Alexandra is a Biology major, Angier B. Duke Memorial Scholar and Rachel Carson Scholar at Duke University, NC. A rising senior and an undergraduate researcher at the Duke Marine Robotics and Remote Sensing Laboratory, Alexandra utilizes drones to study the distribution and density of coastal sharks in the nearshore waters of North Carolina.
In July 2019, Alexandra was an invited speaker at an undergraduate drones course hosted by the Marine Robotics and Remote Sensing Laboratory. Alexandra gave presentations, worked with students to learn common softwares for analyzing drone imagery, and introduced students to her research by bringing them out into the field during transects.
DiGiacomo volunteers with the Duke Marine Lab community science program which works with local Boys and Girls club students to teach about the local marine environment and is the 2019-2020 President of Sustainable Oceans Alliance Mission.
Alexandra also studies classical voice and is a member the acapella group, Duke DejaBlue.
In late spring 2019, DiGiacomo was part of a team using drones to monitor mangrove habitats in Belize inspiring her to embark on her own drone research. The project worked to help local organization to evaluate threats facing Belize mangrove forests. The team conducted over 100 drone flights over the course of three weeks.
In summer 2019, DiGiacomo became an FAA certified Remote Pilot and purchased a Phantom 4 Pro drone using a research grant which she aptly named “Genie” after Eugenie Clark. Her second drone is named "Rose" after Rosalind Franklin. DiGiacomo pilots the drone around coastlines near the Duke Marine Lab looking to identify, measure and analyze local sharks. Daily, at Sunrise and sunset, Alexandra conducts 1km transects to identify spatial hotspots for coastal sharks and gather data on their movement patterns. Surveying across three coastal habitats: salt marsh, oyster reef and sandy beach, DiGiacomo seeks to understand if coastal sharks are demonstrating habitat preferences.
Back in the lab, Alexandra combines the survey data with environmental data like water temperature, air temperature, water depth, and bathymetry (structure/slope of the bottom surface) to understand what environmental factors encourage high shark density. DiGiacomo works across multiple video processing softwares to analyze the resulting videos, and uses computer science to synthesize the resulting data. This project is DiGiacomo's senior thesis in Biology at Duke.
DiGiacomo has studied shark behavior at Oceans Research, South Africa and Shark Behavior & Conservation at the Shark Reef Marine Reserve, Fiji. Interning as a summer high school student at the Shinnecock Bay Restoration Program, Stony Brook University Southampton School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences Lab, she was acknowledged in Fisheries Vol. 41 essay: "Defining Forage Species to Prevent a Management Dilemma."
Attending Ridgefield High School in Connecticut, a National Merit Scholar, she received the President’s Volunteer Service Award in 2013. 2014, and 2015, Water Quality Medal in the Science Olympiad, and The Gold Award: the highest award in Scouting. Alexandra was honored to receive the Shaw-Worth Memorial Scholarship from the Humane Society in 2014. Her hobbies include musical theater, captain of two a cappella groups, madrigals, dance, and mock trial.
Dive certifications including Rescue Diver, Advanced Open Water, Search & Recovery, Emergency First Responder, AWARE Shark Conservation, Underwater Navigator, Fish ID, Emergency Oxygen Provider, and Underwater Naturalist. Thrilled to be recently named a Junior Shark Ambassador at Sharks4Kids and a shark tank diver at the Norwalk Maritime Aquarium in Connecticut.