I am a Ph.D. student in the Interdisciplinary Graduate Program in Marine Biology at Texas A&M University at Galveston. I am broadly interested in behavioral ecology of cetaceans, anthropogenic input in marine mammal habitats, and how those factors may impact natural behaviors of marine mammals. For my dissertation research I plan to investigate group movement patterns of apex predators, specifically dusky dolphins (Lagenorhynchus obscurus), and foraging limitations relative to anthropogenic input, specifically shellfish aquaculture, in Admiralty Bay, New Zealand. I will apply shore- and boat-based methods for a broad perspective to investigate movement patterns and behaviors of dusky dolphins in Admiralty Bay.
I have been fortunate to have gained valuable hands-on field research experience by studying common bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) off Galveston, Texas, western gray whales (Eschrichtius robustus) off Sakhalin Island, Russia and dusky dolphins off Kaikoura, New Zealand and in Golfo San José, Argentina. I am also a volunteer of the Texas Marine Mammal Stranding Network where I have gained experience in both live animal rescue/rehabilitation and necropsy techniques. For my own dissertation research, I will revisit dusky dolphins in New Zealand that migrate to Admiralty Bay during austral winter months where intensive shellfish aquaculture is an important industry.
Prior to beginning graduate school, I earned a B.S. in Sport Management (Applied Learning and Development) from the University of Texas at Austin where I was a member of the Women’s Varsity Volleyball Team (NCAA Division I), and a B.S. in Marine Biology from Texas A&M University at Galveston.
Ph.D. Marine Biology, Texas A&M University at Galveston — Anticipated 2014
B.S. Marine Biology, Texas A&M University at Galveston — December 2007
B.S. Sport Management, University of Texas at Austin — May 1999
2010-2012, Biology of Marine Mammals, Texas A&M University at Galveston — Laboratory Instructor
2011-2012, Behavioral Ecology of Marine Mammals and Seabirds of New Zealand — Field Techniques Instructor
2010-2013, Cetacean Behavior & Ecology, Texas A&M University at Galveston — Laboratory Instructor
2010, Sea Camp, Texas A&M University at Galveston — Education Biologist
1995-1997, 1999, Longhorn Volleyball Camp, University of Texas at Austin — Camp Counselor and Drill Coordinator
2011-2012, Dusky Dolphin Habitat Use Study, Admiralty Bay, New Zealand
- Conducted shore-based theodolite tracking to assess movement patterns of dusky dolphins (Lagenorhynchus obscurus) in a habitat with high concentrations of shellfish aquaculture
- Conducted boat-based focal-group follows of dolphins using photo-identification to investigate association patterns
- Trained volunteers in all aspects of field work including vessel operations, photography, theodolite use, and equipment maintenance
2011-2012, Indo-Pacific Humpback Dolphin Research, Lantau Island, Hong Kong
Field Techniques Consultant - Hong Kong Dolphin Conservation Society
- Established shore-based tracking sites including station height calculations
- Facilitated training of local research team in theodolite tracking and Pythagoras software
- Analyzed shore-based data
2010-2012, Gray Whale Behavioral Monitoring Program, Sakhalin Island, Russia
- Executed timed scan sampling sessions using reticle binoculars to monitor relative abundance and distribution of western gray whales (Eschrichtius robustus) during industrial seismic exploration
- Conducted focal-animal follows by continuously monitoring individual gray whales and recording behavior and respiration data into Pythagoras software
- Assisted with data analysis from 2009 and 2010 season
2009, Dusky Dolphin Research, Golfo San José, Argentina
- Collected boat-based observational data on dusky dolphin abundance and behavior and large seabird aggregations
- Collected daily environmental parameters
- Created and analyzed dusky dolphin photo-identification catalogue and trained volunteers in fin matching techniques
2008, Dusky Dolphin Tourism Research Project, Kaikoura, New Zealand
Field Research Assistant
- Facilitated shore-based data collection of dusky dolphin movement using a digital theodolite and Pythagoras computer software
- Collected vessel-based observational data on dusky dolphin behavioral state, mode inter-individual distance, movement patterns, and swimming formation
- Photographed dusky dolphin dorsal fins for identification catalogue
2007, Marine Mammal Research Program, Galveston, Texas
- Utilized Finscan software to assist with dusky dolphin dorsal fin photo-identification and inter-annual occurrence analysis
- Applied Endnote bibliographic database software to organize references
- Independent literature review of marine mammal unihemispheric sleep
2006-2011, Texas Marine Mammal Stranding Network, Galveston, Texas
- Tested hydrophone equipment prior to application on live marine mammals
- Tested novel approach to auscultation on live odontocetes in the care of humans
- Conducted post hoc analysis of recordings
2010-2013, Texas A&M University at Galveston: Undergraduate Laboratory Assistants
2012-2013, Texas A&M University at Galveston: Honor’s Thesis Students
2005-2007, 2011-present, Texas Marine Mammal Stranding Network: Live Animal Shift Volunteers
2003-present, Texas Marine Mammal Stranding Network, Galveston, TX
Animal Care - carry out established nutrition plan during live animal rehabilitation including tube-feeding and medication provision, assist with medical procedures, and document objective behavior
Staff Member - assisted State Coordinator in daily operations including presenting educational lectures, training volunteers, organizing public outreach events, promoting fundraisers, maintaining membership database and renewals, and preparing 24-hour stranding reports (paid position concluded when grant funds expired)
Volunteer Coordination Team - ensure live animal shifts are filled and organize volunteer appreciation events
Necropsy Volunteer - assist in recovering deceased marine mammals, record narrative, organize specimen containers, collect tissue samples, prepare carcasses for rendering, and conduct independent Code 3+ necropsies
Critical Care Team – member of first response team for live animal rescues, assist with live animal transport and preliminary stabilization period
2009, Saba Centra Student/Instructor Tutorial (co-created)
2008, 76 Images Business Policies and Procedures Manual (created)
2008, TMMSN Volunteer Training Handbook (updated/revised)
2007, TMMSN Office Assistant Policies and Procedures Manual (created)
Graduate: Evolutionary Biology, GIS for Environmental Problem Solving, Statistics, Marine Vertebrate Zoology, Ecosystem Functions in Marine Environments, Air-breathing Marine Vertebrate Research Techniques, Wildlife Research Methods, Ethology, Biological Oceanography
Undergraduate: Introductory Biology I, II, Natural History of Vertebrates, Biology of Marine Mammals, Physiological Ecology of Marine Mammals, Comparative Physiology, Fundamentals of Chemistry I, II, Organic Chemistry I, II, Oceanography, Engineering Mathematics I, II, Biostatistics, Marine Ecology, Coastal Plant Ecology, Genetics, Microbiology
R Statistical Software, Adobe Photoshop, ArcGIS 9.3 (spatial analysis software), Brøderbund Print Shop, Corel WordPerfect, Endnote (Thomson Corporation ISI research software), Finscan (specialty program for semi-automatic photo-recognition), JMP (statistical analysis software), Microsoft Excel, Microsoft PowerPoint, Microsoft Word, Pythagoras (theodolite tracking software), R (statistical software), Raven Pro (acoustic analysis software), Successware (photography studio management software)
Community Service / Committees
2012-2013, TAMUG Discrimination Appeals Panel, Galveston, TX: Graduate Student Representative
2012, TAMUG 8th Annual Student Research Symposium, Galveston, TX: Undergraduate Judge
2012, Austin Magnet School Science Fair, Galveston, TX: Science Fair Judge
2012, TAMUG Field Techniques Course MARB 300, Galveston, TX: Guest Lecturer
2011-2012, TAMUG Library Committee, Galveston, TX: Graduate Student Representative
2011, National Ocean Sciences Bowl Regional Competition, College Station, TX: Orals Judge
2011, Early University Campus - Weis Middle School, Galveston, TX: Science Fair Judge
2010, Ball High School, Galveston, TX: Marine Mammal Guest Speaker
2010, Galveston Graduate Student Association, Galveston, TX: Beach clean-up volunteer
2009, Cloverleaf Elementary School Science Fair, Pearland, TX: Science Fair Judge
2007, Clifton Middle School Career Fair, Houston, TX: Marine Biology Representative
2004-present, Marine mammal interactive education outreach
Evia Spring Market, SEASPACE Exposition, Clifton Middle School Career Fair, Texas Parks & Wildlife Exposition, Moody Gardens Earth Day, Lone Star Rally, Bay Day Festival, Bay Area Divers Market, Moody Gardens Museum Exhibit
2004-present, Science-based oral presentations outreach
Galveston Citywide Training, Boy Scouts of America, Junior Lifeguard Training, Fay Elementary School, Scubadillo Dive Club, Moody Gardens Youth Camp
2010-present, Member of the Society for Marine Mammalogy Gulf Coast Student Chapter
2010, Member of the Marine Technology Society
inducted 2006, Member of The National Scholars Honor Society
2006-present, Member of the Society for Marine Mammalogy
inducted 2005, Member of the Tri Beta Biological Honor Society
2003-present, Member of the Texas Marine Mammal Stranding Network
Honors / Awards / Certifications
2010-2012, Adult CPR/AED/First Aid Certification
2010, OSHA Hazardous Waste Operations and Emergency Response Standard Certification
2009, Texas Parks and Wildlife Boater Education Certification
2009, Manatee Stranding Training Workshop and Necropsy, USFWS & FFWCC
2006, United States Coast Guard National Incident Command System Training
2002, United States Volleyball Adult Club National Champions
1999-2002, United States Volleyball Adult Club Member
1997, Lena Nornhausser Stein Endowed Presidential Scholarship Award (IAW)
1997, Big 12 Volleyball Conference Champion as Member of NCAA Division I Team
1995, NCAA Division I National Volleyball Championship Team Runner-up
1994-1996, The University of Texas at Austin Varsity Letter Winner
2011-2012, National Geographic Society Research Award, Co-PI ($22,000)
2009, 2011, Society for Marine Mammalogy Student Travel Grant ($1,000)
2011, Galveston Graduate Student Association Micro Grant ($100)
2011, SeaSpace Inc. Scholarship ($2,000)
2010, 2012, Erma Lee and Luke Mooney Travel Award ($1,350)
2010, 2012, Galveston Graduate Student Association Mini Grant ($1,000)
2009, 2011, MARB Mini Travel Grant Award ($1,000)
1994-1997, The University of Texas at Austin Full Athletic Grant in Aid
Piwetz S., Hung S., Wang J., Lundquist D., Würsig B. Submitted. Indo-Pacific Humpback dolphin (Sousa chinensis) movements off Lantau Island, Hong Kong: influences of vessel traffic.
Piwetz S., Whitehead H.R., Godlove L., Cowan D.F. 2011. An underwater recording stethoscope based on a directional hydrophone for use in dolphin rehabilitation and diagnosis. Aquatic Mammals 37:2.
Piwetz S. 2011. Case story oceania02: Shellfish aquaculture in a marine mammal habitat. Seminar in Cross-Cultural Communication: Communities and Conservation. Biodiversity Stewardship Lab. Wildlife & Fisheries Sciences. Texas A&M University.
Presentations and Conference Proceedings
Schotten M., Würsig B., Orbach D., Sexton K., Piwetz S. 2013. Broadband acoustic/video recordings and localisations of dusky dolphins (Lagenorhynchus obscurus) and short-beaked common dolphins (Delphinus delphis) in New Zealand. Oral presentation at the 27th Conference of the European Cetacean Society, Setúbal, Portugal.
Piwetz S. 2011. Behavioral response of Indo-Pacific humpback dolphins to anthropogenic disturbances off Lantau Island, Hong Kong. Oral presentation at the Texas A&M University Graduate Program in Marine Biology Science Symposium, Galveston, TX, USA.
Piwetz S., Hung S., Wang J., Lundquist D., Würsig B. 2011. Vessel traffic and movement patterns of Indo-Pacific humpback dolphins (Sousa chinensis) off Lantau Island, Hong Kong. Poster presentation at the Society for Marine Mammalogy 19th Biennial Conference, Tampa, FL, USA.
Piwetz S. 2010. Dusky dolphin (Lagenorhynchus obscurus) movement and foraging limitations in relation to shellfish aquaculture. Oral presentation at the Texas A&M University Graduate Program in Marine Biology Science Symposium, Galveston, TX, USA.
Piwetz S. 2010. Dusky dolphin (Lagenorhynchus obscurus) habitat use in Admiralty Bay, New Zealand. Oral presentation at the Society for Marine Mammalogy-Gulf Coast Student Research Symposium, Galveston, TX, USA.
Piwetz S., Vaughn R., Hughes N., Würsig B. 2009. Dusky dolphin, Lagenorhynchus obscurus, habitat use off Argentina. Poster presentation at the Society for Marine Mammalogy 18th Biennial Conference, Québec City, QC, Canada.
Hughes N., Piwetz S., Vaughn R., Würsig B. 2009. Predator-prey dynamics in Golfo San Jose, Argentina: Present day and 1970s data compared. Poster presentation at the Society for Marine Mammalogy 18th Biennial Conference, Québec City, QC, Canada.
Watts H.R., Piwetz S., Godlove L., Rosel P. 2006. Bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) displaced by hurricane Rita in western Louisiana – their rescue and release. Poster presentation at the International Association for Aquatic Animal Medicine, Nassau, Bahamas.
Watts H.R., Godlove L., Piwetz S., Cowan D.F. 2006. An underwater stethoscope based on a directional hydrophone, for use in dolphin rehabilitation and diagnosis. Poster presentation at the International Association for Aquatic Animal Medicine, Nassau, Bahamas.