Atlantic Estuarine Research Society

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Spring 2021 Election

We have two important online elections going on right now! Below are the candidate statements for President-Elect and Secretary. The elections will be open on until 29 April at 5:00 pm.

Instructions for voting should have been sent to your email and can also be found on the How To Vote page in the Members Only area. If you have not received this, double check to make sure that your AERS membership is up to date. Only current members are eligible to vote.

AERS Election for President

President-Elect of AERS

The President shall preside at all meetings. Three At-Large members and all Committee Chairs shall be appointed by the President. The President or his/her designated representative (e.g. immediate Past President or President-Elect) shall serve on the governing board of CERF, and the President shall direct Society activities of other Directors.  The President-Elect will serve a one-year term commencing at the Spring Meeting preceding the Biannual CERF Meeting, followed by a two-year term as President that commences at the Spring Meeting following the Biannual CERF Meeting.  The Past President will commence a one-year term as Past-President at the Spring Meeting following the Biannual CERF meeting.

Gulni Ozbay

Gulni Ozbay

Hello AERS Family!

It has been a pleasure becoming part of this wonderful Society since I started my career as junior faculty in Delaware in 2003. Atlantic Estuarine Research Society Meeting was the first meeting I attended in the fall of 2003. I absolutely love it. Year after year I bring my research interns, graduate students, technicians, post-docs, and students from my Environmental Science class to AERS Meetings. It has been a pleasure seeing many of my colleagues and meeting new ones every year.

I received my Ph.D. in Auburn University, Fisheries and Allied Aquacultures Program focusing on environmental quality and treatment strategies for the aquaculture effluents. I was also involved in oyster restoration efforts during my time at Auburn. This was how I established my research and outreach efforts in Delaware - working with oyster gardeners and oyster revitalization efforts to promote restoration of this important keystone species in Delaware. Although my primary research efforts focus on Delaware Inland Bays oyster restoration, I have conducted various ecological studies to increase my understanding of juvenile blue crab population assessment and feeding habits both in Blackbird Creek and Inland Bays in Delaware. My environmental monitoring efforts focus on anthropogenic stressors, land-use practices, and changes to marsh vegetation and aquatic ecosystems. I have mentored and advised many undergraduate interns and graduate students in their environmental projects since 2003. Many of my students presented their research at AERS Meetings. At my current position as a Professor and Extension Specialist in Natural Resources at Delaware State University, I serve as the Environmental Health and Seafood Safety Lab Director.

As an active member of AERS since 2003, I have served as a Judge for students’ presentations, moderated sessions, and co-hosted and assisted with several AERS Meetings. I served as an AERS Member-at-Large for 3 years and served as a Secretary and Treasurer for the U.S. Aquaculture Society for 2 years. I am very humbled to receive 2019 Venerable Clam Award from AERS for my service. I look forward to continuing serving this great Society and promoting AERS at regional and local institutions. My vision as AERS President is increasing coordinated involvement in emerging environmental issues, assisting our region to utilize sustainable resources, conserve our environment, and foster mutually beneficial regional and national partnerships. Recruiting new members (especially minority students and young professionals) and promoting AERS as an organization among the minority-serving institutions are some of my goals if I am selected as a President-Elect. I also find it rewarding for AERS to offer coordinated efforts to its members with other sister organizations.

Shelley Katsuki

Shelley Katsuki

I am currently the manager of the Kauffman Aquaculture Center, part of the Aquaculture and Genetics Breeding Technology Center (ABC) at the Virginia Institute of Marine Science (VIMS).  My work is a combination of selective breeding and genetic research to improve the commercially important traits of the eastern oyster Crassostrea virginica.  The unique aspect of the Kauffman Aquaculture Center is that we are a polyploid breeding facility and have the most extensive tetraploid breeding program in the country.  I take great pride in the work that I have done to improve our hatchery output and operations since my acceptance of this position in 2014.  Prior to working with oysters, I spent several years studying diseases of other commercially important shellfish and finfish at VIMS.

I was introduced to AERS during my time as a graduate student at Old Dominion University and have been an active member of the board for well over a decade.   I started my tenure on the board as Student Representative in 2007 and facilitated several student/mentor luncheons, helping to further the reputation AERS has as one of the more student-friendly professional organizations.  I became Membership Chair in 2010 and have maintained that position since, lobbying for our transition to a new membership database with Wild Apricot that provides easier access to our members.  I also pulled double duty for a time, serving in the elected position of Secretary from 2017-2019 while still serving as Membership Chair.  As a result of this consistent involvement, I have been able to develop wonderful relationships with not only AERS members, but also many CERF board members as well.  This has led to my representing AERS on a national level by serving as Co-Chair of the CERF Ambassadors program for the upcoming meeting this fall. 

The collaborative nature and welcoming environment of AERS has been of great importance to me ever since my first meeting, and what drives me to continue to have an active role in the organization.   The respect that AERS has for its student members was my initial attraction to the society.  As President, I would hope to foster that relationship even further and encourage increased student involvement and representation.  Additionally, as we have not been able to gather in person in well over a year, I hope to explore possibilities to rebuild our sense of connection as a society.  Until we are able to meet again this could be done virtually through quarterly member seminars followed by discussion, or more socially focused events such as trivia. 

I have thoroughly enjoyed seeing AERS grow and am excited and optimistic for the future of our society.  I would be delighted to serve AERS in a new capacity as President.

AERS Election for Secretary

Secretary of AERS

Duties: It shall be the duties of the Secretary to keep minutes of regular meetings of the Board and business meetings of the society, and to distribute notices and send copies of meeting minutes. The Secretary shall submit meeting minutes and other pertinent data to the Historian for placement in the official Repository of the Society.  The Secretary shall serve a two-year term commencing at the Spring Meeting preceding a CERF Meeting.

James Vasslides

James Vasslides

I currently serve as the Senior Program Scientist at the Barnegat Bay Partnership (BBP), one of the 28 National Estuary Programs across the country. As the senior scientist, I am responsible for overseeing all aspects of the BBP’s science activities, including our long-term monitoring programs for 1) juvenile fish and jellyfish, 2) winter eel ingress and 3) seagrass demographics, among others. I also ensure that the best available science is used in the BBP’s deliberations and recommendations. I received my B.S., M.S., and Ph.D. in Ecology and Evolution from Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, and have published papers on fish community assemblages, fish feeding interactions, fish and shellfish early life history movements, ecosystem trophic modeling, and seagrass distribution modeling. My research interests include the role of estuaries as nurseries, the restoration of shallow-water habitats, and climate change effects on species distributions and assemblages.


I have been an AERS member for over a decade now, joining when I started my position at the BBP as a way to stay abreast of the best estuarine science happening in our region (in the world, frankly). During that time I’ve been fortunate to attend many of our meetings, learning from outstanding scientists and bringing that information back to our local estuary. I am now in a position where I can “payback” some of the benefits that I have gained from being a member in the Society by taking an active leadership role. As Secretary I can put the skills I have honed serving as the BBP staff liaison to innumerable committees (meeting logistics, meeting minutes, arm-twisting, wrangling/shepherding) to use in the advancement of the Society’s goals and aims. Additionally, for the past 4 years, I have served in the same position for the American Fisheries Society’s Estuaries Section and have encouraged that group to explore cross-society opportunities, so serving in a leadership role in both groups (for the next 5 months at least) will strengthen that approach.  

April Blakeslee

April Blakeslee


  • B.A., Biology with a concentration in Marine Science, Boston University, 1994-1998.
  • M.A. (thesis-based), Biology, Boston University, 1999-2001. Thesis topic: site-fidelity and reproductive success in a neotropical migrant species, the Ovenbird.
  • Ph.D., Dept. of Zoology (Marine Evolutionary Ecology), University of New Hampshire, 2001-2007. Dissertation topic: resolving cryptogenic histories using multiple lines of evidence.
  • Postdoctoral Fellowship, Marine Invasions Lab, Smithsonian Environmental Research Center, Edgewater, Maryland, 2007-2011.
  • Assistant Professor, Ecology, Long Island University-Post, Brookville, New York, 2011-2015.
  • Assistant Professor, Conservation Biology, East Carolina University, Greenville, North Carolina, 2015-present.

To date, I have published 46 papers in the fields of biodiversity, population genetics, parasite ecology, marine and estuarine ecology, biogeography, and invasion biology. I am on the editorial board of two journals, BioInvasions Records (as Deputy Editor-in-Chief) and Diversity & Distributions (as Associate Editor). I have been a member of AERS since 2017 and my students have also been members. Two of my students have won awards at AERS meetings: Collin Love (a former undergraduate intern) for his talk, and Tim Lee, a current PhD student, for his poster. Presently, I am mentoring 2 PhD students and 2 MS students. All are doing research in estuarine or saltmarsh systems.

Below is a blurb from my website ( that explains more about my research:

Overview of Research Interests: The Blakeslee lab emphasizes marine and estuarine conservation biology and includes a diverse research program involving biodiversity, population genetics, parasite ecology, and biogeography—as well as the unique and integrative insight that can be gained from studying biological invasions. Recently, biological invasions have become recognized as a major contributor to the global (and often disjunct) distributions of many marine and estuarine species as a result of human transport mechanisms. Invasion research is therefore important not only from a conservation perspective but can provide a theoretical and practical understanding of population and community level influences of novel species, and can also serve as an important teaching tool for students and the general public. Biological invasions are a major part of human-induced global change, including population, community, and ecosystem-level shifts in marine biota, genetics, and the environment. We examine many integrative aspects of marine and estuarine invasions, focusing on four major areas: (1) global distribution patterns, biogeography, and conservation biology of free-living and parasite species, (2) invasion histories and vectors, (3) population genetics, population ecology, and evolutionary ecology in native and non-native populations, and (4) biodiversity, community ecology, and host-parasite interactions of native and non-native organisms, including host behavior, physiology, and genetics. We focus our studies primarily on marine invertebrates as they have contributed vast numbers of introductions globally, and they also serve as hosts to parasites, which are a fundamental but often overlooked component of many ecosystems, and which can become cryptic invaders themselves

Thank you for considering me! If I am selected, I would look forward to working with the AERS Board to guide the future of AERS, help plan meetings, take minutes, among other necessary duties.

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