Allison Cusick, PhD Candidate

Project Description


Graphic includes bio photo, project logos, project name, and Allison's bio info.

PRO OCEANOS II connects the importance of microscopic life and polar regions to the health of marine ecosystems around the world. PRO OCEANOS II introduces Puerto Rican students to polar research and phytoplankton using augmented reality technologies, and demonstrations of oceanographic sampling instruments and protocols used by the FjordPhyto citizen science program to gather data from Antarctica on water properties such as salinity, temperature, chlorophyll-a, meltwater, and ocean color. These interactive methods highlight the urgent need to increase global awareness of the importance of polar ecosystems and the role of phytoplankton in the marine food web.

PRO OCEANOS II is the continuing and improved edition of a 2022 [SCoPE] funded project (PRO OCEANOS) that encourages hispanic/latino students to pursue careers in STEM, through the core belief that when individuals of all ages truly understand the interconnectivity of marine ecosystems and the critical roles of the polar regions and phytoplankton, they are more likely to act as ambassadors of their marine environments. It is necessary to address the younger generations' questions as they will inherit the consequences of present-day decisions related to the ocean and the globe.

Target Audience Age


NASA Division


Grant Status

Learning Context

Digital Learning

Neighborhood /

Informal /
Out of School

Home / Family

Citizen Science

Formal Education


The benefits of working with SciAct [include] collaborating with a wonderful team of experts, integrating shared goals into the summer internship, and bringing polar science to more than those who can afford to travel to Antarctica. Working with the OCEANOS helps us expand our work to younger generations, spanish-speaking audiences, and marginalized communities.

Allison Cusick PRO OCEANOS II PI

Allison Cusick

PhD Candidate
Biological Oceanography

Allison is from Seattle, Washington, and now lives in California pursuing her Ph.D. at Scripps Oceanography. She studies phytoplankton in polar fjords and manages the citizen science project FjordPhyto, engaging travelers in cutting edge polar research. The samples collected by citizen scientists on tour vessels helps the Vernet Lab to understand the phenology (or seasonal changes) of phytoplankton along the Antarctic Peninsula and how freshwater may influence community composition from November through March. Allison first traveled to Antarctica in 2013 aboard the RV Nathaniel B Palmer ice-breaker in the Ross Sea and since 2017, has visited the western Peninsula every season with tour vessels lecturing on board, and training tour expedition ship staff to run the citizen science project. Allison holds an M.A.S. in Marine Biodiversity & Conservation from Scripps Institution of Oceanography (2017) and a B.S. in Biology from the University of Washington (2006).

To learn more about the citizen science project with tour ships in Antarctica visit To learn more about Allison’s career visit

SciAct Team

OCEANOS Description

The OCEANOS project centers on the hypothesis of: NASA Observations and science coupled with low-cost in-water instrumentation can significantly increase STEM education and enthusiasm among low-income 1st generation Hispanic/Latino students, particularly in regard to oceanographic and coastal issues. Our goal is to use combined NASA ocean color data and in situ oceanographic parameters to improve the capacity and awareness among low-income students on how these two can be used to monitor water quality affecting coastal shallow-water marine ecosystems in Caribbean waters.

Bio photo of Juan

The team of OCEANOS does not have the expertise in cold waters phytoplankton ecology. Allison and Martina’s proposal brings the opportunity to introduce students from the tropics to the southern seas conditions, influencing the marine food web and how similar or different it can be from tropical warm waters. Working with Allison and Martina this past year has been incredibly gratifying! Their connection with participants was instantaneous!

Juan Torres-Perez OCEANOS PI