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Dr. Meiyin Wu
Meiyin Wu headshot

Professor in the Department of Biology and Molecular Biology at Montclair State University, is an ecologist whose research focuses on habitat restoration and ecosystem management. Her research program emphasizes on species invasion, wetland ecology and management, and ecological restoration. She has recently been awarded a grant from the NSF to study greenhouse gas emissions (CH4 and N2O) from tidal wetlands in the NJ Meadowlands as well as an award from the US EPA Great Lakes Restoration Initiative on research and development of a treatment device to eliminate invasive organisms in the ship ballast water.

She recently completed two wetland program development projects funded by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for wetlands in the Ausable River and Boquet River watersheds in Upstate New York. She has also had funding in support of her research from the Sea Grant and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in the past. She has published over 20 articles and books, as well as has recently been awarded a U.S. patent and has another patent application pending.


Ph.D. Students
Natalie Sherwood
Natalie Sherwood headshot

Born and raised on the beautiful island of Puerto Rico, I was intrigued by the beauty and mystery of the rain forest and the ocean that surrounded me. However, throughout my time growing up on this paradise island, I witnessed vast mountains of green turned to concrete, one lane roads changed into major highways and the singing of the coquí became more and more muted every day. This made me realize things were changing and extremely quickly. Witnessing these changes first hand drove my interest and passion for the environment even further.

I moved to New Jersey after graduating high school to attend Rutgers University where I received a Bachelors of Science in Zoology. I received my Masters in Biology from Montclair State University with a concentration in Ecology and Evolution. My thesis focused on habitat selection and reproductive success of the threatened wood turtle. I am currently working towards a PhD in Environmental Management at Montclair State University. My dissertation focuses on turtle harvests and its effects on wild populations, as well as heavy metal contamination in harvested species and the economical implications of the harvest. I am a PADI certified Dive Master. I also suffer from a mild obsession with TURTLES!!!

My other research interests include wildlife protection and conservation. Also, I am interested in studying human impacts on wildlife and their habitats, in hope to find ways by which we will be able to alleviate human pressures on wildlife. Other areas of research interests include conservation of wetland and aquatic habitats.


Masters Students
Nicole Bergen

I got my bachelors degree in Special Education and Biology from Kean University. I teach high school biology, environmental science, and marine biology in Caldwell. I'm working on my masters in Biology with a concentration in Ecology Evolution at Montclair.

I'm working on the River Road culvert project in Bedminister. My thesis focuses around whether the American Toad and the Wood Frog are using the culverts in order to cross the road during peak migration periods.

Michael Levinson
Michael Levinson headshot

Michael earned his B.S. in Environmental Sciences from Rutgers University in 2008, his wetland delineation certificate from Rutgers in 2009, Professional Wetland Scientist Certificate (PWS) in 2015 from the Society of Wetland Scientist, and is currently completing his M.S. in Biology, Ecology and Evolution at Montclair State University.

After completing his undergraduate degree, Michael began his career at an environmental firm, as an Environmental Scientist. His responsibilities included, but were not limited to, threatened and endangered species field surveys, wetland delineations, permit application preparation. After more than two years of working as an environmental scientist, he decided to go back to school part-time to pursue a Master’s degree.

While working full-time with a civil engineering firm where he established an environmental department, Michael has completed his course work and is currently working toward completing his Master’s thesis research. His thesis work involves the sampling of macroinvertebrates along the Passaic River and comparing results to the surrounding landuse/landcover composition of the sample site’s drainage catchment. The goal of this research is to identify the impacts of developing land that drains into the Passaic River, with the hope that more responsible land development regulations might be established.

Kassandra Archer
Kassandra Archer headshot

I grew up in south jersey in a town located between the Pinelands and the Barnegat Bay. My summer days were spent exploring the bay and seeing what kind of fun critters I could find. I was also lucky enough to have the Pinelands to the west, which was an opportunity to discover the wonders of one of the globes most unique terrestrial habitats.

While I have always had a respect and love for the other life forms I share this planet with, I did not know about the wide range of environmental issues until I started college at Montclair State University. I graduated MSU with a degree in Geography concentrated in Environmental Studies. For two years after college I served with Americorps; one year as a Maryland Conservation Corps member (hosted by the MD Dept. of Natural Resources), and one year as a Watershed Ambassador (hosted by the NJDEP) here in New Jersey.

During my two years of service I realized that I will be able to make the greatest impact by educating others about our planet and helping them to understand the impacts our species has on natural ecosystems. I am currently a graduate assistant with the Passaic River Institute doing outreach and education and pursuing a Master’s Degree in Environmental Education.


Dr. Di Chen
Di Chen headshot

Dr. Di Chen received his Ph.D. degree from the University of Vermont in 2010. Dr. Chen has extensive experience in application of ultrasonic technology. His dissertation focused on using liposomes, investigating the possible physical mechanisms of sonoporation. He have also been actively exploring new approaches to characterize HIFU acoustic field and monitor the HIFU ablation in real time. He is currently working on the development of a treatment device to eliminate organisms in ship ballast water.

Jayesh Desai

I grew up in Haledon, New Jersey, and I attend Montclair State University as a biochemistry major and a biology minor.

I am focusing on the intricate details of microbial source tracking (MST). This involves obtaining bacterial samples from different sites along the Passaic River, and utilizing the techniques and methods of molecular biology to identify the natural reservoirs, in which these pathogenic indicators are thriving. I am also assisting in the assessment of the water quality of the Passaic River by measuring the amount of coliform.


Marco Finocchiaro
Marco Finocchiaro headshot

Marco earned his bachelor’s degree in Aquatic and Coastal Science from Montclair State in 2012. His undergraduate research on the salinity tolerance of Eurasian Milfoil as well as his stellar academic background even won him the honor or being named Outstanding Undergraduate Student in Aquatic and Coastal Sciences by Montclair State’s College of Science and Mathematics. Since then he has been working on his master’s degree in Marine Biology and Coastal Science. His thesis research analyzes the effects of vegetative type as well as water depth on methane fluxes from a freshwater lake. Marco is also analyzing nutrient concentrations along the Passaic River using flow injection analysis.

If not for science, Marco would have pursued a career in the culinary arts. He can frequently be found in the kitchen cooking for family and friends. He is an avid dog lover spending a large portion of his free time with Sophie, his Yorkshire Terrier. Marco enjoys the outdoors not only for work but also for pleasure. When weather permits he enjoys hiking, fishing, and camping to pass the time. He can often be found singing or playing guitar or ukulele. A career in the music industry was once one of Marco’s goals but since then he has taken to playing just for fun.


Roger Gonzalez
Roger Gonzalez headshot

I originally come from a Communications Development and Design background with my BA in Communications & Production from Seton Hall University in 2002. After a 10 year freelance career in this field comprising of instruction, coordination, design, corporate and creative works in NYC and the greater East Coast region; I felt the need to intertwine these skills with something that needed a voice and has a growing social importance. The MA, Environmental Studies / Management program at Montclair allowed for this synthesis.

During my time working towards this degree my focal areas have been in the driving forces and relative risk incurred during the implementation of energy and resource programs, alternative energy strategy and policy; coupled with the juxtaposition and perceived effectiveness of local-level initiatives.

My interests also include a lot of time spent outdoors and volunteering instructional time for Scouting organizations.

Gabriel Jimenez
Gabriel Jimenez headshot

I grew up in Toms River, New Jersey and graduated from Toms River High School North in 2003. I began college in 2003 at Nova Southeastern University in Fort Lauderdale, FL before transferring to Montclair State University where I majored in Biology and graduated in May 2009.

Fall 2009 I returned to Montclair State University for my Masters in Biology. While at Montclair I began working in the Shanti Lab under Dr. Meiyin Wu performing field research. During the summer of 2011, I worked as a graduate research assistant on the NSF funded Research Experience for Undergraduates Program at the New Jersey School of Conservation in Stokes State Forest where I assisted undergraduate students in the completion of summer research projects focused on various aspects of the Lake Wappalane ecosystem. My current research involves the use of ultrasound on ballast waste water for treatment and purification purposes In May 2012 I married, my best friend and now wife, Diana Hoffman; and in August 2012 we were blessed with the birth of our daughter.

I currently work at Delaware State University as a Department Assistant and Laboratory Technician for their Biology Department.

Stephanie Lear

As a native of East Rutherford, New Jersey, Stephanie graduated Montclair State University (MSU) in 2012 as a Biology major with a concentration in Environmental Science and a minor in Chemistry. With the support of a fellowship that she received from Science Honors Innovation Program at MSU, she completed her research project: Assessment of blue green algae and bloom-forming cyanobacteria in New Jersey water bodies. This project launched her enthusiasm and passion for phytoplankton and water quality monitoring research.

After graduating from MSU, she completed multiple studies involving marine and coastal phytoplankton interactions of the Indian River Lagoon at Harbor Branch, Ft. Pierce, FL, spatial variability of optical properties and primary productivity of the Rhode River, Chesapeake Bay, MD, and GIS data analysis and phytoplankton samplings of Barnegat Bay, NJ. Stephanie is currently taking post baccalaureate courses and enjoying her projects until she begins her graduate career. Her advice to future MSU researchers; persistence, patience and passion are secrets to success.

Merari Mejia
Merari Mejia headshot

I am Merari Mejia and I am a senior pursuing a Biology degree at Montclair State University. I lived more than half of my life in the outdoors of the great Caribe. During my stay in the Dominican Republic, I saw many healthy stream ecosystems turned into sewers due to the increasing population of the uninhabited regions. The communities of these regions did not understand all the possible consequences of these activities. This aroused my interest in learning about the impacts of human activities on stream ecosystems. I am currently studying The Anthropogenic Effects on Periphyton Biomass in Northern NJ. Periphyton are benthic algae living in close connection with viruses, bacteria, fungi and detritus. Periphyton are highly sensitive to change, thus good indicators of environmental condition.

Matthew Newton
Mathew Newton headshot

I came to Montclair in 2010 with an enthusiasm for science. Currently, I am junior at Montclair State University admitted to the B.S./ M.S. Biology Program where I joined Dr. Wu’s research lab in order to pursue my passions. I enjoy all aspects of the outdoors, and outdoorsy activities like golfing and hiking and have always had an innate wonderment for nature and everything it had to share.

My research interests include environmental safety, protection, and public health. Currently, I am working on vegetable samples treated with ultrasound or peroxide both separately and in combination. Then, extracting the pesticides from the samples to test the amount of pesticides on the treated foods.

My future goals are to continue with research and acquire my Master’s of Biology at Montclair State University.

Adam Piombino
Adam Piombino headshot

I grew up in Fair Lawn, New Jersey and graduated from Fair Lawn High School in 2004. I attended the University of Delaware where I majored in Natural Resource Management with a minor in Resource Economics. I graduated from UDEL in 2008. That summer I began working for Care Environmental Remediation Services (CERS) as an environmental field technician. At CERS I preformed soil and groundwater remediation and underground storage tanks decommissioning.

In 2010 I began attending Montclair State University going for my Masters in Environmental Studies with a concentration in Environmental Science. While at Montclair I worked for the Passaic River Institute doing field research and community outreach and education. In the summer of 2011 I worked as a graduate research assistant in the National Science Foundation Research Experience for Undergraduates Program at the New Jersey School of Conservation. Currently I work as a research assistant for Dr. Wu. My thesis research examines the effects of heavy metal concentration on soil gas exchange at Liberty State Park in Jersey City, N.J.

Yu Qian
Yu Qian headshot

I came from Kunming, the capital of Yunnan Province in south China, It is a beautiful city with ample ecological biodiversity. The natural environment develops my curiosity and love in nature science. I graduated from Hunan University in China with a B.S. degree in Biotechnology. Soon after my graduation, I came to Montclair State University in fall 2010 to pursue my Ph.D. degree study in Environmental Management.

With urban expansion and economic development in coastal areas, toxic metal contamination in coastal waters and sediments is one of is a public concerns and has received much attention. To better understand biogeochemical cycle of metals in estuarine and coastal ecosystems, my current mechanism study of metal translocation between sediments and wetland plants under different environmental conditions. The goal of this study is to improve our current knowledge for sustainable development in coastal urban areas. Measurement of metal concentration is currently being conducted using Synchrotron-based techniques at Brookhaven National Laboratory under the guidance of Dr. Huan Feng


Myla Ramirez

Myla Ramirez completed her BS in Molecular Biology from Montclair State in 2014 with minors in Chemistry and Leadership Development through Civic Engagement. In Summer of 2013, she participated in an REU program at the NJ School of Conservation studying the effects of urbanization on coliform bacteria levels in northern NJ. She continued her research on coliform bacteria and microbial source tracking in her undergraduate career. Upon graduation, she was hired by the Passaic Research Institute to steer related microbiology projects. Her research interests include environmental health, microbiology, wastewater management and health policy.

When not in the lab, Myla enjoys roadtripping, hiking, and camping with fellow lab members. She is a three-term Bonner AmeriCorps alum and currently serves on her hometown's Board of Health.

Tanya Sulikowski
Tanya Sulikowski headshot

Tanya Sulikowski received her B.S in Conservation and Applied Ecology from Rutgers University in 1997, her biology teacher certification from Rutgers University in 2000 and is currently completing her M.S. in Ecology and Evolution from Montclair State University.

She spent several years conducting ecological research for the New Jersey Pinelands Commission before she took a new career path that led her into the middle school science classroom. In 2002 a unique opportunity presented itself and Tanya left public school education to live and work at the Schiff Nature Preserve in Mendham. As Schiff’s Executive Director, Tanya managed the 700 acre nature preserve and Nature Center, assisted with land acquisition and habitat restoration projects and established a year-round calendar of environmental education programs. After nine years, Tanya retired from Schiff to pursue her Master’s degree.

During her tenure at Montclair, Tanya has been awarded the Sokol Summer Research Fellowship, was the Research Coordinator for a NSF funded summer Research Program for Undergraduates and was nominated for an Interdisciplinary Research Award. Her current research investigates links between land uses in watersheds in northern New Jersey and benthic macroinvertebrate communities. She is also the Supervising Graduate Assistant for General Biology and Ecology laboratory courses.

Tanya has volunteered extensively within New Jersey’s nonprofit community and loves to travel and explore the world’s wildest places.

Kelly Triece
Kelly Triece headshot

Kelly Triece grew up in Basking Ridge, NJ and graduated from University of Delaware in 2010 with a B.A. in Biological Sciences. During her undergraduate studies she interned at Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge in Harding, NJ. While at Great Swamp she developed her love for wildlife while conducting research on wood turtles, green frogs and Indiana bats.

Kelly is now a graduate student at Montclair State University pursuing her Masters in Biology, Ecology and Evolution. She is a graduate assistant at the NJ School of Conservation where she leads school groups in stream studies, ecology lessons and interpretive hikes while encouraging conservation and sustainability.

Currently she is working with NJ Department of Environmental Protection to improve the quality of wildlife habitat in the state by reducing habitat fragmentation. Her thesis work aims to identify wildlife road mortality crossing hotspots and use significant landscape characteristics to predict other possible mortality hotspots. The goals of the project are to prioritize those road segments for future monitoring and mitigation and to ensure the long-term persistence of wildlife species in New Jersey.