Lead Instructor Heather Leslie studies the drivers of ecological and social processes in marine systems, and how to more effectively integrate science into marine policy and management. As a professor in Ecology & Evolutionary Biology and Environmental Studies, her research includes coastal marine ecology and the design and evaluation of marine conservation and management strategies. Before arriving at Brown in 2007, Heather received an A.B. in Biology from Harvard University and a Ph.D. in Zoology from Oregon State University. In her free time, she enjoys cooking, hiking, and reading. Heather lives on the East Side of Providence with her husband, Jeremy and children, Isaac (6 1/2 years old) and Eva (almost 3!).



Graduate Teaching Assistant Sarah Corman is a 4th year Ph.D. student in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, in the joint program with The Marine Biological Laboratory at Woods Hole. She is co-advised by Heather and Linda Deegan, and investigating the impacts of climate change on salt marshes.






Harriet Booth is a Marine Biology concentrator interested in marine community ecology and invertebrate zoology.  In collaboration with Drs. Linda Deegan (Marine Biological Laboratory) and David Johnson Harriet is investigating how nutrient enrichment from agricultural run-off affects the benthic invertebrates and food web structure in salt marshes.  Her project is part of the TIDE Project, a long-term, ecosystem-scale study on the effects of chronic nutrient enrichment on the salt marshes of Plum Island Estuary, Northern Massachusetts.

Emma Dixon is an environmental science concentrator interested in human-managed and urban ecosystems. In collaboration with Chris Neill (Marine Biological Lab), she is studying the effects of urban development on plant communities.  Over the summer and fall of 2012 she conducted surveys in residential yards and unmanaged reference sites in the Boston area to compare site-level plant biodiversity to intensity of urbanization. She also conducted interviews with homeowners about use and management of their yards. Throughout this process she learned just how complicated plants and people can be, but she can now identify lawn grasses without flowers.

Maddie Johnston is focused on documenting the climatic mismatches between where woody plant species are native and where they are grown commercially in the eastern United States. She is collecting data to inform this issue by compiling species lists of ‘native’ plants sold at commercial nurseries. Ultimately, she hopes to better understand how species will respond to climate change.



Becca Rast is an Environmental Studies and Africana Studies concentrator interested in the impact of natural resource extraction on communities, and particularly on farmers. In collaboration with Profs. Stephanie Malin and Kathy DeMaster she investigated the impact of unconventional gas drilling on farmers in Pennsylvania. In particular, she explored why different farmers have leased their lands and farmers’ reactions to the swift expansion of drilling. Rast hails from Pennsylvania, so this project hit close to home and she enjoyed spending the summer meeting many amazing farmers and hearing their stories. She is active with the Brown Student Labor Alliance, the Environmental Justice League of RI, and other community organizations in Providence. She also loves farming, old-time music, and bonfires.

Mary Alice Reilly  is an Environmental Studies ’13 concentrator interested in community-based research, community empowerment and food justice. In collaboration with Professor Kathryn DeMaster and partners at John Hope Settlement House (JHSH), Mary Alice has worked as a student researcher and Brown student leader in JHSH’s schoolyard gardens and garden education programming. Participant observation, community surveys and interviews since summer 2012 indicate an interest and need for new urban agriculture projects that provide more inclusive and comprehensive programming for the broader JHSH community. In response, Mary Alice’s senior capstone project assesses opportunities and barriers for expansion of JHSH’s garden programming, particularly through the remediation and development of an adjacent brownfield site into an urban farm. Mary Alice intends for her research to inform the agency’s long-term strategic planning and will play an active role in continuing the research and planning process once hired at JHSH post-graduation.

Elizabeth Ryan is an Environmental Science and Architectural Studies concentrator interested in conservation biology and ecology. She is working with Professor Dov Sax (EEB/ES) and Michael Dosmann (Harvard University’s Arnold Arboretum) to better understand how plant species ranges will respond to climate change. In addition to the Arnold, Elizabeth conducted field work in Pennsylvania at the Tyler Arboretum and Bartram’s Garden, and in New York at the Cary Institute. This reproduction information, when matched with climatic data, will be used to pinpoint certain species traits that can guide predictions of where plants will be able to survive in the future. The aim of this investigation is to help determine which species are appropriate for “managed relocation”, a strategy in which human’s move plants that might not be able to move themselves. Elizabeth is on the Cross Country and Track & Field teams at Brown. A native of the Northeast, she enjoys triathlons, pick-up soccer, skiing, catching insects, and herding sheep and goats.

Katherine Siegel is studying marine conservation planning in Mexico’s Gulf of California. The Gulf of California is one of the world’s most ecologically and economically important bodies of water, providing habitat for a wide diversity of marine life as well as growing tourism and fishing industries. She is examining the spatial variation in ecosystem services provisioning, ecological resilience, and institutional capacity in the Gulf of California in order to inform conservation actions. Katherine hopes that consideration of these three metrics can improve conservation planning and the success of conservation interventions while decreasing negative impacts on local resource users.


Lucy Zipf is a New Jersey native. She has taken the inspiration for my research from my home state. The highly productive habitats of New Jersey’s Barnegat Bay contribute heavily to the financial success of the watershed and beyond. Despite its obvious importance to New Jersey and its residents, the health of Barnegat Bay is in peril. Historic land use and continued development have polluted the bay’s waters and disrupted valuable habitats. Through her research, Lucy is assessing the health of Mill Creek, a Barnegat Bay tributary, and identifying the most likely sources of pollution in this stream.

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