Estelle Bapst

STRI Intern

I am studying a Masters in Biodiversity and Conservation of Marine Ecosystems at the Sorbonne University in Paris. My project at STRI is to use ancient DNA to explore millennial scale changes in biodiversity of coral reefs. I am also keen on diving, surfing and dancing. Travel is another interest, and I am often curious about discovering new countries and traditions.



Ximena Shaw

STRI Intern

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I am a student of marine biology at the International Maritime University of Panama. I have previously gained experience working in laboratories at INDICASAT and STRI, and have worked as a guide at the Punta Culebra Natural Center. These opportunities have allowed me to acquire knowledge in a variety of scientific themes and given me skills to resolve my future professional career. I am especially drawn to understanding how life on earth evolved. I am currently an intern in the O’Dea lab sorting and identifying fossil remains of sea urchins, otoliths and corals to help towards a better understanding of historical changes in coral reef ecosystems over the last few millennia.

Max Titcomb

STRI Intern

I am an undergraduate at UC Berkeley studying Molecular Environmental Biology with a focus on ecology. I have worked in the Finnegan lab. My project at STRI will be to gather topographic data from around the Panama region and utilize GIS approaches to map sea level changes that have occurred throughout the last 20,000 years. This project will provide a valuable insight into understanding the marine ecosystem changes that have occurred in Panama.

My other interests are in marine paleobiology, ichthyology, and scuba diving. I plan to pursue graduate school for Marine Biology to become a better researcher and steward of our oceans.

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Jihane Benbahtane

STRI Intern


I’m currently enrolled as a graduate student at McGill University in a program that focuses on neotropical ecosystems. My master’s project is centred around herbivory interactions and the effect of overfishing on Caribbean coral reefs. I study how fishing can change the community structure of parrotfish and their life history traits, as well as how these changes in fish community affect reef health in Barbados.

In the O’Dea lab, I will be looking at the historical relative abundance of sea urchins from sediment samples collected in the Pacific coast of Panama. I will be collaborating with Jon Cybulski, a STRI fellow in the lab, to investigate relationships between the community structure of these herbivores and accretion rates of coral reefs.

Katie Griswold

STRI Fellow


I am working on a project with Dr. Chien-Hsiang Lin that uses otolith assemblages to investigate the life histories of holocene reef fish. I am searching for patterns in the sizes of these assemblages over time, space and habitat. Through the study of otolith assemblages, we hope to contribute information to what coral reef fish communities were like in a time before human influence. This information can be compared to present reefs and can shape our ideas about ecosystem conservation.

I graduated from Boston University with a B.A. in marine science and biology, then spent a year as an Americorps after-school educator before I joined STRI as a research assistant. My personal interests lie at the intersection of research and community-driven conservation. I hope to explore marine ecological questions while supporting connections to the natural world through citizen science outreach.

Ramiro J Solís


22089361_10203755535325107_7780598286786180057_nI am a student of Marine Biology at the International Maritime University of Panama. I have previously worked on the ​​taxonomy,  identification and ecology of coral reef fish. I am currently working on a project that seeks to create the first collection of micro-gastropods in Panama, and at the same time investigate the variability in time and space of these organisms on a geological scale at the Caribbean and Pacific side of Panama to understand environmental changes. My primary goal as a marine biologist is to help develop science in Panama to help preserve the natural world.

Abhy Verdurmen

Intern (SENACYT, STRI, University of Panama)

DSCF4024I’m a Biology undergraduate student at University of Panama profoundly interested in Marine Biology and paleontology, especially the evolution, adaptation and ecology of coral reefs. I’m working on a project that consists of reconstructing the Caribbean reef fish communities of the past, and my master tools for this research are fish otoliths. Otoliths have distinct shapes that enable us to identify fish families, sometimes even to the level of species and fossil otoliths may help us reconstruct the reef fish community of the Caribbean 7000 years ago (i.e. before human impacts). This information will provide a baseline that will enable us to compare “pristine” with modern reef fish communities.