Skip to main content

Q&A with the first Denise B. Evans Oceanography Fellows

February 19, 2013

Thanks to Denise Evans's generosity and foresight, generations of ocean researchers will know her name and kindness.

"This award gives me the freedom to pursue more and different research that wasn't funded by the grant that originally brought me here. Having an additional year of funding has allowed us to develop a project using the ion microprobe at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution to measure the volatile contents of melt inclusions (tiny pockets of magma trapped inside olivine crystals) from the samples I've been studying from a 2010 cruise.

These measurements will help us to constrain the depths at which the magmas crystallized prior to erupting."

Alice Colman, Denise B. Evans Fellow

Alice Colman

Alice Colman grew up in Massachusetts and received her undergraduate education at Oberlin College, Ohio. She came to UH Mānoa in 2009 to work with Dr. John Sinton in the Geology and Geophysics department. Here she studies how igneous rocks (fire rocks) are formed.

Alice Colman

Tell us about your research

Through a National Science Foundation grant awarded to Dr. Sinton, we were able to take a research cruise in 2010 to two locations along the Galapagos Spreading Center – a mid-ocean ridge located 200 km of the Galapagos Islands.  On this trip, we identified, mapped, and sampled submarine volcanic eruptions in two areas with differing rates of magma supply. We had the submersible Alvin and a towed camera system, which allowed us to distinguish lava flows using visual observations of sediment cover, flow directions, and cross-cutting relationships.  

Currently, we are analyzing major and trace element compositions of samples from these individual eruptions, and using them to study pre-eruptive conditions in the magmatic systems feeding the eruptions.  My dissertation research addresses the effects of variable magma supply on magmatic processes and eruption characteristics along the Galapagos Spreading Center.

I’m studying the amount, composition, and location of magma in this area to better understand what’s happening beneath the surface before the magma erupts.

Yoshimi Rii

Yoshimi Rii

Shimi grew up in Pearl City, Hawai‘i, and attended ‘Iolani School. In 2001, she received her B.S. in Marine Biology and English from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). When she returned to Hawai‘i, she worked as a sea-going technician for the Hawai‘i Ocean Time-series program before entering the UH Mānoa Oceanography department for her M.S. with Dr. Bob Bidigare. After acquiring her M.S., she worked for Cellana, a biotech company working on solutions for algal biofuels. In 2009, she returned to UH to pursue her Ph.D.

Tell us about your research

I study the population dynamics and ecology of really small phytoplankton. They are globally important because as a larger group, phytoplankton produce about half of the oxygen on Earth. Also, phytoplankton are at the base of the marine food web and are involved in the cycling of essential elements such as carbon and nitrogen in the ocean. The phytoplankton that I study are too small to be seen by the naked eye, and they are difficult to distinguish even under a microscope. Using advanced molecular technology that are cutting edge in the field of microbial oceanography, I am able to examine the diversity of these organisms in the North and South Pacific Subtropical Gyres. I also conduct mesocosm experiments to determine which species respond to specific nutrient amendments.

What inspired you to pursue this area of study?

I was raised by two physicians, and went to UCLA naturally believing that I was following the same path. While at UCLA, I took an introductory course in marine biology and was inspired by ecological principles: how species were influenced by their environment and vice versa. During the Marine Biology Quarter at UCLA, I conducted research at the Bodega Marine Lab in Bodega Bay, California. There, I fell in love with the nature of academic, independent research. I enjoy being creative while coming up with research questions and the experimental design, and love the organization of executing a research project. Most of all, it is the feeling of knowing that the natural world is so big – that we are so small, and we know so little – that is humbling, beautiful, and exciting at the same time.

"If Denise Evans was still alive, I would hug her, give her a kiss on the cheek, and ask her to come on a boat ride with me where we can have a cup of tea and revel in the beauty of the ocean."

Yoshimi Rii, Denise B. Evans Fellow

How does this fellowship money help you?

Now I have the freedom to pursue research ideas that may not have been possible if my time and experiments were tied to a funded project. This fellowship also provides me with a set date for graduation, and financial security for the remainder of my time in graduate school. Lastly, this fellowship symbolizes prestige and helps to set me up for future successes.

What are your future plans?

Wherever I end up, I want to incorporate 3 things in my future job: education, laboratory work, and fieldwork. I would like to mentor or teach young students (middle and high school) to encourage them to study nature, because I was inspired by it and continue to be inspired every day. I enjoy the precision and creativity that laboratory research allows me to employ in my work. Lastly, it was the beautiful tidepools, the ocean, and their creatures that captured my fascination in the first place; whether it be field trips with students or actual field work to acquire samples, I’d like to incorporate an outdoor element in any classroom.

To learn more about Alice and Shimi’s research please watch the video produced by C-MORE (Eric Grabowski) below.

Read the news release about Denise B. Evans's gift to UH

If you would like to learn how you can support UH students and programs like this, please contact us at 808 376-7800 or send us a message.