michelle curtisGraduate Research Assistant

From the time of her first story book at age 4, Michelle has been driven by a fascination of the ocean and the creatures that reside there. Growing up in Houston, the best option for pursuing these interests in person was begging her family to make the 50-minute drive to the turbidly brown waters of Galveston, Texas. Throughout adolescence, she read every book that she could get her hands on that dealt with the subject matter of her first love, marine life. She has always had a strong passion to become a marine biologist and from the time she entered college, every professional decision she’s made has been a calculated step towards that goal.

During her undergraduate studies at the Richard Stockton College of New Jersey, Michelle was afforded the opportunity to work as a teaching assistant for a tropical marine biology course in which students were introduced to the ecology and natural history of the Florida Keys and Everglades through a week of field work. This experience had a profound impact as it opened her eyes to the exhilaration and gratification of sharing her love of the oceans through teaching. During subsequent work for her Masters of Marine Biology at the Florida Institute of Technology and during her PhD studies at UAB, Michelle has further explored this unanticipated interest through teaching assistant appointments, volunteer work, and public outreach events. Through diving and conducting undergraduate work with corals and sponges, Michelle developed an interest in marine invertebrates. Pursuing this interest translated into Masters work aimed at unraveling the mysteries of development and structure of an organ only found in one group of sea cucumbers. Fascination with sea cucumbers and their close relatives, along with concern for how a changing ocean environment might affect such organisms ultimately led Michelle to contact Dr. McClintock and begin PhD work at UAB investigating potential impacts of ocean warming on aspects of sea star biology and behavior in the southeastern US. This is Michelle’s first expedition to Antarctica.