Elsie Carrillo

Scientist, Educator, and Artist


My name is Elsie Carrillo and I am a 5th-year Ecology and Evolutionary PhD candidate and Delta Science Fellow in the lab of Dr. Rita Mehta at the University of California, Santa Cruz.

Educational and Research Background

I earned my BA in both Marine Science and Integrative Biology from UC Berkeley in 2013. During this time, I completed several independent research projects including work on leech development in the lab of Dr. David Weisblat, and mantis shrimp burrowing behavior in Dr. Roy Caldwell’s lab.  I also completed an NSF REU at the California Academy of Sciences where I studied barnacle and coral symbiosis under Drs. Robert Van Syoc and Gary Williams.

After graduating, I began teaching middle school science which led me to earn my MA in Education and Secondary Science Teaching Credential at Stanford University in 2016.  During my summer breaks, I participated in the Ignited program at Stanford where I studied Cope’s rule in bivalves under Dr. Jonathan Payne and then factors that predict snake reproductive mode under Dr. William Gearty.

Current Role

I am currently a 5th year PhD candidate and graduate student instructor studying the physiology, ontogeny, and behavior of semi-aquatic snakes. I am interested in topics from aquatic foraging to the influence of climate change on aquatic performance. I am also a flutist in the university jazz ensemble.


As a first-generation Latina with a passion for the natural world and science education, I aspire to be a role-model for POC in STEM by becoming a Physiology professor at a research university so that I can mentor students with recruitment and retention efforts in the sciences. I intend to do this by creating course-based and authentic research experiences for undergraduates.

Come visit the Mehta Lab for a special meet-and-greet with Pineapple the gopher snake!

If you have any questions or comments or would like to collaborate on a research project, please feel free to contact me at elpcarri (at) ucsc.edu.