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Student Mentorship Program

The Halmos College of Natural Sciences and Oceanography mentorship program was created to promote diversity, collaboration, and community in our student body. Working with NSU's Vision 2020, this program is designed to create a supportive environment for new students as well as and increasing the Halmos College of Natural Sciences and Oceanography students' morale by also reinforcing the goals, objectives, and the mission of NSU.


Supported by a Department of Education Title V grant, the Peer Mentorship Program was created and is constantly evolving to aid incoming oceanographic students with their transition into graduate school and the Centers culture. Peer Mentors serve as leaders. Part of their mandate is to guide their mentees to available university resources.  Peer mentors understand the importance of communication with their mentee and work to develop a significant and lasting relationship.

The Peer Mentorship Program Consists of:

  • Intentional mentorship training
  • Mentor roundtable discussions
  • A unique set of personal and professional goals & learning outcomes
  • Inaugural Mentorship Summit
  • Networking and Co-curricular Opportunities
  • Commitment to meet with mentee minimally on a monthly basis, and maintain ongoing communication
  • Interaction with mentee to provide guidance, knowledge, and share experiences
  • Graduate student leadership and self-awareness for peer mentors
  • Inclusion of in-house and distance/online mentors in an integrated mentorship program

For more information or to register in the mentorship program, contact Jazmin Letamendi at 954-262-3622 or by email at

Kristina Kristina Trotta, Lead Mentor for Education

Kristina Trotta is excited to join the mentor team as the Lead Mentor - Education. She is entering her final year at the Halmos College of Natural Sciences and Oceanography and is working with the fisheries lab on commercial fishing socioeconomics in the Gulf of Mexico. Kristina did her undergraduate work at the University of Miami and has been an advocate for the Everglades, a science teacher and a dive instructor prior to attending the OC. When not working, she likes to dive, volunteer on classmates projects, root for the Hurricanes, read, and watch embarrassing television. This year she is most looking forward to meeting new students and collaborating to create fun, new programming to help bring the campus together! Please contact her if you have any ideas you'd like to see happen at the OC. (

Sonia Sonia Ahrabi-Nejad, Lead Mentor for Outreach

Sonia Ahrabi-Nejad is an M.S. student in the Marine Biology track. She is from Massachusetts, and received her B.S. in Biology with a marine concentration from Northeastern University in Boston, MA. Her thesis work in the Fisheries Research Laboratory with Dr. Dave Kerstetter is researching the reproductive periodicity and fecundity of blackfin tuna, little tunny, skipjack tuna, and escolar using histological techniques. She enjoys scuba diving, traveling, and teaching science to children. she chose to become a mentor because her own mentor was extremely helpful in making it an easy transition into graduate school in Florida, and she wants to help new students in the same way. Additionally, she wants to bring new students and current students together to explore the science and culture of South Florida. (

Joe Joe Hornbeck, Lead Mentor for Civic Engagement

Joe Hornbeck received his Bachelor's degree from Washington College, in Chestertown, MD in Environmental Studies in 2009. As an undergraduate, he was fortunate enough to take part in a research course that had him travel around Ecuador, Galapagos Archipelago, and the Amazon Rainforest studying ecology. Joe spent his summers in college interning at Rutgers University's CapeShore Facility, an aquaculture laboratory specializing in Eastern Oyster husbandry, in Cape May, NJ. This experience led him to a job in Sitka, AK in 2010 where he reared Coho salmon at a remote site only accessible by floatplane. In August of 2012, Joe entered the M.S. Marine Environmental Science program at NSU's Halmos College of Natural Sciences and Oceanography. Currently, Joe focuses on the Fisheries Science and the associated political, social, and economic elements that shape management decisions. He spends a good chunk of his free time in the Fisheries Lab processing samples, analyzing the stomach content of various pelagic fish species, or collecting samples at various local fishing tournaments. Outside of school, Joe likes to go fishing, diving, hiking, and anything else that keeps him outdoors and active. If you have any questions for him or want to go diving, just drop him a line! (

Aarin Aarin-Conrad Allen, Peer Mentor

Aarin-Conrad Allen is a second-year graduate student at Nova Southeastern University Halmos College of Natural Sciences and Oceanography working toward his Masters of Science in Marine Biology. His past work has been in marine mammal strandings, rescue and rehabilitation, as well as marine mammal behavior. He is presently involved in research with the United States Geological Survey in Gainesville, FL, working on bioenergetics of West-Indian manatee populations within Central America. His other projects include: Florida manatee microbiology and pathology, stranding behavior and social interactions of Kogia sp. (pygmy and dwarf sperm whales) and beaked whales, as well as assisting with lionfish research throughout Florida. Aarin is a second year mentor at the OC, and cites the importance of mentorship he received in his academic and professional career as the main reason to be a mentor to incoming OC students and current OC colleagues. In his time away from marine mammals and the OC, Aarin is an avid scuba instructor, cave diver, and ice hockey player. (

Eric Eric Burdett, Peer Mentor

Eric Burdett is a graduate student pursuing his M.S. degree in Marine Biology and currently works in the Deep Sea Biology Lab and is doing a thesis on deep sea shrimp collected from the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Eric pursued his undergraduate studies in Biology and Minored in Marine Science and Chemistry at Slippery Rock University in Pennsylvania (THE ROCK!). He chose to become a mentor because he loves meeting new people, networking, and expand his knowledge in the field of Marine Biology. His hobbies include, but are not limited to, hanging out with friends, watching sports (GO STEELERS!), and making horrible jokes! He’s always ready to have fun, make a difference, and have adventures! (

Amanda Amanda Costaregni, Peer Mentor

Amanda Costaregni is pursuing her dual degree in Marine Biology and Coastal Zone Management. He currently works in Dr. Brian Walker’s GIS and Spatial Ecology Lab. Her hobbies include scuba diving, surfing, volleyball, working out, and traveling. She wants to be a part of NSU OC Peer Mentor Program because she feels that is important to have some peer guidance when arriving in an unfamiliar place. It makes the transition much easier. (

Ian Ian Rodericks, Peer Mentor

Ian Rodericks is a joint M.S. student in Marine Biology and Coastal Zone Management. He currently works in the GIS and Spatial Ecology Lab under the direction of Dr. Brian Walker. Ian has worked with Dr. Charles Messing in the Deep-Sea invertabrates lab. He grew up in Southwest Louisiana where he attended McNeese State University for a B.S. in Biological Sciences and Louisiana State University for a Master’s in Public Health. He’s a huge fan of all kinds of music. He enjoys meeting new people and helping them adjust to South Florida life. His hobbies include diving, fishing, hunting, reef aquariums, and golfing. He looks forward to meeting everyone and is happy to answer questions regarding graduate program. (

Ware Matthew Ware, Peer Mentor

Matthew Ware is a second-year graduate student at Nova Southeastern University Halmos College of Natural Sciences and Oceanography working towards a joint M.S. in Marine Biology and Marine Environmental Science. He completed his B.S. in Biology at Christopher Newport University in Newport News, VA with minors in Chemistry and Leadership Studies. Matthew sees mentorship as an excellent way to introduce people to new activities, new ways of thinking, forge new and potent connections between students, faculty, staff and the community. Every individual has incredible potential and can offer valuable insight into almost any problem. In his opinion, the goal of mentorship is to make that potential blossom through a multitude of resources. Matthew is from Doylestown, PA, and Eagles fans, and an avid diver. He has been certified up through Divemaster at Nova and works with the Academic Dive Program. He works with the Broward County Sea Turtle Conservation Program and Diver’s Direct. He enjoys traveling and has studied abroad in the Galapagos Islands, the Bahamas, and Oxford University in England. Matthew enjoys hanging out with friends and is always willing to help anyone with any questions. (

Danielle Danielle Sattelberger, Peer Mentor

Danielle Sattelberger is a Marine Biology and Coastal Zone Management major at the Halmos College of Natural Sciences and Oceanography. As an undergraduate, she studied Biological Sciences at the University of Connecticut. Her current research focuses on the Florida manatees, but has also worked with Stellar sea lions, northern fur seals, harbor seals, and African penguin. She chose to become a mentor because she was given a lot of help and guidance, and she would lie to do the same for the new incoming class. Danielle is able to answer any questions or concerns the new students may have and she hopes to make this time a great experience for them. Her interests and hobbies include swimming, scuba diving, and traveling. (

Lauren Lauren O'Connell, Peer Mentor

Lauren O’Connell is a second year M.S. Marine Biology student. Her thesis is focused on next generation sequencing of bacteria and water quality testing in Port Everglades Inlet. Lauren wants to be a peer mentor because she believes it is important to help incoming students transition into graduate school, give them advice and guidance and answer any questions or concerns they may have. (

Alicia Alicia Anania, Peer Mentor

Alicia Anania is originally from Connecticut and transferred from Eastern Connecticut State University during her junior year of undergrad to Nova Southeastern University where she obtained her B.S. in Marine Biology. She is a student in the Fisheries Research Lab under the direction of Dr. David Kerstetter and pursuing research on isotopic turnover rates in dies changes of fish. Alicia chose to be a mentor because she loves to be involved and help out other when entering unknown environment because we have all gone through it one way or another. She currently works at Miami Seaquarium as an educational instructor and absolutely loves her job! Her hobbies include sailing, kayaking, fishing, snorkel, travel and just be out near the water or walk the beach. (

Chris Chris Grissett, Peer Mentor

Chris Grissett is a second year student in the M.S. Marine Biology track. He is originally from the Tampa area of Florida and holds both a B.S. in Biology from Saint Petersburg College and a B.A. in Finance from the University of South Florida. He is currently working with Dr. Self-Sullivan on his thesis research looking at the effects of power plant closures on local and transient Florida manatee populations in Port Everglades. His hobbies include scuba diving, kayaking and other outdoor activities, as well as photography and video production. He currently is a lab assistant on main campus NSU in the fields of marine biology and ecology. Chris also volunteers with the Sea to Shore Alliance and assists them with studies on manatees. Chris became a part of the Peer Mentor Program in order to assist incoming OC students with the transition from undergrad to graduate life as well as with the transition to South Florida life. His goals are to help create opportunities for his mentees and help them along their associated degree track and with their eventual research or capstone projects. (

Jen Jen Savaro, Peer Mentor

Jen Savaro is a third year graduate student at the Halmos College of Natural Sciences and Oceanography pursuing a joint M.S. degree in Marine Biology and Coastal Zone Management. She is originally from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and completed her B.S. in Marine Science at Coastal Carolina University in South Carolina. Under the direction of Dr. Amy Hirons, Jen is using stable isotope analysis to investigate the connectivity between mangroves and offshore reef fish populations. She enjoys diving, swimming, and traveling. Her personal experiences these past years have been filled with a combination of invaluable learning and adventurous opportunities. Jen feels that she has the responsibility to share her experiences with the next class and to assure them that it is worth going through the complications of first year struggles. (

Crystal Crystal Bass, Peer Mentor

Crystal Bass is an M.S. student in the Marine Biology track. Her research interests are marine mammal cognition, communication and bioacoustics. She enjoys scuba diving, kayaking, and other water-related activities. She also enjoys photography, sketching and painting. The reputation of a graduate program at any university is dependent on the quality of students that it produces. Crystal believes that mentoring new students and helping them to acclimate to the graduate college experience will help the NSU OC produce the highest quality graduates. This enhances both the university's reputation and value of degree programs. As a peer mentor, she wants to make the NSU OC the best graduate experience possible for new students. (

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