Current Lab Members

Interested in becoming a student with the Thorne Lab? Check out our opportunities here.

Kimberly Lato


Kim is an M.S. student in Thorne Lab studying seabird ecology. She obtained her B.Sc. from Binghamton University in New York and has worked for numerous conservation non-profits prior to coming to SoMAS. She has most recently worked as a research assistant in Costa Rica, studying the nesting polymorphism of Olive Ridley sea turtles. Her Master’s thesis focuses on the foraging ecology and urban adaptability of Herring gulls (Larus argentatus) and Great Black-backed gulls (Larus marinus) using GPS tracking data and stable isotope analyses.

Ellie Heywood


Ellie is a technician in the Thorne lab at SoMAS.  She obtained a B.A. in biology from Occidental College in Los Angeles and a Master of Environmental Management degree from the Nicholas School of the Environment at Duke University.  Within the Thorne lab, her main role is to provide support for the New York Bight monitoring project.  Prior to joining the Thorne Lab, she worked for the Marine Geospatial Ecology Lab at Duke University on the Migratory Connectivity in the Ocean (MiCO) System as the taxa lead for marine mammals and seabirds. Ellie has extensive experience in marine mammal and seabird field research, geospatial ecology, and marine conservation.  She also has experience with the collection, management, and analysis of marine acoustic datasets.  Her main interests lie in movement and behavioral ecology, and conservation solutions for marine vertebrates. Outside of academia, Ellie is an avid sailor and has maintained her U.S. Coast Guard maritime licensing since 2011.

twitter: @feministsailor

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Melinda Conners

melinda (dot)conners(at)stonybrook(dot)edu

Melinda is a postdoc in the Thorne lab. Here, she is quantifying the relationship between wind conditions and flight energetics of albatross species breeding on South Georgia Island in the Subantarctic. This work will increase our understanding of dynamic energy landscapes in the ocean for pelagic seabirds who rely on wind to forage across vast distances. It will also determine how the influence of wind on flight efficiency can impact both behavior and reproductive success. Melinda’s research techniques include using spatial and movement analyses and bio-logging devices (high-resolution movement sensors, GPS, satellite tags) to understand movement and behavior of mobile marine megafauna, primarily seabirds and marine mammals. Fundamentally, her research interests are conservation focused, and include understanding the effectiveness of Marine Protected Areas for protecting mobile marine vertebrates and understanding relative risk/resilience of marine vertebrate species to climate change. When not behind her computer or in the field, you can find Melinda lost in the woods with her dog Tuk.


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Julia Stepanuk


Julia is a PhD student in the Thorne Lab. She obtained her B.Sc. in Environment from McGill University and her Master of Science in Marine Science in 2017 in the Thorne Lab at Stony Brook University. Her master’s research focused on spatial and temporal patterns in overlap between short-finned pilot whales, pelagic longlines, and pilot whale bycatch records in the Northwest Atlantic Ocean. Her dissertation research is centered around the predator-prey relationship between large whales (primarily humpback and fin whales) and their prey in the Northwest Atlantic Ocean and specifically the New York Bight, and how the predator-prey relationship informs large whale distributions in a highly urbanized environment. Her research interests are motivated by the conflict, resolution, and passion that is derived from the coexistence of marine megafauna and humans. To better address these conflicts, she is developing the skills needed to assist, create, and eventually lead in the translation of complex data-enabled research into informed decisions and sound policies through the Stony Brook STRIDE program and fellowship. When she’s not in the field or troubleshooting code, she’s often running, figure skating, or baking sourdough bread.

Check out Julia’s paper on pilot whale-longline overlap published in Fisheries Research, her twitter, and her google scholar profile.

Nathan Hirtle


Nathan just started as an M.S. student in the Thorne Lab and is broadly interested in the impact of climate change on the trophic interactions of marine predators.  He hopes to work on questions related to humpback whales in the mid-Atlantic. He obtained his B.Sc. in Biology at Salisbury University in Maryland, after which he served as an AmeriCorps member in the Education Department of the Salisbury Zoo. During his undergraduate degree, he led a water quality analysis program and studied trends in nutrient data in the Wicomico River. He also explored forage fish ecology using acoustic imaging at Chesapeake Biological Laboratories.

Dallas Jordan


Dallas is a M.S. student in the Thorne Lab studying seabird ecology. He obtained a B.A. from Cornell University. Since then, he has worked on projects with nesting shorebirds in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and in Argentina, and on projects studying the songs of Great Tits and territory distributions of Golden-cheeked Warblers. Recently, he has worked three seasons supervising tern restoration projects on New England islands. He is broadly interested in how environmental factors influence population demography and foraging ecology of pelagic birds. In his spare time, he enjoys skiing, sailing, and working on his photography ( 

Kurt Heim


Kurt is a postdoc with a joint position in the Thorne Lab and the Quantitative Fisheries Ecology lab of Janet Nye. Kurt received an MS degree from the University of Alaska Fairbanks in 2014 and a PhD from Montana State University in 2019. Kurt has worked closely with management agencies (e.g., USFWS, BLM, NPS, USGS) throughout his research career to develop a research agenda with direct links to management needs, focusing primarily on movement ecology, population genetics, and invasion biology. In Alaska, Kurt explored the potential impacts of permanent and temporary roads (e.g. seasonal ice roads) on life history and habitat requirements of native Arctic fish (supervisor: Mark Wipfli). For his PhD (supervisor: Tom McMahon), Kurt worked in Yellowstone National Park to examine mechanisms of invasive hybridization that threaten the persistence of native Yellowstone Cutthroat Trout. His work has revealed the ecological importance of small temporary aquatic habitats, like seasonally frozen lakes or intermittent streams, and he recently synthesized these ideas into a globally applicable, general model linking life history needs of fish to the seasonality of aquatic habitats.  His work at Stony Brook University School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences is being done in close collaboration with the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation to develop a system of indicators to assess the state of the New York Bight Ecosystem and guide sustainable use of ocean resources. Outside of work, Kurt enjoys spending time with his wife and son, surfcasting for Striped Bass, and skateboarding.

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