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Student Life during the Pandemic Webinar Series

Series description:

The series was created to broaden our audience and scope while providing a space for students to talk about their experiences and share resources. We invite panelists/speakers from a diverse range of fields related to Ecology/Biology to speak about their experiences during the pandemic. We also discuss tips for better navigating students’ academic/non-academic lives while staying at home.


Meet the Hosts

Ajisha Alwin

Ajisha Alwin currently works as a researcher at the Karst Lab at the University of Florida College of Medicine studying the host interactions and pathogenesis of the norovirus. Her passion for ecology started from her childhood in India and she has been involved in several conservation projects, rallies, and volunteer cleanups. She also works with ESA as a research investigator analyzing skills learned from undergraduate field research experiences and compare them to the skills employers expect for entry-level positions in field ecology/biology.

As the Marketing/Outreach Officer of the ESA Student Section, her hope is to help you feel welcome and think of new ways to increase the participation of the existing community for our activities. As students, we each have different things to offer and as part of a student network, her goal is to bring different interests and people together. Her interests are in research, science education (particularly mentoring), and science communication and outreach.


Webinar 1: A Diverse International Perspective

Date: July 21st, 2020

Time: 5 PM EST

Discussion Topics:

  • Changes in different colleges/universities
  • Changes in specific programs/majors
  • Impacts on academic careers (graduation, research opportunities, etc.)
  • De-stress/ have fun and maintain mental health during this time

Invited Speakers:

Christell Chesney 

Christell Chesney is currently pursuing her MSc in Conservation and Rural Development at the Durrell Institute of Conservation and Ecology, University of Kent, UK. She is an advocate for community-based conservation development and citizen science. Her professional interest focuses on perception research, human-wildlife conflict, performance assessments of conservation programs, and poverty alleviation strategies supporting alternative livelihoods. She is a Scientific Officer at the Centre for the Study of Biological Diversity and an Assistant Lecturer in the Biology Department at the University of Guyana. Additionally, she was awarded a Chevening Scholarship for 2019-2020 and strives to contribute meaningfully as a Conservation Leader to Guyana and the Wider Caribbean. 


Shanell Cyrus

I am currently an M. Eng candidate for Environmental Engineering at Suzhou University of Science and Technology in China. I have achieved my undergrad in Marine, Wildlife and Conservation Biology at SGU which sparked my passion for conservation. While I love conservation, I would also like to use my environmental engineering degree to assist with conservation activities and programs. I believe that environmental engineering is extremely beneficial especially in the direction the world is heading in today. I also enjoy outreach as I love educating persons on ways they can help the environment.


Jenese Roberts

I am an alumna of the St. George’s University with a Bachelor’s degree in Marine, Wildlife and Conservation Biology. Following my exit, I participated in a number of Environmental projects and was employed by the Government of Grenada under the Ministry of Forestry. Later on, I then embarked on my Master’s journey at the Southern Illinois University as a recipient of the Graduate Scholar Award (GSA). I was fortunate enough to gain laboratory experience in my field of study (Environmental Science specializing in Chemistry and Toxicology) with the application of interesting metal species using fruit flies as my model organism assisted by instrumental analysis. My next step is yet to be decided. 😅


Quincy Augustine

I am a marine, wildlife, and conservation biologist from the island of Grenada. After graduating from St. George’s University, I volunteer my time to assist veterinarian students in their research on bats species of Grenada. Currently, I’m a project support staff for the Caribbean Cooperative MRV Hub of the Windward Islands Research & Education Foundation. In addition, I also assist the Environmental Protection in the Caribbean (EPIC) project on Conservation of Key Offshore Island Reserves.

Webinar 2: Being scientist parents during COVID-19

Date: Oct 1st, 2020

Time: 5 PM EST

Host: Ajisha Alwin

Co-host: Vanessa Blevines

Invited Speakers:

Fernanda Staniscuaski

Fernanda Staniscuaski is a biologist, with a Ph.D. on molecular biology and biotechnology from the Universidade Federal do Rio Grande do Sul – Brazil (2007) and postdoctoral training at the University of Toronto (2008-2009). She currently holds an associate professor position at the Universidade Federal do Rio Grande do Sul – Brazil. Since becoming a mother, Fernanda has experienced the typical struggle female faculty face in advancing with their careers in academia. In this context, she founded the Parent in Science Movement, aimed at supporting graduate students and overall researchers in the challenging conciliation of motherhood and academia, as well as promoting public policies to increase the participation – and retention – of women in STEM. 


Lina Maria Caballero Villalobos

She is originally from Colombia; mom of Julieta and she loves nature and its beauty. Professionally, she is a biologist, with a master’s in botany and Ph.D. (c) in genetics and molecular biology. Lina is an avid reader, enjoys trekking in the mountains, and traveling to know new cultures and histories. That’s why she studied in Colombia, Brazil, and Germany. Lina is not an optimist by nature, but she knows that giving up the fight means defeat. For this reason, she extended the “Parent in Science” movement to Colombia with the aim to promote workplace equality and increase the retention of women in STEMM fields. Also, she collaborates with a STEM training center to engage Latinas in Science. During her career, she prepared herself to pursue her dreams: to write books for children about Colombian plants and ecosystems and to recover forests in the Andes. 


Edna Matta-Camacho

Edna is a Colombian biochemist currently based in Canada. She is Research Associate in the Neuroscience Department at Carleton University, working on atomic and molecular mechanisms that underlie psychiatric and neurodevelopmental. She founded a STEM training center to engage Latinas in Science. Also, Edna is a member of the IWS Network, a collaborative network that supports and promotes equity, diversity, and inclusion of Immigrant and International Women from STEM backgrounds in Canada. Edna thinks that becoming better mentors is pivotal to eliminate the Gender gaps in STEM. She is the mom of two beautiful kids and enjoys outdoor activities such as hiking, biking but mostly playing soccer.


Kylie Rexroat

I am currently an undergraduate student at Everett Community College’s Ocean Research College Academy (ORCA) in the United States. This spring three other undergraduate students and I conducted research examining the relationship between plankton density and heavy metal levels in the sediments of Possession Sound. I am also part of a GEOPATHS program funded by the National Science Foundation, in which I spent the summer researching the correlation between plankton and fecal coliforms in Possession Sound. My future career and research interests are in marine virology and disease ecology. Outside of the research fields I am pursuing careerwise, I am interested in entomology, so I have been raising Chinese Praying Mantises that I hatched from an ootheca as a hobby. 

Webinar 3: Mental Health & COVID-19

Date: Nov 6th, 2020

Time: 7 PM ET

Register for the webinar NOW!


Invited Speakers:

Dr. Marissa Kate Edwards

Dr. Marissa Kate Edwards is a lecturer at the UQ Business School at the University of Queensland. Her major research interests include mental health and mental illness in academia, Ph.D. student well-being, and voice and organizational justice. She is currently lead guest editor of a forthcoming Special Issue of the Journal of Management Education focused on mental health and well-being among management students and educators. She is the co-founder and co-curator of the Voices of Academia blog ( In her spare time, Marissa loves traveling, seeing live music, and spending time with her rescue dog Ziggy.

Marissa will discuss some of the latest research into the major challenges students face during the COVID-19 pandemic.  She will share her own experiences teaching undergraduate and graduate students in Australia and consider some of the ways that students can actively support their own well-being.


Josette McLean

I am originally from Trinidad and Tobago but I am currently a master’s candidate at Hampton University. My current research focuses on assessing the feeding ecology of Pacific lamprey through the use of molecular techniques. However, I have conducted research in a wide variety of ecosystems ranging from the tropical coast of the Caribbean to the temperate tundra of Alaska. My overall research goal is to increase ecosystem resilience to climate change-induced stress and anthropogenic disturbances.


Callie Oldfield

I am a PhD Candidate in Plant Biology at the University of Georgia. I study the effects of wind disturbance on forest carbon pools and species composition. I am the current Chair of the ESA Student Section, and I have served as the President of the UGA Plant Biology Graduate Student Association. I am passionate about improving mentoring opportunities and mental health awareness among graduate students.


Eli Myron

Hi! My name is Eli Myron and I am a recent graduate of Florida State University (B.S. Biology, B.S. Environment & Society) and current Fulbright Research Grantee for the Philippines. I am currently an independent marine ecologist, and my research focuses on understanding how humans influence diversity and complexity in coral reef ecosystems in the Indo-Pacific. I place a lot of value on communication in science and am quite active on YouTube and Instagram in communicating my own research, as well as strategies for success in the fields of environmental science and ecology. Outside of my research, I have a growing passion for fitness and love to learn new movements at my CrossFit gym.