Marine/ Aquatic Biology, Biodiversity, Ecology & Oceanography Research

Research Groups

Research Experience and Education Facility (REEF) – UCSB/ Marine Science Institute: Part of the Marine Science Institute’s (MSI), REEF is a interactive aquarium facility that has Oceans-to-Classrooms (O2C) education and outreach program, The REEF is equipped with state-of-the-art touch tanks and aquaria, from 2 to 2,000 gallons. The REEF also utilizes a high-tech life support system for the Research Tank, which highlights current, on-going research at UCSB and the Marine Science Institute.

Individuals

Jim Boles
Earth Science

One of Professor Boles’ current research projects is studying the effect of rapid carbonate crystallization on isotopic signatures of carbonate. As part of this project, he is investigating the fractionation of stable isotopes between CO2 gas, aqueous CO2 species, and carbonate. This research is relevant to interpreting isotopic signatures from carbonate precipitates associated with CO2 sequestration, as well as leakage and degassing associated with hydrocarbon systems when the isotopic systems of CO2 may be out of equilibrium due to rapid crystallization.

Mark Brzezinski
Ecology Evolution & Marine Biology

Dr. Brzezinski’s research focuses on marine phytoplankton, oceanography, and climate change science. He is currently working on projects related to effects of high CO2 conditions on organic matter, the effect of wave energy on kelp forest ecosystems, and the maintenance of species diversity.

Director, Marine Science Institute
Center for Interdisciplinary Research in Fluids

Craig Carlson
Ecology Evolution & Marine Biology

Dr. Carlson’s research focuses on microbial oceanography. More specifically, his research focuses on the role marine microbes play in the cycling of elements through oceanic dissolved organic matter. The applications of this research will help to understand how microbial processes affect the production and consumption of organic matter within the oceanic carbon cycle.

Marine Science Institute
Bermuda Institute of Ocean Science

Scott Cooper
Ecology Evolution & Marine Biology

Dr. Cooper’s research has been centered on the factors that determine the abundances and distributions of aquatic organisms. Past research foci have included the impacts of acid deposition, livestock grazing, pollution, climate change, exotic species, and native species loss on freshwater ecosystems. Currently, much of his work revolves around the effects of land use changes, fire, and forestry practices on streams in California.

Marine Science Institute
Santa Barbara Channel Long-term Ecological Restoration Program

Christopher Costello
Bren

Dr. Costello’s research focuses on natural resource management and property rights under uncertainty, with a particular emphasis on information, its value, and its effect on management decisions. He studies how to design and evaluate the performance of markets for environmental goods; specifically, he concentrates on sustainable fisheries and environmental markets.

Research Associate, National Bureau of Economic Research

Tommy Dickey
Geography

Dr. Dickey studies interdisciplinary oceanographic and environmental problems. He has researched air-sea interactions, coastal processes, pollution, and ocean technology, among other things. He recently analyzed ocean eddies in southern California, as well as creating an overview of sea state conditions and air-sea fluxes associated with the Office of Naval Research’s Radiance in a Dynamic Ocean (RaDyO) field program. Through his research, Dr. Dickey has helped to launch key multi-platform observational networks to model and monitor global climate change and coastal pollution.

Tom Dudley
Marine Sciences Institute

Dr. Dudley examines the effects of non-native, invasive species in aquatic and riparian ecosystems, the mechanisms underlying invasion success and plant-herbivore interactions, and the restoration of invaded ecosystems for biodiversity enhancement and improved ecosystem function.

Steve Gaines
Bren/ Ecology Evolution & Marine Biology

Dr. Gaines’ research addresses a broad range of issues in ecology, sustainable fisheries, conservation biology, and climate change. More specifically, he focuses on how different populations respond to climate variation, as well as on the design elements that enhance both conservation and fisheries management. Gaines also studies exotic species patterns and biodiversity.

Gretchen Hofmann
Marine Sciences Institute

Dr. Gretchen Hofmann is an eco-physiologist that studies ocean acidification as a result of the absorption of carbon dioxide into the oceans. Hofmann’s work investigates whether or not organisms can adapt to ocean acidification. Her work involves studying Antarctic ecosystems which absorb more carbon dioxide due to freezing water temperatures. By studying the response of the Antarctic pteropod, Hofmann hopes to understand how future decreases in the pH of the oceans around the world will affect marine organisms.

Center for the Study of Ocean Acidification and Ocean Change

Sally Holbrook
Ecology Evolution & Marine Biology

Dr. Holbrook’s research focuses on population dynamics, marine species interactions, and impacts on coral reef ecology. She is currently doing research on temporal patterns in reef communities by analyzing long-term trends in population abundance and species richness. This research is especially vital when looking at the adverse effects of climate change on marine ecosystems.

Marine Science Institute
Co-Principal Investigator, Santa Barbara Coastal and Moorea Coral Reef LTER

Hunter Lenihan
Bren

Dr. Lenihan’s primary research interests lie in the fields of applied population and community ecology, especially in connection with fisheries management and restoration, as well as resource management. He is currently working on a project that aims to develop new techniques for coral restoration in French Polynesia. He is also examining impacts of marine reserves on populations of target species, fishery yields, and fishing communities.

Ecological Society of America
International Coral Reef Society
Western Society of Naturalists

Milton Love
Marine Sciences Institute

Dr. Love’s research interests include restoration ecology of coastal marine environments, as well as evaluating the interface between environmental biology and resource management policy. Much of his recent research has focused on the impact of offshore oil and gas platforms on local ocean ecosystems.

Bruce Luyendyk
Earth Research Institute

Dr. Luyendyk has studied the marine seep systems offshore of the UCSB campus. Other research interests include Antarctic climate evolution in which he participated in projects that aim to capture a record of some of the earth’s global climate transitions.

Sally MacIntyre
Ecology Evolution & Marine Biology

Dr. MacIntyre’s research focuses primarily on the physical processes in lakes and coastal zones and their biogeochemical and ecological consequences. She is developing new models of the gas transfer coefficient as needed for accurate estimates of regional and global carbon fluxes. Her studies are ongoing in Arctic and Subarctic lakes; Mono Lake, CA; tropical lakes in East Africa and the Amazon Basin; and the waters of coastal California.

Earth Research Institute
Marine Science Institute

John Melack
Ecology Evolution & Marine Biology

Dr. Melack researches ecological processes in lakes, wetlands, and streams, as well as the hydrological and biogeochemical aspects of catchments. His research combines state-of-the-art measurements, modeling, experiments, and remote sensing, and it examines ecological processes from the population to ecosystem levels. He has applied results of his research to assess impacts of atmospheric deposition on aquatic ecosystems, to evaluate ecological restoration efforts in California’s Bay-Delta and in Mono Lake, and to determine greenhouse gas emissions from tropical reservoirs.

Marine Science Institute
Bren

Daniel Morse
Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology

Professor Morse does research involving nanofabrication of semiconductors to improve solar energy, lightweight batteries, infrared detectors, and information storage. The method used to accomplish this is bio-inspired, based on advantageous mechanisms he and his team discover in biological systems and translate into practical new materials and engineering.

Institute for Collaborative Biotechnologies
Center for Nanomedicine
California NanoSystems Institute

Roger Nisbet
Ecology Evolution & Marine Biology

Dr. Nisbet’s research covers many areas of theoretical ecology. Much of his work is based on Dynamic Energy Budget (DEB) theory to describe the rates at which individual organisms assimilate and utilize energy. His research group develops new fundamental theory and applies it to environmental problems. Applications include ecotoxicology, coral biology, zooplankton ecology, and fish bioenergetics.

Marine Science Institute
University of California Center for Environmental Implications of Nanotechnology

Ronald Rice
Communications/ Statistics

Professor Rice studies, among other topics, public communication campaigns, with some emphasis on environmental communication. In his most recent edition of “Public Communication Campaigns,” he co-authored a chapter that applies principles of social marketing to communicating about ocean sustainability. That chapter focused on developing a strategic approach to designing and implementing messages about ocean sustainability issues, such as ocean pollution, warming, acidification, overfishing, and low oxygen levels. He has also published research on college campus water bottle usage, ocean sustainability literacy, and news images about climate change.

Russell Schmitt
Ecology Evolution & Marine Biology

Dr. Schmitt’s research interests include population and community ecology, applied ecology, consumer-resource interactions, marine invertebrates, and reef fishes. His current research in particular attempts to understand the processes that influence population size and species diversity. In addition, Schmitt looks at the application of ecological principles to the resolution of coastal marine environmental problems.

David Siegel
Geography

Dr. Siegel studies interdisciplinary marine science which couples physical, biological, optical, and biogeochemical processes. He has recently worked on collecting large scale ocean data by using ocean color variability from satellites. Differences in color can indicate distinguishing characteristics such as temperature and the overall biochemistry of the water. This data allows scientists to observe long-term trends and better understand the role oceans play in climate change as well as ascertain what marine ecosystems might look like in the future.

Caresey-Wolf Center
Marine Science Institute

Ray Smith
Earth Research Institute

Professor Smith’s research includes remote sensing of oceans, physical and biological oceanography, primary production and bio-optical modeling in aquatic environments with emphasis on Antarctic ecosystems, marine resources, and Earth system sciences. He continues to work with UCSB’s Institute for Computational Earth System Sciences.

Susan Stonich
Anthropology

Dr. Stonich currently co-directs a research project in the Mesoamerican Reef System funded by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Climate Program and is working with the National Shellfisheries Association, the World Wildlife Fund Mollusc Dialogue, and the NOAA Aquaculture and Habitat Conservation Program on a project to help determine standards on North American shellfish farming that are socially, economically, and environmentally sustainable. Her other research interests focus on the conflicts between economic development and environmental conservation efforts in coastal zones, environmental justice, and vulnerability and resilience to climate-related hazards and disasters.

Robert Warner
Ecology Evolution & Marine Biology

Dr. Warner’s research includes behavioral and evolutionary ecology, as well as population biology. Most of his work focuses on coral reef fishes and the historical ecology of coastal marine populations. His current research is on conservation biology and the science of marine reserves.

Marine Science Institute

Libe Washburn
Geography

Dr. Washburn’s research focuses on oceanographic studies to understand how ocean circulation processes affect marine communities in ocean environments. He is currently researching surface circulation patterns in the Santa Barbara Channel and investigating the importance of these flows for delivering larvae to nearshore habitats.

Syee Weldeab
Earth Science

Professor Weldeab’s research focuses on the reconstruction and understanding of past monsoon rainfall variability; thermal, salinity, and productivity history of the oceans; and linkages between tropical oceans and high latitude climate and their interaction with and effect on the monsoon systems. One of Professor Weldeab’s recent projects involved assessing seawater Nd isotope signatures. His research uses marine sediment cores and the application of stable and radiogenic isotopes and trace element to study climate evolution in the past.

Dave Valentine
Earth Science

Professor Valentine’s current research projects include the study of the microbial weathering of aromatic compounds released into marine environments. His research aims to achieve a better understanding of the distribution of relevant microbial communities, rates of oxidation, and the extent to which various hydrocarbons are broken down or consumed.

Seth Peterson
Associate Specialist in Geography

Dr. Seth Peterson is currently doing research on the effect of and response to the deepwater horizon oil spill in the marshes of Louisiana.

Sarah Lester
Bren

Sarah Lester has been the Research and Program Manager of the Sustainable Fisheries Group at UCSB for the last three years. She also helps SFG with science communications and works with on-the-ground partners to connect science and research with the implementation of conservation and sustainable fisheries projects. Her recent research has focused on the ecological effects of marine protected areas, applying tradeoff analysis to marine resource management and spatial planning, sustainable fisheries management, and ecosystem-based management. She has also worked recently as scientific staff for the Ocean Health Index project, which aims to establish a new world standard for measuring ocean health and to improve ocean governance and health.

Marine Science Institute

Jennifer Thorsch
Cheadle Center for Biodiversity & Ecological Restoration (CCBER)

As Director of the Cheadle Center for Biodiversity and Ecological Restoration, Jennifer Thorsch focuses on our three main programmatic areas—collections management, education, and restoration. Through the work at the CCBER, we support campus sustainability efforts by managing over 260 acres of campus lands which are planted with native species and therefore require little or no watering.

Earth Research Institute

Kevin Lafferty
Evolution, Ecology, and Marine Biology

Dr. Lafferty’s research mainly focuses on the ecology of parasites; however, his work also deals with conservation biology issues. Such research includes ways to further the protection and recovery of the endangered tidewater goby, black abalone, southern sea otter, and western snowy plover. In addition, Dr. Lafferty studies the effect of fishing on marine ecosystems (local estuaries, beaches, and kelp forests).

Marine Science Institute

Peter Collins
Evolution, Ecology, and Marine Biology

Professor Collins’ research emphasis is the study of mechanisms regulating the reproduction and development in vertebrate animal models, comparative reproductive endocrinology and fertility, reproductive physiology in teleosts, endocrine regulation of viviparity, evaluation of candidate species for mariculture, marine teleost larval rearing technology, and the development of novel microparticulate diets for marine larvae.

Armand Kuris
Evolution, Ecology, and Marine Biology

Dr. Kuris’ research goal is to reveal the role of infectious diseases in ecosystems. It examines how disease contributes substantially to the energetics of the ecosystem and substantially alters trophic relationships and the structure of food webs. His research looks at the biological control of exotic marine pests and biological control of human tropical diseases. This information about parasites is useful for assessing ecosystem function in wetlands.

Marine Science Institute
Biology at the College of Creative Studies

Carolynn Culver
Marine Science Institute

Dr. Culver’s research interests include understanding the life history characteristics and population dynamics of aquatic organisms and applying this information to improve management of non-native invasive species and fisheries resources and to enhance culture technologies of marine species. She also is evaluating ways to assist the state with management of fisheries resources, through collaborative fisheries research to collect field data and promote its integration into the management process.

Jennifer Dugan
Marine Science Institutes

Jenifer Dugan’s research as a coastal marine ecologist involves studying basic questions concerning the influence of environmental and anthropogenic drivers on community and population dynamics of marine animals across a diversity of shorelines, latitudes, and time scales. She investigates ecological connectivity, marine conservation and restoration, responses to and recovery from disturbance, species interactions, historical ecology, and the physical and biological drivers of community structure and function in coastal ecosystems. Her collaborations with coastal managers to conduct more applied studies have increased our understanding of the ecological impacts and implications of widespread human alterations of the coast, including urban development, shoreline armoring, beach grooming, oil spills, and climate change, and have provided new insights into intertidal recovery dynamics, restoration approaches, and adaptation strategies.

John Engle
Marine Science Institute

John Engle is a research biologist that works with the Multi-Agency Rocky Interdidal Network (MARINe). As a MARINe Coordinator, John helps to conduct long-term marine life monitoring at over 200 West Coast rocky intertidal sites to evaluate environmental health and establish dynamic baselines with relation to climate change, disease, human impacts, and Marine Protected Areas, while also facilitating communications, websites, and data exchange; overseeing sites and protocols; and coordinating the management of databases.

David Herbst
Marine Science Institute

David Herbst’s research involves studies of salt lake ecosystems and the ecology and physiology of aquatic invertebrates and algae. In addition, his research extends to spring ecosystems and streams. David Herbst’s past projects include studies of sediment deposition and its effects on benthic invertebrates, establishing a monitoring network to detect the effects of climate change on mountain stream hydrobiology, and investigations of the impacts of a variety of disturbance stressors on stream community ecology, including livestock grazing and management, forest use practices, acid mine drainage, introduced invasive species (Trout, New Zealand Mud Snails), roads and erosion, and restoration of degraded habitats. The focus of many of these studies has been to provide a scientific foundation to inform management decisions by state and federal environmental and regulatory agencies.

Jeff Goddard
Marine Science Institute

Jeff Goddard’s research is centered on the natural history and systematics of intertidal invertebrates. He has recently been using historical data sets of abundance, combined with new sampling, to examine long-term changes in the fauna of the northeast Pacific Ocean, including those related to climate change and the explosive human population growth of southern California in the last half of the 20th century.

Carrie Kappel
Marine Science Institute

Carrie Kappel is a conservation biologist and community ecologist. Major themes of her work include quantifying the ways humans depend upon and impact marine species, habitats, and ecosystems; understanding the spatial distribution of ecological and human components of ecosystems in order to inform conservation and management; and developing ways to integrate biophysical and socioeconomic data to support environmental decision making in coastal ecosystems. Her research has been aimed at informing marine protected area design, ecosystem based management, and marine spatial planning.

Will McClintock
Marine Science Institute

Dr. McClintock has developed the “next-generation” MarineMap, called SeaSketch (www.seasketch.org). Designed in a way that anyone – regardless of their technical or scientific background – can participate in marine spatial planning, SeaSketch brings the power of collaborative, spatial decision support systems to everyone with a web browser and internet connection. The McClintock lab was also involved from 2004-2011 in the development of MarineMap, a web-based application used by stakeholders in California’s Marine Life Protection Act (LMPA) Initiative for marine protected area planning.

Center for Marine Assessment and Planning

Robert Miller
Marine Science Institute

Robert Miller’s research involves benthic subtidal ecology, particularly community ecology and the role of primary producers in marine ecosystems. He is also currently involved in in the UC Center for Environmental Implications of Nanomaterials (CEIN). He is measuring impacts of nanomaterials as emerging contaminants to marine ecosystems, using phytoplankton and suspension feeders as model organisms.

Monique Myers
Marine Science Institute

Dr. Myers research interests include impacts to, benefits from, and conservation of coastal ecosystems. She has explored anthropogenic contaminants in coastal wetlands, remote sensing and community monitoring of coral reefs and impacts of marine protected areas. She is currently investigating wetland carbon sequestration in southern California. (Info: Educating students about the efforts to restore Ormond Beach and the importance of clean sites like this; heard about this from a RESTOR Project Evaluation Research assistant.) During the past four years, Myers has been working on sustainable coastal community topics, K-12 student/teacher watershed education and climate change outreach. She performs applied research on coastal wetlands and coral reefs. To accomplish a diverse array of projects, Myers collaborates with a variety of government, nonprofit groups, university professors, and other stakeholders. She also participates on advisory boards and committees and produces publications for her peers and the public. To address the challenges climate change poses to coastal communities and ecosystems, Myers is working on several projects that involve university researchers and coastal decision makers. Her work is aimed at providing tools and information to reduce impacts to our coasts and help plan for adaptation to inevitable changes. Two of her recent projects are the Santa Barbara Area Coastal Ecosystem Vulnerability Assessment (SBA CEVA) and the Explore Beach Ecosystems website.

Andrew Rassweiler
Marine Science Institute

Dr. Andrew Rassweiler is a marine ecologist who combines field experiments, data analysis, and mathematical modeling to address both basic and applied questions, mainly regarding temperate reef ecosystems. His work has been applied toward answering fishery management and marine conservation questions, using spatially explicit models to explore optimal fisheries management strategies and tradeoffs between achieving fishery and conservation goals. His models have been used in practical contexts as well, most notably in guiding the placement of marine protected areas as part of California’s Marine Life Protection Act process. Although his expertise is in community ecology, he works closely with oceanographers, geographers, and economists to better understand the many abiotic factors influencing ecological dynamics.

Dan Reed
Marine Science Institute

Dan Reed is currently working on a mitigation project with The San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station (SONGS) Mitigation Monitoring Program designed to compensate for the adverse effects of a nuclear generation station on coastal resources.

Kim Selkoe
Marine Science Institute

Kim Selkoe’s primary research interests are split between three diverse topics: advancing scientific tools for ecosystem based management and marine spatial planning, multi-species approaches to understanding marine population connectivity with ‘seascape’ genetic techniques, and both studying and improving consumer access to local and sustainable seafood. She is currently a P.I. on three projects: Ecosystem Thresholds and Indicators for Marine Spatial Planning (Moore Foundation, 2012-16), Multispecies Connectivity of Hawaii Coral Reefs (National Marine Sanctuaries, 2012-13), and Direct Marketing Approaches for West Coast Fishing Communities (Sea Grant, 2012-14). Selkoe has also conducted underwater fieldwork in nearshore reef environments of Morocco, Sardinia, and the Solomon Islands as part of a continuing research project to understand how community structure changes along gradients of human impact. In addition, she is a founder and advisor of two local outreach programs, the Santa Barbara Sustainable Seafood Program and a community supported fishery program serving Santa Barbara County called Community Seafood.

Stephanie Hampton
Marine Science Institute

Stephanie Hampton’s research interests range from basic research in aquatic science using statistical analysis of large databases to broader applications of empirical evidence in environmental issues and policy. Currently, her research is largely focused on understanding the effects of climate dynamics on the planktonic base of the food web in Lake Baikal, Siberia.

National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis

Barbara Walker
Marine Science Institute

Barbara Endemaño Walker’s research focuses on political ecology and human-environment relationships related to marine and coastal resources in California, French Polynesia, and Ghana. In Ghana, her research explores the historical social and environmental antecedents of contemporary patterns of marine environmental conservation and use. In French Polynesia, her research addresses disparities among stakeholder perceptions of environmental and climate change and the challenges associated with translating multiple and often opposing perceptions into effective marine management and climate change adaptation policies. In California, Walker studies new alternative seafood marketing arrangements to understand why and how direct marketing programs are adopted by fishermen and whether these marketing arrangements might increase the sustainability of fisheries and coastal communities.

Director, Research Development, Office of Research

Robert Jacobs
Evolution, Ecology, and Marine Biology

Dr. Jacobs’ research is oriented toward the study of cellular and molecular mechanisms of drug action. More specifically, one of his projects examines the harvest of marine organisms that are useful for medical and industrial purposes. This project looks at several oil and gas platforms in the Santa Barbara Channel to assess the issue of over-harvesting natural products. The research may reduce or eliminate the ecological impacts of harvesting marine organisms.

Marine Biotechnology Center (Marine Science Institute)

Carol Blanchette
Marine Science Institute

Dr. Blanchette’s research focuses mainly on marine ecology. Her main areas of study include an examination of how certain species adapt to ocean acidification as CO2 emissions increase, the ecological responses to climate change, and sustainable fisheries management.

Jennifer Caselle
Marine Science Institute

Dr. Caselle’s research is broadly focused on marine conservation and reef ecology. She currently works in both coral reef and kelp forest ecosystems, studying community dynamics, recruitment and larval dispersal, and movement patterns of fishes. She also manages a large-scale field-based monitoring program of kelp forests in the California ecosystem with the goal of assessing long-term changes due to climate and anthropogenic impacts.

Uta Passow
Ocean Acidification

Dr. Passow’s research seeks to answer the question of “How does the response of organisms and ecosystems change the functioning of the biological pump in a changing world?” Her research tries to achieve a mechanistic understanding of organisms and processes which determine sedimentation rates in marine systems, now and in the future. Currently, Passow specifically investigates how the input of fossil carbon impacts the growth of autotrophic and heterotrophic microbes, aggregation rates, and the production and microbial degradation of organic carbon. Her research also explores the effects of ocean acidification on microbial degradation and on aggregation and the drivers of the large fluctuations in normal pH off coastal California.

Marine Science Institute