Asta Habtemichael


Asta Zerue Habtemichael is an Eritrean descent born in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. He studied Applied Marine Science at the College of Marine Science and Technology, Eritrea. He received his M.A. in Marine Affairs and Masters of Environmental Science Management from the University of Rhode Island. Currently, he is a doctoral degree candidate in Chemical Oceanography at the University of Rhode Island’s Graduate School of Oceanography and a trainee in the STEEP Superfund Research Program.

Beyond his research, Asta works to ensure accessible and inclusive science that integrates local and indigenous knowledge to create mutually beneficial research along with impacted communities. He is heavily involved in science communication and science education, where he leads various professional development workshops, trainings, and discussion events centering holistic inclusion to solve environmental problems via learning communities such as URGE and VOICES. He supports the MARC U*STAR program and trainees in several ways, including co-designing core curricula in biomedical research course. He served as a scientist on interdisciplinary teams and committees setting policy to diversity and inclusion in STEM and co-created spaces and workshops that center the voices of minoritized scholars in environmental science at his institution, nationally, and internationally. He acts as coordinator and lead facilitator for the DIBP, a micro-credential certification program that strives to equip graduate students to be ambassadors of change in their discipline. He is an ambassador in the community of practice for the AGU LANDInG program.


Asta is a mixed-method researcher who combines social science and natural science research methods to study the effects of contaminants of emerging concern in the environment and public health. In the Lohmann lab, Asta focuses on sources, fates and pathways of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFASs) and Organophosphate esters (OPEs) . His current research draws upon environmental organic chemistry, trophic ecology, and public health in exploring the distribution and bioaccumulation of PFASs in the marine food webs.

Prior to moving to Rhode Island, Asta studied the impacts of heavy metal pollution and ocean acidification in fish and shellfish species in Eritrea. He also led community-based initiatives focused on education, environmental stewardship and pollution remediation in Eritrea. His prior work and academic experience informed his understanding of the connection between ecosystem health and human use; as a result, Asta is committed to address chemical and other pollution impacts through the same interconnectivity framework.

Asta is a committed educator and has taught an expansive array of scientific courses for students ranging from elementary school to graduate school. He recognizes education as a conducive platform for critical thinking to design inclusive solutions for environmental issues. He works with Dr. Bryan Dewsbury in the SEAS lab on science education and society research projects focused on creating inclusive learning and research spaces.

After completing his PhD, Asta plans to work in a national or international research program at the interface of science and policy to understand chemical impacts within ecological health framework, to best inform prevention and mitigation efforts. Asta’s planned professional trajectory revolves around refining our scientific, regulatory, and cultural understanding of chemical pollution, to design a more inclusive and integrated approach to address persistent pollutants.

In his leisure time, he enjoys reading, running and playing soccer, and cooking traditional recipes from around the world.



  • Professional Master’s (2022) Masters of Environmental Science Management, University of Rhode Island, USA
  • M.A. (2019) Masters of Arts in Marine Affairs, University of Rhode Island, USA
  • B.Sc. (2011) Applied Marine Science, College of Marine Science and Technology, Massawa-Eritrea