About me

Born in Singapore, I am an avid scuba diver and have always been intrigued by the ocean. I moved to North Carolina in 2019 to pursue my interest in marine biology and joined the Marchetti lab in my first year. I examined how different environmental factors determine phytoplankton populations in the Galápagos Islands and received a Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SURF) for my research. This project sparked my passion for these microscopic organisms which form the base of marine ecosystems. In Fall 2021, I attended the Morehead City Field Site program where I began work on my honors thesis. I am working closely with Dr Nathan Hall at UNC’s Institute of Marine Sciences (IMS) to find out if different artificial reef materials affect the prevalence of a toxic dinoflagellate, Gambierdiscus spp. Through my classes at UNC IMS, I also developed an interest in marine chemical ecology and plan to explore that field further in graduate school. I am currently an Office of Undergraduate Research (OUR) student ambassador through which I strive to foster curiosity and spread the love for science amongst my peers.

Research Interest

I am primarily interested in the role of phytoplankton in marine communities and the factors that affect phytoplankton composition. As anthropogenic activities continue to alter environmental conditions such as temperature and pH, I aim to understand how phytoplankton populations are responding to these changes. I am also interested in interspecific chemical interactions between phytoplankton and other organisms, particularly how chemical cues drive phytoplankton toxicity and algal bloom formation.

Epiphytic diatoms observed under inverted microscopy

Current Projects

Survey of epiphytic microalgae to evaluate risk of ciguatera fish poisoning across natural and artificial reefs in North Carolina. (Honors Thesis)
Advisors: Dr Nathan Hall (UNC IMS), Dr Chris Taylor & Dr Avery Paxton (NOAA)
Overview: Gambierdiscus spp. are marine benthic dinoflagellates commonly found as epiphytes on corals and macroalgae. These microorganisms produce toxins and are responsible for ciguatera fish poisoning (CFP) when contaminated fish is consumed by humans. We are interested to find out if different artificial reef materials affect the prevalence of Gambierdiscus spp. within the reef. A combination of field observations and ex situ experiments were employed. No Gambierdiscus spp. were observed on the surveyed reefs but substrate-preference experiments indicated that natural reefs are likely to be preferentially colonized should Gambierdiscus spp. range expand.

Gambierdiscus spp. substrate preference experimental setup

Drivers of marine protist diversity and connectivity in the Galápagos Archipelago.
Advisor: Dr Adrian Marchetti (UNC-CH)
Overview: The Marchetti Lab performed 5 years of research cruises around the Galápagos Islands spanning the 2015 El Niño and the 2022 La Niña events. Physical, chemical and biological measurements were taken within the euphotic zone in order to understand how these environmental factors alter phytoplankton composition. DNA extraction and 18s rRNA sequencing were used to identify dominant phytoplankton taxa. A weighted gene co-expression network analysis (WGNCA) is currently being performed to find clusters of highly correlated genes and relate these clusters to environmental conditions.

Map of Galapagos sampling sites in 2018