Youth Leadership Council and Board of Directors Member
Olivia Blondheim is an Integrative Biology Ph.D. student at the University of South Florida, where she is both a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship (GRFP) Fellow and a University of South Florida Presidential Fellow. Olivia has a B.A. in Biology and Spanish from Drew University.
Olivia has volunteered at the National Aquarium in Baltimore, Maryland where she was an exhibit guide, student volunteer mentor, and jellies aquarist. Working behind-the-scenes in the jellies lab started her on her pursuit of understanding how jellies interact with and impact their marine ecosystems.
Funded by the National Science Foundation as part of Oregon State University’s Research Experiences for Undergraduates Program, Olivia has used fine-scale imaging systems to investigate how hydromedusae migrate vertically over a 24-hour cycle. She has also studied the factors that affect how upside-down jellies pulsate their bells in South Water Caye, Belize and through CIEE’s Tropical Marine Ecology and Conservation Program in Kralendijk, Bonaire.
As a NOAA Ernest F. Hollings Scholar, Olivia interned at the Newport Research Station of the Northwest Fisheries Science Center in Newport, Oregon. There her research investigated the vertical distribution of an anomalous bloom of pyrosomes in the northern California Current, which she recently presented in her first TEDx talk, “Colonies of change.” In June 2018, Olivia was invited to co-keynote with Philippe Cousteau at the 4 th International Symposium on the Effects of Climate Change on the World’s Oceans.
As an American Academy of Underwater Sciences (AAUS) Scientific Diver who has logged over 40 lifetime dives, she hopes that her research will engage local communities to better protect their water resources. She has previously worked with the New Jersey Audubon Society and the Whippany River Watershed Action Committee to organize stream clean-ups and to monitor the health of wood turtle populations. In her free time, Olivia enjoys traveling and spending time with her family. She hopes her research will bring a greater awareness to the important roles that jellies play within our changing oceans.