Prospective Students

DivingSoMAS is one of the strongest places in the country to pursue a degree in marine science. We have a wide diversity of faculty in biological, physical and geological oceanography. In addition, we have faculty working on issues in population, community and ecosystem ecology. Long Island provides exceptional field sites in habitats ranging from saltmarshs, rocky intertidal, mudflats and seagrass beds. I am interested in accepting motivated students with excellent research experience.

Over the course of their dissertation, students will work with me to develop an independent research project. I work as closely as needed with students to ensure that their PhD is creative, novel and meets their professional goals. I suppor t students generously with both my time and grant support, but the latter is not intended as a substitute for one’s own proposals. For example, several of my current students and I have submitted proposals to support their own projects.

Interested students should read the material on our research group’s web page, read several of the papers that have come out of our lab and determine if our interests are a good match. I am comfortable accepting students interested in any area of benthic community ecology, involving either empirical or theoretical approaches. Applicants interested in working at the interface of experiments and models are particularly encouraged to apply. At the time of application, I do not expect students to know their dissertation topic, but I do expect students to have an idea of the types of questions that interest them. All eligible students should also apply for an NSF graduate research fellowship. These fellowships and those administered by the university are awarded in large part on GRE and GPA considerations. Thus, while I am not too concerned with GRE scores (my greatest consideration is research background), the fellowship selection committees are, so it is in your best interests to study for the GRE and take the exam seriously. If after reading this and the other lab information, you are interested in applying to my lab, contact me via email at


Recent Posts

2018 Call for Summer Research Assistants

The Peterson Marine Community Ecology Lab is seeking to interview and select eight to ten (8 – 10) highly motivated volunteer research assistants for summer 2018 to work on several dissertation and monitoring projects. Research hours can be used towards research credit hours with Dr. Bradley Peterson. (High school students, please take note: the minimum age to be considered for a volunteer position with us is 17).

Volunteers will be asked to commit at least two days per week from late May/June through August. Exact starting and end dates are negotiable.

We specifically look for people who are comfortable and enjoy being outdoors, especially in the field on boats and in the water. Volunteers should be in good physical shape and enjoy hands-on work. Ability to swim is a requirement. Certified divers are strongly encouraged to apply.

If interested, please send your CV/resume and a list of available meeting times to Diana Chin and Stephen Heck (, Please note that it is unlikely that you will work exclusively on one project, though you might work primarily on one or two. We think that exploring a variety of research questions and methods is essential to your scientific development!

Summer Research Topics:

Steve Heck: predator-prey interactions among fish, crabs, and bivalves

Steve will be researching how black sea bass influence trophic cascades that govern the survival of bivalves such as blue mussels and bay scallops. Experiments will be conducted both in mesocosm tanks at the Stony Brook University Southampton Marine Station as well as in the field in Shinnecock Bay, NY.

Alyson Lowell: seagrasses and ocean acidification

Alyson will employ a myriad of field and laboratory approaches to investigate how carbon dioxide enrichment affects carbonate chemistry in seagrass communities and whether seagrasses will serve as a refuge for marine organisms in a high CO2 world. Students working with her will be exposed to exciting field and laboratory techniques and will be taught to run successful ocean acidification experiments. Volunteers who are field oriented and SCUBA certified are encouraged.

Kaitlyn O’Toole: water quality and bio-optical modeling

This summer Kaitlyn will be continuing work on a bio-optical model (generally having to do with how much light reaches the bottom of the water column), which will be used to target feasible areas of seagrass restoration. This involves plenty of fieldwork in both Peconic and Great South Bay: water sampling weekly, SCUBA transect dives for site characteristics, productivity and epiphyte measurements in seagrass, sediment sampling, tidal/wave current velocity measurements, and drone imagery of seagrass sites. Kaitlyn is typically out on the water 1-3 times a week, depending on the weather. You will learn how to collect and filter whole water samples, use the equipment to measure water column properties, learn about and snorkel (or SCUBA if certified) around seagrass, learn sampling techniques for seagrass, water, and sediments, and obtain boating experience.

Leah Reidenbach: food webs, invertebrate physiology, and ocean acidification

Leah will be developing a method for using underwater photomosaics as a tool for building food webs in seagrass ecosystems. She will compare food webs across a eutrophication gradient to test if food web characteristics can determine differences in ecosystem stability. Volunteers will get experience with fieldwork and sampling animal tissue for stable isotope analysis. She will also be testing the effects of ocean acidification and temperature on mud crab physiology. Here, volunteers will get experience with setting up ocean acidification experiments and testing animal physiology responses such as respiration and calcification.

Dylan Cottrell: seagrass community ecology

Dylan will broadly focus on species distributions, edge effects, habitat complexity, and/or seagrass community responses along a stress gradient (namely eutrophication).

Other Monitoring and Research

The lab will be deploying eelgrass- and shellfish-based restoration projects and conducting assessments of water quality, seagrass, and fauna in Great South Bay and Shinnecock Bay. For example, Diana Chin will be leading the Peterson lab’s benthic surveys for the Shinnecock Bay Restoration Program (ShiRP).

We hope to hear from you soon!

  1. Early Birds Leave a reply
  2. February 2018 Leave a reply
  3. Welcome New Graduate Students! Leave a reply
  4. Benthic Ecology Meeting 2017 Leave a reply
  5. 2017 Call for Summer Research Assistants Leave a reply
  6. Spring 2017 Series #1 Leave a reply
  7. Meet an Oceanographer at Riverhead Aquarium Leave a reply
  8. October 2016 Leave a reply
  9. Call for Summer Research Assistants Leave a reply