Principal Investigator: Dr. Jennifer Smith

Jennifer Smith

Jen is a coral reef ecologist with primary expertise in benthic communities (marine plants, corals and other invertebrates). Her primary interests are in determining how various physical and biological processes affect the structure and function of marine communities. Jen has been interested in determining how human impacts affect or alter marine communities. Currently Jen and her students are working on understanding how local stressors such as pollution, overfishing or the introduction of invasive species affect coral reefs. Jen’s lab is also working to determine how global stressors associated with climate change such as warming or ocean acidification will alter reef species. Much of the research in the Smith lab is focused on marine conservation and restoration of degraded habitats and often involves multidisciplinary activities. Jen and her students are actively working to develop effective management strategies for coral reef communities around the world.
Dr. Jennifer Smith Curriculum vitae

Dr. Jennifer Smith Google Scholar Page and Research Gate



Postdoctoral Scholar: Dr. Emily Kelly

Emily Kelly

Emily Kelly is a Postdoctoral Scholar in Jennifer Smith’s lab in the Center for Marine Biodiversity and Conservation (CMBC) at Scripps Institution of Oceanography, UC San Diego.  Broadly, Emily’s research interests lie in the response of coastal ecosystems to global and local stressors.  Working with local managers, Emily’s research on coral reefs looks at how local stressors such as overexploitation of fish and land runoff interact with climate change to alter reef habitats as well as how management can mitigate these impacts.  She has also examined the mechanisms by which herbivores and herbivore management promote healthy coral reef ecosystems in the face of these local and global stressors.  In kelp forests, Emily is interested in the impacts of global change on kelp forest ecology, with particular interest in the understory algal communities. In addition to her ecological research, Emily joined the Scripps delegation at UNFCCC COP 23, coauthored a summary report on National Security and Climate Change, and was an observer to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences / Social Sciences joint workshop at the Vatican on sustainable humanity.  Emily completed a BS in biology and environmental science at Duke University, an MS in resource ecology and management at the University of Michigan and her PhD in marine biology at Scripps.  As a Knauss Sea Grant Fellow, Emily worked in Antarctic environmental policy in the Office of Polar Programs at the National Science Foundation.

Selected Publications:

Kelly, ELA, Y Eynaud, RT Sparks, ID Williams, and JE Smith (2017Budget of herbivorous fish community consumption and algal production in an Herbivore Fisheries Management Area, Maui, Hawaii. Ecosphere 8(8):e01899. 10.1002/ecs2.1899. [pdf]

Kelly, ELA, Y Eynaud, SM Clements, M Gleason, RT Sparks, ID Williams, JE Smith (2016).  Investigating functional redundancy versus complementarity in Hawaiian herbivorous coral reef fishes.  Oecologia 182 (4). [pdf]

Williams, ID, DJ White, RT Sparks, KC Lino, JP Zamzow, ELA Kelly, HL Ramey (2016) Responses of Herbivorous Fishes and Benthos to 6 Years of Protection at the Kahekili Herbivore Fisheries Management Area, Maui. PLoS ONE 11(7): e0159100. dos: 10.1371/journal.pone.0159100.



PhD Student: Abby Cannon

Abigail Cannon

Abby Cannon is a PhD candidate studying the effects of disturbance and stress on tropical seagrass communities. Most of her field work is conducted at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Bocas del Toro, Panamá, but her time in the Smith Lab has also taken her to Belize, Hawaii, and Australia. Abby volunteered in the Smith Lab prior to being accepted as a PhD student and has also previously studied sea turtles with WIDECAST in Costa Rica, and seabirds with Point Blue Conservation Science on Santa Cruz Island. She received her BS in Environmental Systems from UCSD in 2009.

Click here to check out her blog! 



PhD Student: Mike Fox

Michael Fox

Mike is a PhD candidate interested in how the structure of benthic marine communities relates to overall ecosystem function. Originally from Boston, Mike moved to San Diego to complete his undergraduate degree and has been in California ever since. After graduating, he spent a year doing fieldwork in the Caribbean and Antarctic before pursuing his Mater’s research on giant kelp at Moss Landing Marine Labs. Mike has conducted extensive fieldwork in central California kelp forests and the Canadian subarctic but most of his work now takes place in the (much warmer) remote central Pacific. In the Smith lab, his PhD research combines field and laboratory studies to examine the influence of regional and island-scale oceanography on coral ecophysiology and benthic community structure. As a Nancy Foster Scholar with NOAA’s Office of National Marine Sanctuaries, Mike also works on water quality issues in the Hawaiian Islands in collaboration with researchers at the Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology and NOAA’s Coral Reef Ecosystem Program.

Check out Mike’s personal website:


Selected Publications:

Fox, M.D. 2013. Resource translocation drives δ13C fractionation during recover from disturbance in giant kelp, Macrocystis pyrifera. Journal of Phycology 49: 811-15. [pdf]

Foley, M.M., Martone, R.G., Fox, M.D., Kappel, C.V., Mease, L.A., Erickson, A.L., Halpern, B.S., Selkoe, K.A., Taylor, P., Scarborough, C. 2015. Using ecological thresholds to inform resource management: current options and future possibilities. Frontiers in Marine Science, 2:95. [pdf]

Fox, M.D. 2016. Biomass loss reduces growth and resource translocation in giant kelp, Macrocystis pyrifera. Marine Ecology Progress Series, 562: 65-77. [pdf]  


PhD Student: Amanda Carter

Amanda Carter

Amanda graduated from UCSD in June of 2010 with a B.S. in Biology. As an undergraduate she began volunteering for Dr. Smith after taking her Coral Reef Ecosystems class her junior year. After completing her degree, Amanda started work towards her Masters degree in Dr. Smith’s lab where she focused on a corallimorph invasion underway at Palmyra Atoll. After defending her Masters in June of 2014, Amanda received the Environmental Protection Agency’s STAR Fellowship to continue her work as a Ph.D. student in Dr. Smith’s lab. Her plan is to study the role that human impacts and pollution play in leading to invasions and disease on coral reefs. In her spare time, Amanda enjoys running, teaching and practicing yoga, and SCUBA diving.



PhD Student: Adi Khen

Adi Khen

Adi graduated from UCSD in June 2014 with a B.S. in Environmental Systems and a minor in Spanish Literature. She volunteered for the Smith Lab for over two years and now, as a PhD student, she is interested in how coral reefs are responding to global climate change. She is using a time series of permanent photoquadrats collected by Dr. Jen Smith over a 10-year period on Palmyra Atoll, in the central Pacific, to measure bleaching, recovery, growth and mortality in common coral species. Additionally, she is using these images to assess the abundance of macroalgae and other benthic taxa. Adi is passionate about using art to communicate science, and she makes digital illustrations of marine life in her spare time. She also enjoys taking care of all the lab “pets.”

Check out her blog!


PhD Student: Cailan Sugano

Cailan Sugano

Cailan graduated from UC Santa Barbara in 2015 with a B.S. in Aquatic Biology. Throughout his undergraduate, he volunteered in the Hofmann lab and conducted laboratory CO2 manipulation experiments that examined the physiological effects of ocean acidification and warming on marine calcifiers. After graduating, Cailan had the opportunity to conduct fieldwork in the Channel Islands and Antarctica as the Hofmann lab manager/technician. Cailan’s current research in the Smith lab combines field and laboratory methods to understand how natural environmental variability modulates the response of marine calcifiers to ocean acidification.



BS/MS Student: Corinne Amir

Corinne Amir

Corinne is a first year Masters student in the Marine Biology BS/MS contiguous program at Scripps Institution of Oceanography. While receiving her undergraduate degree in Environmental Systems at UCSD, Corinne became a volunteer in Dr. Stuart Sandin’s lab where her projects focused on digitizing and identifying corals within large-scale photomosaic images, as well as studying the invasion dynamics of a corallimorpharian, Rhodactis howesii at Palmyra Atoll. For her Masters degree, Corinne’s research interests have focused on the invasion of Rhodactis howesii and the feasibility and impacts of potential removal and mitigation strategies to stunt its expansion throughout Palmyra’s near pristine coral reefs. When not in the lab, Corinne enjoys diving, hiking, cooking, and salsa/bachata dancing.



BS/MS Student: Christina Jayne

Christina is a first year Masters student through the BS/MS contiguous program after receiving her BS in Marine Biology at UCSD. She started volunteering in the Smith lab after taking Dr. Smith’s Marine Plant Biology course during her junior year. She also volunteers in Dr. Stuart Sandin’s lab, caring for the wetlab’s aquarium system. Using large-area imaging analysis, Christina’s research focuses on understanding the dynamics of the algal community on Hawaiian reefs impacted by warm water coral bleaching events. In her free time, Christina likes diving, caring for her aquarium, and enjoying a good book.



Lab Manager & Staff Research Associate: Samantha Clements

Sam graduated from UCSD in June 2012 with a B.S. in Biology emphasizing Ecology, Behavior, and Evolution and a minor in Studio Art. She completed her M.S. research in the Smith lab under the mentorship of Dr. Jennifer Smith in 2015, where she studied the roles of herbivorous fishes on coral reefs of Maui in order to better understand what can be done to help protect Hawaiian reefs from further degradation. In addition to her current role as the Smith Lab manager, Sam oversees the Scripps Ocean Acidity Real-time (SOAR) Monitoring Program. She also assists with a variety of projects as a coral reef benthic scientist identifying coral, algae, and other benthic invertebrates. In her spare time, Sam enjoys painting, yoga, and competitive sandcastling.

Selected Publications:

Kelly, ELA, Y Eynaud, SM Clements, M Gleason, RT Sparks, ID Williams, JE Smith (2016).  Investigating functional redundancy versus complementarity in Hawaiian herbivorous coral reef fishes.  Oecologia 182 (4). [pdf]


Staff Research Associate: Brant Chlebowski



  • Jilian Goguen
  • Karina Arzuyan
  • Jonathan Charendoff
  • Sabrina Phan
  • Hannah Resetarits
  • Amanda Leu
  • Will Schneider
  • Marie Diaz
  • Kaniela Zhen
  • Chloe Kotik
  • Matthew Pawinski
  • Katya Reshatoff
  • Claire Kosinski
  • Julie Kring


Past Members

Postdoctoral Scholars

  • Dr. Ryota Nakajima (2018)
    -Currently a Principal Investigator at JAMSTEC (find his website here)
  • Dr. Nichole Price (2014)
    -Currently a Principal Investigator at Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences
  • Dr. Andi Haas (2013)
    -Currently a Principal Investigator at NIOZ Royal Institute for Sea Research and Utrecht University

Ph.D. Students

  • Dr. Levi Lewis (2016)
    Currently a Postdoctoral Scholar at UC Davis Bodega Marine Laboratory
  • Dr. Maggie Johnson (2016)
    Currently a Postdoctoral Scholar with the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute
  • Dr. Emily Kelly (2015)
    Currently a Postdoctoral Scholar in the Smith Lab at SIO
  • Dr. Jill Harris (2015)

Master’s Students

  • Gideon Butler (2016)
  • Sam Clements (2015)
    Currently Lab Manager & Research Associate in the Smith Lab at SIO
  • Molly Gleason (2013)
  • Susan Kram (2013)
  • Clinton Edwards (2013)
    – Currently a Ph.D. student at SIO with Dr. Stuart Sandin

Research Staff

  • Niko Kaplanis – Research Associate (2017)
    – Currently a Ph.D. student at UC Santa Cruz
  • Clinton Edwards – Research Associate (2016)
    – Currently a Ph.D. student at SIO with Dr. Stuart Sandin
  • Susan Kram – Lab Manager & Research Associate (2016)
  • Tiffany Teng (2013)
  • Currie Dugas – Lab Manager (2011)
  • Jackie Tran – Research Assistant (2011)

Past Volunteers

  • Michelle Loewe (2018 – MAS Student)
  • Kelsey Miller (2018 – MAS Student)
  • Michael Carlson (2018)
  • Cassie Paumard (2018)
  • Sara Borchers (2018)
  • Michelle Prieto (2018)
  • Cynthia Zhang (2017)
  • Jessica Glanz (2017)
  • Mario Gaytan (2017)
  • Ellis Juhlin (2017)
  • Maurizio Martinelli (2017 – MAS Student)
  • Marelle Arndt (2017)
  • Alexandra Reich (2017)
  • Spencer Breining-Aday (2017)
  • Mackenzie Brandt (2017)
  • Annika Vawter (2017)
  • Carolina Carpenter (2016)
  • Ellie Williams (2016)
  • Stephanie Lee (2016)
  • Nathalie Staiger (2016)
  • Aaron Keohane (2016 – MAS Student)
  • Amelia Scharp (2015)
  • Temur Imam (2015)
  • Macey Rafter (2015)
  • Mallory Morgan (2015 – MAS Student)
  • Lenell Sagastume (2014)
  • Jennifer Le (2014)
  • Bella Doohan (2014)
  • Garrett Stewart (2014)
  • Alex Neu (2014)
  • Laurence Romeo (2014 – MAS Student)
  • Carolyn Kim (2013)
  • Elena Perez (2013 – MAS Student)
  • Conner Holland (2013)
  • Erika D’Andrea (2013)
  • Eric Engel (2013)
  • Daniel Conley (2012)
  • Krista Catelani (2012)
  • Sarah Urata (2012)
  • Ashley Cunningham (2012)
  • Zoe Dagan (2012)
  • Daniel Coffee (2012)
  • Abigail Cannon (2012)
  • Jennifer Bone (2012)
  • Sierra Basegio (2011)
  • Portia Seautelle (2011)
  • Rachel Graham (2011)
  • Grace Koyama (2011)
  • Ellen Umeda (2011)
  • Rachel Levin (2011)
  • George Balchin (2011)
  • Kevin Moses (2011 – REU Student)
  • Karen Dunleavy (2011)
  • Avantika Sinha (2011)
  • Rebecca Soloway (2011)
  • Shino Ogawa (2010)
  • Javier Cuetos-Bueno (2011- MAS Student)