Liz Miller headshot

Liz Miller

She/Her, They/ Them
Science/ Data Team
Graduate Student
University of Hawaiʻi at Manoa

Tell us about your work/research. What kinds of things do you do?

I am a PhD student studying ecology in the deep sea. I am interested in the influence of microbial communities on food and energy flow among animals, especially in the food-poor environments of the deep. Gut microbiomes have in recent years been studied for their roles in animal nutrition and feeding, and I am extending this work to sea cucumbers and sea urchins feeding on detritus in the deep sea. To do so, I utilize ROVs to collect animal specimens and then use DNA sequencing as well as stable isotope analysis to learn about the microbe-animal symbioses enabling their survival.

What sparked your initial interest in your career?

I grew up on and around the ocean, including living on a sailboat for a year and was always fascinated by marine life. In particular, learning about the deep sea sparked my sense of interest and discovery. Realizing how little we know about some of the largest habitats on Earth inspired me to pursue my research.

Who influenced you or encouraged you the most?

My family gave me my first experiences with the natural world, including the ocean, and always encouraged my interest in marine biology.

What element of your work/study do you think is the most fascinating?

I love spending time at sea on research expeditions. Watching an animal be collected via ROV from its environment kilometers below me, and then being able to hold it in my hands once it is brought to the surface, is an amazing experience. I feel so lucky that I get to interact with organisms that most people don't even know exist, and which have rarely if ever been studied.

What other jobs led you to your current career?

Before starting my degree at the University of Hawai'i, I worked for a number of different jobs at the University of Washington, assisting with research on topics from cardiovascular cell regeneration to sea ice bacteria.

What are your degrees and certifications?

Bachelor of Arts in Biology -- Bard College 2018

Graduate School in progress now

What are your hobbies?

I like to spend a lot of my time outdoors, whether that be hiking, swimming, or snorkeling around Oahu, where I live. I also enjoy cooking and creating art.

How did you get involved with the Ocean Exploration Trust?

Through networking and my advisor, I was invited to be a part of the expedition team because my research with echinoderms compliments and contributes to the biological objectives of the expedition.

What advice would you give someone who wants to have a career like yours?

Take your time to explore different areas and types of research before deciding on your specialty. You can't know whether the day-to-day field or lab work will appeal to you if you haven't gotten your feet wet and tried it out!


Liz participated in the following Ocean Exploration Trust expeditions: