Rock Talk Seminar Series


Our Rock Talk Seminar Series is a long-standing and well-loved tradition at SML. Historically, faculty members and guest speakers would gather with students on Appledore Island's rocky shoreline (giving the Rock Talk series its name) to present on a wide range of topics related to natural history, ecology, biology, and more. To stay connected with our community following the pandemic, we transitioned our Rock Talks to a hybrid format and have featured guest speakers from across the world.

Please note: All Rock Talks begin at 8pm on Tuesdays for the 2024 season.

Join the Rock Talk

Introducing our 2024 Rock Talk Speakers

A bird’s eye view of a changing Gulf of Maine: Insights from the Isles of Shoals Seabird Ecology and Conservation Program

liz craig in the field


Liz Craig joined the SML community after completing her Ph.D. in Zoology and Wildlife Conservation and Postdoc in Natural Resources at Cornell University. Liz is an ornithologist who specializes in conservation management, population dynamics, and foraging ecology of seabirds. She has taught topics ranging from ornithology and aquatic animal diversity to natural resource ethics at Columbia, Cornell, and the University of New Hampshire. Liz now directs the Isles of Shoals Seabird Ecology and Conservation Program and serves as an Academic Coordinator on the SML team.

Investigating angry ants and grumpy gulls: A decade of inspiring undergraduate research in the Isles of Shoals

Shoals Marine Lab offers nearly limitless opportunities to ask and answer questions about the natural world. This presentation will highlight the work of aspiring young scientists – often engaging in their first independent research project – on Appledore Island. Through a series of vignettes highlighting the work of past Shoals students, we’ll explore the meaning of gull vocalizations, ask whether male Barn Swallows and Herring Gulls are deadbeat dads, reveal the ecological impacts of invasive ants, and examine the impacts of nor’easters on Appledore’s nesting colonies.
David Bonter with baby gull

David Bonter is the Arthur A. Allen Director of Participatory Science at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and the co-Director of the Lab’s Center for Engagement in Science and Nature. David taught Field Ornithology at Shoals Marine Lab for a decade (2007-2016) and mentored more than a dozen summer-long internships for undergraduate students. Many of these students completed senior theses and published their work in scientific journals. The work also allowed David to explore nearly every inch of the Isles of Shoals. He currently splits his time between Ithaca, NY and Belo Horizonte, Brazil, and is excited to be returning to Appledore Island!

Here we are: history, biology, and interconnections on Appledore Island

Appledore Island has a long history, which will not be comprehensively described in this talk. Rather, I will explore some ways the island and its human visitors have shaped each other, and how biology, history, and culture intertwine in this particular place.

Jessica Bolker

Jessica Bolker photo

I first set foot on Appledore as a new UNH faculty member invited to give a Rock Talk around 1998. As a member of the UNH Zoology Department, I initially studied fish development and evolutionary developmental biology; I then shifted to philosophy of biology. My current scholarship centers on the epistemology of model use in developmental and translational research. I served as Associate Director of SML from 2002-2011, became involved with engineering, art, and theater projects on the island, and have taught the Marine Immersion class for incoming UNH freshmen at SML since 2007.


American Lobsters and Challenges they Face

(details to come)

Dr. Jan Robert Factor earned his Doctorate in Zoology from Cornell University in 1980, followed

Jan Factor standing on rocks at the shore

by a Smithsonian Postdoctoral Fellowship at the Marine Station in Ft. Pierce, Florida, and faculty at Purchase College, State University of New York. He has taught generations of Purchase students to use electron microscopes and mentored their use in research projects.

His long-standing relationship with the Shoals Marine Laboratory began in 1981, where he currently teaches in the Evolution and Marine Diversity and Ecology and Marine Environment courses.

Dr. Factor is editor of the standard reference text on the American lobster, Biology of the Lobster Homarus americanus (Academic Press, 1995).

His research interests on the American lobster, Homarus americanus, include:

  • development, structure, and function of the digestive system;
  • mouthparts and feeding in larvae and adults; and
  • cellular immunity and the removal of foreign particles from the blood, protection against disease, and mechanism of the disease gaffkemia. 

His research is published in the Journal of Morphology, Journal of Crustacean Biology, Biological Bulletin, Anatomical Record, Journal of the Marine Biological Association, U.K., Bulletin of the Biological Society of Washington, Journal of Shellfish Research, Chromatin, and American Naturalist.

The Rolling Stones: Rock Band or Grains on a Beach? 

This talk will explore the physical mechanisms responsible for our perpetually changing beaches. Worldwide, our coastal communities and ecosystems are increasingly threatened by nutrients, pathogens, and other contaminants associated with a range of geophysical and human pressures.

From seasonal beach profiles to erosion from extreme storms to sand grains, we will consider how individual sand grains and our collective beaches respond to our changing ocean dynamics.  Please come with your own questions about how these physical processes may impact the human and ecosystem health in our nearshore communities. 

Diane Foster

Diane Foster on a boat


Diane Foster is the Director of the School of Marine Science and Ocean Engineering and professor of mechanical and ocean engineering at University of New Hampshire. She is a leader in her field of coastal sediment transport with a research portfolio that includes support from NSF, DOD, NOAA, EDA, and more recently DOE. Her scientific call to action has centered on resolving the dynamics between fluid-sediment or fluid-sediment-structure interactions in coastal environments through a mixture of fundamental theory and novel field and laboratory observations. As the former Director of UNH’s Chase Ocean Engineering Laboratory, she led UNH’s efforts to establish an undergraduate ocean engineering program and expand its ocean engineering research capacity with a major renovation and building expansion. Since coming to the UNH Marine School, she has generated funds to launch a new Center for Sustainable Seafood System and supported the launch of the new Department of Energy’s Atlantic Marine Energy Center. She serves on the Executive Committee of the US Coastal Research Program and New Hampshire’s Offshore Wind Commission. She believes that addressing our increasingly complex societal problems impacted by our oceans will require a firm commitment to interdisciplinarity and stakeholder engagement.

Details coming soon

Chris Siddon

Chris Siddon

Under Pressure: Sharks and the Science of Stress


Heather Marshall

Weird and wonderful hagfishes

Hagfishes are eel-like marine animals that live in deep water in most oceans of the world. They are best known for their ability to produce huge volumes of fibrous slime when they are attacked by predators. In this talk, I will discuss the hagfish lifestyle, which includes heroic sliming, burrowing into carcasses and sediments, surviving shark bites, and knot-tying. I will also discuss the biodiversity of the world’s 90+ species of hagfishes.

a head shot of Dr. Douglas Fudge
Douglas Fudge took an undergraduate class at the Shoals Marine Lab in 1991, which set him on a course in marine biology that has involved research on animals such as buefin tuna, baleen whales, and hagfishes. He spent two summers on Appledore working as Lab Preparator, with one of his jobs being the preparation of the minke whale skeleton that hangs in Kiggins Commons. He completed a Masters in Comparative Animal Physiology at the University of Guelph in Ontario Canada, and a PhD in Comparative Biomechanics at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver Canada. He was a professor of biology at the University of Guelph from 2005 to 2016, and he is currently a professor at Chapman University in southern California, where he focuses mostly on the biology of hagfishes and biomimetic applications of their defensive slime. He has taught at SML as a TA or instructor for most summers since 1994.

Details coming soon

Details coming soon

Rebecca Atkins

photo of Rebecca Adkins outdoors, smiling


This talk is based on a case study I wrote for the Stanford Graduate School of Business and will explore Palau’s marine biodiversity and economy. Palau is taking steps to develop financial independence and continually maintain its environment, which is a complex challenge. For Palau, sustainability is not a goal but a necessity. The first half will describe Palau’s history, economics, environment, and geopolitical significance. The second half will explore specific challenges and decision-making in Palau relating to marine biodiversity and developmental economics.   

Ackermann headshot

Ingrid Ackermann graduated from Stanford University in June with a Bachelor of Science in Environmental Systems Engineering, focusing on coastal environments. Ingrid was a student in the Marine Environmental Science course at Shoals in 2018 and returned to the laboratory for additional coursework and internships the following two summers. While at Stanford, she researched at the Hopkins Marine Station with the mentorship of Jeremy Goldbogen and Emeritus Professor Mark Denny. She also worked with Professors Fiorenza Micheli and Rob Dunbar on a year-long project regarding marine carbon dioxide removal. This fall, she will begin a Master of Science at Oxford University in Environmental Change and Management, where she hopes to write a thesis on ocean management.  

Exploring our Oceans Through Sound

Sound is the predominant long-range sensory modality in the ocean because sound transmits more efficiently than visual or chemical signals in the marine environment.  Humans and marine animals have come to depend on sound signals for communication, navigation, and foraging.  Remotely deployed acoustic technology provides a time series or a continuous record of the sound level in an area.  Processing of passive acoustic datasets provides information on ocean weather and sea state, ice presence, animal presence, and human activity.  Remotely deployed active acoustic systems (or echosounders) provide a time series of acoustic backscatter relating to oceanographic features, zooplankton/fish presence and abundance, and community structure. Combining these two types of acoustic systems is a powerful tool to address ecosystem scale questions.   Application of acoustic remote sensing systems will be described from regional work in the Bering Sea, Outer Continental Shelf off the SE coast of the US, Gulf of Maine, and the deep ocean.
Dr. Jennifer L. Miksis-Olds is the Director of the Center for Acoustics Research & Education and
Jennifer Miksis-Olds
Research Professor at the University of New Hampshire.  She is a member of the Scientific Committee of the International Quiet Ocean Experiment Program and serves as a Scientific Advisor to the Sound and Marine Life Joint Industry Programme.  Dr. Miksis-Olds was the recipient of an Office of Naval Research Young Investigator Program award in 2011 and the Presidential Early Career Award in Science and Engineering in 2013.  She is a Fellow of the Acoustical Society of America.  Her primary research interests are patterns and trends in ocean soundscapes, animal behavior and communication, and the impact of environmental change on marine life. Dr. Miksis-Olds received a A.B. from Harvard University, M.S. in Biology from the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, and Ph.D. from the University of Rhode Island.  She was the chair of the National Research Council panel on Ocean Acoustics Education and Expertise through the National Academy of Sciences.  Jennifer is currently work with SML to install a cabled ocean observation system in the Gulf of Maine that will connect directly to SML on Appledore Island.

Details coming soon

Past Seminar Recordings

Evolutionary physiology of amphibious fishes- Andy Turko- 2023

Bringing the Internet of Things to the Underwater World- Fadel Adib- 2023

Social Evolution in Anemonefishes- Peter Buston- 2023

The origin and evolution of cnidarian stinging cells- Leslie Babonis- 2023

If Life Gives You Green Crabs - Make Dinner and a Cocktail!- Gabriela Bradt- 2023

Out of our Depth: Interdisciplinary Science for Marine Mammal Conservation- Kristina Cammem- 2023

All That Live Must Die: Exploring Microbial Mortality in the Ocean - Dr. Liz Harvey (2020)

Calling Whales and Chorusing Fishes as Sentinels of Human Influence on Marine Ecosystems - Dr. Aaron Rice (2020)

Community-Based Collaborative Fisheries Research: Fishermen and Scientists Working Together - Owen Nichols (2020)

Cooperative Research: Engaging Fishermen to Advance Science and Sustainability - Dr. Anna Mercer (2021)

The Global Impact of Fisheries and Global Warming on Marine Ecosystems - Dr. Daniel Pauly (2020)

New Techniques for Studying Old Questions about Calcification in Corals - Dr. Loretta Roberson (2021)

NOAA Science &Technology: Accelerating Innovation in the 21st Century - Rear Admiral Timothy Gallaudet (2020)

Physiological Responses to Environmental Change: Insights from Polluted Lives of Killifish - Dr. Jayasundara (2020)

Red Herrings, Misleading Results and Redefining a Disease: Sea Star Wasting in a Changing Ocean - Dr. Ian Hewson (2020)

Rockweed: Foundation Species, Harvestable Resource - Hannah Webber (2020)

Skin, Scales, Fangs, and Waveforms: Multidisciplinary Approaches to Studying Fish Biomechanics - Dr. Chris Kenaley (2021)

Trophic Relationships in the Benthos: Feeding Morphology and Ecology of Macroinvertebrates – Dr. Maya DeVries (2020)

Using Science Communication in the Search for Lost Sharks – Vicky Vásquez (2021)