People

Cynthia Hunter, PhD

My research focuses on fundamental questions in coral reef ecology within the larger context of conservation ecology. Broadly, I am interested in contributing to a better understanding of how coral reef ecosystems function and sustain themselves, particularly within the context of natural and anthropogenic stressors. More specifically, I am interested in forces that affect the biodiversity of coral reef species, and how this diversity may be influenced through time, space and under various physical and anthropogenic regimes.







Rachel Dacks

Growing up in South Florida, I was exposed to coral reefs from a young age and have since been fascinated with the rich biodiversity that make up these ecosystems. It wasn't really until I was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Fiji, where I lived in a village in which people lived subsistence lifestyles, completely dependent on natural resources, that I started thinking of coral reefs as complex social-ecological systems.

Broadly, I am interested in coral reef ecology and the complex relationships between humans and natural resources. My research focuses on drivers that affect indicators of social-ecological resilience in coastal communities in Fiji. I am specifically interested in the role of livelihood diversity, markets, and traditional ecological knowledge, or TEK (a knowledge, practice, belief system) in social-ecological resilience in a rapidly changing world.


Angela Richards Donà, MSc

The main motivator for most of what I do in life is beauty. In my opinion, the beauty of a coral reef--gorgeous colors, teeming life, exotic and strange creatures--exceeds all other things and places. Thus it is not surprising to me that after a career in fashion design in New York City and in Italy, I changed my goals and aspirations to help save these amazing, threatened ecosystems.

I earned my MS in Marine and Atmospheric Science at the School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences (SoMAS) at Stony Brook University and am now pursuing my PhD in the Marine Biology Department here at UH Manoa. I work on the photobiology of the blue Hawaiian Montipora spp. corals with specific focus on determining the functional roles of the chromoproteins that make corals blue. I aim to use my scientific findings to help the conservation and management of the reefs that have so inspired me and I hope that through these discoveries, future generations will continue to experience the beauty of these reefs. Visit my website for more information on my background. My CV can be downloaded here.

Tayler Massey

My introduction to the ocean came from annual trips to the coast with my family in Texas. There, a fear of fish turned into a love for the ocean, which grew stronger once I discovered coral reefs in the Cayman Islands. I decided then I wanted to learn everything I could about these mesmerizing environments. I am interested in coral reef ecology, the relationships between corals and the surrounding reef environment, and how those relationships contribute to overall reef health and resilience to future stressors.

My current research focuses on the complex and variable response of corals to thermal stress and the identification of drivers responsible for differential bleaching patterns. I utilize ecological monitoring and molecular analysis to characterize and attempt to explain the patterns of bleaching seen at A’alapapa Reef. Additionally, I am working with Malama Ka’ohao, a local community organization dedicated to restoring and protecting the A’alapapa Reef for future generations.

Anne Rosinski

As a little girl on the Jersey shore, I was the only kid in the boat that wanted to hold a tarantula-like spider crab. Not only did I want to hold it, but was so curious about its every part and alien-like movements. Since then that curiosity has driven my exploration of marine biology and has led me to study several aspects of marine ecology and the management of natural resources. I have recently worked as a NOAA Coral Reef Conservation Program fellow with the Hawaii Division of Aquatic Resources focusing on curriculum development, management planning, and responding to damaging coral reef events including disease and bleaching.

My research will focus on how managers can effectively respond to these types of events by developing new, practical management tools and methodologies. I am specifically interested in coral restoration techniques and integrating science with policy to solve practical conservation obstacles.

Shreya Yadav

I was getting my undergraduate degree in zoology from Madras University when I went on my first dive off the Andaman islands. Since then, I have kept my head (mostly) underwater. I graduated with a Master's in marine biology from James Cook University, Australia, in 2013. For the past 3 years I have been working with the Nature Conservation Foundation in the Lakshadweep islands, a chain of atolls off the west coast of India. Broadly, the work has focussed on trying to understand reef response to climatic stress.

Specifically, I am interested in the interactions between substrate, structure, and local hydrodynamics in influencing the early post-settlement fate and survival of coral recruits, and the repercussions this can have for reef-scale benthic recovery. I would like to expand on this work for my PhD, exploring questions of coral reef resilience and the mechanisms of coral adaptation and reef recovery in rapidly warming waters.

Tara Hetz

I am a young, female conservation biologist with a diverse set of experiences. I was raised in the middle of a Tanzanian National Park and my parents' work in conservation influenced me at an early age. I was first introduced to the awe and magic of coral reef ecosystems when I studied abroad at James Cook University in Australia. There I became SCUBA certified and mesmerized by the intricacy, complexity and beauty of the Great Barrier Reef. I graduated from St. Lawrence University (NY) with a degree in Conservation Biology and found myself yearning to go back to Africa. I spent the next 6 years traveling the globe and gaining a variety of different experiences: a research assistant on Bioko Island, Equatorial Guinea, a student affairs manager in Kenya, and a cycling guide in France and Spain.

I decided to return to the academic world to pursue my conservation goals to combine my interests in research and the application of science to conservation work, management and education. Although my research interests are broad, I plan to focus on the role of herbivores in coral reef recovery.

Maya Walton, MSc

Maya completed her MS in Zoology in the Hunter Lab at the University of Hawai’i at Mānoa where she researched coral reef ecosystem health and Marine Protected Areas in Oahu. She examined differences in coral disease prevalence across protective boundaries of Oahu’s Marine Life Conservation Districts and utilized statistical models to investigate whether disease levels were linked to biological and environmental parameters, and protection status. Her graduate research was supported through funding from the University of Hawai’i Sea Grant College Program.

In 2014, following completion of her MS at University of Hawai’I, Maya completed a John A. Knauss Marine Policy fellowship in NOAA’s Office of National Marine Sanctuaries headquarters office as a member of the Conservation Science Division. Currently, Maya is a University of Hawai’i Sea Grant extension agent who serves as the Coordinator for the NOAA Hawaiian Islands Sentinel Site Cooperative (HISSC). In addition to her extension work Maya also serves as the UH Sea Grant Research Coordinator and science writer.

Joshua Levy

Although a UK citizen, Josh’s quest for a career in marine biology led him halfway across the globe. Since immigrating to the US at the age of 13, his home base has been New York, and his education and career have taken him to Florida, Maine, Iceland, Portugal, Brazil, and South Africa. Although he has been involved in projects across several fields within marine science, his general research interests involve coral reef ecology, and the dynamic relationship between coral and their biotic and abiotic environment.

Josh’s master’s research focused on using recent technological advances in aerial imagery as a low-cost, efficient, alternative method for conducting reef surveys in Kaneohe Bay. His work recorded differences in reef-specific responses to elevated seawater temperature during the global bleaching event in 2015. He is now working on a project to monitor pier construction impacts on a fringing reef in Kaneohe Bay and looking forward to applying sUAV technology to a number of research and educational projects.