Arianna Torello | Ph.D. Student

Ocean Sciences UC Santa Cruz


  • B.Sc. in Environmental Science with a concentration in ecology and natural resources and a minor in Marine Science, UNC-Chapel Hill, 2016-2020
  • Ph.D. Student, Ocean Sciences, UC Santa Cruz, 2021-Current
I am keenly fascinated by global change ecology and the many relationships that exist within and throughout marine ecosystems. My primary interests are in polar marine mammal behavioral and foraging ecology, along with the influences of various environmental and anthropogenic perturbations on population abundance, distribution, behavior, and habitat use in these particularly susceptible populations. I am highly interested in applying biotelemetry techniques to monitor various marine mammal target species in correlation to their prey and other environmental inputs, with a goal of then linking those findings to improve conservation and management efforts. Using data from a collaborative NSF Long-Term Ecological Research (LTER) project based in the Western Antarctic Peninsula at Palmer Station, I am interested in comparing and contrasting the spatial scales of foraging by humpback whales close to shore versus in the Palmer Canyon, and then linking these scales of foraging to different prey patch characteristics (such as size, shape, depth, etc.). My project will be a second-generation continuation of ongoing research in the lab, aiming to synthesize and build off of the findings from previous projects; the study aims to then provide a set of more refined and conclusive evidence regarding the foraging habits of humpbacks in relation to their prey in the Antarctic peninsula.
Beyond my immediate goal of pursuing my doctoral degree, my overarching goal as a scientist and human being is to further my education in a way that provides me with the tools to effectively share my knowledge and fervor for marine mammal ecology to a broader audience. I am passionate about learning, and I am congruently passionate about sharing what I learn and encouraging others to become involved in and excited about conservation research – particularly those who are part of communities that have been historically excluded in the STEM fields, including students of color, women, and students who identify as part of the LGBTQIA+ community. As a queer woman, I am not estranged to the adversities and obstacles that remain at large in our world; simultaneously, I am aware of the abundance of privilege that comes with my identity as a white, cis-gender person. I am committed to harnessing my own privilege in a way that allows people from historically excluded communities the pathway into STEM they have always deserved and had a right to, but to which they have not always had access or been justly supported.
2021 - University of California, Santa Cruz Regents Fellowship

  • Research technician - Diving characteristics and energetics of herring-feeding killer whales (Orcinus orca) in northern Norway. Collaborative research effort by University of Saint Andrews, Norwegian Orca Survey, Stanford University, and University of California Santa Cruz, 2021.
  • Field/research technician - Año Nuevo Northern Elephant Seal colony breeding and pupping research effort. Collaborative research effort by the Año Nuevo Natural Reserve and the University of California Santa Cruz, 2020-2021.
  • Research technician - Differences in presence, abundance, and behavior of opportunistic associates in relation to humpback feeding strategies across various sites. Contracted project with University of California Santa Cruz., 2020-2021.
  • Research intern - Sarasota Dolphin Research Program (in conjunction with Chicago Zoological Society, located at Mote Marine Laboratory), 2019.
  • Researcher - Are Kentucky BMPs protecting streams from the long-term effects of timber harvesting? Semester-long capstone project with University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in partnership with University of Kentucky, 2019.
  • Research intern and teaching assistant - Galápagos Science Center, 2018.
  • Field technician - The movement of plastics through marine ecosystems and how it influences bioavailability and uptake into marine biota. Collaborative research effort by Galápagos Science Center, Galápagos Conservation Trust, and University of Exeter, 2018.
  • Researcher - Spatial and behavioral analysis of sea turtles in the Galápagos Islands. Tortuga Negra Project. Galápagos Science Center in partnership with University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, 2018.
  • Researcher - A comparison of fish functional group assemblages across dive sites north of Santa Cruz, Galápagos, Ecuador. 4-week independent research project with la Universidad San Francisco de Quito, 2018.
  • Researcher - Dramatic contrasts in age distributions of Grapsus grapsus at varying sites of human
    impact suggest unregulated harvesting. 4-week independent research project with la Universidad San Francisco de Quito, 2018.
  • Researcher - Analysis of fluctuations in population size and demographic of Zalophus wollebaeki. 4-week independent research project with la Universidad San Francisco de Quito, 2018.
  • Researcher - Decrease in weight, length, and abundance of whelk species in relation to sites of high human impact along the Ecuadorian Coast. 4-week independent research project with la Universidad San Francisco de Quito, 2018.
  • Field research and laboratory techniques - Cetacean and sea turtle photo-ID, biopsy sampling, tagging, focal follows, synoptic surveying, satellite and radio tracking, cetacean necropsies, playback experiments, gill net catch and release, seine nets, above- and below-water still photography and video surveys, manta tows, plankton drags, Van Veen sediment grabbing, quadrat and transect surveying, YSI water-sensing instrument. The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, 2016-2020.

Contact info:

University of California, Santa Cruz

Ocean Sciences Department

1156 High Street

Santa Cruz, CA 95064