Lauren Fritz | Ph.D. Student

Ocean Sciences UC Santa Cruz


Graduate Student, Ocean Sciences, University of California Santa Cruz, 2021 - Present

National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellow, 2021 - Present

B.S. Chemical Engineering, Concentration in Biomolecular Engineering, University of Notre Dame, 2010 - 2014

Research & Career Interests:

I am a second-year Ph.D. student at the University of California Santa Cruz working with Dr. Ari Friedlaender in the Biotelemetry and Behavioral Ecology Lab. My research examines how human activities influence cetacean behavior and physiology along the Western Antarctic Peninsula.  For my dissertation, I am conducting a series of controlled exposure experiments to investigate if tourism operations here impact the behavior and health of foraging humpback whales. Using a combination of drone-based behavioral observations, remote biopsy collection, and acoustic recordings, I can compare various metrics like stress levels, seasonality, location, vessel type, and demographic to explore what might affect the whales' sensitivity to disturbance. Before embarking on my graduate studies, I worked as a marine mammal tourism guide in various places around the globe. I saw an opportunity to use my skillset to improve human interactions with the environment by minimizing the negative impacts on marine life. This led me to the current stage of my journey. In addition, I am interested in expanding the reach of my research through effective science communication, including data animation, art, and journalism.

Stay tuned for publications on my Google Scholar and Research Gate profiles, and explore my work in marine tourism and wildlife photography on my personal website, The Greenest Blue

Qualifications & Grant Support:

2022 - Myer's Oceanographic Trust Grant Recipient

2022 - American Cetacean Society, Los Angeles Chapter Student Grant Recipient

2021 - National Science Foundation, Graduate Research Fellow

2013 - Notre Dame Career Center, Global Internship Initiative Grant Recipient

2013 - Notre Dame Institute for Scholarship in the Liberal Arts, Da Vinci Grant Recipient

2012 - Notre Dame College of Engineering Dean’s List

Publications & Media:


Ep. 22 - Lauren Fritz: Whales, Epic Adventures, and Conservation. Light Vision Podcast (2021).

Ep. 7 - Special Guest, Lauren Fritz - Marine Life - Ecotourism. Ocean Lover’s Podcast (2020).


2022 - FAA Part 107 Certified sUAS Pilot

2019 - Master Class 6 Marine Engineer & Skipper (Australian Certification)

2015 - Small Vessel Operation: BoatUS Hawaii/California Boating Safety Certification

CPR/AED/O2/First Aid/Lifeguard Certified

American Sailing Association: Basic Coastal Cruising Certification

PADI/SSI Advanced Open Water Diver & Freediver

Research Experience:

-Tongan Fluke Collective, Data Contributor, Kingdom of Tonga; July – October 2019

  • Collected photo identification data from a poorly documented population of humpback whales to contribute to a growing database of whale ID photos
  • Implications: this data is made available for researchers to use in their studies on whale biology and behavior 

-Pacific Whale Foundation, Research Assistant & Naturalist, Maui, Hawaii & Hervey Bay, Australia; May 2015 – October 2018

  • Collected photo identification data from marine mammals to contribute to studies of their population dynamics 
  • Helped initiate an impact study that examines the potential impacts of commercial swim-with-whale activity on the behavior of humpback whales in Hervey Bay, Queensland, Australia
  • Implications: by addressing any negative impacts discovered during this study through adaptive management protocols, detrimental effects on this population of humpback whales can be avoided and the region’s tourism industry can remain sustainable 

-Dyer Island Conservation Trust, Research Assistant, Gansbaai, South Africa; June – July 2013

  • Assisted in obtaining short-term active acoustic tracking data with a hydrophone for white sharks in the area by conducting multi-day studies; data samples were used in conjunction with longer-term data from long-term acoustic tags
  • Implications: by learning more about the poorly understood movements of vulnerable white sharks in this area, we were able to inform local policymakers of recommended conservation measures

-University of Western Australia, Oceans Institute, Student Research Assistant, Perth, Western Australia; July – November 2012

  • Conducted research under the supervision of Dr. Renae Hovey on the spatial ecology of western rock lobsters around the Perth coastal region through photographs taken by AUV’s 
  • Implications: this lobster is the source of Australia’s most lucrative single-species fishery; we contributed to the future management of this species by achieving a greater understanding of the ecological processes and interactions that influence its abundance and distribution

Professional Experience

-National Geographic Student Expeditions, Expedition Leader, May 2021 - Current

  • Guided 16 high school students on a two-week conservation-focused expedition on the Big Island of Hawaii with one co-lead
  • Coordinated with service partners to plan interactive and immersive experiential learning opportunities for the students
  • Focused on helping students engage with the local culture and natural world; created regular blog posts to document experiences

-San Juan Safaris, Assistant Lead Naturalist & Vessel Coordinator, Friday Harbor, Washington; May – September 2016/2017/2020/2021

  • Guided boat-based whale and wildlife watching excursions in the Salish Sea ecosystem 
  • Educated guests on relevant conservation issues, including the declining health of the Southern Resident Killer Whales, and provided practical tips on what they can do to help
  • Produced daily blog posts and photo galleries for each whale watch tour

-Sea Change Eco Retreat, Whale Swim Guide & Resident Naturalist, Uoleva Island, Tonga; May – October 2019

  • Facilitated immersive wildlife experiences in the Ha’apai Island Group as a government-certified whale guide
  • Provided educational conservation-focused tours of reef and island ecosystems to guests
  • Established a boat safety protocol and created a handbook for future employees

-Dolphin Encounter Kaikoura, Dolphin Swim Guide & Naturalist, Kaikoura; New Zealand; September 2017 – May 2019

  • Educated audiences of up to 60 guests on dusky dolphins, other local wildlife and conservation issues
  • Recorded data on dusky dolphin behavior and location
  • Conducted photo ID of local Hector’s dolphins when incidental sightings occurred

-Pacific Whale Foundation, Team Leader & Marine Naturalist, Maui, Hawaii & Hervey Bay, Australia; May 2015 – October 2018

  • Led snorkeling and informational tours for passengers aboard large 130+ pax boats on near-coastal waters in Maui County and Hervey Bay; engaged with customers and give informational presentations to large groups with the aid of a PA system
  • Promoted in second year to Team Leader/First Mate

-Marine Dynamics Shark Tours, Intern, Gansbaai, South Africa; June – July 2013 

  • Worked as an assistant on a cage-diving boat that led educational eco-tours for travelers from around the world; ensured passenger safety and comfort through the highest quality of customer service
  • Demonstrated ability to work as a naturalist by interpreting wildlife behavior, educating passengers on the marine ecosystem and natural history of the area, and answering questions


Contact info:

University of California, Santa Cruz

Ocean Sciences Department

1156 High Street

Santa Cruz, CA 95064