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John, Matt, Rumya, Milly, Maria, & Danielle


Lead PI

M. Danielle McDonald, Ph.D.


Professor, Department of Marine Biology and Ecology

Dr. McDonald is a Professor of Marine Biology and Ecology at the University of Miami’s Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science. She is an expert in fish physiology and behavior and her research program most broadly investigates the role of the cortisol, a hormone that is elevated in response to stress, and serotonin, a neurotransmitter most commonly known for its role in depression, in fish during times of environmental stress. The research done by her lab not only advances our understanding of fish, but can also be applied to marine mammal or human health, as fish and other aquatic organisms can sometimes make better health models than other mammals! McDonald is an award-winning teacher and mentor, teaching several senior-level undergraduate courses and mentoring both undergraduates and graduate students in laboratory research. She feels that it is extremely important to communicate science in a fun, accessible way, with the goal of her educational and outreach activities always being the four E’s: to educate, engage, excite and empower.

Danielle's Google Scholar

Current Lab Members

John Sebastiani


Ph.D. Student
August 2018 — Present  

John is a second year Ph.D. student researching circulating serotonin in marine teleost fish. John received a B.S from College in Buffalo, NY, where he studied cholesterol synthesis in vascular plants. His M.S. degree is from University at Buffalo, where he studied structural polymorphisms in bear genomes.

Rumya Sundaram 


Ph.D. Student
August 2018 — Present

Rumya is a second year Ph.D. student researching the toxicological effects of combined exposure to SSRIs and endocrine disruptors on marine fish. She started with a B.A. in Studio Art (Sculpture) followed by a B.S. in Biological Sciences, both from Indiana University. Following this, she obtained an M.P.S. in Fisheries Management and Conservation from University of Miami. Rumya also has worked in the areas of law, policy, citizen science, and sea level rise. She plans on joining UM’s joint J.D.-Ph.D. program and starting law school in Fall 2020.

 Emily (Milly) Milton 


M.S. Student
November 2018 — Present

Milly completed her B.S. in Wildlife Biology at Missouri State University before coming to Miami. Her current research is dedicated to the continued understanding of glucocorticoid production and its implications for the stress axis in response to oil-induced toxicity. She will be isolating specific receptors hypothesized to be responsible for changes in cortisol production, in order to further understand the mechanisms through which oil affects an organism’s ability to function. When she is not in the lab, she enjoys yoga, cycling, and spending time with friends at the beach or The Wetlab. Additionally, she serves as the Vice President of RSMAS’s Marine Science Graduate Student Organization.

Current Undergraduates Students

Anastasiya Plotnikova, Researcher

Landon Chen, Researcher

Allyson Sabatelli, Researcher

Sabrina Del Rosal, Intern

Sydney Lineberger, Intern

Shannon Dickey, Intern

Eric Lohr, Intern

Kayla McCulloch, Intern

Current Graduate Volunteers 

Jenna Shroyer


Former Graduate Students and Post Docs

Maria C. Cartolano, Ph.D.

Post Doctoral Associate January 2018 — May 2020

Matthew M. Alloy

Post Doctoral Associate January 2018 — August 2019

Molly H.B. Amador

Ph.D. August 2013 — July 2018 

Lea R. Medeiros

Ph.D. June 2007 — April 2012

Alexander W. Frere

M.S. June 2010 — April 2012 

Former Undergraduates Researchers

Anna Barnard 2019
Natalia Ruiz-Huidobro 2018-2019
Yi Chng 2018
Rachel Bookman 2017

Jamie Tryba 2017
Phallon Tullis-Joyce 2017
Katie Kubicki 2016-2017
Aalekhya Reddam 2015-2016
Daniela Tizabi 2015
Marissa Lobl 2015-2016
Jacqueline Coffey 2013-2014
Emily Nelson 2013
Bethany Figiel 2013-2016
Haley Nicholson 2012-2013
Abigail Wisnet 2012-2013
Jennifer Panlilio 2012-2013
Joshua Lonthair 2012-2013
Sara Marin 2012-2013
Anthony Lange 2012-2013
Brittney Macdonald 2010
Kelly Kavanaugh 2009-2010
Courtney Alexander 2009-2010
Alexander Gonzalez 2008-2009
Lara Yael Polansky 2007

Former Undergraduates Interns

Victoria Zelinski 2019
Gemma Luther 2019
Allyson Sabatelli 2019
Landon Chen 2019

Former Lab Assistants

Alexander Gonzalez 2009
Michael Morando 2006
Caitlin Julian 2005