Michelle Paddack: Fish Biologist, Food webs, & Herbivores

Michelle Paddack is an Assistant Professor of Marine Sciences at Santa Barbara City College in Santa Barbara, CA; she is also a Senior Conservation Scientist at the Oceanic Society.

“The underlying goal driving each aspect of my life’s work is to provide tangible inputs toward creating sustainable management and conservation of marine ecosystems.  I do this through two different channels – scientific and educational. As a marine ecologist, I specialize in the population dynamics and ecology of reef fishes (both tropical and temperate). My main interests include examining how ecological interactions between fish and their reef environment structure and maintain reef communities, and determining how ecosystem-level perturbations (both environmental and anthropogenic) affect population structure and behaviors of reef organisms. I work on both small and large scales, ranging from how and why a single species of fish differs in numbers, sizes, and behavior from one reef to an adjacent one to analyzing data from reefs spanning across ocean basins and decades to look at long-term and large-scale patterns. I do both of these by combining focused field studies with statistical and meta-analytical techniques. I believe that the issues we are facing today require multi-faceted approaches and perspectives, and that the best way to do this is to work collaboratively with scientists and resource users across the globe. In this way, we can identify and address the most important and effective questions facing the people and organisms whose lives rely on healthy ocean ecosystems. In this vein, I have successfully helped to establish marine protected areas, document the species most affected by changes in fishing rates, discover which species most strongly help to maintain coral reefs, and discerned how and why reef communities are changing over decades.

The second component of my work toward marine conservation is through education. Having investigated and experienced first-hand incredible changes in the marine ecosystem – both loss and recovery – I am deeply aware of the need to tap into the innate ecological knowledge of people and help them to connect that with experiences and supporting knowledge that will foster critical thinking and insightful action toward the pressing issues facing us and our ocean ecosystems today. I believe that each person, no matter who they are or what they do, has the capacity of scientific thought and knowledge, and when someone has a direct experience and even a small thread of understanding of nature, then that will ripple out into actions that help to heal our ocean communities of which we are so much a part.”

Peter Nelson: Fish Biologist & Fisheries Management

Peter Nelson is a fisheries biologist.

“I am a biologist and a surfer. I grew up on, in and under the water on the west coast of the United States. I have two children, a son (12) and a daughter (8), and one of my greatest joys is taking my kids on, in or under the water. For this reason, taking care of the ocean is incredibly important to me.

I have studied the fishes that aggregate beneath floating objects, what fish see and why they have the colors they do, and the movements of fishes as they transition from juveniles to adults, but I am terribly curious about most things. I am good with numbers and looking for patterns that require statistics to find them, and I especially like conducting experiments that explore interesting questions on behavior or physiology.

Here in California, I work with fishermen to collect the kinds of information needed to manage fisheries and protect marine ecosystems. In the U.S., managers and scientists have told fishermen where to fish, when to fish and how much to fish for decades; sometimes this has worked but often the results have been poor. We are working now to make fishermen partners in the management process. Obviously, fishermen know the sea. They know that taking too much, too fast will result in scarcity. So, clearly, fishermen can and should be stewards of the ocean. Our seafood markets and our history of fisheries management make this difficult to achieve, but I think that we are beginning to make progress. I would be honored to help to contribute some of the science that we have acquired in the United States, as well as our experience involving communities in managing their resources. I expect, however, that I will learn at least as much from the people of Ulithi.”

Avigdor Abelson: Coral Reef Ecologist & Reef Restoration

Avigdor Abelson is a Professor of Marine Biology in the Department of Zoology at Tel-Aviv University in Tel Aviv, Israel.


“My research activities include topics related to: restoration ecology, coral-reef ecology, marine protected areas (MPAs) and artificial-reef design. Beyond my academic activities, I was involved in various ecological impact assessments (EIA) and management projects, including: Coastal-Zone Management plan of Angola’s coast, guidelines for artificial reefs in the northern Gulf of Aqaba, Red Sea, and the impact of trawl fishing on the East Mediterranean Sea biota. Recently I am involved in coral-reef restoration projects in Palawan (the Philippines), in which I serve as a consultant in two local NGOs (‘South-Sea Rehab’ and SEED).

I teach environmental, marine biology and zoological courses, such as: Introduction to Marine Biology, MPA planning, Invertebrate Zoology and Topics in Environmental Quality.”

Giacomo Bernardi: Fish Biologist, Ecological Connectivity

Giacomo Bernardi is a professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at the University of California, Santa Cruz.

“My work deals with the evolutionary ecology of fishes. This work ties together ecological aspects of fish and fisheries, with their underlying genetic background.  Therefore I get a chance to work in the field, mostly in California, Mexico, and French Polynesia, and then in the lab using molecular biology techniques. The focus of the work is both theoretical and applied. Theoretical work looks at how populations of fish get genetically separated. This work then feeds into the applied portion of our studies, as it uses genetic approaches to evaluate the levels of genetic connectivity between fish populations and stocks. Results from these studies have direct implications on the design of marine protected areas, as their sizes and placements will have different effects on the amount of connectivity between them and between the inside and the outside of the reserves.

In addition, I am part of the Moorea coral reef long term ecological research program (LTER) where I contribute to the monitoring of fish abundance and distribution on the island of Moorea, French Polynesia. Finally, I teach classes in fish biology (ichthyology) and underwater field research and methods.”

Most of my field work is done with my wife, Nicole Crane,  and our two kids, Amalia and Alessio.

Giacomo’s website can be found at: http://bernardi.eeb.ucsc.edu/

Nicole Crane: Marine Biologist and Project Leader

Nicole Crane is a Professor in the Department of Biology at Cabrillo College in Aptos, California; she is also a Senior Conservation Scientist at the Oceanic Society.

“My main academic and research interests are in long term monitoring, with an emphasis
in ecology of coral and temperate reefs. My work is aimed at conservation and protection of marine resources, and helping people do the same. My field work includes temperate and tropical reef monitoring, fish biology, stream ecology, plant communities, and marine mammal ecology. I have been working with communities helping to set up monitoring
programs, looking at habitat and fish populations on reefs and leading natural history expeditions for over 20 years with the Oceanic Society. I am a committed educator, and teach Marine Biology, Environmental Science and Plant Biology & Ecology. I also conduct research in the social sciences, specifically science education, looking at what motivates students in the sciences, and effective ways to recruit and retain underrepresented students. I have established both national and regional marine science technology and education programs in the United States.

I am an avid scuba diver and dive instructor. I have two kids, ages 10 and 13, who often come with me and my husband (Giacomo Bernardi) to do our work.

I have worked in California, Alaska, Mexico, the Bahamas, Belize, Galapagos, the tropical Eastern Pacific, French Polynesia and Micronesia.”

Nicole’s website can be found here.