Student Leaders

Yasmin von Dassow (Duke) a second-year PhD student in Marine Science and Conservation at DUML. She earned a BA in Integrative Biology from the University of California, Berkeley, and an MS in Geological Sciences from the University of California, Riverside. Prior to starting at Duke, Yasmin worked in science outreach for several years as a teacher and curriculum developer at Carnegie Museum of Natural History in Pittsburgh, PA. She has taught students of all ages and economic backgrounds, including students with special needs. She continues to participate in public outreach at the Duke Marine Lab. In an effort to bring together graduate students from eastern North Carolina, Yasmin and a student colleague resurrected the DUML Graduate Student Mini-Symposium in Fall 2011. The symposium, funded in part by the Duke/UNC Oceanographic Consortium and the Duke Marine Lab, drew participants from four different universities and spurred the collaboration on this grant proposal. Yasmin uses macro and micro-scale digital images and video in her research. She hopes to use digital media to communicate the tremendous beauty and diversity of marine invertebrates to a wider audience.

Clare Fieseler (UNC) is a first year PhD student in the Curriculum for the Environment and Ecology at UNC-Chapel Hill. In 2010, Clare received a Masters of Environmental Management from Duke University and worked the following year as a Fellow at Dukeʼs Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions. While a student at Duke, Clare lead a photography competition in 2009 that was co-hosted by the Nicholas School of Environment and the Center for Documentary Studies. She convened a judging panel of faculty expects and managed the submission, judging, and exhibition of over 50 images. Clare worked for National Geographic Film and Television before pursuing graduate school, where she assisted the development and post-production of over 20 wildlife films. Clare strives to integrate her interests in marine ecology and media. In 2010, her short film “Plastic Future: The Midway Story” was an official selection for NOAAʼs International Marine Debris Conference. To date, the film has received over 3,000 hits on YouTube. She has blogged about ocean issues at and National Geographicʼs News Watch.

Rachel Gittman (UNC) is a third year PhD student in the Curriculum for the Environment and Ecology at UNC-Chapel Hill, based at IMS. Rachel received a BS in Environmental Sciences with a specialization in Conservation Ecology from the University of Virginia in 2006. While at UVA, Rachel was the program manager for a Madison House environmental volunteer organization that focused on educating high school and college students. Prior to coming to UNC in the fall of 2009, she worked as an environmental scientist and project manager for Eastern Research Group (ERG), an environmental consulting firm in Chantilly, VA. While at ERG, Rachel worked on environmental policy and management projects for numerous Federal agencies. Her dissertation work at UNC is focused on the impacts of management policies and development practices on salt marsh habitats in coastal North Carolina and on mangrove and salt marsh habitats on the coast of Ecuador. Rachel is working with NC state agencies, the North Carolina Coastal Federation, and NC coastal residents to develop digital and hardcopy communication and outreach tools that promote sustainable management of coastlines.

Natalie_TaylorNatalie Taylor (UNC) is a currently getting her M.A. from the UNC-Chapel Hill School of Journalism and Mass Communication, where she is studying visual communication and science journalism as a Roy H. Park Fellow. Prior to starting at UNC, Natalie worked for five years in a fast-paced microbiology lab at the Duke Human Vaccine Institute helping to develop a combined vaccine for HIV and tuberculosis. For fun during this time, she started taking evening classes at the Duke Center for Documentary Studies where she recognized a passion for finding and conveying the inherent drama within science. Prior to this Natalie graduated from N.C. State University with a B.S. in Zoology and a minor in English, after which she completed an internship abroad in a neurobiology lab in Zurich, Switzerland. Natalie is interested in creatively explaining complex scientific topics and informing people about their fundamental involvement in such issues. She is also interested in the ways people interact with and learn from museums.
Avery Paxton
Avery Paxton (UNC) is a second year PhD student in Biology at UNC-Chapel Hill, based at IMS. Avery’s research focuses on marine ecology, conservation, and restoration of hard bottom systems, including artificial reefs, shipwrecks, and natural hard bottom. She earned her BS in Environmental Science from the University of Virginia, during which her research focused on ecologically conserving shipwrecks in North Carolina. Avery’s dissertation research at UNC is primarily based in North Carolina coastal waters and heavily uses SCUBA diving as a tool to assess hard bottom habitat and understand how structural complexity, sediment dynamics, biogeography, and connectivity of hard bottom habitat impact fish and invertebrate community composition. As a SCUBA instructor, Avery has used dive training to inspire divers to protect the marine environment. She hopes to use film and other media to continue to spread this message.

Chad A. Stevens (UNC) has been an assistant professor of visual communication at the UNC-Chapel Hill School of Journalism and Mass Communication since 2009. Currently he is working on a feature length documentary film on the conflict over energy extraction in Appalachia, titled A Thousand Little Cuts. Before joining the UNC faculty, he was an award-winning documentary producer/editor at MediaStorm, a multimedia production company based in New York City. Stevens has also been a faculty member in the visual communication programs at Western Kentucky University, the International Center of Photography and Ohio University. In 2012 Stevens received an New Approaches in Documentary Emmy for his collaboration on the Los Angeles Times Pulitzer-Prize-winning project, Caught in the Crossfire. Stevens has received three other national Emmy nominations, one Webby Award and many photography and multimedia awards in the Pictures of the Year International and NPPA Best of Photojournalism competitions. In 2013 he won a Tanner Award for Undergraduate Teaching at UNC, and while teaching at Western Kentucky University in 2006, Stevens won the University Faculty Award for Public Service.

Lomax BoydLomax Boyd (Duke) is a PhD candidate in the University Program in Genetics and Genomics. His current research lies at the intersection of evolutionary biology and neuroscience – focused on identifying the molecules that make us uniquely human. A passionate advocate for science literacy, Lomax helped develop and execute an outreach program, in collaboration with the NC Museum of Natural Sciences and Duke Center for Science Education, that taught aspects of recent human evolution to middle school students. He believes in the power of communicating science through the personal narratives of scientists themselves. Lomax currently coordinates media communications for SwS and runs a documentary project Hack My Science that explores scientists’ personal journeys into and through the world of science.

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