Dr. Kuʻulei Rodgers, Principal Investigator
Ku‘ulei has been working at the Hawai’i Institute of Marine Biology’s Coral Reef Ecology Lab since 1992 under the direction of Drs. Paul Jokiel and Fenny Cox, as an HIMB faculty member since 2005 and as the Principal Investigator of the Coral Reef Ecology Lab since 2016. Over 100 articles have been published in peer-reviewed journals, published reports, and conference proceedings. She was in the top five most read PeerJ journal articles in 2017. Since 2005, she has provided graduate advising, mentoring, and training for 15 graduate students, 40 undergraduates, interns, and technicians, and 2 post-docs. Ku’ulei has been heavily involved as PI, co-PI, or research assistant on 25 funded projects since her appointment, conducting research at sites on every island. She has secured funding through grants of over $3.5 million assisting in student support and research needs. Many of her research projects are of an interdisciplinary nature involving close collaborations with over 20 UH researchers from the oceanography, engineering, and zoology departments and over 50 cooperative relationships with managers and scientists from federal and state agencies, non-governmental organizations, and private industry. Her research has been widely disseminated through extensive media coverage with well over 200 documented local television news interviews, newspaper articles, and media events, global webcast video coverage, national and international newspaper and web articles and radio interviews. Ku’ulei was one of the co-founders along with Dr. Paul Jokiel, Dr. Eric Brown, and Will Smith of the ongoing Coral Reef Assessment and Monitoring Program established in 1999 and continues to serve as PI along with the State Division of Aquatic Resources.
Current Graduate Students
Yuko Stender, M.Sc., PhD Candidate
Yuko 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., PhD Candidate
Angela 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, Master’s Student
Rebecca 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, Master’s Student
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.
Anita Tsang, Master’s Student
Anita has a B.S. in Marine Biology, and is currently pursuing her Masters degree in Natural Resources and Environmental Management with Dr. Kirsten Oleson. She has collaborated and volunteered with many different agencies and organizations, including the Division of Aquatic Resources (DAR), The Nature Conservancy (TNC), and The National Park Service (NPS). Anita has also interned at the Waikīkī Aquarium for a year in 2016 as a coral aquarist, and also participated in culturing artemia, preparing live feeds, and monitoring water quality and nutrient samples from tanks. For her thesis, she aims to examine the feasibility of using the soft octocoral Sarcothelia edmonsoni as a bioindicator of freshwater input and nutrients on coral reefs here in Hawai‘i. In addition to field surveys, she hopes to conduct a meta-analysis as well utilizing data from different agencies throughout the main Hawaiian islands in order to describe and identify environmental factors that affect the abundance and distribution of S. edmonsoni. In her free time, Anita loves any outdoor activities, and of course anything that involves the ocean like diving and surfing!
Justin Han, Master’s Student
Ji 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 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. Throughout the years he has participated in various science projects undertaken at this institution, which he regards as the most fulfilling experiences of his life.
Sarah Jane Leicht Severino, Research Associate
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.
Andrew has always been fascinated by the ocean. For as long as he can remember, he has loved swimming and snorkeling, especially at the beautiful reefs of Hawai’i. This passion ultimately led to him attending the University of Hawai’i at Manoa to pursue a Bachelor of Science in Marine Biology in 2013. The more that Andrew learned about coral reefs and current climate change threats to the ocean, the more he became interested in what he could do to help. In 2016, he assisted in various projects at HIMB including a two-year study collaborating with NOAA on the effects of ocean acidification and warming on reef recruitment on Autonomous Reef Monitoring Structures (ARMS). In 2018, Andrew was recruited back into the Coral Reef Ecology Lab to work as a lab tech.
Interns and Volunteers
Ashley earned her B.S. in Biology with an emphasis in ecology from Colorado State University. She grew up with a fascination of deep sea soft corals, hydrothermal vents, and the invertebrates that thrive at these depths. After graduating Ashley took a year off to gain some practical laboratory experience working in a Barley Research Lab for Anheuser-Busch InBev in Fort Collins, Co. She also interned in the marine invertebrate aquarium division of the Butterfly Pavilion in Westminster, CO to gain experience working with corals and other marine invertebrates.
Ashley recently received her Masters in Marine Science from Hawaii Pacific University. She was part of HPU’s applied track, which provides students with a broad-based, in-depth knowledge of physical, geological, chemical, and ecological processes in the ocean as well as a hands-on practicum experience working directly with marine resource management. Ashley came to the Coral Reef Ecology Lab for her practicum. She is investigating percent coral survival in the He‘eia National Estuary Research Reserve (NERR), following the 2015 bleaching event in Kāne‘ohe Bay, Oahu. She has been working with the Hawaii department of aquatic resources (DAR) and NOAA to obtain high definition aerial imagery off the coasts of the Hawaiian Islands that were captured during the 2015 bleaching event. For her project, Ashley performed ground truthing surveys of the 2015 imagery by conducting 5 meter diameter percent benthic cover surveys (n=60) of the same area in July 2017 while taking GPS coordinates of her survey locations. She then utilized ArcGIS to compare 2017 coral cover in situ with coral cover identified in the 2015 imagery. Ashley also assists in numerous projects for the Coral Reef Ecology Lab.
Stacie comes to the lab as an intern through the Idea Networks for Biomedical Research Excellence Program (INBRE), a statewide grant program providing in-depth research experience to undergraduates through community colleges and undergraduate institutions. She is a graduate of University of Hawaii, Windward Community College with Associate of Arts degree and currently a Public Health major at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. Stacie brings a unique perspective developed from decades of experience in the U.S. Navy and her work at Kennedy Space Center, FL where her leadership experience, electronic systems troubleshooting and problem-solving skills translate well to the research environment. Growing up on the east coast of Florida, she has a deep respect for the ocean and its inhabitants which drive her interest in her project exploring the effects of rising ocean temperatures on Hawaiian reef corals.
Dr. Keisha Bahr
Keisha 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: keishabahr.com
Dr. Evelyn Cox
Dr. 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
Kāne‘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
Islands 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.
Dr. Steve Coles
Steve has been associated with the Coral Reef Ecology (Point) Lab since Paul Jokiel and he founded it in 1969 to determine the potential effects of thermal effluent from a power plant that was at that time proposed for Kāne‘ohe Bay. The site of the Point lab was originally only a small, empty building with a dirt floor. After they spent a year constructing lab infrastructure, the Point Lab looked much like it does today. But the most innovative feature was a system that continuously delivered flowing seawater at fixed temperatures above and below ambient for long time periods. With this facility they conducted the first experiments that could duplicate long term effects of temperature stress on reef corals, and determined that coral bleaching, growth reductions and mortality occurred at increments of only 1-2ºC above annual maximum ambient temperatures. They verified these lab results with field observations near O‘ahu’s Kahe Power Plant, and compared results with experiments they did at Enewetak Atoll, where ambient maximum annual temperatures are about 2ºC higher than in Hawai‘i. However, temperature related stress effects still occurred at 1-2ºC above annual maximum ambient, and this has since found to be the case wherever reef corals occur throughout the world.
After finishing his Ph. D. in 1973 Steve began a career that started in O‘ahu, where he has monitored the impacts of the Kahe Power plant since 1980, but has also conducted research throughout much of the tropical world in the Arabian Gulf, Gulf of Oman and Arabian Sea, and much of the South and Mid-Pacific. He has maintained an association with HIMB that continues today as an affiliate of the Coral Reef Ecology Lab. During the final 15 years of his professional career he was at the Bishop Museum where he developed a program to detect the presence of introduced and invasive marine species by surveying many reef areas, Kāne‘ohe Bay, and every principal harbor in Hawai‘i, American Samoa, and Midway and Johnston Atolls. He has conducted coral reef studies and surveys throughout much of the tropical Pacific and the Middle East and has authored more than 100 publications and technical reports, three book chapters and one book, Corals of Oman. He was most gratified to be invited by the Coral Reef Ecology Lab staff to participate in a repeat of the 1970s experiments that determined that there has been a significant up shift in Kāne‘ohe Bay corals temperature tolerances corresponding to the increasing ambient temperature that has occurred there in the last 50 years. (SL Coles, KD Bahr, KS Rodgers, SL May, A McGowan, A Tsang, J Bumgarner and JH Han. Evidence of acclimatization or adaptation in Hawaiian corals to higher ocean temperatures. DOI 10.7717/ PeerJ.5347).