Dr. Kuʻulei Rodgers, Principal Investigator

IMG_8292.JPGKu‘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.

Postdoctoral Researcher

Conall McNicholl

IMG_3175-2Conall is interested in marine organismal physiology with a focus on mechanisms that promote resistance to environmental change. At the Coral Reef Ecology Lab, Conall is spearheading the NSF funded Proton Flux Hypothesis project in collaboration with Drs. Ku’ulei Rodgers (HIMB), Keisha Bahr (Texas A&M), Ellen Briggs (UH), and Chris Sabine (UH). With this project he aims to identify drivers that limit calcification under ocean acidification and establish connections between seawater chemistry in the microenvironment surrounding corals to calcification. Prior to HIMB, he was a postdoc at the International Atomic Energy Agency in Monaco where he utilized radioisotopes to examine heavy metal bioaccumulation in seafood. He obtained a PhD from Florida Atlantic University in 2019 while investigating the effects of ocean acidification and ocean warming on coral reef macroalgal physiology and calcification.

Current Graduate Students

Yuko Stender, M.Sc., PhD Candidate 

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.

Ji Hoon Justin Han, PhD Student

Han Website

Justin Han, an international student from South Korea, received B.S. in Marine Biology in 2016 from the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa, transferring from a Veterinary major from Michigan State University. He worked as a laboratory technician for five years at the Coral Reef Ecology Lab at Hawai‘i Institute of Marine Biology (HIMB) collaborating on numerous projects with various agencies including the Division of Aquatic Resources, The Nature Conservancy, and the United States Geological Survey. In 2019, he decided to continue his academic career in coral research in Hawai‘i, starting the graduate program at Hunter’s Lab at UH Mānoa while working as a research assistant/ lab manager at Coral Reef Ecology Lab, under the guidance of Dr. Ku‘ulei Rodgers. His research goal is to investigate the acclimatory capacity of Hawaiian coral to various anthropogenic stressors, currently focusing on the synergistic impacts of nutrient and thermal stress.

Andrew Graham, Masters Student


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 Hawaiʻi. This passion ultimately led to him attending the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa 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). Since 2018, he has been working as a lab tech in the Coral Reef Ecology lab. In Fall 2022, Andrew started grad school in the Masters program at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa. His project focuses on fish Flight Initiation Distances (FIDs) and coral reef rugosity at the Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve.

Lab Staff

Matt Stefanak

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is IMG-1404-1-edited-1.jpgBefore moving to O‘ahu, Matt graduated from Middlebury College in 2019 with a B.A. in Biology & Environmental Studies. He also spent time in Woods Hole, MA working at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute in the Larval Fish Ecology lab. Growing up in Baltimore, MD, Matt enjoyed sailing and kayaking in the nearby Chesapeake Bay. He also spent many years on his father’s farm in Pennsylvania, where he was able to fish, canoe, and hike. These experiences led to his decision to pursue marine science and environmental sustainability as an academic discipline but also as a means to help protect ecosystems, and the people that live in and around them, from the impacts of climate change and environmental degradation. At CREL, he contributes to projects examining CBSFA efficacy in Hā’ena, monitoring at Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve, and assisting in experiments investigating coral adaptive response to temperature stress and elevated nutrient levels. In his free time he enjoys swimming, snorkeling, hiking, and relaxing on the beach. In the fall of 2021 he will return to Maryland begin his PhD at the University of Maryland: Marine, Estuarine, and Environmental Science program.

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. 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.

Interns and Volunteers

Maile Coberly

Maile website photoMaile is an undergraduate student at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa studying marine biology. She is originally from Northern California, where she fell in love with the ocean at an early age. This developed into a passion for learning about the organisms in the ocean. She is particularly interested in examining how anthropogenic stressors affect fish behavior and ecological interactions. Maile has previously worked on projects investigating stressors such as bioremediation using oysters around Oʻahu, the response of corals to temperature and sediment stress, and how microplastics affect fish reproduction. This past summer she was an REU intern at the Coral Reef Ecology Lab on the Proton Flux experiment, where she conducted experiments on the temporal response of individual coral colonies to changes in carbonate chemistry. She is excited to continue with the CREL, working on the Hybrid Reef project.

Stacie May


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.

 Affiliate Researchers

George ‘Keoki’ Stender

20221115_153444Keoki was born and raised on the Island of Oahu. His interest in the ocean started early, fishing and visiting tidepools with his family. He attended Kamehameha School, Windward Community College, and the University of Hawai’i at Manoa, where he earned a certificate from the Marine Option Program for work in marine education, biological surveys, and expeditions in the Main and Northwestern Hawaiian Islands. Certified as a scuba diver in 1984, Keoki’s experiences in diving and the diving industries have continued for more than 30 years. He owns Keoki’s Scuba repair and trains certified scuba repair technicians. Keoki is also an underwater photographer teaching marine life identification for various agencies and schools and selling stock photography at Keoki Stender-MarinelifePhotography.com. His expertise and experiences in marine life identification, photographic techniques, and biological surveys have assisted our research activities. He is a certified PADI & IANTD Scuba Instructor, AP Diving Inspiration rebreather diver, Scuba Repair Technician for most brands, PSI Cylinder Inspector, Recompression Chamber Operator, Dept. of Interior Motorboat Operator.

Anita Tsang, M.Sc.

img_8324Anita received both her B.S. in Marine Biology and a M.S. in Natural Resources and Environmental Management from the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa. She has collaborated and volunteered with many different agencies and organizations, including the Division of Aquatic Resources, The Nature Conservancy, and The National Park Service. She worked at the Coral Reef Ecology Laboratory for five years as a lab manager and graduate assistant until August 2021 when she graduated with her M.S. She is now currently a SeaGrant Grau fellow working with the Department of Land and Natural Resources, Division of Aquatic Resources (DAR). Anita is part of DAR’s Holomua: Marine 30×30 team, and is supporting the initiative which aims to establish 30% of Hawai‘i’s nearshore waters as Marine Managed Areas by the year 2030. She is also helping DAR implement social and cultural indicators into the State’s management planning and evaluation processes, and is heavily involved in community outreach and education. 

Sarah Jane Leicht Severino, M.Sc.


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.

Angela Richards Donà, PhD

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, M.Sc.

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.


Dr. Keisha Bahr

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: keishabahr.com

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.


Dr. Steve Coles

ColesSteve 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). He currently is attempting to identify corals in the HIMB collection that date back to as early as 1950.