NOAA EPP/MSI Scholar Andrea Gomez sorting through coral data.

Andrea Gomez

EPP/MSI Graduate Research Training Scholar

Andrea Gomez is the recipient of the Educational Partnership Program with Minority Serving Institutions Graduate Research Training Scholarship Program (GRTSP). She is a master's student at the NOAA Cooperative Remote Sensing, Science and Technology Center (CREST) located at the City College of the City University of New York.

Growing up in California, Andrea has always loved the ocean and has been fascinated with learning about marine organisms. Prior to joining CREST in 2013, she received her B.S. in marine biology at the University of California, Santa Cruz. While in Santa Cruz, she pursued scuba diving and volunteered for the Marine Mammal Physiology Project under Dr. Terrie Williams, where she took care of and trained Atlantic bottlenose dolphins, southern sea otters, and a Hawaiian monk seal.

Andrea's Master's thesis research will directly contribute to NOAA NESDIS priority research areas of Coral Health and Coastal Ecosystems. She is investigating the relationship between temperature-induced stress and fluorescence and reflectance hyperspectral signatures of coral. This is a novel research approach aimed at providing the foundation needed to link coral health status to aircraft and satellite remote sensing measures of coral health.

In 2014, under the supervision of her NOAA mentor, Dr. Cheryl Woodley, Andrea conducted heat temperature stress experiments on three Caribbean species of coral (Acropora cervicornis, Orbicella annularis, and Porites furcata) at the NOAA National Ocean Service (NOS) Center for Coastal Environmental Health and Biomolecular Research, and Hollings Marine Laboratory in Charleston, SC. Daily fluorescence and reflectance measurements were recorded during the laboratory manipulations, and it was found that all three species exhibited signs of stress and bleaching. Reflectance data is still being analyzed, and preliminary results show a noticeable change between the control and heat treatments, with the stressed coral having a higher reflectance value, due to more exposed skeleton. The data suggests that changes in chlorophyll fluorescence and reflectance signatures are consistent with declining coral health.

Continuing with the research initiated at NOS, Andrea has set up a cold stress experiment in the Ecosystem Science Laboratory at The City College of New York. During summer 2015, she will participate in a 3-month internship under the mentorship of NOAA scientist Mark Eakin, a coral reef specialist with a Ph.D. in Biological Oceanography and the Coordinator of NOAA's Coral Reef Watch Program.

Andrea said that ultimately receiving the Educational Partnership Program with Minority Serving Institutions GRTSP scholarship has enabled her to get several steps closer to reaching her career goal, which is to work for NOAA and make a significant contribution to marine science and coral reef conservation.

Andrea working on coral experiment in the lab at NOAA CREST.
Andrea working on coral experiment in the lab at NOAA CREST. (NOAA CREST)