Research and Laboratory Manager
Education and Outreach Coordinator
Kayla is from Oceanside, CA and earned her bachelor of science in Global Environmental Science and minor in Chemistry from the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa in 2018. Kayla’s drive towards finding solutions to the plastic pollution crisis began when she worked for Environment California, a nonprofit political organization that lobbies for environmental legislation. She then moved to Hawaiʻi in 2016 to further her education and began working with Dr. Jennifer Lynch as a National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) Summer Undergraduate Research Fellow (SURF). Kayla was awarded this fellowship for the summers of 2017 and 2018, where she worked with HPU M.S. student Melissa Jung to calculate hook depths of sea turtles caught on Pacific longline fisheries and dive heavily into the polymer composition of plastic marine debris using infrared spectroscopy. Kayla’s undergraduate thesis work and publication titled, “Marine Debris Polymers on Main Hawaiian Island Beaches, Sea Surface, and Seafloor”, was the first to provide a polymer composition profile for marine debris in the state of Hawaiʻi.
Kayla is now the Research and Laboratory Manager, and Education and Outreach Coordinator for the Center for Marine Debris Research (CMDR). She also oversees the Hawaiʻi operations of the U.S. NIST Pacific Islands Biorepository program. She aids NIST researchers, guest scientists, and students with specimen bank and marine debris projects. She created CMDR’s outreach program and collaborates with local organizations to provide science-based educational materials. Her main research interest focuses on the chemical weathering and polymer degradation of plastics, and how this material affects environmental health.