Current Ph.D. Students

Ashley Blawas

Ashley’s research focuses on the physiological adaptations that enable cetaceans to dive for extended periods of time underwater. By measuring both physiological rates and related molecular markers during resting and active behaviors, she aims to understand how cetaceans adjust their cardiovascular and metabolic processes on a fine-scale to support differing needs during diving and surfacing intervals and the limits of their physiological adaptations.

Ph.D. Student, Marine Science & Conservation, Duke University
B.S.E. Biomedical Engineering 2018, Duke University
Personal Website | ResearchGateScholars@Duke

Brianna Elliott

Brianna banding a brown pelican as part of a long-term monitoring project in southeastern, NC.

Brianna is primarily interested in marine marine and sea turtle bycatch issues, particularly working through policy mechanisms to reduce bycatch on a global scale. Currently, she focuses on assessing tuna regional fisheries management organization efforts to reducing cetacean bycatch, with an emphasis on gillnet fisheries. She is also currently exploring the effect of the MMPA Import Provisions in reducing global marine mammal bycatch through a Duke Bass Connections Project. She also has secondary interests in regulating ocean noise, which was the focus of her master’s also completed in Dr. Doug Nowacek’s lab.

Ph.D. Student, Marine Science & Conservation, Duke University
M.Sc. Coastal Environmental Management 2017, Duke University
B.S. Environmental Science 2012, University of North Carolina Wilmington
curriculum vitae | Personal Website | LinkedIn

Dave Haas

Dave attaches a digital acoustic tag to a Bryde’s whale offshore of Brazil where he has led tagging efforts for a telemetry project for the past five years. [IBAMA Permit] Photo Credit: Rodrigo Hucke-Gaete.

Dave is developing a new digital dive tag for use with cetaceans, called the FaunaTag. The FaunaTag, which features kinematic (movement) and near-infrared bio-optical sensors, is at the center of Dave’s dissertation research, which investigates fine scale changes in cetacean heart rate, tissue perfusion, and blood oxygen saturation as functions of dive depth and activity state. Dave hopes to use the FaunaTag as a tool for understanding baseline cetacean physiology in baleen and toothed whales and how acoustic stimuli (e.g.: mid-frequency active sonar; killer whale acoustic playback) affect baseline physiological and movement patterns. 

Ph.D. Candidate, Marine Science and Conservation, Duke University

B.S. Biology 2013, University of Washington
curriculum vitae | LinkedIn | ResearchGate

Amanda Lohmann

Amanda sails along the western Antarctica peninsula.

Amanda’s research focuses on understanding the factors that drive population size and spatial distribution of Antarctic krill (Euphausia superba), a keystone prey species in the Southern Ocean. She uses acoustic instruments to estimate densities and generate maps of krill near the western Antarctic Peninsula. By understanding how krill populations respond to environmental, oceanographic, and biological variables, she hopes to provide insight into how krill – and therefore the entire Antarctic marine ecosystem – will respond to climate change.

Ph.D. Candidate, University Program in Ecology, Duke University
B.S. Quantitative Biology & Computer Science 2017, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
curriculum vitae

Greg Merrill

Greg (right) works with Sonia Kumar of Alaska Veterinary Pathological Services to remove blubber from a juvenile female humpback whale that stranded in the Turnigain Arm of the Cook Inlet just south of Anchorage, Alaska in May of 2019. [MMHSRP 18786] Photo Credit: Loren Holmes, Anchorage Daily News.

Greg’s dissertation research is broadly focused on assessing the impacts of plastic pollution on the energy mobilization and thermoregulatory capacities of blubber in marine mammals. His previous work has focused on investigating maternal foraging behaviors of Alaskan northern fur seals in an effort to establish an effective and relatively inexpensive long-term monitoring index of foraging success and pup survival.

Ph.D. Student, University Program in Ecology, Duke University
M.Sc. Biological Sciences 2019, University of Alaska Anchorage
B.S. Biological Sciences 2014, University of California – Davis
curriculum vitae | LinkedIn | Scholars@Duke

 Charles Muirhead

Charlie (right) and Aladino Sandoval share ideas on the best recording locations for an acoustic survey of river dolphins in the Pacaya-Samiria National Reserve, Perú. See published results here.

Since 2007 Charlie has worked as a bioacoustics analyst characterizing the seasonal movements and distribution of whales and dolphins throughout the world’s oceans. Geospatial variation in noise exposure, bycatch, and ship strike risk was a central theme in this research. His dissertation will focus on large-scale monitoring and status assessment of river dolphins in the Amazon basin; emphasizing cost-effective methods that can be readily standardized and adopted by researchers throughout South America.

Ph.D. Student Marine Science & Conservation, Duke University
M.Sc. Environmental Science 2018, University of Massachusetts at Boston
B.S. Biology 2006, State University of New York at Cortland
curriculum vitae | Personal WebsiteLinkedInMendeley | ResearchGate

Jillian Wisse

Jillian’s dissertation work investigates the physiological responses of short-finned pilot whales to naval sonar. By developing analytical chemistry methods for hormone analysis and establishing physiological baselines, she aims to improve our understanding of the behavioral ecology of poorly understood species and how they respond to environmental disturbances, like ocean noise.

Ph.D. Candidate, University Program in Ecology, Duke University
B.S. Biological Sciences 2011, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
curriculum vitae

Chen-Yi Wu

Chen-Yi’s research focuses on hydrodynamics and energetics of cetaceans. By applying computational fluid dynamics techniques to 3-D animal models, she investigates flow properties and hydrodynamic forces on the North Atlantic right whales (Eubalaena glacialis). While direct measurements of energy expenditure of large whales is unlikely, her dissertation addresses how computer solutions can help us examine the energy budget of large whales by providing the baseline drag estimations for a gliding North Atlantic right whale model and the effects of variable body shapes and poses on its hydrodynamic performance.

Ph.D. Candidate, Marine Science & Conservation, Duke University
B.S. Hydraulic & Ocean Engineering 2015, National Cheng Kung University
B.S. Life Sciences 2015, National Cheng Kung University
curriculum vitae | LinkedIn

Lab Technicians

Anna Clabaugh

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