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Graduate Students

CREST CAChE is proud to introduce our graduate student cohort, which includes an interdisciplinary team from across 5 departments - Biological Sciences, Chemistry and Biochemistry, Earth and Environment, Computer and Information Sciences, and Environmental and Occupational Health. Each student conducts research that supports the overall mission of the Center in one or more of our Research Focus Areas: detection/identification of environmental pollutants; tracing movement and fate of pollutants through various ecosystems; assessing risk to our environments and communities, and creating computer-generated syntheses and visualizations of these results; as well as communicating our findings to the public and policymakers. Our first student cohort joined the program in Fall 2016.

Deya Banisakher

Computing & Information Sciences

My main interest is in the medical application of natural language processing, and using machine learning to improve Precision Medicine.

Paolo Benigni

Chemistry & Biochemistry

I’m interested in developing novel techniques/instrumentation for targeted and untargeted analyses of molecules within complex mixtures, such as dissolved organic matter and crude oil. In particular, my work has focused on techniques that integrate ion mobility spectrometry (IMS) with ultra-high resolution mass spectrometry (FT-ICR MS) for molecular structure elucidation.

Javier Rodriguez Casariego

Biological Sciences

My research in molecular ecotoxicology and environmental epigenetics focuses on the genetic/epigenetic mechanisms that mediate environmental responses and determine an organism’s capacity for recovery, acclimation, and adaptation. Given what we currently know about the role of post-translational modifications in DNA repair and the regulation of gene expression, I’m interested in how this applies to organism responses to environmental stressors.

Joshua Eisenberg

Computing & Information Sciences

My research involves natural language processing. I’m currently exploring methods that enable computers to understand narrative, stories, and jazz improvisation.

Ximena Mesa

Biological Sciences

I’m studying the ecology of canals in South Florida, and specifically how net ecosystem productivity and water management can influence nutrient and contaminant removal.

Peter Regier

Chemistry & Biochemistry

I'm generally interested in how organic carbon is transported and transformed in natural systems. My research focuses on the spatiotemporal patterns of organic carbon in the Everglades, and responses to changes in hydrology, management and climate.

Kalli Unthank

Earth & Environment

My research involves studying the fate and transport of sulfur and other nutrients along a north-south transect originating in the Everglades Agricultural Area (EAA). I’m also interested in how sulfur from the EAA and the Northern Everglades is impacting mercury methylation in this area.

Tiffany Yanez

Biological Sciences

I’m a new Master’s student interested in Ecotoxicology, and specifically, how toxic levels of copper can affect predator-prey interactions in the mangrove ecosystems.

Joined CREST CAChE in Spring 2017


Jason Howard

Biological Sciences

My research focuses on how ecological and environmental context shape CO2 production and carbon storage in seagrass meadows. I'm also interested in methods to best pragmatically communicate and apply carbon science for habitat management and conservation efforts. Check out my student website!

Lowell Andrew R. Iporac

Biological Sciences

My research examines interactions between macroalgae and associated mesograzers (small marine invertebrates). I I investigate how suitable macroalgae are as habitat compared to other dominant habitat-forming organisms (i.e. seagrasses, mangroves or corals) and if the physical structure or chemical production of the macroalga are characteristics that determine its suitability as habitat. These interactions between the two taxa can serve as indicators of environmental change.

Abraham Smith

Biological Sciences

My research involves the development and application of aquatic toxicity studies for the assessment of impacts due to chemical stressors using non-standard indigenous organisms. This includes the methodology behind acquisition of native organisms, culturing/maintenance protocols, developing testing methods, determining applicable toxicological endpoints for assessing adverse effects, the variability and reproducibility of the studies, and probabilistic risk assessment to put the organisms’ sensitivity to the toxicant and potential risk in perspective.

Joined in Summer 2017


Joshua Allen

Earth & Environment

My research focuses on the hydrogeochemical effects of sea level rise and reduced freshwater flow in the Florida Everglades. Generally, I'm interested in the use of natural geochemical tracers to study the interactions of groundwater and surface water in coastal environments.

Cody Henderson

Biological Sciences

My interest lies in using a combination of nontarget and target high resolution mass spectrometry analyses to understand both structural and quantitative changes in both known contaminant molecules and previously unknown molecules that may have potential uses as tracers or indicators of water quality.

Joined in Fall 2017


Afia Anjuman

Chemistry & Biochemistry

I'm interested in analyzing dissolved organic matter from Everglades water and dissolved organic matter produced by periphyton. I would also like to study its role in mercury methylation.

Anthony Castellanos

Chemistry & Biochemistry

My research interest involves developing mass spectrometry-based methodologies for the analysis of complex biological targets. I am working to integrate quantitation with sub-micrometric imaging approaches for a more complete understanding of small organisms.

Samuel Kent

Earth & Environment

My research is focused on the canals in Homestead, Florida, an area that features a lot of agricultural nurseries. I will be modeling nutrient loads coming from these areas as well as studying the hydrological impact from agriculture based groundwater pumping.

Angelica Moncada

Earth & Environment

I am generally interested in Geosciences, and the fate and transport of nutrients and toxins in fresh water bodies. My research will focus on the spatiotemporal variation of these contaminants along the Everglades National Park.

Christian Perez

Environmental & Occupational Health

My work focuses on transcriptomic gene microarray analysis in the development of diseases with environmental origins. My project will integrate RFAs 1 & 3 by testing both ecological concentrations of relevant chemicals resulting in adverse vascular dysfunction and machine learning bioinformatics data of ID3 target genes, in order to model and predict adverse effects in susceptible populations. I’m interested in applying the results from my transcriptomic data using zebrafish as an animal model for exposure to relevant doses of these environmental toxicants.

Joined in Spring 2018


Anteneh Abiy

Earth & Environment

My research focuses on informing long-term water resources management planning alternatives and priorities to restore freshwater flows to the Everglades and the Biscayne Aquifer. My work is inspired by global tele-connectivity and the adverse impacts of drought in Ethiopia. I hope to generate knowledge and better understandings of the fate of freshwater resources in the Everglades, in the face of droughts, increased groundwater withdrawal and seawater intrusion.

Undergraduate Students

Meet the students of our 2017 summer Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) program.

Tatiana Barreto

I am an Environmental Science undergraduate student at the University of Puerto Rico. My involvement with the Tropical Limnology Laboratory and Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences led me to pursue further research in aquatic sciences, with a focus on water quality and anthropogenic impacts on the environment. I am excited to be a CREST CAChE Undergraduate Research Fellow this summer, because it will allow me to study the ability of mangroves to buffer marine ecosystems from contaminants and pollutants and will equip me with valuable experience for graduate school.


Claudia Kaya Carrion-Banuchi

My experience growing up in Puerto Rico led me to develop a connection to the ocean and a drive to learn more about coastal ecosystems. During my undergraduate career, I have sought opportunities to become more involved in research related to these topics. As a CREST CAChE Undergraduate Research Fellow, I will be working with Dr. Jim Fourqurean and Jason Howard in developing a technique to understand factors that control decomposition rates in seagrass sediments. The techniques I will be developing in Dr. Fourqurean’s lab will be used to understand soil decomposition across Florida Bay and the Florida Keys, and will inform global models of carbon loss in seagrass ecosystems.

Marla Valeria Santos Crespo

I am pursuing a degree in Chemistry at the University of Puerto Rico and have a general interest in science and public health. My long-term goal is to become a surgeon. As a CREST CAChE Undergraduate Research Fellow, I hope to gain research experience in environmental chemistry and contribute to research that could be crucial in restoring the health of the Everglades. I also believe this will be a great opportunity to meet inspiring researchers and students in the environmental, chemistry, biology and computer science fields.

Alex Crow

I am a Junior at FIU majoring in Environmental Studies, with a concentration in Natural Resources Sciences. I am interested in how the extraction and use of natural resources can impact the environment, especially in regards to pollution.

Jennie Rivera

I am a native of Puerto Rico and currently participating in the National Student Exchange program at FIU. My research project is aimed at understanding how mangroves filter nutrients and contaminants from freshwater bodies to marine coasts. I am studying this in both South Florida and Puerto Rico. My long term plan is to enroll in FIU’s graduate school to pursue a PhD in Biology. I am excited to be part of CREST CAChE’s Undergraduate Research Fellows Program because of the chance to represent my community in science, and because of the opportunities it may present for future careers.

Abigail Sundberg

I am an undergraduate student at FIU majoring in Chemistry, with a minor in Biology. I have also been serving as an assistant researcher to Dr. Sonia Underwood for education research in Biology, Chemistry, and Physics. As part of this summer’s CREST CAChE Undergraduate Research Fellows Program, I am working with Dr. Francisco Fernandez-Lima to identify insecticides and detect where they accumulate inside mosquitoes. I see this project as an opportunity to gain relevant experience in the detection of analytes within a cell, which aligns well with my interests in pharmaceuticals and drug detection within samples.