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. 

Benjamin Wiley

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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 disribution, 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 exteraction 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


Arif Jan

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Research interests: species distribution, invasive species, niche models, distribution models, climate

Research description: I am a PhD candidate in the Arismendi lab. I work with species distribution, invasive species, niche models, distribution models, climate change etc. I mostly use R, ArcGIS pro, Python and other statistical models. My PhD is in Fisheries sciences with a minor in statistics.

Position description:The interested student will help with a short literature review and synthesize small writing samples on the distribution, negative impacts, any models already used, strengths and limitations of their methodologies, risk assessment, and future recommendations for research on the distribution of Smallmouth bass and Northern Pike in the Pacific Northwest. The student will help in three stages: download relevant literature, read literature to answer a couple of questions from each article, synthesize the information in the form of an essay. The student can also get the opportunity to learn Zotero, GIS, and R if interested.

Carina Kusaka

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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

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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

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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.



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




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!



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.





Margaret Campbell

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Potential mentorship topics: Career pathways, reserach opportunities, questions about graduate school

Depending on what potential undergraduate mentees might be interested in, in Marine Science/Fisheries Science I have experience in both the biological side and modeling side of fisheries science. I also worked in a social science lab, a phycology lab, a historical ecology lab, worked for the SeaGrant for two years, had an internship working on fish passage with NOAA, and worked in an aquaculture research institute. All of this is to say I have dabbled in quite a few of the fields and would be happy to mentor someone interested in any of this.

I started my undergraduate at UC Davis as an environmental scientist but quickly realized I wanted to become a Marine Scientist and also wanted to change my environment and transferred to the University of Maine. Here I held multiple jobs where I found that I was most passionate in fisheries science. I worked for the Maine SeaGrant for 2 years - although much of this was virtual. I found that I really enjoyed the combination of field work and office work and that this is what I wanted to go into. I applied to a couple different graduate school programs but ultimately found myself picking Oregon State so I could build up my quantitative skills. The project I am currently working on is studying how offshore wind farms coming to Oregon are going to displace fisheries. I would be happy to share more details about this if you would like. 



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. 



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 important groundfish species. The Integrated Marine Fisheries Lab provides opportunities to obtain hands-on experience in a lab setting by assisting with recording fish lengths and weights, fish dissection, estimating fecundity, aging otoliths, and data entry. The specific project will be to understand spatial variation in the life history traits of black rockfish (Sebastes melanops) in the California Current. The anticipated start date for volunteers would be Spring or Summer 2024.

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.