University of South Florida

USF College of Marine Science


Dr. Michelle Guitard, CMS alum and paleoceanographer, wins prestigious USF award

Dr. Michelle Guitard, CMS alum and paleoceanographer.

Dr. Michelle Guitard, CMS alum and paleoceanographer.

Written by Kristen Kusek, Communications Director for USF CMS

Recent USF CMS graduate, Dr. Michelle Guitard, was one of only four students to win the USF-wide Outstanding Thesis and Dissertation Award for her PhD dissertation, entitled, “Ocean Forcing of Quaternary East Antarctic Ice Sheet Evolution: An Ice-Proximal Sedimentary Perspective.”

Congratulations, Dr. Guitard! She was recently honored in a virtual event, which included this short video in which she shared her research interests. Guitard joins four CMS alum who have won this award since 2008.

While at CMS, Guitard was a student in the Antarctic Paleoceanography Lab, led by Associate Professor Amelia Shevenell. Guitard is now a postdoctoral research scientist at the Lamont Doherty Earth Observatory at Columbia University in New York. Additionally, she was recently awarded one of only 11 National Science Foundation Polar Postdoctoral Fellowships. 

“I am so proud of what Michelle has accomplished,” Shevenell said. “She is a creative, thoughtful, and hardworking scientist. As an advisor, I give students the tools they need to find their own wings. While Michelle’s departure leaves a big hole in the lab, it is so exciting to watch her embark on the next steps in what I know will be a long and successful career. I am so delighted that colleagues at USF and in the broader Antarctic Science community are recognizing Michelle’s scientific excellence. Congratulations!”

We had a short conversation with Guitard about her time at CMS:

Q: How valuable was your time at CMS? 

My time at CMS gave me good insight into what it takes to lead a lab. I learned a lot about how I communicate and about my mentoring style. I got a glimpse of what it takes to support students (in their research, but also financially!). I learned the value of setting clear boundaries and saying no once in a while. If I decide to pursue a career in academia, then I think these lessons will prove extremely valuable.

Q: What advice can you share with current or aspiring graduate students?

Go beyond the walls of CMS during grad school. Apply for a cruise/internship/field position that gets you some on-the-job training. This is a way for you to learn about what you like/dislike about a certain job or field. It's also an opportunity to network with other people outside of your lab, which is very important during the post-degree job search.

Q: Please share what you’re most excited about with respect to your research at Columbia.

My work at Columbia focuses on reconstructing Southern Ocean sea surface temperatures during the early to mid-Pleistocene (~2.6-0.7 Ma). This time period encompasses an important climate transition called the Mid-Pleistocene Transition, which marks a shift in the periodicity and shape of earth's climate cycles. I have been interested in this time period since early on in graduate school, so I am pretty stoked to have an entire project dedicated to understanding the transition from an Antarctic perspective. 

Michelle Guitard, recent USF CMS graduate

While at CMS, Guitard was a recipient of the NSF FGLSAMP Bridge to the Doctorate fellowship, the Sloan Foundation Minority PhD graduate scholarship, a McKnight Doctoral Fellowship, an NSF EAPSI award, a US Science Support Post Expedition Award, several NSF-supported student travel awards, and several internal USF CMS Fellowships, including the Lorton Fellowship (2x) and the Thomas E. Pyle Memorial Fellowship. Guitard has a passion for writing about the need for inclusivity in STEM fields, and you can learn more about her story by visiting this previous article (Scroll down to the section called “MICHELLE GUITARD: THE POWER OF PERSPECTIVES (AND PUBLISHING)”.

She joins the following CMS alums in earning this prestigious honor (records available since 2008):

Mengqiu Wang (2019)
Title: Spatial and Temporal Distributions of Pelagic Sargassum in the Intra-Americas Sea and Atlantic Ocean

Robert Hardy (2015)
Title: Assessments of Surface-Pelagic Drift Communities and Behavior of Early Juvenile Sea Turtles in the Northern Gulf of Mexico

Brian Barnes (2014)
Title: The Combined Effects of Light and Temperature on Coral Bleaching: A Case Study of the Florida Reef Tract Using Satellite Data

Julia Galkiewicz (2012)
Title: Microbial Ecology and Functional Genomics of Deep-Water Coral-Associated Microbes

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