Feature Friday: Cassie Raker

Hi, Cassie Raker! Great to have you on ReefBites.

Twitter: @CatherineRaker

Cassie is a PhD student at the University of Rhode Island in Dr. Carlos Prada’s lab. Her research focuses on how to use genomics to further understand coral adaptation and thus guide effective restoration and management practices. Before starting graduate school at URI, Cassie worked as an aquarist for Mote Marine Laboratory for several years. Read more about her research below!

Give an elevator pitch of what your research/project is about.

I study coral conservation genomics, specifically how predation stress affects the microbiome and chemical ecology of the coral in the context of restoration. Basically, I’m trying to figure out if newly transplanted corals have the ability to stop themselves from being munched by parrotfish!

Why is this research/project important and timely?

Coral reefs around the world are in crisis (preaching to the choir, I know), and coral restoration programs are becoming more and more popular. I believe that the most effective conservation efforts are those that are based on strong experimental research and data, and my research will help refine restoration methods already in practice.

What is the broader impact and implication of your findings?

Hopefully, some practical tools and information for coral restoration work. This project will try to answer some questions people have had about the restoration process for awhile, and it could shed light on transplanted corals’ responses to other stressors as well.

How did you come to work in this field/project?

At the risk of being a cliché, I’ve wanted to study marine biology as long as I can remember. But after I graduated college, I was having a hard time narrowing down my focus to one topic, so I took a few years off from school. I had a variety of jobs, but I spent most of that time working for Mote Marine Laboratory in the Florida Keys. I became very passionate about the Florida Keys Reef Tract, and about coral restoration. So when I decided I was ready to go back to school, I wanted my research to focus on a question with practical conservation implications. Plus, I wanted to help the ecosystem in the Keys! This project was a natural fit.

What is your top graduate school life hack or survival resource?

Write down the small achievements, like successfully running a new program or giving a presentation in class. I keep a list near the front of my planner. Sometimes progress in academia can feel really nebulous or slow, and it’s nice to remind myself that I AM making progress and learning new things! Also, I drink a lot of tea. Like seriously so much tea.

Any additional information or comments you would like to share?

It’s really important to have a supportive network around you, so here’s my plug for the Society for Women in Marine Science! Check us out at http://swmsmarinescience.com/ and @SWMStweets, and follow the URI chapter at @uriswms

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