I grew up with a predilection for tinkering with broken telephone and microwave parts to figure out how they worked. This open-ended curiosity about how things fit together is likely what drove me toward a career in science. From my first introduction to ecology, evolution, and marine biology in high school throughout my subsequent undergraduate studies at the University of California Santa Barbara, I have cultivated a lifelong commitment to the study of Nature--the ultimate tinkerer. I have always been fascinated by ecological theory in an abstract sense, as it models the interplay of environmental and biological factors shaping natural systems, but my passion for the interdisciplinary application of theory to solve ecological problems is what ultimately drove me to pursue a PhD. Growing up as an avid surfer, fisherman, outdoorsman, and diver in coastal California made the threats facing sub-tidal coastal ecosystems immediate and direct to me. I have logged over 1000 scientific dives in both temperate and tropical environments, which allowed me to connect abstract theory to underwater reality. As a father of a three- year-old son who will grow up witnessing the effects of human impacts and climate change, I intend to set a positive example by embracing a leadership role in advancing ecological theory, engaging in the improvement of environmental management policy, and teaching future generations.
My decision to pursue graduate study at FSU is the culmination of nearly a decade of post-undergraduate experience working and researching in real-world settings. Those intervening years have been critical for developing the commitment, maturity, and focus required to become a leader in the field. Through these experiences, I have cultivated a professional background in marine ecology, specializing in the ecophysiology of temperate kelp forests and tropical coral reefs.
In the kelp forest domain, I have explored the question of how the creation of marine protected areas affects community structure and productivity. The data we collected at the Partnership for Interdisciplinary Study of Coastal Oceans was used to inform management decisions regarding the location and sizing of one of the world’s largest networks of marine protected areas throughout the Santa Barbara Channel Islands. During my time working at the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station Mitigation Monitoring Project I collected, processed, analyzed, and reported on data that evaluated the efficacy of one of the world’s largest temperate artificial reefs as an ecological mitigation strategy. Most recently, as a first-year PhD student, I was awarded a fellowship to study population dynamics of endangered Northern Abalone in British Columbia, Canada.
In the coral reef domain, I gained valuable experience researching the ecophysiology of coral reefs in the context of climate change. We successfully executed a series of experiments which evaluated the physiological effects of climate change-related stress on a variety of scleractinian coral and calcifying algal genera. This work spanned investigative scales from the organismal to the community level and I feel that integrating physiological response data from this range of scales is critical to the development of improved models of ecosystem trajectory. I hope to implement lessons learned from this work to complement my current research plans in British Columbia.
Stefanie Dawn Martina
Graduate Student - Ocean Safety Research
Memorial University of Newfoundland
Newfoundland And Labrador, Canada
Stefanie Martina is a master’s student in kinesiology with an exercise and work physiology focus at the Memorial University of Newfoundland (MUN). She aspires to complete a doctoral degree and pursue a career in extreme environments physiology and human factors research in diving and the marine environment. She is an avid scuba diver and was recipient of the 2017 Women Divers Hall of Fame Advanced Dive Training Grant. She aims to complete technical and cave training so that practical knowledge can be applied to future research and communications on findings and safety applications with the advanced diving community can be optimized.
Stefanie received a Bachelor of Science in Biology degree at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. In 2010, she was first exposed to diving safety research as an intern at the Navy Experimental Diving Unit. After graduation, she was a research intern at Divers Alert Network (DAN) and subsequently was hired as research assistant at the Duke Center for Hyperbaric Medicine & Environmental Physiology. She later returned to DAN as research associate. She was involved in numerous investigations such as immersion pulmonary edema with Dr. Richard Moon; flying after diving with Dr. Richard Vann; and narcosis with Dr. Jake Freiberger. She also performed transthoracic echocardiography and took blood samples for field monitoring of technical, rebreather divers and NASA-funded hypobaric decompression stress studies with Dr. Neal Pollock.
Stefanie is now conducting her thesis research with Dr. Heather Carnahan with the Ocean Safety Research Lab at the Marine Institute and Centre for Offshore Safety & Survival. Her project aims to investigate interactions of stress, learning, training fidelity, and performance. Intentions are to inform future training programs and safety protocols in high-stress training environments such as helicopter emergency escape and cave diving.
Graduate from Humbolt State University
Masters phycology at the Moss Landing Marine Lab, Cal State University. She is a NAUI Instructor, PADI Divemaster and the Assistant Diving Safety Officer at Moss Landing.
Q: Why did you decide to pursue marine science?
Growing up in the landlocked state of Missouri instills in one the idea that the ocean is a mysterious “delicacy” if you will, in that you only see it on vacations. Generally, Midwesterners tend to fear the ocean completely or are enchanted by it. I chose the latter.
Q: What experiences and opportunities have shaped your path to get you where you are now?
I was certified to SCUBA dive when I was 16. That certification really only allowed me to accomplish 6 dives, 5 of which was in a tiny lake 4 hours away with maybe 2 feet of visibility. These factors somehow didn’t deter me from my budding new interest of diving. I chose to run off to Humboldt State and got involved in their really intensive, rigorous dive program. The program is very demanding but equally rewarding. It trained me to be ready for everything underwater from being blind folded and locating a toy army man using search pattern techniques in a pool to leaping sideways over massive urchin beds as a dive entry. I have since worked in Alaska and was dry suit and full face mask certified and did a bunch of technical diving. That opened up a job for me on Catalina working as the aquarium collector in which I had to devise obscure methods to humanely capture specimen for the aquarium there. My point in all this is that Diving. Is. Awesome. I fully believe that it should be the first step to any marine science research idea. Studying something in a lab is important but what better way to learn than to study things in their natural environment?
Q: What are you studying and why is it interesting and important to you?
I will be working with Ivano Aiello and Diana Steller to inspect the intake pipes in the bay. The pipes are either sinking below the sediment or the sediment is accumulating over them, blocking the water supply. My job is to figure out what ecologically is happening to the sediment around these intake pipes. This idea is at the very beginning stages of development so stay tuned!
Q: What advice do you have for someone who wants to get in to marine science?
I would say pay attention in your undergrad classes! Stop falling asleep because the information you’re receiving WILL be useful in the future. So next time you’re dozing off in Genetics because who really cares what the Lac operon does anyway, snap out of it!
THE ZALE PARRY SCHOLARSHIP, which debuted in 2006, is named after one of diving’s most celebrated women divers, Zale Parry (DS, 1973) the memorable lady-star of “Sea Hunt.” The Scholarship is awarded annually to an outstanding young man or woman diver who is enrolled in an undergraduate or graduate academic program, or who is engaged in accredited field work in undersea exploration, marine conservation, hyperbaric medical research or diving equipment technology.
The goal of the Zale Parry Scholarship is to encourage and enable future generations of divers to carry on Zale Parry’s legacy. The director of the Zale Parry Scholarship is Ed Stetson (S&E, 2011), who works with Zale to review applications, which are sent in beginning in July/August every year.
Anne Benolkin & Zale Parry
Anne Benolkin & Zale Parry on stage at the 2014 NOGI Gala in Las Vegas
Anne, Zale and Carol
Carol Rose presenting Anne Benolkin with Underwater Society of America check.
Bret Gilliam presenting Anne his personal check, with NOGI Gala emcee Phil Nuytten (Science 1997) looking on.
Ernie Brooks presenting his personal check to Anne on stage at the 2014 NOGI Gala in Las Vegas.
Anne, Ed and Zale
Zale Parry Scholarship director Ed Stetson on stage at the NOGI Gala with Anne Benolkin and Zale Parry.
Anne Benolkin, an Environmental Sciences major born and raised in Anchorage, Alaska, is the winner of the 2014 Zale Parry Scholarship, and the presentation of her award at the NOGI Gala in Las Vegas provided a most memorable highlight of the Gala evening! After Zale presented Anne Benolkin to the audience, this charming young woman spoke extemporaneously and passionately about not only her work, but her deep appreciation for receiving the Scholarship. She so captivated everyone with her poised, intelligent speech that when THREE notable NOGI Fellows took the stage afterward – unexpectedly – to present her with personal checks made directly to her, the crowd roared!
First up was Carol Rose, President of the Underwater Society of America, presenting an Underwater Society of America check for $500.00.This was followed by Ernie Brooks (Arts, 1975), who presented a personal check to Anne for $3,000.00…and after that, Bret Gilliam (S&E, 2012-2013) went to the podium to hand his personal check to Anne for $3,000.00. Together with the $3,000.00 that is the Zale Parry Scholarship prize, Anne Benolkin received a total of $9,500.00 this night, to help further her career!
Anne Benolkin became an AAUS scientific diver in 2011 and has since been a scientific diver with five universities, providing diving support for various research projects. She has worked on everything from seagrass ecosystem structure in Florida to community succession in kelp beds in Prince William Sound, Alaska. In 2012, Anne conducted diving-based research at Shannon Point Marine Lab in Washington, with a focus on restoring the endangered pinto abalone population. After graduating from University of Alaska Southeast with a BS in Biology and a minor in Communications, Anne became an intern with the Reef Environmental Education Foundation (REEF). REEF is a grass-roots organization that seeks to conserve marine ecosystems by educating, enlisting and enabling divers and other marine enthuasiasts to become active ocean stewards and citizen scientists.
Anne then became a PADI dive master, and at the time she won the Zale Parry Scholarship she was working part time as a dive master to fund her Master’s degree work at Alaska Pacific University, studying the behavior and body patterns of Octopus cyanea. She says her hope is that a quantitative approach toward this research would provide new insights into “this fascinating creature.”Once she graduates, Anne’s hope is to pursue a career that marries science and diving. She said she would like to become a research at a university or an aquarium.