About HBOI

Executive Leadership Team


James M. Sullivan Ph.D.

Executive Director

James M. Sullivan, Ph.D., joined Florida Atlantic University (FAU) Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute in 2015 and was named Executive Director of FAU Harbor Branch in 2018. Prior to this, Sullivan held senior positions in academia and industry, both as research faculty at the University of Rhode Island’s Graduate School of Oceanography, and as a senior oceanographer for the company Sea-Bird Scientific, which manufactures instruments for measuring and monitoring ocean activity. During his career, Sullivan has received funding through most of the major federal science agencies including the National Science Foundation, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, National Oceanographic Partnership Program, Office of Naval Research, National Aeronautics and Space Administration, and the National Institutes of Health. Sullivan’s research interests include biological and physical mechanisms that control the spatial-temporal dynamics of phytoplankton populations in the coastal oceans, harmful algal bloom dynamics, bioluminescence in the ocean, and the development and use of optical and autonomous sampling instrumentation and analytical techniques needed to study these complex processes. He has developed or co-developed equipment that includes a moored autonomous vertical profiler, a bathyphotometer, an in situ hyperspectral spectrophotometer, and an in situ holographic microscope for 3D characterization of undisturbed particles in the ocean. Sullivan has more than 50 peer-reviewed publications to his credit and has held editorial positions for several international scientific journals. He currently serves as an editor of Optics Express.

Sullivan earned his master’s and doctorate degrees in biological oceanography with specializations in phytoplankton physiology and ecology, as well as bio-optics and biophysics from the University of Rhode Island - Graduate School of Oceanography. FAU is in its fifth decade of working with marine science and technology partners on applied projects that produce positive environmental, societal and economic outcomes. As Executive Director, Sullivan is leading a strategic effort to develop interdisciplinary research by combining expertise across many FAU centers and colleges including: FAU Harbor Branch; the Institute for Sensing and Embedded Network Systems Engineering (I-SENSE); SeaTech: Institute for Ocean and Systems Engineering; the Florida Center for Environmental Studies; the Charles E. Schmidt College of Science, the Harriet L. Wilkes Honor College and the College of Engineering and Computer Science.

Patric Boles

Patrick Boles

Associate Executive Director of Operations

Patrick J. Boles, CPA, is responsible for the operational and financial aspects of Florida Atlantic University (FAU) Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute. His career spans more than 30 years of managerial roles in both private and public industry as well as public accounting specializing in not-for-profit businesses, including healthcare. A licensed certified public accountant, Boles is a graduate of Florida State University with degrees in accounting and finance, and has been with FAU Harbor Branch since 2002 when he came on board as its chief financial officer; he was subsequently appointed Harbor Branch’s chief operating officer in 2005. As a member of Harbor Branch’s transition team during its merger with Florida Atlantic University, Boles stepped up to the role of associate executive director of operations and finance, where his responsibilities now include a myriad of FAU Harbor Branch’s functions including finance, accounting, accounts payable, grants management, human resources, traffic & parking, employee health & safety, diving & boating operations & safety, security, general services, Office of Information Technology, and building & grounds operations.

Amanda L. Nickeson

Amanda L. Nickeson

Assistant Vice President, Institutional Advancement

Amanda Nickeson is a dedicated fundraising professional with nearly two decades of experience in cultivating major gifts for non-profit organizations. Amanda grew up in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, but she has always felt a deep connection to the ocean and its great wonders. In January 2019, she decided to follow her dream and accepted the position of Florida Atlantic University (FAU) Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute’s director of development.

Today, Amanda is FAU Harbor Branch’s executive director of development, and she has been instrumental in strategizing and building the Institute’s major gifts program. Amanda also led the planning of FAU Harbor Branch’s spectacular 50th anniversary celebration, as well as the revitalization of key membership and corporate partners programs. Additionally, Amanda currently serves as a founding member of Chief Miami. Chief is the only private membership network focused on helping women executive leaders magnify their positions of power and strengthen their leadership journeys.

Before joining FAU Harbor Branch, Amanda spent more than ten years at The Nature Conservancy (TNC) serving as the director of philanthropy for the Central Appalachians and West Virginia programs. Her efforts to build a new model for fundraising in a wealth-poor region gained attention across the organization. This model now provides an example for programs facing similar challenges. During her time at TNC, Amanda fostered the "One Conservancy" spirit by cultivating major gifts for programs in the Caribbean, Africa and more.

Previously, Amanda was also the director of development at WQED, Pittsburgh's PBS station. Career highlights in that role include spending time with Mister Rogers and earning a Mid-Atlantic Emmy nomination.

Amanda has a Master of Arts in Geography and Regional Planning and a Bachelor of Science in Special Education, both from California University of Pennsylvania. She now lives in Vero Beach with her three dogs, Oliver, Sheldon and Murphy.

If you would like to support FAU Harbor Branch's Ocean Science for a Better World, contact Nickeson to make a generous gift at anickeson@fau.edu.

Paul Wills

Paul Wills, Ph.D.

Associate Director for Research
Research Professor

Lab page

HBOI ocean fish