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



.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: Adi Khen

Adi graduated from UCSD in June 2014 with a BS in Environmental Systems and a minor in Spanish Literature. She previously volunteered for the Smith Lab and now, as a PhD candidate, she is interested in how coral reefs are responding to global climate change. She is using a time series of permanent photoquadrats taken by Dr. Jennifer Smith over a 10-year period on Palmyra Atoll, in the remote Central Pacific, to measure bleaching, recovery, growth, and mortality in common coral taxa over time. Additionally, she is using these images to look at the abundance of algae and other benthic organisms in the context of heat stress. 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 of the lab “pets.”

Check out her blog!



PhD Student: Daniel Conley

Daniel Conley is a PhD candidate studying coral behavior and photo-physiology in the Smith Lab. Prior
to starting his PhD, Daniel received a BA in Japanese language and Literature and a BS in Biological
Sciences with a minor in Theatre Arts from the University of Pittsburgh. He then went on to receive an
MAS in Marine Biodiversity and Conservation and an MS in Marine Biology from Scripps Institution of
Oceanography. Daniel primarily focuses on experimental designs which are completed in a laboratory
setting. To this end, he has started and is currently maintaining a coral farm to supply his experiments
with specimens. Daniel is interested in what makes corals behave the way that they do and how those
behaviors influence how we observe them. This is to better inform the field of remote sensing where the
goal is to understand what is happening on the surface of the Earth from space using satellites.



PhD Student: Orion McCarthy

Orion graduated from the University of Maryland in May 2015 with a BS in Ecology and Evolution and a minor in Geographic Information Systems. His interest in conservation drew him to study abroad in Australia at James Cook University, where he got involved with coral research. Since then, Orion’s research interests have focused primarily on the intersection between ecology and marine conservation. He has conducted applied research related to fisheries management and coral reef resilience while at the International Pacific Halibut Commission and the World Wildlife Fund, respectively. More recently, he worked as an Ocean Policy Fellow at the Meridian Institute, a DC based non-profit that works to design collaborative processes to address environmental policy challenges. Now at Scripps, Orion is interested in studying how coral reefs change over time in response to disturbance events. Outside of the lab, Orion enjoys making pottery, going to the beach, and exploring sunny San Diego.

Selected Publications:

Harris, JL, E Estradivari, HE Fox, OS McCarthy, GN Ahmadia (2017). Planning for the future: Incorporating global and local data to prioritize coral reef conservation. Aquatic Conservation: Marine and Freshwater Ecosystems 27 (S1), 65-77. [pdf]


BS/MS Student: Corinne Amir

Corinne Amir

Corinne is a Master’s 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 Master’s 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: Madelin Jimenez-Andersen

Madelin is a Master’s Student in the BS/MS Marine Biology program at Scripps Institution of Oceanography. Madelin graduated from UCSD with a BS in Marine Biology in 2018 and first became interested in studying seaweed during Dr. Jennifer Smith’s phycology class. Madelin researches Sargassum horneri a non-native, invasive brown alga that has spread throughout Southern California’s native giant kelp forests. Madelin conducts experiments manipulating temperature and nutrients to understand how giant kelp and invasive Sargassum horneri respond to El Niño events, and the implications this may have for Southern California’s kelp forest ecosystems. Madelin also conducts local field work documenting Sargassum horneri within San Diego’s kelp forests. In her free time Madelin enjoys surfing, skateboarding, and playing music.


 Lab Manager & Staff Research Associate: Sam 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

Brant’s primary project interest is sustainably growing food from the ocean and expanding algae aquaculture in the United States. He completed a BS in Environmental Systems in 2008 at UCSD and a MAS in 2018 from SIO. His current science communication projects include the Scripps Coral Garden installed in the center of the Scripps campus which utilizes succulents to evoke a coral reef environment. The project highlights the scientific visualization tools utilized by the 100 Island Challenge and Smith Lab to conduct coral reef ecology studies. Additionally, Brant co-founded and manages the science film series SALTY CINEMA at SIO which connects the public, scientists and storytellers via public film & panel speaking events. Previously, Brant worked in start-ups with roles in business development, marketing, and communications. He returned to work with SIO in the business development office supporting Scripps teams in the Triton Innovation Challenge and is now staff in the Smith lab.


Staff Research Associate: Kelsey Miller





  • Jilian Goguen
  • Jonathan Charendoff
  • Sabrina Phan
  • Hannah Resetarits
  • Kaniela Zhen
  • Claire Kosinski
  • Sarah Romero
  • Ryan Hur
  • Jack Ewing
  • Lizzie Raphaels
  • Kristina Dizon
  • Brooke Denney


Past Members


Postdoctoral Scholars

  • Dr. Emily Kelly (2018)
    -Currently a Postdoctoral Fellow with Stanford’s Center for Ocean Solutions and World Economic Forum’s Center for the Fourth Industrial Revolution
  • 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


PhD Students

  • Dr. Amanda Carter (2018)
    Currently a NOAA Sea Grant Knauss Fellow 
  • Dr. Michael Fox (2018)
    Currently a Postdoctoral Scholar at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute
  • 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 Fellow with Stanford’s Center for Ocean Solutions and World Economic Forum’s Center for the Fourth Industrial Revolution
  • Dr. Jill Harris (2015)


Master’s Students

  • Christina Jayne (2018)
    Currently employed at DAR Honolulu 
  • 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

  • Emily Lever (2019)
  • Shania Schull (2018)
  • Katya Reshatoff (2018)
  • Julie Kring (2018)
  • Karina Arzuyan (2018)
  • Marie Diaz (2018)
  • Will Schneider (2018)
  • Chloe Kotik (2018)
  • Matthew Pawinski (2018)
  • Amanda Leu (2018)
  • 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)