Research Interests

Bacterial and Eukaryotic Plankton Diversity in a Subtropical Embayment

As a postdoctoral scholar in the Rappé Lab at the Hawai’i Institute of Marine Biology, I organized and implemented a monthly sampling program at 10 sites in Kāne’ohe Bay, a subtropical embayment on the windward coast of O’ahu. We examined abiotic characteristics at various sites ranging from anthropogenically influenced regions to oceanic waters outside of the bay to link these environmental variations to bacterial and eukaryotic plankton diversity. As tiny plankton can be indicators of the health of the bay, it is important to determine at what temporal scales populations change and return to baseline.

This research has been funded by the National Science Foundation and the Smithsonian Institution.


Photo credit: Shimi RiiPopulation Dynamics of Photosynthetic Picoeukaryotes in the Oligotrophic Oceans

My Ph.D. research in the Church Lab at the University of Hawai’i at Manoa focuses on the population dynamics of eukaryotic phytoplankton and their roles in the carbon cycle in the Pacific Ocean. I conduct time-series and mesocosm experiments to find out their nutrient and habitat preferences (such as light and temperature). In my research, I confirmed that photosynthetic picoeukaryotes are likely integral components of the oceanic carbon cycle because of their really high per-cell rates of primary production (see pubs in Limnology and Oceanography and Marine Ecology Progress Series). I also explored the specific seasonal dependence of phytoplankton response to nitrogen inputs (see pub in Frontiers in Marine Science). As part of this project, I have participated on research cruises for the Center for Microbial Oceanography: Research and Education (C-MORE) and the Hawaii Ocean Time-series (HOT) Program.

Specialties: Photosynthetic pigments, primary production, molecular analyses of the 16S and 18S rRNA genes, Illumina next-generation sequencing, phytoplankton isolation and culturing, flow cytometry, fluorometry, microscopy

This research has been funded by the National Science Foundation.


0319_4Exploring the Ecology of reoccurring associations between Trichodesmium spiralis and pennate diatoms

Together with my undergraduate scholar Lisa Hall, we are working to characterize this potentially symbiotic relationship between a commonly found nitrogen fixing cyanobacteria and eukaryotic phytoplankton. We plan to examine this relationship through several microscopy methods and molecular tools.

Specialties: Epifluorescence, confocal, and scanning electron microscopy, molecular analyses with rbcLhetR, and 18S rRNA genes, molecular cloning

This research has been funded by the National Science Foundation and Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program (LH).


IMG_0150Microalgal Lipids as Feedstock for Biofuel

I worked as a Biochemical Research Specialist for Cellana, a JV with Royal Dutch Shell from 2007-09, where I performed large-scale growth experiments of microalgae in photobioreactors and open ponds to discover the ideal algal candidate for biofuel.

Specialties: Fluorometry, neutral lipid quantification and characterization, total lipid extraction, starch analysis


eddy2Nutrient-Phytoplankton-Export Dynamics in Hawaiian lee Cyclones

For my M.S. thesis research, I studied mesoscale eddies that occur seasonally in the lee of Hawai‘i due to topography and strong tradewinds. We observed elevated levels of macronutrient concentrations and phytoplankton composition, but minimal particle carbon export, as highlighted in Benitez-Nelson et al. (2007) Science. My work on the evolution of the bloom within one of these eddies was published in Rii et al. (2008) DSR II.

Specialties: Photosynthetic pigments, macronutrient analyses, particle interceptor traps, particulate C, N, P, and Si

This research was funded by the National Science Foundation.


Cancer magisterOptimal foraging behavior in juvenile Cancer magister

Before I became an oceanographer, I was trained as a marine biologist at UCLA. One of my first research projects was to investigate the foraging behavior of juvenile dungeness crabs on Nutricola clam distributions in mudflats. I’ve also studied monkeyface prickleback homing behavior using PIT tags, maintained Capitellid tube worm cultures, examined chemical communication cues using a video motion analyzer, and tracked parrotfish feeding on coral re-growth.

For a full list of my research activities and publications, check out my CV.