Fish Team


Stuart Sandin (Scripps Institution of Oceanography)

Stuart Sandin, Ph.D., is interested in community ecology, specifically the predictable and deterministic dynamics of interacting populations. His theoretical and empirical work has been focused on coral reef communities, covering a broad spectrum of anthropogenically disturbed and undisturbed conditions.


Brian Zgliczynski (Scripps Institution of Oceanography)

Brian is a 3rd year Ph.D. student at Scripps working in Dr. Stuart Sandin’s Lab. Originally from San Diego, Brian moved to Hilo, Hawaii, to complete an undergraduate degree in Marine Science at the University of Hawaii. Shortly after graduation he began working for the NOAA Coral Reef Ecosystems Division in Honolulu where he spent 10 years as a NOAA Research Biologist conducting surveys throughout the Pacific. To date Brian has visited over 85 islands, spent 650 days at sea, and logged more than 730 hours underwater conducting scientific research. In 2005, he completed a Master of Advanced Studies (MAS) through the Center of Marine Biodiversity and Conservation at SIO. Brian’s MAS work focused on studying the marine biodiversity of Cocos Island, Costa Rica, using SCUBA and the research submersible DeepSee.

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Scott Hamilton (University of California, Santa Barbara)

Scott Hamilton is a Research Scientist with the Marine Science Institute at UC Santa Barbara where he is specializing on studying the ecology of temperate and tropical fishes. Since 2006 he has been visiting Palmyra and conducting research with colleagues from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography. Their research team, the Reefers, have previously studied how apex predators affect populations of prey fishes and how herbivorous fishes can control the growth of seaweeds, thereby modifying competition between the seaweeds and corals. After returning from the 2010 Northern Line Islands Expedition, Scott will be starting a new position as the Ichthyology Professor at Moss Landing Marine Laboratories.

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Alan Friedlander (University of Hawaii)

Alan Friedlander is currently the assistant leader of the Hawaii Cooperative Fishery Research Unit and adjunct associate professor at the University of Hawaii. He holds a Ph.D. from the University of Hawaii (1996) and was a National Research Council Postdoctoral Associate with the Pacific Fisheries Environmental Laboratory in Pacific Grove, California. Alan was a fisheries extension officer in the Kingdom of Tonga in the early 1980s and for nearly 30 years he has conducted coral reef fisheries research and marine ecosystem-based science throughout the Indo-Pacific and Caribbean regions. His work incorporates ecology, remote sensing, and GIS technologies, along with traditional resource knowledge in order to better understand coral reef ecosystem function and how best to conserve and manage these resources for future generations.

Benthic Team: Present-Day Benthics


Jennifer Smith (Scripps Institution of Oceanography)

Jen is a coral reef ecologist with primary expertise in benthic communities (marine plants, corals, and other invertebrates). Her research is focused on determining how various physical and biological processes affect the structure and function of marine communities. She has also been interested in discovering how human impacts affect marine communities. Currently Jen and her students are working on understanding how local stressors such as pollution, overfishing, or the introduction of invasive species affect coral reefs. Her lab is also seeking to determine how global stressors associated with climate change, such as warming and ocean acidification, will alter reef species diversity. Much of the research in the Smith lab is focused on marine conservation and the restoration of degraded habitats, and therefore it often involves multidisciplinary activities. Jen and her students are actively engaged in developing effective management strategies for coral reef communities around the world.

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Nichole Price (Scripps Institution of Oceanography)

Nichole recently received her PhD from the University of California Santa Barbara where her research focused on the interactions between coral larvae and various types of crustose coralline algae. Her current research at SIO focuses on examining the effects of ocean acidification on a number of coral reef organisms to determine how reduced oceanic pH may affect the growth, calcification rate, and abundance of key reef taxa including reef building corals, coralline algae, and a number of invertebrates. Nichole also studies how ocean acidifcation may interact with other stressors such as pollution and overfishing to affect coral reef community structure. Her current research takes place at uninhabited islands in the remote central Pacific─the ideal location to study climate change on coral reefs without any confounding disturbances.


Gareth Williams (Scripps Institution of Oceanography)

Gareth is a Post Doctoral Scholar in the Sandin Lab. His PhD work focused on coral disease ecology at Palmyra Atoll in the Northern Line Islands. More broadly, he has been involved in modeling the distribution of coral diseases throughout the Indo-Pacific and how this relates to climatic stressors and human population size. Originally from the UK, Gareth spent his BSc years working on starfish behaviour in the Irish Sea and his MSc years on temperate reef fish ecology in northeastern New Zealand. He is an avid diver and has visited numerous reefs throughout the Indo-Pacific Ocean over the last 10 years.

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Jill Harris (Scripps Institution of Oceanography)

Jill is a PhD student in the Smith Lab. Her research is focused on how global climate change and local human activities affect coral reefs. Currently, she is studying the benthic reef communities of the new Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument. Jill is particularly interested in how reefs, both remote and close to where people live, recover from disturbances. She holds a Master’s degree from the University of Washington, where she studied networks of community managed marine reserves in the Philippines. When she’s not diving, Jill is involved in science education and taught science and math for two years at a boarding school on the small island of Eleuthera, Bahamas.

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Levi Lewis (Scripps Institution of Oceanography)

Levi grew up in San Diego playing in, on, and around the ocean. His delight in fishing and reverence for conservation led him to attain a B.S. in Wildlife, Fisheries and Conservation Biology at UC Davis. As a student, Levi worked for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in Sacramento, evaluating salmon spawning habitats in rivers and drafting flow recommendations for hydropower projects. Following graduation, he accepted a research position at the UC Davis Bodega Marine Lab where he studied the condition of goby populations in salt marshes bordering the San Francisco and Tomales Bays. Following this experience, Levi moved back to San Diego to attain a M.S. in Biology at San Diego State University under the guidance of Dr. Todd Anderson. His master’s thesis focused on the community-wide effects of small predators in seagrass ecosystems. Currently, he is pursuing a PhD in Biological Oceanography at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography under the guidance of Dr. Jennifer Smith. Levi’s dissertation research will likely examine the importance of small predators in reef and seagrass ecosystems.

Benthic Team: Paleo-Benthics

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Jessica Carilli (Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation)

Jessica Carilli likes to think of herself as an environmental forensic detective. Using clues from the recent geologic record, she investigates how human impacts have affected coral reef ecosystems. Her favorite tools include cores from massive coral heads, whose annual growth rings (just like tree rings) can provide insight into how coral health has changed over the past century or more. She also sacrifices the correct curvature of her spine while spending hours hunched over a microscope picking tiny shells left by foraminifera (basically amoebas that have attractive shells) out of piles of sand using a needle with a bit of wax on the end. The foraminifera community changes with water quality, and the records from dead foraminifera shells allows past water quality conditions to be reconstructed prior to the time that people first started taking measurements in a particular location. Jessica received her PhD from Scripps Institution of Oceanography in 2009 and is currently a postdoc in the Institute for Environmental Research at the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organization. Jessica is married, and with cat, but neither of these family members live with her full-time. One is busy in pursuit of a career in Coastal Processes research and the other is playing hard-to-get with her parents.

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John Pandolfi (University of Queensland)

John Pandolfi is Professor at the School of Biological Sciences, and Centre for Marine Science, University of Queensland and a chief investigator of the Australian Research Council’s Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies. John’s main interest is in understanding how the past history of coral reefs can help in coral reef management under increased anthropogenic threats, such as overfishing and climate change. John regularly provides advice to the Australian government on natural resource management issues, and will contribute to an upcoming IPCC workshop on ocean acidification.  He was recently appointed President of the Australian Coral Reef Society.

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Peter Illidge (University of Queensland)

Pete lives on Magnetic Island in Queensland, Australia. He’s a class 5 master of vessels, runs a research support company (Oceania Maritime Consultants), and is also a commercial diver. As a maritime archeologist, he has worked for the Museum of Tropical Queensland, among other things spending five seasons excavating the Pandora (of Mutiny on the Bounty fame). Married with 3 kids, he likes to spend his free time with the ocean, as well—snorkeling and boating with his family.


Marie Kospartov (University of Queensland)

Marie Kospartov divides her time between the tropical and polar regions of the world’s oceans. As a marine ecologist, she specialises in reef coral biodiversity and biogeography, and has conducted fieldwork throughout the Indo-Pacific on modern (living) and fossil coral reefs, investigating the impacts of fishing, coral harvesting, coral bleaching, and the establishment of marine reserves on the diversity and abundance of corals and other reef invertebrates. She then swaps her wetsuit for a down jacket whilst working on an expedition cruise ship in Antarctica, the sub-Antarctic islands of New Zealand and Australia, and the Russian Far East, introducing travelers to the dramatic landscapes and amazing wildlife of these isolated regions. On this Line Islands expedition, Marie happily dons her wetsuit as part of the palaeoecology team, collecting coral rubble and coral cores from the reef to examine the history of coral community structure in these islands along a gradient of human impact.

Microbe Team

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Forest Rohwer (San Diego State University)

Being a marine microbial ecologist, Dr. Forest Rohwer sees a coral reef as a finely-tuned community in which the microbes and viruses are major players. Recognizing their importance, he pioneered the use of metagenomics as a means to characterize these previously inscrutable organisms and to investigate their role in coral reef health and disease. For his scientific contributions, he has received numerous awards including the prestigious Young Investigators Award of the International Society of Microbia lEcology.

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Katie Barott (San Diego State University)

Katie Barott is a Ph.D. student in Forest Rohwer’s lab at SDSU where she pursues her interests in coral microbiology and coral-algal competition, work that combines well with her interests in SCUBA diving and swimming. Her previous experience includes research on a variety of soil and aquatic ecosystems, notably this past summer studying coral-algal boundary dynamics at CARMABI (the Caribbean Marine Biological Institute).

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Tracey McDole (San Diego State University)

Tracey McDole is a Ph.D. student in Forest Rohwer’s lab at SDSU investigating bioenergetics in coral reef systems. How do the energetic needs (think in terms of watts) of different groups of organisms vary across healthy and degrading reef systems in the Pacific? And in any segement of the water column, who is doing more work—the fish or the microbes? She has lots of diving experience, having been working with NOAA-CRED since 2008) and having spent many a summer at one marine field station or another. She has lots of diving experience, having been working with NOAA-CRED since 2008) and having spent many a summer at one marine field station or another. She sees the natural world and every lifeform in it as magical.

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Mark Vermeij (Caribbean Research & Management of Biodiversity / Univ of Amsterdam)

Coral reef ecologist Mark Vermeij holds joint appointments as the Scientific Director of CARMABI (the Caribbean Marine Biological Institute) and professor at the Institute for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Dynamics, University of Amsterdam.


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Christian McDonald, DSO (Scripps Institution of Oceanography)

As the Scientific Diving Safety Officer at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, Christian McDonald manages the oldest and one of the largest and most active scientific diving programs in the United States. His interest in marine science began as an undergraduate at the University of California, Santa Cruz (UCSC)  while studying kelp forest ecological dynamics in Central California and later on the remote island of Shemya in the outer Aleutian chain (Alaska). Upon graduation from UCSC with a Bachelor of Science in Marine Biology, Christian spent 5 years exploring and working in diverse locations around Antarctica as a scientific diver, natural history cinematographer, commercial diver, and senior marine technician aboard National Science Foundation (NSF) supported polar classed research vessels. In addition to the scientific diving training, support, and oversight provided to the Scripps research community, he serves on the NSF’s Polar Programs Diving Control Board and is the President of the American Academy of Underwater Sciences.

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Craig Cook, MD (Undersea Medical Consultants)

Dr. Cook is a Divers Alert Network  (DAN) Instructor with multiple certifications in diving accident management. In addition, he has been a DAN referral physician for the past 15 years. He is also certified as a NOAA diving medical officer. Dr. Cook is a contributing author of the medical textbook Expedition Medicine and the NOAA Diving Manual. He has been a consultant to NOAA and other institutions as a diving medical officer on various expedition projects. An avid photographer, his photos have been published internationally. He is a scuba instructor and has been actively diving for 40 years. He is currently the Medical Editor for Sport Diver Magazine.

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