Coral Reef & Molecular Ecology Team

jvossProject Lead - Joshua D. Voss, Ph.D.

Associate Research Professor

Dr. Joshua Voss is the Executive Director of NOAA's Cooperative Institute for Ocean Exploration, Research, and Technology and an Associate Research Professor at Florida Atlantic University’s Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute . His primary areas of interest include shallow and mesophotic coral reef ecology, coral health and disease, molecular ecology, marine conservation and management. Through Harbor Branch’s Robertson Coral Reef Program and CIOERT he works to discover, characterize, and protect coral reefs ecosystems. Voss is a certified technical diver and scuba instructor who has completed over 1500 scientific dives and led more than 35 scientific expeditions primarily in the Bahamas, Florida Keys, Dry Tortugas , Belize , Cuba, and Gulf of Mexico with additional investigations in Panama, Curacao, Bonaire, Dominica, USVI, and St. Eustatius. Voss teaches undergraduate courses in the Harbor Branch Semester by the Sea Program, graduate courses in the FAU Department of Biology , and molecular workshops for high school students. He also serves on various committees including the South Atlantic Fisheries Management Council Coral Advisory Panel, Southeast Florida Coral Reef Initiative Team and as co-lead of their Technical Advisory Committee, the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary Technical Advisory Committee, the South Florida Marine Research Hub, and FAU’s Diving and Boating Safety Committee . After growing up on the beaches of central Florida, Voss attended Elon University in North Carolina and completed a B.S. in Biology along with minors in Philosophy and Chemistry. He earned his Ph.D. in Biological Sciences at Florida International University in Miami, and was a member of the Marine Science faculty at Eckerd College in St. Petersburg before joining FAU Harbor Branch.


combs.ian Ian Combs

Ian is a lab technician who recently graduated from FAU with his Master's in Biology in December 2019. He received a B.S. in Marine Science with a concentration in Marine Biology from the University of Delaware . Ian’s thesis research focused on characterizing the impacts of a newly-described disease known as Stony Coral Tissue Loss Disease that is currently affecting scleractinian corals throughout Southeast Florida . Ian fate-tracked individual colonies and used photogrammetry and three-dimensional modeling to assess disease progression rates. Before joining the lab, he previously worked as an intern with Mote Marine Laboratory’s Coral Health and Disease Program where he examined genotypic responses to ocean acidification and rising sea surface temperatures in Acropora cervicornis . Ian also interned with Mote’s Coral Reef Restoration Program .


Graduate Students

eckert.ryan Ryan Eckert

Ryan is a Ph.D. Student who recently completed his Master's in the lab in July 2019. Ryan’s thesis research focused on the coral species Montastraea cavernosa at several sites within two marine reserves on the Belize Barrier Reef. He used microsatellite markers and next-generation sequencing to examine how M. cavernosa populations and their assemblages of endosymbiotic algae (family Symbiodiniaceae) varied across a gradient from shallow to mesophotic depths. He received a B.S. in Biological Sciences from Florida State University. Prior to starting at HBOI he worked as a researcher at NOAA’s Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary, starting in 2009. While at FGBNMS he coordinated offshore field logistics for scientific diving missions and Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV) expeditions. He also ran quarterly long-term monitoring water quality sampling cruises and maintained long-term water quality sampling instrumentation.


sturm.alexis Alexis Sturm

Alexis is a Ph.D. Student who joined the lab in August 2017. Her thesis research will focus on the characterization of mesophotic and shallow coral reef communities off the coast of Cuba, Mexico, and the Florida Keys. She will be utilizing a combination of molecular techniques to improve the understanding of the ecology, genetic connectivity, and associated symbiont assemblages of populations of the coral Montastraea cavernosa. She is a graduate of the University of Miami with dual degrees in Marine Science and Biology. Prior to her graduate work at HBOI, she worked in education and outreach and policy development for the NOAA Office of National Marine Sanctuaries and Office of Protected Resources. As an undergraduate NOAA Hollings Scholar, she led coral health impact and human use surveys in Tumon Bay, Guam. She also worked as an undergraduate research assistant in the Cnidarian Immunity Lab, focusing on wound healing processes in the coral, Pocillopora damicornis.


gonzalezmendez.juliett Juliett González Méndez

Juliett González Méndez is a Ph.D. Student jointly supervised by Dr. Voss and Dr. S. Patricia González Díaz, director of the Center for Marine Research at the University of Havana. Her dissertation research will focus on the characterization of mesophotic and shallow coral reef communities off the coasts of Cuba and the application of these results to management of marine protected areas. She was a key participant in the 2017 cruise circumnavigating the Cuban archipelago. Juliett received her Biology degree from UH and then earned two Master's degrees related to marine ecology and management of marine protected areas. For the past 17 years her research and monitoring efforts in coastal marine ecosystems have contributed to the planning and management of marine protected areas in Cuba. As a specialist for Cuba's National Center of Protected Areas, Juliett's research focuses on the biology and ecology of coral reefs. She also coordinates the monitoring system for biodiversity in Cienaga de Zapata National Park.


shilling.erin Erin Shilling

Erin Shilling is a Master's Student who joined the lab in August of 2018. Erin's thesis research involves comparing the success rates of various coral disease intervention methods, as well as analyzing any impacts these treatments may have on coral mucus microbial communities. Her work is part of a collaborative effort to save corals in the southeast Florida Reef Tract that are affected by an outbreak of a disease termed Scleractinian Tissue Loss Disease. She graduated in 2017 from the University of Texas at Austin with a B.S. in Biology, focusing on Ecology, Evolution, and Behavior. At UT she interned with several non-profits and volunteered in the lab of Dr. Misha Matz at UT, examining potential biomarker genes in Acropora millepora. Erin also studied abraod a three-week field course in Akumal, Mexico, and led surveys to assess potential human influence on coral reef community structure. She took part in UT's Semester by the Sea program, spending a semester in Port Aransas, TX.


Chaymaker Caroline Haymaker

Caroline is a Master's Student who joined the lab in August 2019. She received a B.S. in Biology with a concentration in Conservation Leadership from Old Dominion University . In her senior year, she became an Undergraduate Independent Researcher with the Barshis Lab . During her time there she managed the second half of a long-term independent study to determine the genotypes of Goniastrea retiformis and their endosymbionts (family Symbiodiniaceae) sampled from American Samoa. Once she graduated from ODU in 2017, she began a four-month internship at the University of Western Australia in the McCulloch Lab . There she aided in a long-term coral acclimatization experiment ( Acropora aspera and Dipsastraea sp .) under the mentorship of a post-doctorate fellow, Verena Schoepf . After returning home to Virginia, she worked as an adjunct instructor at Tidewater Community College for the 2018 school year.

HBOI ocean fish