My research integrates behavioural ecology, sensory physiology, evolutionary ecology and genomics to examine the role of environmental change in shaping communication systems and ultimately the evolutionary trajectory of populations. I am fascinated by rapid ecological adaptation and its genetic and epigenetic underpinnings, particularly in aquatic environments. If there is water, and there are animals, I am interested!
My work at STRI focuses on divergence in ecological traits between sister species of coral reef fishes separated by the rise of the Isthmus of Panama. At the moment, I am examining how the visual system of sister fish species differentially adapted to the drastically different underwater light conditions between the two coasts (Pacific and Caribbean) of Panama.
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.
SENACYT & STRI intern
I 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.
Suzette works on plants but is otherwise quite a nice person. She can teach you things you never knew were possible with GIS. Watch out for her wicked tea making abilities handed down over generations
Nicte-Ha did her master’s degree in marine biology at Reefs System Unit, UNAM, Mexico. There, she investigated the growth rates of fossil and modern corals as proxies to understand environmental change.
As an intern scientist of the O’Dea lab, Nicte-Ha expects to gain a wider perspective on how the study of past marine environments can help to develop better strategies for conservation of current coral reef ecosystems that are under the current effects of human impacts.
Nicte has now moved on to the Altieri lab
STRI Post-doctoral Fellow
I am a taxonomist and primarily use fish otoliths to explore systematic and ecological questions. Much of my work uses sea bottom otolith assemblages as a study system, but I also work on fossil materials to address their paleoecological, biogeographical and evolutionary aspects.
Intern (STRI and College of the Atlantic)
I am an undergraduate student at College of the Atlantic in Bar Harbor, Maine, pursuing a degree in Human Ecology with a concentration in marine biology. I am interested in the ecological relationship between sea turtles and the communities in which they belong. Subsequently, I hope to make further contributions to the restoration and conservation of both in my homeland, Malaysia.
At STRI I am assisting Mauro Lepore in quantifying the differences in community composition between fossil reefs and sub-recent reefs in Bocas del Toro. This internship will provide me with a new perspective to approach marine conservation: how the study of marine historical ecology can be utilized to better inform coral reef restoration and conservation efforts.
2000 years of ecological change in Caribbean sponge communities: Project
Nicte has now moved on to the Altieri lab
Soy biólogo y paleontologo marino y los moluscos son mi gran pasión. Utilizo la taxonomía como una herramienta para identificar cientos de estos animales, tanto del registro fósil como modernos. Me interesan las interacciones ecológicas, depredador-presa en función del hábitat y los efectos antopocénicos sobre el medio ambiente, desde el punto de vista de conservación.El enfoque que utiliza el proyecto es súper interesante, ya podemos ir al pasado usando la paleontología; saber cómo eran los ambientes, que especies dominaban y que ha cambiado.
Soy Bióloga egresada de la Universidad de Panamá con orientación a la biología animal. Estoy realizando una pasantía que va enfocada específicamente a la clasificación de los moluscos utilizando muestras de la costa del Pacífico así como del Caribe. En este proyecto manipulare organismos del registro fósil como modernos, separando las especies según caracteres morfológicos que me ayudaran a inferir entre familias y géneros. Teniendo en cuenta que los moluscos son un grupo muy diverso y complejo y el cual ha sufrido un proceso evolutivo muy interesante a lo largo de todo este tiempo.
My interests lie in geology and paleoecology, specifically the structure, constitution, behaviour, and evolution of physical processes and how they interact with biology. I am working with Erin Dillon to process fossil and modern reef sediments from the Dominican Republic for her shark dermal denticle project. Through this opportunity, I hope to gain experience in the lab and learn more about microfossils and their application in interpreting environmental change over time, which will assist my future academic studies in paleoecology.
Intern (SENACYT, STRI, University of Panama)
I’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.
Post-doc (Now Assistant Professor at Universidad de Los Andes)
My research focuses in the understanding of multiple factors influencing freshwater biodiversity over time. I am interesting in the synergies between the introduction of exotic species, water pollution, hydrological alterations and climate change affecting lake assemblages in the Anthropocene. My work integrates paleolimnological techniques, historical data and contemporary monitoring data in human-impacted tropical lakes to:
- Assess how tropical lake communities respond over time (decadal to centennial) to environmental change (e.g. eutrophication, climate change and lake water level alterations).
- Determine if dominance of exotic aquatic plants and fish are a direct consequence of competitive exclusion with native species; or whether dominance is an indirect cause from direct negative effects of habitat disturbances on native communities.
- Explore if there have been positive impacts from the introduction of exotic species (e.g. carbon sequestration.
STRI Pre-doc fellow
Abby is working on a project that explores how marine life, specifically molluscs, respond to the differing energy regimes of the Pacific and Caribbean sides of the Isthmus of Panama. The Pacific experiences coastal upwelling and high nutrient availability, corresponding to high productivity, while the Caribbean experiences no upwelling and low productivity. How do marine communities, which share many of the same species, differ between the Caribbean and Pacific sides?
I am a student at Keiser University in Nicaragua who will be transferring to FIU this year to pursue a degree in Marine Biology. I am working alongside Erin Dillon helping process fossil and modern sediment samples to find shark denticles and formulate a hypothesis of how shark communities were before humans. This will allow me to explore new areas of marine biology and gain experience doing research. It will also help me understand how fossils can be used to interpret the present.
STRI and Texas A&M Postdoctoral fellow
My research interest are: (1) Relating community structure over broad spatial, environmental and temporal scales; (2) Historical interactions between natural variability, biota and humans; (3) Reconstruct past environmental conditions using stable isotope ratios of modern and fossil mollusc specimens; (4) Design, construct, test and maintain useable databases and web-systems and (5) Marine macro- and micro- gastropod biodiversity and taxonomy.
The diverse temporal time-scales (modern to geological), spatial habitat differences in temperate, tropical and subtropical areas and the complexity of the organisms I have studied in the past (macro and micro gastropods, corals, sponges, crustaceans), provides an excellent background to conduct innovative research and integrate macroecology and palaeoecology. Thus, my current research focuses on integrating new and existing geochemical data with paleobiological data from the Panama Paleontology Project (PPP) to resolve the drivers of ecological change and evolutionary turnover in the Caribbean. In collaboration with Dr. Ethan Grossman (Texas A&M) I have built a relational database ‘Tropical Ocean Database’ that will be available to unite paleoecology, evolutionay, environmental and geochemical datasets to allow broad-scale comparison and analysis of marine ecosystems and their communities through time.