Laura Jurgens, Primary Investigator

Dr. Laura Jurgens joined the faculty in the Department of Marine Biology at Texas A&M University Galveston (TAMUG) in January 2019. She is also a member of the Texas A&M (College Station) Department of Ecology and Conservation Biology, and holds graduate faculty appointments in the Marine Biology Graduate Program at TAMUG and in the Ecology and Evolutionary Biology (EEB) Interdisciplinary Doctoral Degree Program at Texas A&M (College Station). Dr. Jurgens received her Ph.D. in Ecology at the University of California Davis, where she studied impacts of extreme events on coastal marine populations and ecosystems. She then spent three years as a postdoc at Temple University, Smithsonian Environmental Research Center, and Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute studying latitudinal variation in species invasions. She completed her B.S. at the University of California Santa Cruz where she also worked for the Partnership for Interdisciplinary Studies of Coastal Oceans as an undergraduate research technician. Prior to that, she was a working community college student and held positions in policy and community organizing. She is committed to increasing equity and inclusion in science, public engagement, and mentoring students with non-traditional backgrounds. Her research investigates processes that support ecological resilience at population, community, and ecosystem levels, and from local sites to latitudinal scales.
Contact: jurgensL(at)

Aurora Gaona Hernandez, Ph.D. student

Aurora is a biologist originally from Mexico City and with a B.S. from UNAM. The last 5 years she lived in Ensenada, Baja California, Mexico where she received her M.S. in Marine Ecology from CICESE, and worked for the Gulf of Mexico Research Consortium (CIGOM). She has experience working with marine zooplankton, programming and statistical analysis. She has joined the lab (as of Fall 2021) to do her Ph.D. in Marine Biology at Texas A&M University at Galveston. Her project will be focused on oyster disease ecology.
Contact: gaona(at)

Vanessa Fernandez-Rodriguez, Ph.D. student

Vanessa joined the Jurgens lab in the spring of 2022 as a co-advised Ph.D. student through a collaboration with Dr. Anja Schulze’s Lab (MARB-TAMUG). After completing a Bachelor’s degree in Biology (2013) at the University of Antioquia (Colombia), Vanessa completed a Master’s in Marine Biology and Coastal Environments (2017) at Fluminense Federal University in Brazil. She is a former fellow of the Partnership for Observation of The Global Ocean (2019) through a shipboard training program in deep-sea biology at the National Oceanography Centre (United Kingdom). She has experience in Polychaeta taxonomy, and environmental consultancy in freshwater ecosystems, and has been a lecturer for undergraduate courses in Colombia. Vanessa’s Ph.D. research focuses on the study of non-native serpulid polychaetes present in Galveston Bay, in which she plans to integrate molecular and ecological approaches. Contact: vanessa.fernandezr (at)

Chris Oxley, Research Technician

Chris is a post-graduate research technician in the lab. He began volunteering in the Jurgens lab as an undergraduate at TAMUG in the Fall of 2019. After graduating with a B.S. in Marine Biology, he joined the lab as a research assistant in summer 2022. Chris is broadly interested in understanding how the community ecology of invertebrates in coastal ecosystems, such as oyster reefs, seagrass beds, and mangrove forests, is impacted by anthropogenic changes. His experiences as a calculus tutor and volunteer at the Houston Museum of Natural Science at Sugar Land made him passionate about teaching, scientific communication, and public outreach. He hopes to become a professor and would like his research to help inform conservation and restoration efforts.

Contact: oxleychristopher [at] tamu [dot] edu

Lab alumni

Anika Agrawal, M.S.

Anika joined the Jurgens lab in the fall of 2019 as a Master’s student after completing her Bachelor’s degree in Environmental Toxicology from the University of California, Davis. Passionate about understanding anthropogenic impacts on marine species, she is looking into the impacts of multiple environmental stressors on ecosystem function and resilience. She aspires to be a professor, an efficient science communicator, and an advocate for queer women of color in STEM.  Contact: anikaagrawal [at] tamu [dot] edu and visit her website. Anika is now a Ph.D. student at UConn.

Emily Hubbard, M.S. student

Emily joined the Jurgens Lab in the fall of 2019, after spending three years working in collaboration with UC Davis, California Fish and Wildlife, and NOAA on the captive breeding of an endangered abalone species in California. Prior to that she obtained a Bachelor’s degree in Biology from UC Davis. She is interested in the effects of multiple stressors on community resilience and passionate about bridging the gaps between agency and university research, and public understanding and engagement. Contact: eahubbard [at] tamu [dot] edu

Melissa is now joined the Jurgens Lab in February 2019, after completing 2 years as a Coastal Resource Management Peace Corps Volunteer in the Philippines. Prior to her Peace Corps service, she received a Master’s degree in Environmental Science from Western Washington University, where she studied the effects of sediment porewater and water column chemistry on eelgrass (Zostera marina). She is passionate about scientific communication and has a background in environmental education and outreach.