Joseph P. Montoya, PhD

Professor, Director of OSE

Joe’s research focuses on the marine nitrogen cycle and the role of nitrogen-fixation in structuring the flow of nitrogen and carbon through planktonic ecosystems. His work is highly interdisciplinary, incorporating work in plankton biology, marine chemistry, and isotope biogeochemistry both at sea and in the lab. He has worked extensively in offshore waters, as well as in coastal regions influenced by the freshwater plumes of large rivers including the Amazon, Mekong, and Mississippi. He has a strong interest in education and outreach and was a founding member of the Georgia Tech College of Sciences Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Council. In 2022, he became director of the Graduate Program in Ocean Science and Engineering (OSE) at Georgia Tech.

Environmental Science and Technology Building (ES&T) 1244.

Erica Strope

Lab Manager and PhD Student

Erica graduated with a B.S. in Earth and Environmental Sciences from Wright State University and M.S. in Integrative Biology from Kennesaw State University. After briefly working for The Ohio State University at the Stone Laboratory, Erica became a Research Technician for Dr. Montoya at GA Tech in 2018. Erica has worked on nutrient collection methods in freshwater, sediment nitrogen transformation rates in seagrass beds, and is currently working on nutrient dynamics in the northern Gulf of Mexico. Besides running the day-to-day operations in the Montoya lab, she enjoys mentoring others, pepperoni rolls, cats, and horror movies. She hopes to graduate with her PhD and continue research in oceanography.

Graduate Students

Zainab Al-Riyami

PhD Student, Biological Sciences

Zainab is a Biology PhD student interested in studying primary production and the associated biogeochemical characteristics of the Amazon River Plume. She combines measurements of stable isotope abundancess and experimental rate measurements to explore and understand the environmental dynamics of carbon cycling in the tropical ocean. She aims to gain a better understanding of the natural ecosystem and how biological processes impact the carbon

Eli Harrison

BS Chemistry, MS Biological Sciences (starting F24)

Eli Harrison joined the lab in his second year as an undergraduate chemistry major at Georgia Tech. He is currently working on analysis of Sargassum nutrient content, focusing on the organic phosphorus contained in different growth regions of Sargassum collected at sea. Eli will join the MS program in Biological Sciences after earning his MS in Chemistry. As an MS student, Eli will extend his work on organic phosphorus in Sargassum and explore the factors that may affect nutrient acquisition by this pelagic brown alga.

Undergraduate Students

Gabrielle Penner

BS Biological Sciences

Gabrielle Penner joined the lab in her second year as an undergraduate at Georgia Tech. She is currently investigating the growth of Sargassum collected in the Amazon Plume region as an independent Senior research experience. Outside the lab, she enjoys sailing, kayaking, hiking, and baking. After graduation in Fall 2024, she hopes to pursue more field research and to put her Spanish and German skills to good use. 

Lab Alumni (at least some of them…)

Anh is a phycologist turned computational oceanographer. He earned a B.Sc. in Biotechnology from Vietnam National University with a focus on microalgae cultivation. After a brief stint at the Vietnam Institute of Oceanography in Nha Trang (ION) researching harmful algae blooms, Anh joined the Montoya Lab through the Ocean Science & Engineering Ph.D. program in 2018. As an OSE student, Anh applied data science and computational approaches to dissect and visualize hydrographical and biogeochemical data collections derived from our oceanographic expeditions, various autonomous platforms, and remote sensing. Anh also became a seasoned TA in Ecology and Statistics. Away from the ocean and his computer, Anh likes to lift heavy weights and climb plastic rocks. Anh earned his Ph.D. in Spring 2024 and is now en route to a postdoctoral position at WHOI.

Drake Lee-Patterson, BS/MS

Undergraduate, MS Student

Drake Lee-Patterson joined the lab in her first year as an undergraduate at Georgia Tech and took part in multiple research cruises in the Gulf of Mexico and the Amazon Plume region of the Western Tropical North Atlantic while working to complete her BS. As an MS student, Drake took part in a collaborative cruise across the Atlantic on the German research vessel FS Meteor.

Shannon Salter, BS/MS

Undergraduate, MS Student

Shannon Salter joined the lab in her first year as an undergraduate at Georgia Tech. She took part in research cruises to the Tropical Atlantic as an undergraduate and was one of the first students to enter the new five-year BS/MS program in the School of Biological Sciences. After completing her MS, Shannon moved across North Avenue to work for the Coca Cola Company.

Ana Fernández-Carrera, PhD

Postdoc, Collaborator

Ana Fernández-Carrera joined the lab as a postdoctoral fellow in 2014 and took part in cruises to the Gulf of Mexico. She is now a Distinguished Researcher at the Biological Oceanography Group at the Universidad de las Palmas de Gran Canaria where she studies nitrogen fixation and its role in structuring planktonic communities. Ana is also actively working on the impact of the Amazon Plume and other drivers of planktonic activity and diversity in the Western and Central Atlantic Ocean. We continue to collaborate with Ana and her colleagues.

Natalie Loick-Wilde, PhD

Postdoc, Collaborator

Natalie Loick-Wilde joined the lab as a postdoctoral fellow in 2010 and took part in cruises to the Western Tropical Atlantic and the Gulf of Mexico. She is now a group leader at the Institut für Ostseeforschung in Warnemünde Germany, where her lab group specializes in studies of zooplankton communities using compound-specific stable isotope measurements. We continue to collaborate with Natalie’s group.

Sarah Weber, BS/MS

Undergraduate, MS Student, Lab Manager, Sea-going Oceanographer

Sarah Weber joined the lab as an undergraduate, then ran the lab for several years while completing an MS in Biology. Sarah earned a PhD from the University of Rostock in Germany and moved to a postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Southern Denmark. Sarah now lives in Frankfurt Germany and works on and rides old motorcycles when she’s not thinking of science.

Rachel Horak, PhD

Graduate Student

Rachel Horak is a senior education specialist at the American Society for Microbiology. Rachel’s dissertation focused on nitrogen cycling between endosymbiontic bacteria and their shipworm hosts. While a graduate student, she took part in multiple research cruises and also earned a Certificate for Instruction in Higher Education.

Jason Landrum, PhD

Graduate Student, Postdoc

Jason Landrum is a Senior Program Officer at the Lenfest Foundation, where he’s responsible for identifying new project ideas and managing grants in the Lenfest Foundation’s wildlife and ecosystems portfolio. Jason joined the lab after graduating from Cornell University, where he played football while studying biogeochemistry. After finishing his PhD, Jason earned an MS from the Sam Nunn School of International Affairs at Georgia Tech and worked as a postdoc in our lab. After leaving Georgia Tech, Jason worked as a AAAS Fellow at the Department of State and as a Senior Scientist for the Marine Debris Program at NOAA before moving the the Lenfest Foundation.

Carolyn Jones, PhD

Graduate Student

Carolyn (Holl) Jones is Associate Professor of Biology and Associate Dean in the College of Natural and Computational Sciences at Hawaii Pacific University. Carolyn was an undergraduate at DePaul University and developed a strong interest in phytoplankton physiology and activity while completing her dissertation research. Her current research focuses on marine microbiology and nitrogen cycling in diverse marine environments as well as aquaculture systems.

Nicky Sheats, PhD

Graduate Student

Nicky Sheats is the director of the Center for the Urban Environment at the John S. Watson Institute for Urban Policy and Research at Kean University. He has a long-standing interest in the intersection between science and policy and has been deeply involved in research and advocacy centered on issues of environmental justice. Nicky joined the lab before our move to the South and earned a PhD from the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences at Harvard. Before joining the lab, Nicky earned a JD from the Harvard Law School and an MPP from the Kennedy School of Government at Havard.