Victorino is BLaST Scientist of the Month for May 2024

Woman in rain gear standing on road in park
K. Victorino
BLaST Scholar Kaia Victorino enjoying Denali National Park in 2022.

BLaST Scholar Kaia Victorino has been selected BLaST Scientist of the Month for May 2024. 

Kaia Victorino is a second-year BLaST scholar and a senior in UAF’s Biological Sciences program. She grew up in Fairbanks and has studied at the University of Hawai’i at Mānoa and Montana State University in addition to her home university of UAF. Victorino is a fourth-year UAF Honors student and Climate Scholar who is passionate about the interconnection of human, animal and environmental health. Her hobbies include hiking, hockey and yoga.

Victorino’s current research is centered on the efficacy of eye lenses as a tool for aging marmot specimens in the UA Museum of the North mammal collection. Her work aims to bolster the mammalogy department’s understanding of hoary marmots, which are considered climate sentinels due to their dependence on winter snowpack and open alpine environments. Victorino’s previous research measured hormone levels in the black-legged kittiwake, a long-lived seabird, to investigate carryover effects between subsequent reproductive seasons in Alexander Kitaysky’s lab.

“I am deeply interested in the physiology of reproduction, so working with hormones in the lab was truly a dream come true,” Victorino said.

Woman in lab gear cutting a fish
H. Robinson
Victorino participating in the Fish Tissue Sampling Workshop at Whalefest 2022, in Sitka.

She also participated in the office of Undergraduate Research and Scholarly Activity’s (URSA) Research Experience for Undergraduates program under UAF faculty Mario Muscarella (BLaST Faculty Pilot Project awardee 2021-2023), where she examined the effects of increased forest fire and permafrost thaw on Alaska’s microbial soil communities and their methylation of mercury.

Victorino said, “Methylated mercury is the bioavailable form of mercury that can accumulate in food webs. Climate change’s impact on the abundance of mercury-cycling bacteria is a vivid example of the interconnectedness of environmental health.”

woman holding plague with man
A. Topkok
Victorino, shown with her BLaST RAMP Nikola Nikolic, received her recognition plaque on April 25.

Victorino is deeply appreciative of the mentorship of many great researchers and teachers. She would like to thank her UAF faculty professors Link Olson and Alexander “Sasha” Kitaysky, as well as mammal collection manager Aren Gunderson, for sharing their time and knowledge with her. She is especially grateful to her early mentors, including Mario Muscarella and her high school biology teacher, Cyndie Beale, for getting her started with research and igniting her passion for the field of biology.

Victorino also thanks her current and past BLaST Research and Mentoring Professionals (RAMPS) Hannah Robinson, Sarah Barcalow and Nikola Nikolic for their encouraging support.

Robinson said, “It was a pleasure to be Kaia's RAMP. She is such a curious and adventurous student, and I cannot wait to see where life takes her.”

To read about this recognition or any previous BLaST Scientist of the Month, go to the BLaST SOM website.