Postdoctoral Research Fellow
I am a marine biologist and freelance science writer interested in researching the movement behaviors of intertidal and subtidal invertebrates, and disseminating my findings (as well as the scientific discoveries of others) through clear, vibrant and engaging online and print journalism.
My research interests lie at the intersection of ecology, biomechanics and behaviour. In particular, I investigate how the movement behaviours of intertidal and subtidal marine invertebrates affect their ecology and energetics, and our ability to manage their populations effectively. I am fascinated by the strategies that relatively simple animals use to survive and thrive in complex and variable environments, and hope to broaden my studies in the future to better understand how animals generally make movement decisions.
Since 2010, I have also worked as a freelance science journalist for a variety of online and print publications. I am passionate about communicating scientific ideas to lay audiences, and believe that clear, story-driven writing can play a key role in driving public enthusiasm and support for research.
I invite you to explore my website and discover more about my current research and writing projects. My CV is available for download here, and is also outlined below.
Ph.D. - Stanford University, Biology
June 1, 2017
Dissertation: "The roles of competition, behavioral plasticity and sensory perception in the foraging behavior of an intertidal limpet" advised by Dr. Mark Denny.
B.Sc. - Massachusetts Insitute of Technology, Biological Engineering
June 6, 2011
Minor in scientific writing.
Postdoctoral research fellow, University of Auckland
June 1, 2017 - present
Work includes tracking spiny lobster (Jasus edwardsii) using acoustic telemetry, characterizing lobster population dynamics using mark-recapture and diving surveys, and hindcasting fishing pressure and recruitment levels using historical population data.
Doctoral student, Stanford University
Sept 2011 - Jun 2017
Dissertation: "The roles of competition, behavioral plasticity and sensory perception in the foraging behavior of an intertidal limpet" advised by Dr. Mark Denny. Work included studies on small-scale environmental variation and its impact on intertidal communities and limpet foraging behavior, mathematical models of foraging, the biological relevance of scale-free foraging patterns, and the roles of personality, behavioral plasticity and social interaction in foraging.
Summer school student, Santa Fe Institute
Intensive courses on topics including network theory, complex non-linear systems, information theory and scaling. Collaborative research projects: "Can simple models reproduce complex transportation networks: Human cities and ant colonies" and "Is evolution a software engineer? A case-based comparative analysis of biological and software systems."
Undergraduate research program intern, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory
June - August 2010
Independent research project: "An interactive genomic map between budding yeast species for the study of DNA replication" advised by Dr. Michael Zhang.
SSI research intern, California Academy of Sciences
June - August 2009
Independent research project: "Modeling and assessing the behavior of fossilized food webs" advised by Dr. Peter Roopnarine.
Small marine reserves do not provide a safeguard against overfishing
LaScala-Gruenewald, D.E., Haggitt, T., Kelly, S., Hanns, B. and N. Shears. "Small marine reserves do not provide a safeguard against overfishing." In prep for Biological Conservation.
Long-term mechanistic hindcasts predict the structure of experimentally-warmed intertidal communities
LaScala-Gruenewald, D.E. and M.W. Denny. "Long-term mechanistic hindcasts predict the structure of experimentally-warmed intertidal communities." Submitted to PNAS.
Sensory perception plays a larger role in foraging efficiency than heavy-tailed movement strategies
LaScala-Gruenewald, D.E., Mehta, R.S., Liu, Y. and M.W. Denny. "Sensory perception plays a larger role in foraging efficiency than heavy-tailed movement strategies." Accepted at PlosONE.
Quantifying the top-down effects of grazers on a rocky shore: selective grazing and the potential for competition
LaScala-Gruenewald, D.E., Miller, L.P., Bracken, M., Allen, B.J. and M.W. Denny. (2016) "Quantifying the top-down effects of grazers on a rocky shore: selective grazing and the potential for competition." Marine Ecology Progress Series 553:49-66. PDF
Small marine reserves do not provide a safeguard against overfishing
LaScala-Gruenewald, D.E., Haggit, T., Shears, N. and S. Kelly. Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology.
Invited Talk: The roles of competition, behavioral plasticity and sensory perception in the foraging behavior of an intertidal limpet
LaScala-Gruenewald, D.E. Moss Landing Marine Laboratory Spring Seminar Series.
Perception is paramount: efficient foraging in patchy environments
LaScala-Gruenewald, D.E., Mehta, R.S., Liu, Y. and M.W. Denny. Western Society of Naturalists and Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology.
Long-term effects of thermal variability on intertidal communities
LaScala-Gruenewald, D.E. and M.W. Denny. Western Society of Naturalists and Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology.
Suboptimal limpet foraging in a patchy environment
LaScala-Gruenewald, D.E. and M.W. Denny. Animal Behavior Society.
Using microalgal morphotypes to characterize interspecific competition in upper intertidal limpets
LaScala-Gruenewald, D.E., Miller, L.P., Allen, B.J. and M.W. Denny. Western Society of Naturalists.
Honors and Awards
Performance-Based Departmental Funding ($3,000)
Awarded on a competitive basis to fund collaboration and publication.
Esther M. Zimmer Graduate Fellowship ($18,000)
Awarded for outstanding research in marine biology.
Melbourne R. Carriker Student Research Award in Malacology ($900)
Awarded to support student research in malacology.
Dr. Earl H. Myers & Ethel M. Myers Oceanographic and Marine Biology Trust Award ($2,500)
Awarded for the advancement of studies in the marine sciences.
Eugene C. and Aileen E. Haderlie Memorial Award ($1,000)
Awarded for work in natural history of marine invertebrates.
Stanford Biology Excellence in Teaching Award
Awards for Scientific Writing
Hopkins Marine Station Science Writing for Non-Scientists Award (2014).
MIT DeWitt Wallace Prize for Science Writing for the Public (2010, 2011).
Course Coordinator in Science Communication, University of Auckland
Designed and taught workshop-based course. Focused on oral and written communication to scientific and lay audiences.
Co-instructor in Marine Ecology, University of Auckland
Assigned readings, led seminar discussions, and designed and graded test questions on the topic of movement ecology.
Guest Lecturer in Invertebrate Biology, Stanford University
Taught lesson and lab: "The amazing Mr. Limpet: biology, ecology and behavior."
Teaching Assistant in Invertebrate Biology, Stanford University
Assisted with weekly labs and organism collection. Taught lophophorate, cephalochordate and gastropod lectures in the professor's absence.
Teaching Assistant in Scientific Diving, Stanford University
Assisted with set-up and accompanied divers on training dives.
Teaching Assistant in Introductory Field and Plant Biology, Stanford University
Assisted with weekly lab and field work.
Mentoring and Outreach
Benn Hanns (Ph.D., 2017-present). Benn is examining the relationships between movement, size, fishing pressure and nutritional condition in the spiny lobster, Jasus edwardsii. Learn more about Benn here.
Colleen Flynn (summer intern, 2015). Mentored independent research project: "Trail-following and homing in the limpet L. scabra."
Michael Freeman (summer intern, 2013). Mentored independent research project: "Characterizing and comparing limpet foraging strategies using power law statistics."
High School and Middle School Outreach
Monterey Bay Aquarium Young Women in Science Day (2014-2015). Taught invertebrate biology labs for young women, many of whom were from low-income, Spanish-speaking neighborhoods.
Livermore High School AP Biology Camp (2013-2014). Organized Hopkins Marine Station tour; organized and taught hands-on educational activities.
Provided peer review for papers submitted to the following journals:
Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology
Marine Environmental Research
Hopkins Marine Station Graduate Student-Faculty Liason
Attended faculty meetings; communicated graduate student needs to faculty.
Hopkins Marine Station Graduate Student Seminar Series Organizer
Organized seminars and speaker visits; handled budget, lodging and transportation for each speaker.
Hopkins Marine Station Monday Monthly Seminar Series Organizer
Organized graduate student talks throughout the school year.
Freelance science writer
Work has appeared in a variety of print and online publications, including:
The Monterey Bay Aquarium's Conservation and Science Blog
Stanford University's The Dish on Science
A deeper look at our crayfish crisis. Newsroom. (2018)
Food for thought: Exploring sustainable solutions. Monterey Bay Aquarium Conservation and Science Blog. (2016)
Seawater Sleuthing with eDNA. Monterey Bay Aquarium Conservation and Science Blog. (2016)
Wasting Away: Flesh-melting disease affects Monterey Bay sea stars. Monterey County Weekly. (2013)
Skirts and Sea Stars: Pacific Grove librarian chronicles how women trail-blazed hands-on science education. Monterey County Weekly. (2013)
Professional Skills and Memberships
Programming in Python, MATLAB, NetLogo and R
Spatial data processing, analysis and visualization in QGIS and ArcGIS
Design and construction of specialized lab and field equipment
PADI CPR, AED and First Aid Certification (renewed 2017)
American Academy of Underwater Scientists (AAUS) Scientific Diver Certification (2012)
PADI Divemaster Certification (2018)
PADI Full Face Mask Diver Certification (2018)
Communication and promotion of science to general audiences
Western Society of Naturalists
Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology
Animal Behavior Societ
American Association for the Advancement of Science