Current Lab Members

Dr. Kuʻulei Rodgers, Principal Investigator

IMG_8292.JPGKu’ulei has been working at HIMB since 1992 under the direction of Drs. Paul Jokiel and Fenny Cox, later as an HIMB faculty member since 2005, and Principal Investigator of the Coral Reef Ecology Lab since May 2016. She has published over 33 peer reviewed journal articles and 40 published agency reports. Since joining the faculty in 2005, Ku‘ulei has provided graduate advising, mentoring, and training for 12 graduate students and 33 undergraduates, interns, and technicians. She has been heavily involved as PI, co-PI, or research assistant on 25 funded projects since her appointment conducting research at sites on every Hawaiian island. She has secured funding through grants of over $3.3 million assisting in student support. Many of her research projects are of an interdisciplinary nature involving close collaborations with other UH researchers and has formed close, cooperative relationships with managers and scientists from federal and state agencies, non-governmental organizations, and private industry. Ku‘ulei is one of the co-founders of the ongoing Coral Reef Assessment and Monitoring Program established in 1999 along with Paul Jokiel, Eric Brown, Alan Friedlander, and Will Smith. She received the UH Team of the Year Award in 2009 for the lead in a team effort to mitigate through relocation coral removed from a navigation channel.

Dr. Keisha Bahr, Postdoctoral Researcher

FullSizeRender 4.jpgKeisha completed her PhD in Zoology in 2016 at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa under the advisement of Dr. Paul Jokiel. During her graduate career, Keisha was awarded the University of Hawaiʻi 2016 Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research: Student Excellence in Research Award for her accomplishments as a graduate student.

Keisha along with Principal Investigators at the Coral Reef Ecology Lab worked to receive a fully-funded National Science Foundation grant that focused on testing the Proton Flux Hypothesis as well as describing the effects of ocean acidification and global warming on coral reef ecosystems. Currently, Keisha holds a postdoctoral researcher position at the Hawaiʻi Institute of Marine Biology under the direction of Dr. Robert Toonen and is based at the Coral Reef Ecology Lab. She plans to continue Paul’s work on coral physiology and coral community level processes in which she will further investigate and test Dr. Jokiel’s Proton Flux Hypothesis.

To learn more about Keisha’s research, please visit her site:

Current Graduate Students

Yuko Stender, M.Sc.

Yuko.pngYuko is a Ph.D. candidate in the department of Geography and HIMB. Her current research interest is in spatio-temporal dynamics of coral recruitment and reef communities in human-impacted landscapes, including reef recovery processes from terrestrial runoff and sedimentation. She has been investigating responses of coral settlement and reef communities to water quality and sedimentation in Pelekane Bay, West Hawai‘i. Yuko worked as a graduate research assistant at the Coral Reef Ecology Lab completing her master’s thesis under the direction of Paul Jokiel focusing on changes to inshore marine resources following a shoreline-access closure at Maui’s ‘Āhihi Kīna‘u Natural Area Reserve System, as well as the effects of landscape factors on patterns of coral and coralline algae using the geostatistical approach. She is currently the project lead on a study investigating community recovery from sedimentation at Pila‘a on Kaua‘i.

Angela Richards Donà, M.Sc.

angela_dona_2014.jpgAngela earned her MS in Marine and Atmospheric Science at the School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences (SoMAS) at Stony Brook University. She is now pursuing a PhD in the Marine Biology Department at UH Manoa. Angela’s work on the photobiology of the blue Hawaiian Montipora spp. corals with specific focus on determining the functional roles of the chromoproteins that make corals blue, and on understanding whether possession of these pigments favor or hinder blue coral survival under warming seawater scenarios. She aims to use her scientific findings to help the conservation and management of the reefs that have so inspired her and she hopes that through these discoveries, future generations will continue to experience the beauty of these reefs. Visit her website for more information on her background. Her CV can be downloaded here.

Rebecca Weible

ZR0G5640.JPGRebecca has always wanted to be a marine biologist, ever since she could remember. It started with the typical love of dolphins, but soon grew into a fascination for coral reefs and the need to learn how such an intricate and sensitive ecosystem could function as a whole. She went to Castle High School, where she developed a Seagrass trampling project with Mr. Mark Heckman and Dr. Kimberly Peyton. She then went onto the University of Hawaii at Manoa to study marine biology and get involved in many diving activities, such as the Quantitative Underwater Ecological Surveying Techniques (QUEST) course that the Marine Option Program offers. She had the privilege of going on NOAA Research Cruises with the Maritime Archaeology and Fish Teams to the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands and the Main Hawaiian Islands. She is now a Masters student under the direction of Dr. Cindy Hunter.

As part of the Ha’ena CBSFA joint project with DAR, Rebecca will be looking specifically into the resource fish inside and outside the CBSFA for her thesis. She will be looking at the spawning and maximum sizes of these fish and comparing it to data from the past to see whether or not the resource fish of Ha’ena are reaching their reproductive potential. This information will allow the local people who regularly fish these waters to make necessary management decisions in preserving their resource fish.

Ashley McGowan


Ashley grew up in Colorado but always knew she wanted to study the ocean to bring awareness to the many anthropogenic impacts hidden below the surface. In December 2016, she graduated with a B.S. in Marine Biology from the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa. Since then, she’s been working on several different projects at the Coral Reef Ecology Lab and interning in the Gates Lab. She is now a Masters student.


Lab Staff

Anita Tsang, Lab Manager


Being an art major for almost 8 years, it was not until Anita took an environmental science course at Mt. San Antonio College in Southern California that she realized she wanted to help preserve natural ecosystems and make a difference to do something about the lack of knowledge that many people have about the dangers of climate change and overconsumption of resources. She then decided to move to Hawai’i in 2014 and changed her major to Marine Biology, as being in the ocean is when she is most happy. Anita is currently an undergraduate student at the University of Hawai’i at Manoa. She has been a teaching intern for a Biology 172 lab at the university and in summer 2016, she completed her directed research under Dr. Cynthia Hunter and Dr. Ku’ulei Rodgers on coral reef expansion and growth through a process called “calving.” She also conducted sediment analyses and measured reef slope angles on different patch reefs in Kane’ohe Bay, and investigated whether there was a correlation between slope angles and reef size/calf abundance. On top of working at the Coral Reef Ecology lab, she is also currently interning at the Waikiki Aquarium as a coral aquarist. Working with Dr. Sonia Rowley, Erin Kelley, and curator of live exhibits Gwen Lentes, she looks after the deep sea Gorgonian corals and Carijoa riisei. At the aquarium she prepares daily feeds, is responsible for maintenance and photo documentation for research, and is in charge of monitoring and analyzing water quality and nutrients from water samples.

Justin Han, Research Support

Justin.pngJi Hoon Justin Han, international student from South Korea, attended Michigan State University for two and a half years majoring in pre-veterinary science. In 2012, he moved to Hawai’i and decided to change his major to Marine Biology when he realized his passion for the ocean. In summer 2016, he graduated with his B.S. in Marine Biology from the University of Hawai’i at Manoa, and started volunteering at the Coral Reef Ecology Lab under the Optional Practical Training program (OPT). He became familiar with HIMB through the University’s directed research course under Dr. Cynthia Hunter and Dr. Ku’ulei Rodgers. He decided to gain more experience here working in the field and assisting with many different research projects. He is involved with assisting in numerous projects. He hopes to pursue a graduate career investigating climate change effects on algal communities.

Fred Farrell


Fred first came out to HIMB in 1971 at the behest of Dr. Phil Helfrich, who was a classmate of his at Santa Clara University. Over the years, he has helped out with many of HIMB’s most brilliant and famous, the names of some of whom come to mind include people like Dr.s Phil Helfrich, George Losey, Al Catell, Tom Clark, Kim Holland, and for the past sixteen years with Dr.s Ku’ulei Rodgers and Paul Jokiel.

In the year 2000, he went back to college for a while at UH Windward where he completed the routine to qualify for the Marine Options Program Certificate. The years he have participated in the various science projects undertaken at this very special institution have provided the most fulfilling experiences of his life, and he will always consider most fortunate to have had this opportunity. Currently, Fred assists in teaching our staff and student boating navigation and techniques.

Sarah Jane Leicht Severino, Research Support

Sarah earned her MS in Marine Science at Hawai’i Pacific University (HPU) in 2015. For her master’s research she developed a technique, the Fluorescence Census Technique (FCT), that utilizes the natural fluorescent pigmentation found within some species of corals to non-destructively census their smallest size classes in-situ under daylight conditions. After graduate school, Sarah worked as a First Mate on HPU’s Research Vessel, Kaholo, for two years. In addition to managing fieldwork on HPU’s Research Vessel, she was recruited by the Navy to manage field operations for a project studying the structure of marine resources within the main Pearl Harbor shipping channel.  The FCT was used in the Pearl Harbor shipping channel to quickly and accurately quantify the abundance and recruitment patterns of juvenile coral colonies on their natural reef substrate.  Since starting in the Coral Reef Ecology Lab, Sarah has been working toward establishing a biological carrying capacity for Hanauma Bay Marine Life Conservation District (MLCD). By analyzing historical data and performing several field experiments, she seeks to quantify changes in the benthic community of reefs at Hanauma Bay in response to pressure from human use.

Interns and Volunteers

Paige Mino

PaigePaige was first introduced to corals during the summer of 2016 when she completed a 4-week field intensive course researching coral calving in Kane‘ohe Bay, O‘ahu. From this course she realized how important corals are to the ecosystem and began volunteering at the Coral Reef Ecology Lab assisting with various research projects. Concurrently, Paige interns at the Holland Lab as well on HIMB assisting with shark research efforts. She graduated from the University of Hawai‘i at Manoa with a B.S. in Marine Biology in Spring 2017. Since graduating, she has continued working in the lab and has taken on volunteer positions with NOAA and the Hawaii Ocean Time-Series. Paige hopes to continue her education and pursue a career in coral conservation looking at successful propagation techniques and coral resilience in the face of climate change.

Tiana Tran


Tiana is a senior undergraduate student at University of Hawai‘i at Manoa majoring in Global Environmental Studies. In fulfillment of her undergraduate senior research thesis, she is working on characterizing the growth and abundance of Pocillopora damicornis recruitment on the sides of  mesocosms being used for an NSF grant project. This project examines the resilience of P. damicornis under projected climate change scenarios of elevated temperature, acidification, and the combined effects of both. Upon completion of her B.S, Tiana plans to attend graduate school at Hawai‘i Pacific University to pursue a Masters in Global Leadership and Sustainable Development. She hopes to ultimately have a career that focuses on addressing climate change and sustainability issues here in Hawai‘i.

Anela Garaganza-Tengan


My name is Nicole Anela Garaganza-Tengan, but you can call me Anela. I was born and raised on the island of Maui, but have been living here on O‘ahu as of 2013. All throughout my life I loved the ocean and all that inhabit it. Free Willy was my favorite movie as a kid and still is, which is where my love for the ocean really came into play. Since watching the movie as a kid, I wanted to grow up to be a whale trainer at Sea World so that I could work with the killer whales. But as I grew older, I had come to realize that the captivity of whales and dolphins was not right. My dream job would be to help in the research of killer whales out in the wild. With that I had set my sights on going to college for Marine Biology. After graduating high school, I did not pursue a degree in Marine Bio right away. In 2012, I graduated and got my AA in Liberal Arts. Following that, I transferred over to the University of Hawai‘i at Manoa in 2013. Since then it has been a roller coaster ride of switching majors from Kinesiology to Family Resources to undeclared. After a couple of years, I decided to take a break from college and focus on work. Then in the spring of 2017, I enrolled into Kapiolani Community College and FINALLY attempted to pursue my passion for the ocean. I am now working on getting my AA in Natural Sciences and am also a part of the Marine Option Program at KCC. As of now I am currently a volunteer here at the Coral Reef Ecology Lab. I enjoy helping out here at the lab and learning more about coral reefs. In the future, I plan to get my bachelors in Marine Biology at either UH or maybe even another university on the mainland.

Frincess Fleumeria Garcia

Max (Frincess)_small

My name is Frincess Fleumeria Garcia but I go by Max. I’m from the island of Saipan, one of the islands of the Northern Marianas. Fresh graduate of natural resource management (associates in science) from Northern Marianas College. I am currently in the REU summer internship program with the University of Hawai‘i at Manoa, working under Dr. Ku’ulei Rodgers of the Hawai‘i Institute of Marine Biology. I have become interested in environmental science after participating in a summer internship back in 2014 and 2015 in Saipan working under the Bureau of Environmental Coastal Quality with a coral reef monitoring and turtle tagging project. Upon taking a course in natural resource management in our local college, I have gone on a NOAA cruise in 2015 up to the Northern Mariana Islands as a volunteer scientist for a cetacean cruise and worked on different fish projects, including an Ecology Bird Loss Project in Guam. I plan on pursuing a bachelor’s degree in Marine Biology in the near future, possibly continuing my education in Hawai‘i. I would like to take back what I have learned from interning here back to where I live and help the islands improve their conservation management in marine and terrestrial environments.

John Stewart Joseph


My name is John Stewart Joseph. I’m from Pohnpei, Federated States of Micronesia (FSM). Pohnpei is a Micronesian island located in the tropical North Pacific Ocean and is part of the Federated States of Micronesia. I’m currently taking an REU Program at the University of Hawai‘i at Manoa and working at the Hawai‘i Institute of Marine Biology (Coconut Island). I am interested in marine life and quality because it is an important habitat to Pohnpeians. Natural environments serve as important fisheries and some regions are used in aquaculture. To investigate and improve these habitats, I would like to pursue a graduate degree, master’s or above. While I am currently uncertain about the specific field I’d like to pursue in my graduate work, I know that I have a strong interest in earth, marine, and medical sciences. My career goal is to be involved in the field of science, travel around the world conducting research, and give the next generation some of my knowledge to further their careers in the future. I also want to set an example to my family, friends, and other generations that we can achieve many things through hard work and dedication.

 Affiliate Researchers

Dr. Evelyn Cox

img_8267Dr. Cox was born on Kaua‘i, living in ‘Ele‘ele until her family moved to Honolulu.  She went off to the mainland for college, returning to do a MS at the University of Hawai‘i-Mānoa, where she became a Scientific SCUBA Diver.  Although her PhD was obtained from the University of New Mexico (another beautiful state), her research was done in Hawai‘i on the interactions between coral feeding butterflyfishes and the corals that serve as foods.  Her research continues to revolve around corals and their ecology – current projects focus on a coral disease, Montipora white syndrome in Kāne‘ohe Bay.  The acute form of this disease has now resulted in 2 significant outbreaks and sent me to the 12th International Coral Reef Symposium in Australia in 2012 to report on this new phenomenon.

Dr. John Stimson, Emeritus Faculty

IMG_0491.JPGKāne‘ohe Bay is a convenient setting in which to examine the response of a coral reef community to physical , chemical and biological challenges.  High nutrient concentrations in combination with low abundance of benthic herbivores allowed macroalgae to come to dominate reefs in the Bay for more than 36 years, and led to the development of what have come to be known in the coral reef literature as phase shifts.  Unusual weather conditions brought an end to this dominance and led to a return to coral dominance over the last 10 years.  Recently, however, new macroalgal species appeared to be on the path to dominance of reefs, but a different set of weather conditions, those associated with coral bleaching, appear to have led to the suppression of these algae, but with relatively small cost to coral cover in the Bay.

Dr. Robert Kinzie, Emeritus Faculty

IMG_8314.JPGIslands are, almost by definition, ideal places to study aquatic systems. The Hawaiian Islands, the most isolated archipelago on Earth, provides opportunities to study aquatic systems, both marine and freshwater, from evolutionary, ecological and geomorphological perspectives. Dr. Kinzie’s research takes advantage of these opportunities by focusing on streams, coral reefs and the nearshore environments where these two systems interact.