential mentorship topics: My main research interests lie in understanding climate-driven effects on fisheries populations and the spatial ecology of commercially and recreationally important groundfish species. I graduated from the University of Alaska Southeast in 2019 and held a position as a groundfish biologist for the Southeast Alaska Groundfish Project before starting graduate school. While in undergrad, I held various internships studying marine mammal behavior, food web dynamics, and invertebrate and estuarine ecology before settling into fisheries. I am happy to discuss internship opportunities, courses, resume building, navigating undergrad, and increasing inclusivity in science.

The Integrated Marine Fisheries Lab provides opportunities to obtain hands-on experience in lab and field settings by assisting with recording fish lengths and weights, fish dissection, estimating fecundity, aging otoliths, and data entry. There will be future research opportunities in our lab. Please reach out for more information!

 


Peri Gerson

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Location: Accepting Corvallis and ecampus students

Potential mentorship topics: My research is in support of ecosystem-based fisheries management initiatives and aims to quantify the relationships between groundfish prey distributions and their environments in the Gulf of Alaska. I know the transition from college to what’s next can be daunting and difficult to navigate. I am happy to provide advice and guidance on how to figure out your post-college plans, as well as feedback on job or graduate school application materials. I am also happy to provide help with the following: job search, resume and cover letting writing and editing, interview prep, career advice

 

Paired Research Mentors

Currently Paired Mentors — Research 

These mentors are currently paired with undergraduates but may have opportunities in the future.

 



Becca Kelble

Research interests:  greater sage-grouse, sagebrush, anthropogenic subsidies, survival, habitat suitability

Research description:  I have been working with the magnificent greater sage-grouse in the beautiful sagebrush steppe since 2016. This indicator and umbrella species allows me to explore questions about survival and habitat characteristics that lead to informed management recommendations for this unique ecosystem.

Location: Accepting ecampus and Corvallis-based students

Position description: *All trapping opportunities for 2024 have finished* I am looking for volunteers interested in assisting my research team with greater sage-grouse captures this winter and spring in central Oregon (near Brothers, OR and Paulina, OR). Captures entail hiking/running around the sagebrush at night by spotlight. A trapping crew will be out in less-than-ideal weather conditions (<30 degrees F, wind) and look for sage-grouse from sundown until 1am or 2am in the morning (sometimes longer if the sage-grouse are abundant). Daylight hours will be spent sleeping. No prior trapping experience is necessary. Those without any experience will be paired up with someone experienced. Housing will be provided (camping, field house, agency bunkhouse, or rented facility) and transportation to the housing location is the responsibility of the volunteer. Carpools may be available on the first and last day of each trapping session. Once on-site, a trapping team will be using a project-provided vehicle to drive to trapping locations.

 



Benjamin Wiley

Research interests: Freshwater ecology, conservation of native western fishes, movement, life history, environmental DNA

Research description: My thesis work will investigate the efficacy of quantitative environmental DNA (eDNA) analysis for monitoring distribution, occupancy, and abundance metrics of Bull Trout in the North Fork Malheur River drainage in eastern Oregon.

Position description: I am seeking an undergraduate research assistant to assist with Bull Trout eDNA collection, electrofishing, and small stream snorkeling fieldwork in Summer 2024. Three fieldwork trips are expected during the summer months of 2024. The first trip will occur in early June, the second will occur in July, and the third will occur in August. Each trip will last 7 – 10 days. Fieldwork lodging accommodations will likely include a mix of primitive camping, hotels, and Forest Service cabins. Interested individuals should be capable of hiking 5+ miles/day for consecutive days in variable terrain. The position is unpaid; however, it is an excellent opportunity for undergraduates pursuing a career in freshwater fisheries biology to gain valuable experience. There may be opportunities for the undergraduate research assistant to observe and assist with eDNA extraction and analysis at the Hatfield Marine Science Center in Newport, if interested. Individuals who are only available for one or two fieldwork trips are still encouraged to inquire. Please reach out to ben.wiley@oregonstate.edu.

 



Lara Mengak

Research interests: large mammals, ungulate ecology, social-ecological systems, rangelands, conservation social sciences

Research description: I am a PhD student in the Levi lab, focusing on social and ecological threats facing ranchers and working lands in the Pacific Northwest. My research includes both ecological and social sciences to examine these threats. My ecological work uses novel genetic techniques to explore diet overlap between elk and cattle. My social science research focuses on rancher decision-making and risk assessments.

Location: Accepting ecampus and Corvallis-based students

Position description: I am seeking an interested mentee to work on classifying camera trap images. My study site has an extensive and long-term camera trapping array, and I need help tagging and organizing pictures from these cameras. No previous experience is required, and all training will be provided! This position is not currently paid, and therefore, can be flexible to accommodate the student’s schedule. There may be opportunities for this position to expand to other, paid work in the future.



Carina Kusaka

Research interests: tufted puffin, coastal conservation, habitat, spatial ecology, GIS

Research description: My PhD research in the Davis lab at OSU is focused on the tufted puffin, a Species of Greatest Conservation Need in Oregon. I am using aerial photography and geospatial analyses to examine how tufted puffin breeding habitat has changed over time and identify the key climatic drivers behind these habitat changes.

Position description: I am very excited to welcome and mentor an undergraduate student to be a part of the tufted puffin habitat project. Specifically, I am interested in having this student help me to orthorectify aerial imagery of tufted puffin breeding habitat across spatial and temporal scales. This involves using GIS software to create 3D models of islands off the Oregon Coast out of helicopter photos. No prior experience is needed, just a willingness to learn. I'm also happy to mentor the student in career paths in FWCS, applying to graduate school, or whatever else they might need. Ideally, the student would start as soon as possible. Two positions are available. This is a volunteer position, so I am very flexible on weekly work expectations and can work with the students' schedule.

 



​​Nolan Clements

Research interests: ornithology, community ecology, migration ecology, long-term change, tropical ecology

Research description: I am a PhD students in the Robinson lab, where my research is focused on long-term community change in tropical forest bird communities. My work investigates potential physiological drivers of persistence in isolated forest fragments and how that has shaped community composition on Barro Colorado Island in central Panama. More generally, I am bird obsessed and have a fair amount of insight into the happenings of the ornithological community. My training is in field techniques, including bird identification, point count surveys, and banding. I also spend a lot of my free time recreationally birding.

Position description: I hope to provide both professional mentoring and field work experiece. I recently helped to start a local bird banding station where we are monitoring the importance of high elevation stop-over site for migrating songbirds. I am looking for an undergraduate student to enter and proof some data this fall and winter, with the idea they will get to assist with banding in the spring and summer. We hope to band a lot next summer, and given the number other volunteers, will need assistance 2-3 days per week. No previous wildlife handling experience required. This student would be trained to extract small birds from mist nets, band birds, collected and accurately apply ageing and sexing criteria, and manage mist nets. Right now, there is no funding for a technician, but with a bit of luck some money will be available by next summer. I am also happy to provide professional or life advice if field work is not your cup of tea.



​Lizz Blackburn

Research interests: Bioenergetics, species interaction, smallmouth bass, steelhead

Research description: My thesis aims to quantify the impact, through bioenergetics modeling, nonnative smallmouth bass have on wild summer steelhead in Thirtymile Creek, a tributary to the lower John Day River.

Position description: I will have opportunities for lab work, field work and general mentoring thought the year. For fall term and potentially into winter term I am seeking an undergraduate to assist in processing smallmouth bass and steelhead diet samples. I will be identifying, enumerating, and recording prey items for ~400 samples. This would be a volunteer position; I anticipate a total of 4 hours per week with lots of flexibility would be a realistic expectation. No experience needed, just willingness to learn! I hope to have diets processed by mid-January at the latest. For spring and summer term I will have field opportunities, with one paid position for a qualified applicant. My field season is from March through August and my field site is in Northcentral Oregon near Condon. For students interested in the paid opportunity please contact me for more details. My sampling consists of Steelhead spawning surveys, steelhead fry sampling, electrofishing to capture smallmouth bass (SMB) and juvenile steelhead (STS), hook and line sampling to capture SMB and then PIT tagging, collecting diet and stable isotope samples along with length and weights from SMB and STS. If you are interested is gaining field experience, even for a couple of days, I encourage you to reach out I would be happy to chat with you about specifics and share more info on my sampling schedule.

Paired Non-Research Mentors

Currently Paired Prospective Mentors — Non-research

These mentors are currently paired with non-research mentees and provide assistance with the development of professional tools (e.g., CV, resume, application materials) and career advice. They may have opportunities to pair with additional mentees in the future.

 



Melissa Crews

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Potential mentorship topics: Career pathways, academic help, discuss conservation topics of interest

For my Master's research, I focus on how birds are responding to environmental change in the Great Basin. More specifically, I will examine the extent, fragmentation, and productivity of riparian vegetation in the Great Basin over the past three decades to test whether it is expanding and, if so, to evaluate why. I will also test whether changes in the extent, structure, and composition of riparian vegetation correspond to observed changes in the distributions of breeding birds within the same period of time. 

I started my career at community college so I have both an AS in natural sciences and a BS in wildlife conservation. I have spent the last four years working in many different states across the US, for a variety of different employers, doing seasonal field work. I would love to share some lessons I learned over the years if any undergraduates feel they need more support or are interested.

 



Lara Mengak

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Potential mentorship topics: Career pathways in the wildlife and conservation social sciences. I will also likely be accepting research mentees in the future and am happy to advise students in upcoming research opportunities.

My research specialties are human dimensions/conservation social science, social-ecological systems, human-wildlife interactions. 

I am a social scientist with experience studying both people and wildlife. I have worked on various projects around the country with some international experience, studying birds, large and small mammals, and human behavior. Currently, my PhD research focuses on understanding social and ecological stress factors impacting ranchers in the Pacific Northwest. I'm interested in understanding how humans and wildlife interact and coexist within working landscapes.