Graduate Student Profile

Katrina Phillips

Katrina Phillips blurred shadow drop
Katrina Phillips
Katrina Phillips

Spartanburg, South Carolina


College of Sciences

Degree Program:

Integrative and Conservation Biology PhD, Conservation Biology Track

Research Focus:

The movement and dispersing of young sea turtles offshore in the Gulf of Mexico.

For doctoral student Katrina Phillips, one of the most exciting things is how little we know about the ocean and the animals in it, and that inspires her to keep asking questions and pursue research to discover the answers. That intellectual curiosity has fueled her academic career, as she pursues her PhD in conservation biology.

Phillips earned her Bachelor of Science in marine science from the University of South Carolina and her Master of Science in marine affairs and policy from the University of Miami. While studying in Miami, Phillips met Dr. Kate Mansfield, who was a post-doc at the time and who served on Phillips’s master’s committee. Phillips and Dr. Mansfield worked well together and had similar research interests, and so when Dr. Mansfield became a faculty member at UCF, that influenced Phillips decision to come to UCF as well. Phillips was also excited to join the UCF Marine Turtle Research Group, which has been collecting continuous sea turtle data on the Florida coast since 1982. “The lab,” Phillips says, “its founder, Dr. Llew ‘Doc’ Ehrhart, and its current director, Kate, are recognized internationally, and it’s an amazing group to be a part of.”

As a student of conservation biology, Phillips’s research is focused on how young sea turtles move and disperse offshore in the Gulf of Mexico: “This work is really exciting because, for the first few years of a sea turtle’s life, we don’t really know where they go or how they get there.” Phillips also helps lead lab research projects and the summer internship for the UCF Marine Turtle Research Group and has led small weeklong research projects with high school students in the UCF Arboretum as part of the BIOTEC summer camp. She has also presented at outreach events including at UCF STEM Day, the Brevard Zoo, nature centers, the Orlando Science Center, and the children’s hospital.

While at UCF, Phillips has been an active member of the Biology Graduate Student Association, serving as an officer for two years (president and faculty liaison). She was awarded the University’s Boyd Lyon Memorial Fellowship (a two-year fellowship for an incoming doctoral student whose research is related to sea turtles), a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship (including funding to visit the Center for Macroevolution, Evolution, and Climate in Copenhagen, Denmark), the Microwave Telemetry Christian Howey Rising Scholar Award, the Gumbo Limbo Gordon Gilbert Grant, was inducted into the UCF Order of Pegasus Class of 2019, and was recognized with a Scholar Award by the International Chapter of P.E.O. Phillips also competed in UCF’S inaugural 3-Minute Thesis competition in spring 2019, winning the People’s Choice award and taking second place overall.

After graduation Phillips aims to stay involved in both research and outreach. To her fellow students, Phillips advises, “push yourself outside your comfort zone and open yourself to constructive criticism. No one likes the feeling of being judged, but if you seek feedback from your peers and mentors, the benefits greatly outweigh the discomfort of putting yourself out there!”


  • Member of the Biology Graduate Student Association
  • Boyd Lyon Memorial Fellowship
  • National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship
  • Microwave Telemetry Christian Howey Rising Scholar Award
  • Gumbo Limbo Gordan Gilbert Grant
  • UCF Order of Pegasus (2019)
  • Scholar Award, International Chapter of P.E.O.
  • Spring 2019 3MT: Second Place Overall and People's Choice Award

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