This Year’s Staff
Welcome Oceanography Camp for Girls Campers 2020
Meet the OCG Science Mentors
Makenzie Kerr – OCG Intern & Science Mentor
Hi campers! My name is Makenzie and I am the OCG intern this year. I was a camper in 2009 and returned to camp in 2018 as a science mentor. Growing up in Saint Petersburg, FL, I have always loved the ocean and the animals that live there. I recently graduated from USF’s College of Marine Science with a Master’s degree. My work focuses on DNA barcoding, which allows me to identify fish eggs using their genetic material instead of their physical features. I currently work as the OCG intern and as a Lab Manager & Outreach Coordinator at USF. I absolutely love sharing my passion for the ocean with others. My favorite part of OCG is teaching girls about the smallest creatures in the oceans, like plankton, baby fish, and bacteria, and seeing their faces light up when they see something new.
Savannah Hartman – OCG Fellow & Science Mentor
Hello campers! I am from Virginia and grew up in the rural Appalachian Mountains, but I always knew my place was at sea. I graduated from the University of Virginia where I double majored in biology and anthropology, and am now completing my third year as a Ph.D. student in Dr. Frank Muller-Karger’s lab at USF’s College of Marine Science. I study the biodiversity of seabirds along the coasts of the Americas, specifically how environmental heterogeneity impacts their biodiversity. When I’m not in the lab or in the field I’m spending time with my furry best friend! My favorite memory from OCG was when the campers from my lab discussed the importance of protecting marine mammals. Each camper showed a compassion and innovation expressing a maturity beyond their years. They were able to come up with out of the box ways to support marine mammals in the Tampa Bay region and beyond, and the way that OCG helped them become leaders of their community was truly inspiring.
Michael Sipes – Science Mentor
Howdy, my name is Mike and I’ve been with OCG for 8 years now. I was born and raised here in Tampa Bay and received my degree in Marine Biology at USFSP. I’m currently a Science Teacher at Chamberlain High School here in Hillsborough County but I still enjoy getting back to my research roots from time to time. Putting my 25+ years of fishing experience to use, most of my past research has focused on studying fish populations here in Tampa Bay. However, in recent years my research has also branched out into include sponges and plankton. I have tons of awesome memories from camp but my favorites are usually fishing on the Research Vessel or my Fish Ecology Lab.
Heidi Souder – Science Mentor
Hello! My name is Heidi Souder and I love all things ocean! I’m originally from central Ohio and my earliest childhood memory was of wanting to be a marine biologist. It took a while to get here but I earned my PhD in Marine Science from the University of South Florida right here in St. Pete. Since then I’ve been teaching ocean science to college undergraduates in Colorado, working on wildlife conservation, and picking up trash every single place I go. I moved back to St. Pete from Colorado at the end of last summer so I can protect the Gulf of Mexico, Tampa Bay, and all the wildlife that depend on these ecosystems. Since 1998, I worked with OCG on and off for nine years. My absolute favorite memory was from 2017 when I showed a group of campers how to create a watercolor painting using seawater, sitting on the beach of Shell Key. You see, my college degree is in art, but my doctor degree is in science. I’m a renaissance woman!
Becky Scott – Science Mentor
Hi campers! My name is Becky Scott and I’m a PhD student at the College of Marine Science. I’ve been interested in the ocean and marine biology since I was a little kid growing up in Pennsylvania, and so decided to make a career out of it! I received my undergraduate degree in Marine Biology from the University of Rhode Island and my master’s degree in Biology from Georgia Southern University. My specific areas of interest are fisheries biology, ecosystem modeling, and sustainable fishing practices, and for my research at CMS I’m studying food web connections between the deep sea and large predators such as tuna and swordfish. My favorite OCG memory is watching campers touch a fish for the first time and realize they love it! I’m looking forward to sharing my passion for the ocean, creating fun learning experiences, and making new memories with you at OCG this summer!
Julie Vecchio – Science Mentor
My name is Julie Vecchio and I am from Livonia, MI, but have been living in St. Petersburg, FL since 2006. I went to Albion College, MI for my bachelor’s, then the College of Charleston, SC for my Master’s in Marine Biology. I recently graduated from the University of South Florida with my PhD. During my PhD, I studied the chemistry in the eye-lenses of fish to investigate movements and diets over the lifetime. Currently I am finishing my PhD work and doing small tasks in fisheries, possibly working for the state of Florida in the next few months. My favorite part of OCG is the field trips. Getting to go outside and explore nature with people is one of the best things I can think of doing. I am looking forward to making more of these memories of with all of you.
Brooke Loney – Science Mentor
Hey hey! My name is Brooke Loney. I was a camper in 2011 and immediately fell in love with OCG. I became a peer counselor and worked my way up to senior counselor! I am a graduate of Florida Gulf Coast University, where I majored in Marine Science and minored in geology. While attending FGCU I had the amazing opportunity to travel to South Africa to study the ocean life there, including great whites. OCG made me realize that not only do I love the ocean, but that I also really love teaching! After college, I became a middle school science teacher at LCC Day School here in St. Pete. OCG was a life changing experience for me and to this day continues to shape me as a person and as an educator.
Cara Estes – Science Mentor
Hey! My name is Cara Estes, and I am a PhD student at USF College of Marine Science. My research focuses on Florida Coral Reefs and the changes they have seen over the last 20 years using time-series data. I love science and school, but I also love playing softball, basketball, swimming, kayaking, paddle boarding, or literally anything outside and active. My best friend is named Bluebelle, and she is a three year old Staffordshire terrier that does almost everything I do only better. I can’t wait to meet everyone and have a great mini OCG during Spring Break!
Emily Ritz – Science Mentor
I joined the Oceanography Camp for Girls as a camper in 2011 and have been around ever since! I was lucky enough to come back as a Peer Counselor until I graduated from Seminole High School in 2015 and I am so excited to now be returning for my fourth year as a Senior Counselor! I graduated from Furman University in Greenville, SC with a B.S. in Earth and Environmental Sciences and a minor in Latin American Studies. During my time at Furman I had the opportunity to travel, participating in various levels of research, field studies, and internships on 3 different continents! My favorite OCG memories definitely stem from the enduring friendships camp has given me. In 8th grade I could have never imagined that, as an adult, I would travel to Africa to wrestle Great White sharks with some fellow OCGers, science enthusiasts, and lifelong friends. When I’m not traveling, I enjoy spending long days on the boat, petting every dog I come into contact with, and going to as many concerts as possible. My experiences with OCG have continuously fostered my curiosity and sense of adventure which has driven me to pursue a career in marine science. I currently work as a marine biologist and environmental educator at Clearwater Marine Aquarium and as a technician in the coastal wetlands biogeochemistry lab right next door at the FWC Fish and Wildlife Research Institute! I hope to continue my education on a graduate level in the coming year but in the meantime, I am looking forward to another great year at OCG!
Kyle Amergian – Science Mentor
Hey OCG friends! My name is Kyle and I am originally from Maine. I moved to Florida in 2012 to study marine science at Eckerd College. I recently graduated from USF CMS with my master’s degree in marine science. My research was focused on tiny, single celled organisms called foraminifera (forams for short). By looking at the populations of Forams in specific areas we can learn details about that environment. As a scientist I am passionate about teaching and educating the public about the ocean. My favorite OCG memory is seeing manatees (including a baby) while teaching about manatee and dolphin anatomy. I am looking forward to getting to know you!
Carey Schafer – Science Mentor
Hello! My name is Carey Schafer and I am a recent graduate from the USF College of Marine Science where I earned my master’s degree studying the mangrove forests of southwest Florida. I am originally from Kansas City, but have spent the last 7 years living throughout the Gulf region, first as an undergraduate in New Orleans, Louisiana and then as a graduate student in St. Petersburg, Florida. This fall, I’ll be moving to Atlanta, Georgia to work for the US Fish and Wildlife Service as a part of the Gulf Research Program Science Policy Fellowship. My favorite OCG memory is taking the ferry over to Caladesi Island and seeing dolphins and singing the OCG camp song!