Dr. Stuart Sandin

Principal Investigator
I am a quantitative ecologist with specific interests in the population and community ecology. My research addresses questions in which ecology can most effectively inform marine management. What have been the impacts of human activities on marine ecosystems? How have changes in the structure of these ecosystems affected their functioning, especially related to important ecosystem services? Finally, how can ecological insights best be applied to develop creative and effective solutions to marine management problems? Much in the same way that an engineer provides informed solutions to practical commercial problems, an ecologist can provide informed recommendations for the protection and sustained use of natural resources. I firmly believe that novel and fundamental ecological discoveries are yet to be learned, and that such discoveries hold promise to enhance current management strategies. My research focuses largely on the ecology of coral reefs, with the goal of finding effective management and restoration approaches for this imperiled ecosystem.
Research Profile

Postdoctoral Researcher

Dr. Brian Zgliczynski : Postdoctoral Researcher

Dr. Brian Zgliczynski

Postdoctoral Researcher


Brian is a marine ecologist with interests in coral reef ecosystems and fisheries ecology. His research is motivated by a desire to understand how human activities and biophysical forces influence the structure and function of coral reef communities. Brian completed his Ph.D., at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography (2015) where he examined the effects of fisheries exploitation and oceanographic productivity on reef fish assemblages from the central Pacific. Brian is currently working as Project Coordinator of the 100 Island Challenge project.

Google Scholar

PhD Students

Anela Akiona : PhD Student

Anela Akiona

PhD Student


Originally from Hawaii, Anela graduated from the University of San Diego with a BA in Marine Science and a minor in Math. Currently, Anela is a PhD student in the Sandin Lab and is interested in studying how coral reef fish communities are shaped by oceanographic and anthropogenic variables as part of the 100 Island Challenge.  Outside of the lab, she enjoys diving, hiking, going to the beach, eating noodles, petting all the dogs, and hanging out with her homies.

Kendall Chancellor : PhD Student

Kendall Chancellor

PhD Student


Kendall is originally from Houston Texas. For undergrad, she majored in marine and environmental science at Hampton University. She is now currently a PhD student in the Sandin lab at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, where she focuses on coral bleaching and reef resilience in an era of climate change. Kendall uses the 3D models from the Sandin lab’s 100 Island Challenge to analyze the bleaching response of over 20 reefs in the Pacific exposed to various levels of thermal stress. Her research is targeted towards reefs that have adapted a potential thermal tolerance and show bleaching resistance when enduring thermal stress from climate change.

Clinton Edwards : PhD Student

Clinton Edwards

PhD Student


Clinton obtained his undergraduate degree in Ecology Behavior and Evolution at UCSD before conducting his Masters thesis at Scripps with Dr. Smith, where he completed a global analysis of coral reef herbivorous fish populations. During and following his graduate work, Clinton has worked as a staff researcher and has contributed his database management, taxonomic and quantitative skills to a number of lab projects; in this capacity Clinton has also conducted extensive field work in Hawaii, the Central Pacific and Brazil.

Beverly French : PhD Student

Beverly French

PhD Student


Beverly’s current research interests include the trophic ecology of coral reef fishes, and how food webs are structured on coral reefs across anthropogenic and oceanographic gradients. She is particularly interested in how foraging niche shifts contribute to speciation and biodiversity of fishes on reefs. Additional interests include using fish gut microbiomes to better understand fine-scale differences in the diets of reef fishes, as well as factors governing the structure of coral reef microbial communities in fish hosts.

Hugh Runyan : PhD Student

Hugh Runyan

PhD Student


Hugh is interested in finding ways to leverage engineering and advancing technology to expand scientists’ ability to investigate ecosystems in the ocean. He is currently developing neural-network-based automated methods to expedite large-area coral mapping in 2D and 3D in order to enable the precise investigation of drivers of coral diversity, death, and growth.

Master's Students

Ceiba Becker : Master's Student

Ceiba Becker

Master's Student


Lindsay Bonito : Master's Student

Lindsay Bonito

Master's Student


Currently, she is a Master’s student evaluating the successes and failures of an adaptive fisheries management plan at regional and national scales, working in conjunction with The Nature Conservancy and NOAA to understand the role, value and lessons learned of exempted fishing permits. Prior to graduate school, Lindsay was a logistics coordinator on the 100 Island Challenge team, assisting in the collection of large-scale imagery, logistics, and distillation of data. Find more information about the 100 Island Challenge here.

Laura Gibson : Master's Student

Laura Gibson

Master's Student


Laura graduated in 2015 from UCSB with a B.S. in Aquatic Biology. She moved to San Diego in 2016 and began volunteering in the Sandin lab, and started the M.S. program in 2018. Her thesis is focused around the Palmyra Atoll reefs, and assessing how large area imagery can be used to quantify growth in complex branching coral species. This form of imagery technology allows for the tracking of many different aspects of growth, and is considered a powerful tool. These tools allow her to measure initial size of coral through their more mature adult form, creating metrics of coral morphology across various scales of growth over time.

Ram Iyer : Master's Student

Ram Iyer

Master's Student


Mary Liesegang : Master's Student

Mary Liesegang

Master's Student


Sarah McTague : Master's Student

Sarah McTague

Master's Student


Staff Researchers

Esmeralda Alcantar : Staff Researcher

Esmeralda Alcantar

Staff Researcher


Katie Lubarsky : Staff Researcher

Katie Lubarsky

Staff Researcher


Katie is a Southern California native and a Staff Researcher in the Sandin Lab.  She earned her undergraduate as a Marine Biology student at UCLA, researching while studying the effects of nutrients on algal defenses. Later moving to Punta Cana, Dominican Republic, where she worked on coral restoration and community- based conservation projects with the Punta Cana Ecological Foundation. Katie finished her Master’s degree at the Hawai’i Institute of Marine Biology at the University of Hawai’i, Mānoa; focused on the effects of submarine groundwater discharge (SGD) biogeochemistry on coral growth and bioerosion rates. Katie shifted focus from research to management as a Coral Reef Monitoring Coordinator for the Hawai’i Division of Aquatic Resources (DAR), where she focused on invasive species management and coral restoration. Katie has spent the past three years living in Wellington, New Zealand, where she worked as a Senior Biosecurity Advisor for the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI). This work allowed her to gain experience and skills in the fields of marine policy, stakeholder management, and international relations. In the Sandin Lab, Katie contributes to the 100 Island Challenge project, where she assists with data collection and analysis, reporting, and building relationships with partner organizations.

Nicole Pedersen : Staff Researcher

Nicole Pedersen

Staff Researcher


Currently, she has transitioned to a staff researcher position in the Sandin Lab and joined the 100 Island Challenge team to assist in the data management, coordination, and processing of these large images, in addition to the collection of large-scale imagery. Find more information about the 100 Island Challenge here.

Chris Sullivan : Staff Researcher

Chris Sullivan

Staff Researcher


Chris is a Staff Researcher in the Sandin Lab. Growing up locally in San Diego; Chris opted to stay local and attended UCSD, where he completed a Bachelor of Science in Biology (Ecology, Behavior, and Evolution), a Bachelor of Arts in Economics, and a minor in Marine Science. During the research portion of his minor, Chris found the Sandin Lab as a group that shared common research interests. This led to the pursuit and completion of Master’s degree in Biology. His research focused on the growth effects on juvenile rockfish when presented with predator stimuli.

Past Members


Maya deVries Postdoc 2016-2018

Yoan Eynaud Postdoc 2013-2018

Gareth Williams Postdoc 2010-2016

Noah Ben-Aderet PhD 2017

Marlene Brito-Millán PhD 2017

Kathryn Furby PhD 2017

Rachel Morrison

Brian Zgliczynski PhD 2015

Tali Verdi PhD 2011

Kristen Marhaver PhD 2010

Sho Kodera MS 2018

Pierre Churukian MS 2018

Christopher Sullivan MS 2014

Cristiane Palaretti MS 2014

Elisabeth Cordner MS 2013

Cara Simonsen MS 2013