Will you be here next year fall?

Rebeca Mata Barboza Biological Systems Engineering Graduate Group

Ever since I was a little, I’ve always been passionate and curious about food production. Over time I became more and more interested in learning about and finding alternative and sustainable ways to grow food and feed a rapidly growing global population. My passion led me to study Agricultural Engineering where, looking for alternative systems to produce food, I fell in love with marine and coastal ecosystems. These ecosystems have huge potential, especially in countries where coastal communities live in some degree of poverty.

In Costa Rica, I attended the University of Costa Rica and worked for a couple of years with seaweed production before enrolling at UC Davis in 2016 to pursue my Ph.D. in Biological and Agricultural Engineering.  As a Ph.D. candidate, my research involves the effects of climate change on marine aquaculture, focusing on primary producers and the consequent downstream trophic impacts on primary consumers important in marine aquaculture like abalone, oysters, etc.

I hope to use all the knowledge and experience, acquired during my education, in Costa Rica and work with coastal communities to develop sustainable food production systems accessible to everyone and alleviate poverty and contribute to the country’s food security.

Alex Wright Animal Biology Graduate Group

As a former marine biologist, I recognize the increasing need for sustainable and healthy seafood options. After graduating from the University of Delaware with a BS in marine biology, I spent several years working as a biologist aboard fishing vessels along the Mid Atlantic coast and around the Florida panhandle. I worked with a wide variety of fisheries stakeholders—commercial fishers, seafood distributors, recreational anglers—in a coordinated effort to collect biological data and information concerning the region’s fisheries. The health benefits of consuming seafood are well known and with this growing realization, it is imperative that, as a nation, we secure a sustainable and reliable source of seafood. With the threatened state of many fish stocks worldwide, new age aquaculture can supplement this growing need.

My personal research interests and objectives fall under the theme of assisting and advancing commercial aquaculture in the U.S. to become more efficient, sustainable, and humanely produced. Specifically, I aim to expand Dr. Gross’s current efforts to improve current methods of finfish slaughter and provide alternative approaches that increase product quality and animal well-being/welfare. Additionally, I am assisting with a project to better understand the role antimicrobial products play in California aquaculture. We plan to survey all commercial aquaculture producers in California to collect information regarding their use of antimicrobial products in an effort to reduce the development of antimicrobial resistance (AMR) and provide alternative solutions to antimicrobial products.

The journey to my Ph.D. will provide many learning opportunities and allow me to make several contributions towards the continuous advancement of U.S. aquaculture.


Alexes Juarez

My general interest is in conservation ecology within the scope of climate change.  I am just beginning my third year as an undergraduate in the Evolution, Ecology, and Biodiversity major and would like to go to graduate school and focus my research on invasive species. My current project with Dr. Gross is to develop a detection methodology for pathogens (Vibrio vulnificus and Vibrio parahaemolyticus) within a Giant Keyhole Limpet culture system. In particular, we are working with a private company that is developing culture techniques to grow and produce limpets and maximize KLH (keyhole limpet hemocyanin) levels within their animals. KLH is an area of interest because it is a carrier protein for cancer vaccines. Since KLH does not create an immune response in patients, it is being researched for its pharmaceutical potential in human health such as breast and bladder cancers, non-Hodgkins lymphoma, and cutaneous melanoma.



Kellen Parrish

My research is focused on determining sustainable methods for recycling water and recapturing aquaculture solid wastes to repurpose them as fertilizers. I currently work on a large aquaculture farm in California’s Central Valley where we are evaluating the feasibility of different waste and water recovery methods from aquaculture effluent.

I focus on the utilization of aquaculture effluents because they carry valuable nutrients that can be utilized elsewhere in food production streams. This research is applicable on a global scale with aquaculture and I’m interested in developing the concept of aquaculture as an agricultural system with two outputs, fertilizer and animal products.  From here, the models developed for different systems can be scaled up, down or modified depending on the resource constraints of a given area. As aquaculture continues to grow, so will its waste outputs that can be converted from liability to asset with a little bit of planning and design!


Geoffrey Mangalam

I am a fifth-year undergraduate student majoring in Sustainable  Agriculture and Food Systems. My main interests lie in greenhouse production as well as other decentralized food systems such as community gardens, edible landscapes, and CSAs.I currently work with Doctor Gross on conducting administrative tasks such as purchasing, meeting scheduling, and website maintenance. In addition, I am assisting in the design and construction of a research-focused decoupled aquaponics system at UC Davis West Campus.  I also conducted studies evaluating the utility of aquaculture effluent in the production of food-grade Lemna sp. (duckweed) as an alternative protein source. I also currently work at the Western Institute for Food Safety and Security (WIFSS), wherein my first year at UC Davis I helped conduct an assessment of Zoonotic risks (Salmonella enterica) in aquaponic lettuce production. This research will hopefully contribute to the establishment of Good Agricultural Practices for aquaponics.


Devon Maddex

I am a third-year undergraduate Animal Science major with a pre-veterinary focus. My areas of interest are pretty broad and revolve around animal science, but I am really fascinated by exotic animals and wildlife. Dr. Gross has introduced me to the environmental and conservation side of animal science which has influenced the topics I want to research. My current research with Dr. Gross involves fish progenitor germ cells with the goal of learning more about their functions and the potentials for bioengineering. This technology has countless applications, but we will be primarily working on implanting progenitor germ cells of one fish species into a surrogate in efforts to conserve fish populations, re-establish endangered species, or increase aquaculture production.