Department Directory


Department Chair: Ingrid Parker Department Manager: Jacqueline Rose
Graduate Adviser: Sarah Arantza Amador Administraive Assistant: Stephanie Zakarian
Undergraduate Adviser: Karina Frazier Undergraduate Adviser: Bee Vadakan
Biology Teaching Laboratory and Facilities Support Technician: Nicole Hack
Department Office: (831) 459-5358 Administrative Office: CBB, Room 207, 209


Gina Marie Contolini

Research Interests


I am interested in the interactions of ecology and evolution in marine systems. I am especially interested in human-induced evolution, such as harvest-induced evolution.

Questions I like to ask:

What causes trait change?
How do trait changes in one species affect an ecosystem?
How do trait changes differ across ecosystems?
How broad are the effects of trait change in an ecosystem?
How quickly can organisms change their traits?
What is the mechanism behind trait change?
How do anthropogenic influences such as harvest affect traits and evolution?

Study systems in which I would like to apply these questions and approaches:

Marine fisheries
Intertidal ecosystems
Subtidal ecosystems

Biography, Education and Training

For reasons unknown to me, I have always been completely fascinated by the natural world. I think it has something to do with my father being a chemist. He was a mad scientist of sorts, and I have a rich library of memories of his hands-on, home-made chemistry demos. Most of them I did not understand, but they opened my mind to the world of chemistry and, more broadly, the sciences. It became clear to me that there was so much I didn't understand about how the world worked. These frequent encounters with what I could not understand got me accustomed to feeling ignorant, a feeling which drove me to seek answers. Once I found some answers, I would learn more questions, and pursue those. Every time I discovered more about the world, a new world was opened to me. As they say, "the more you learn, the less you know." The void of knowledge was endless, and I was ecstatic to launch myself into it.

As I pursued my interests, I found myself most interested in Biology, and what I learned throughout high school and college helped me develop a very deep appreciation for life. Furthermore, I was addicted to the applicability of everything I learned from my biology book. I would read about photosynthesis and then go outside and marvel at green leaves. (I have a very specific memory of doing just this, trying to express my joy and excitement to my high school boyfriend as we were laying on his trampoline under some overhanging oak leaves leaves in his backyard. I'm not sure he got the same rush of excitement from those leaves as I did.) Eventually, the influences of the environmental movement and my love for the outdoors helped channel my interests toward Ecology. My interest in marine ecology began when I was happily awarded the NOAA Hollings Scholarship in 2010. The next spring I studied a Coastal Ecology and Conservation in Baja California Sur, Mexico, and that summer I did fisheries research for the Northeast Fisheries Science Center. At this point I realized I should run with the field of marine ecology, and my marine career took off. Since then I've studied marine plants and animals in Friday Harbor (Washington), Panama City (Panama), and now the California coast. I'm extremely excited to be where I am and doing what I'm doing, and while it's been a great journey so far, I feel like I'm still just beginning!

Honors, Awards and Grants

Gonzaga University summa cum laude. (2012)
Gonzaga Alumni Scholarship. $5,000 (2010—2011)
Walter J Conn Scholarship. $6,000 (2010—2012)
NOAA Ernest F. Hollings Scholarship. $16,000 plus full-time internship position at a NOAA facility (2010)
HHMI Research Scholarship. $750 (2010)
Alpha Sigma Nu Jesuit Honors Society. (2010)
Robert and Carol Palencar Scholarship. $6,195 (2009—2012)
Hardgrove Scholarship. $923 (2009—2010)
Gonzaga University Trustee Scholarship. $48,000 (2008—2012)