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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

Google Scholar: 

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.


Google Scholar:


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 ( 

Tziporah Feldman


Tziporah is a PhD student in the Thorne Lab. She obtained her B.S. in Biological Sciences with a minor in Mathematics and a certificate in GIS from the University of Cincinnati in 2020. As Tziporah translates to “little bird” in Hebrew, she has had a love for birds her entire life! Starting as a rehabilitator for birds of prey in Cincinnati, Tziporah is now interested in researching pervasive ecological questions of albatross. She is broadly interested in  the fields of geospatial and foraging ecology, and is hoping to use modeling to answer questions about changes in albatross energetics and movement due to climate change and other anthropogenic influences. Tziporah is likewise interested in albatross conservation by merging traditional quantitative research with qualitative Participatory Action Research (PAR), a collaborative framework of applied research with the ultimate goal of creating positive change. In addition to her scientific pursuits, Tziporah enjoys cooking elaborate meals, practicing her barista skills, painting, photography, and of course, watching TV with her husband and their calico cat, Tosha.