People

Principle Investigator

John A. Mohan

Assistant Professor, Marine Science

John began his lifelong love of fish as an avid fly-fisherman trying to understand what fish eat and what habitats to catch them in. His motivation to catch fish evolved into a passion to study fish ecology.

After completing his B.S. from Penn State University and some backpacking on the AT, John pursued a M.S. at East Carolina University, where he examined otolith geochemistry of striped bass and became extremely fond of the scientific method and research. The eagerness to better understand fish ecology led to a Ph.D. at the University of Texas Marine Science Institute, and a post doc/research scientist position at Texas A&M University at Galveston. Dr. Mohan joined the School of Marine and Environmental Programs at UNE as an assistant professor in 2020.

As a marine fish ecologist, Dr. Mohan examines life histories, migration patterns, population connectivity, and food web interactions. Research approaches utilize natural chemical and electronic tags and integrate these complimentary techniques. His work aims to improve understanding of fish life histories in support of effective management and sustainable fisheries. Teaching students and mentoring aspiring undergraduate and graduate researchers is what Dr. Mohan enjoys most about UNE.

Graduate Students

Nick Starosta ’25

Graduate Research Assistant

Nick graduated from Eckerd College in 2021 majoring in both Marine Science and Environmental studies while minoring in both Mathematics and Chemistry. After graduation, Nick worked in Hawaii as a conservationist – aiding in cetacean photo-ID, sea turtle rehabilitation, and humpback whale disentanglement. More recently, he spent some time at the Bimini Biological Field Station, where he spent the summer tagging large coastal elasmobranchs to help BBFS with their ongoing spatial ecology projects. As a first year’s master’s student, Nick is working on elasmobranch population connectivity in the Gulf of Mexico through stable isotope analysis, comparing life histories of blacktip sharks, bull sharks, and Atlantic stingrays. Outside of his research, Nick enjoys soccer and going on hikes with his dog.

Michael Nguyen ’24

Graduate Research Assistant

Michael graduated from Stockton University in 2020 majoring in Marine Sciences and minoring in Business Studies. During undergrad and following graduation Michael did lots of post-release mortality work with large coastal sharks in New Jersey. Before coming into the UNE graduate program Michael worked for the Stockton Coastal Research Center as a beach profile surveyor through the winter and then transitioned to a lab technician position at the Rutgers Aquaculture Innovation Center rearing oyster larvae. As a first year master’s student he is working on a NOAA SK Grant Funded Project attempting to reduce shark bycatch in the U.S. pelagic longline fishery by demonstrating the efficacy of a novel bycatch reduction device in lab and field settings. Communicating results to industry stakeholders is at the top of his list after work is complete. In addition to the bycatch reduction work Michael is also investigating Striped bass habitat usage of the Saco River estuary through use of acoustic tags. In free time Michael is an avid fisherman and loves the outdoors.

Undergraduate Student

Peter Hennessy ’25

Undergraduate Research Assistant

Peter is a junior marine science student in his third year with the lab. He’s working on using trace element concentrations in shortfin mako shark vertebrae to develop techniques in aging. This is in conjunction with his past research which used trace elements to explore the shark’s distribution and movement patterns.

Grace Trost ’27

Undergraduate Research Assistant

Grace is majoring in Marine Biology and Environmental Science, with a minor in Geographic Information Systems. They recently joined the Mohan Shark and Fish Ecology Lab after moving to Maine from Illinois. They assist with research and daily tasks within the lab such as seine surveying, otolith collection, and performing checks on the current research animals. Grace is exploring satellite tag data from blacktip, bull and tiger sharks in the Gulf of Mexico.

Kade Tyrell ’24

Undergraduate Research Assistant

Kade is a senior marine biology major with a minor in climate change studies. Outside the lab Kade is an avid fisherman and enjoys boating. His research investigates eDNA to identify the seasonal distribution patterns of striped bass in the Saco River. He is also interested in scale chemistry as a potential non-lethal chemical tracer of striped bass life history.

Clayton Nyiri ’25

Undergraduate Research Assistant

Clayton is a Marine Science major at UNE. Clayton has been focusing mainly on research pertaining to bycatch and how to prevent it from happening. He is also interested in ecological movement, behavior, and stress analysis (such as post-release/at vessel mortalities) of sharks. Because of his love for sharks, he is an active SCUBA diver and underwater photographer. When not in the lab, you can find Clayton in the gym or playing club baseball.

Emma Christopher ’25

Undergraduate Research Assistant

Emma (she/her) is studying marine biology with a minor in applied mathematics. She grew up in Rockport, Massachusetts, right on the ocean. Emma’s research focuses on Atlantic Bluefin Tuna eye lenses to investigate age, migration patterns, and life history of the tuna.

Ben Gowell ’25

Undergraduate Research Assistant

Ben is a marine science student currently working on an otolith research project focusing on variation in White Hake (Urophycis tenuis) otolith carbon and oxygen stable isotopes with increasing temperatures in the Gulf of Maine. He is also working on acoustic telemetry of striped bass in the Saco River Estuary. Additionally, Ben is a member of the Varsity Men’s Lacrosse team here at UNE.

Audrey Fox ’26

Undergraduate Research Assistant

Audrey (she/her) studying Marine Science and Aquaculture. She is originally from New Jersey, and in the short time she’s spent in Maine, she is confident she selected the correct university. Audrey committed to UNE mainly because of the undergraduate research opportunities. Being a part of the Mohan Shark and Fish Ecology Lab has allowed her to explore interest in fish, specifically in salmonids, beyond what she learns in her classes. Audrey hopes to formulate a research project around these fascinating fish. Outside of working in the Marine Science Center, she is a member of the sailing team and enjoys painting. Audrey is looking forward to continuing to expand her understanding of fish ecology! 

Lab Alumni

Alexa Cacacie ’24

Graduate Research Assistant

Alexa graduated from Maine Maritime Academy in 2020 with a degree in marine biology and a minor in environmental sustainability. After graduation, Alexa worked as a North Pacific fisheries observer through NOAA in the Pacific Northwest and Alaska where she collected catch data to assist with stock management in popular commercial fisheries. After her time in Alaska, Alexa also briefly worked as a stranding technician at the Marine Mammal Stranding Center in New Jersey where she assisted in the rescue and rehabilitation of local marine mammals. As a first-year graduate student, Alexa is working on the habitat use of rainbow smelt in Great Bay, NH through the analysis of trace elements in otoliths and stable isotopes in tissue samples. She also conducts an acoustic telemetry study of striped bass and sturgeon to characterize habitat use in the Saco River, ME. When not in the lab, you can find her at the gym, playing volleyball, or at the beach.

Leonardo Edmonson ’24

Undergraduate Research Assistant

Leo is a junior majoring in Marine Biology and minoring in Applied Mathematics. His projects are focusing on otolith and vertebral chemistry and their applications. His first project hypothesizes that Pacific bluefin tuna migrations are visible in their otolith chemistry, while his second project is comparing elemental maps of Atlantic bluefin tuna otoliths and white shark vertebrae. Otolith and vertebrae chemistry play an important role in informing fisheries management. His favorite fish is the bluefin tuna, with wahoos coming in at a close second. He enjoys painting and crafting, water polo, and boxing when not in the lab.

Ruhika Bhattacharya ’24

Undergraduate Research Assistant

Ru is a marine science major with a sociology minor. She collaborates with Dr. Steven Travis from UNE’s School of Biology on a project focusing on the reproductive biology of spiny dogfish (Squalus acanthias). Ru has been experimenting with genetic and stable isotope analyses to understand maternal offloading in mom and pup pairs. In the future, Ru aspires to work with a variety of sharks in projects that deal with stress physiology, ecological movement, and behavior.

 

Molly Smith ’24

Undergraduate Research Assistant

Molly is a marine biology major and an animal behavior minor from East Longmeadow, Massachusetts. Currently, she is working on an age/growth project that explores variations in band deposition between Atlantic spiny dogfish vertebral centra and second dorsal spines. She plans to further her education by continuing on to graduate school.

Ben LaFreniere ’23

Graduate Research Assistant

Ben LaFreniere is a 4+1 master’s student, who attended UNE as an undergraduate Marine Science Major with minors in Applied Mathematics and Climate Change Studies. His master’s thesis focuses on White Hake life history, a highly understudied groundfish in the Gulf of Maine. Ben uses both otolith chemistry and generalized additive models to track trends in White Hake growth and habitat selectivity. His collaboration with the Maine Department of Marine Resources during his time at UNE has landed him a position on their new offshore wind farm project as a Marine Resource Specialist, as he nears completion of his thesis this Spring. Ben’s research interests involve the use of hard structures to better inform fisheries management practices.

Addie Binstock ’23

Graduate Research Assistant

Addie Binstock graduated from the University of Vermont in 2016 with a BS in Animal Sciences and Wildlife Biology. Following graduation, Addie worked in various marine conservation projects globally, forming a specialty in elasmobranch conservation and research. Most notably, she was the Marine Scientist for Western Australia’s Shark tagging program, where she helped catch, tag, and release over 100 sharks of important conservation and mitigation value, including the largest Great White Shark ever caught and released off the coast of Australia. This position led her to pursue a Master’s degree by exploring post-release mortality and recovery in sharks commonly caught and tagged by recreational fisherman, including tiger, hammerhead, blacktip, and bull sharks. Additionally, Addie is exploring trophic ecology using stable isotope analysis to explore intraspecific variability in blacktip sharks. Outside the lab, Addie enjoys spending time under the sea on SCUBA, in the mountains skiing, and around the world learning about different cultures.

Abigail H.P. Hayne ’23

Graduate Research Assistant

Abigail (she/her) graduated from the University of New England in 2019 with a degree in marine science, and minor in English, where she conducted an honors thesis project with Dr. James Sulikowski on the age and growth information of two Gulf of Mexico elasmobranchs to better inform management strategies. After graduating, Abigail worked for two years as a fisheries biologist for Normandeau Associates, Inc., where she was involved in large-scale fish passage telemetry studies. Now in the second year of her masters, Abigail studies multi-elemental vertebrae chemistry to answer questions about age and population connectivity of sharks. She also serves as president of the marine/biological graduate student government,  vice president of the American Fisheries Society UNE student subunit, and secretary-treasurer of the AFS Student and Early Career Professional Section. Upon graduating, Abigail hopes to use her knowledge in fisheries and passion for writing to help better connect science to stakeholders and the public. In her free time, Abigail enjoys spending as much time outside as possible in the beautiful state of Maine and can be found skiing, backpacking, running, and paddling.

Bethany Brodbeck ’22

Current: M.S. Student, Dr. Aaron Carlisle, the University of Delaware

Brian Alper ’22

Current: Junior Specialist, Dr. Levi Lewis, UC Davis