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photo: Miami-Dade County

Technical Advisory Committee

The Southeast Florida Coral Reef Initiative (SEFCRI) Technical Advisory Committee (TAC) was established to provide technical and scientific expertise to all SEFCRI Focus Areas. The TAC is comprised of leading research scientists in the fields of coral reef ecology, water quality, oceanography, geology, fisheries, socioeconomics, resource management, chemistry and biology.

Below is a brief biography of each TAC member. If you have questions for one of the TAC members, please email Coral@dep.state.fl.us with the name of the TAC member you would like a response from in the subject and the question in the body of the email.

Ken Banks

Dr. Ken Banks works for Broward County, in the Florida Environmental Protection and Growth Management Department as the manager of the Marine Resources Program. He is responsible for the management and implementation of interdisciplinary research teams and programs related to coral reef mapping and monitoring (using LIDAR, multibeam and side scan sonars, low altitude aerial photography, and in situ diver mapping techniques), coastal water quality, marine resources damage assessment and restoration, coastal engineering projects (erosion studies, wave and current studies, environmental assessments, and mitigation projects), and coastal conservation. Dr. Banks also helps develop policy for coastal resources management and works with programs including coral reef conservation, manatee protection, sea turtle conservation and environmental restoration.

Don Behringer

Dr. Don Behringer is an associate professor of Marine Ecology & Diseases at the University of Florida with a Joint appointment with School of Forest Resources and Conservation and the Emerging Pathogens Institute. Research in the Behringer lab focuses on marine disease ecology and epidemiology, the resilience and restoration of marine communities impacted by human or natural disturbances, and the ecology and behavior of marine invertebrates.

Dick Dodge

Dr. Richard E. Dodge is Dean of, and Professor at, the Nova Southeastern University Oceanographic Center. Dr. Dodge is also Executive Director of the Center’s National Coral Reef Institute, which is devoted to providing management research outcomes on reef monitoring, assessment, and restoration. Dr. Dodge received his BS from the University of Maine and his MS and PhD from Yale University. He is the author of many scientific publications  and reports for various agencies and companies. He has expertise on the effects of natural and human-induced impacts to coral reefs and is well versed in assessing and analyzing effects from physical damage and pollution on coral reefs. This includes experience with sedimentation effects, bomb range impacts, ship grounding damage, adverse effects of oil to coral reefs, and studies and projects evaluating impacts of coastal construction, development, and liquefied natural gas ports. His experience includes economic analysis and use of Habitat Equivalency Analysis.

Phillip Dustan

Dr. Phillip Dustan, Professor of Biology at the College of Charleston, is a marine ecologist specializing in the ecology, vitality, and remote sensing of corals and coral reef communities. Much of his work has centered on detecting change in coral reef communities. Additional research interests include estuarine and riverine phytoplankton ecology, the oceanography of marine mammal habitats, and human influences on marine ecosystem goods and services. He was a founding Principal Investigator on the US Environmental Protection Agency Florida Keys Coral Reef/Hardbottom Monitoring Project and responsible for developing sampling design, software, and digital video image analysis for the project. More recently, he pioneered new remote sensing techniques for coral reef change analysis using Landsat imagery, collaborated on developing molecular stress markers for assessing coral health, and developed Digital Reef Rugosity to estimate coral reef spatial complexity. He has worked on reefs in the Florida Keys, Bahamas, Caribbean Sea, Indian Ocean, and Indonesian archipelago. A member of the City of Charleston Green Committee, Dr. Dustan is working to help the City of Charleston reduce its carbon footprint through better capitalizing on natural infrastructure to absorb pollutants, reduce urban runoff, and absorb excess carbon dioxide.

John Fauth

Dr. John Fauth is an Associate Professor of Biology at the University of Central Florida in Orlando. He received his BS in biology & chemistry from St. Lawrence University and his PhD in zoology from Duke University, and completed a Pratt Postdoctoral Fellowship at the University of Virginia Mountain Lake Biological Station. He teaches diverse undergraduate and graduate courses, including ecological methods, evolutionary biology, herpetology, invertebrate zoology, restoration ecology, and vertebrate zoology. His research addresses fundamental questions in ecology, evolution, conservation biology, and restoration ecology, with a special emphasis on freshwater wetlands and coral reefs. Dr. Fauth has conducted coral reef research in Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary, Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, Biscayne National Park, the southeast Florida coral reef tract, and in Puerto Rico, the US Virgin Islands, and Guantanamo Bay Naval Air Station in Cuba.

Piero Gardinali

Dr. Gardinali’s research focuses on studies regarding the origin, fate, and transport of anthropogenic organic compounds in freshwater and coastal environments. His research investigates highly toxic halogenated compounds such as co-planar polychlorinated biphenyls, dioxins, and furans as well as pesticides, herbicides, and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and their metabolites and degradation products in aquatic organisms and soil/sediments. Dr. Gardinali’s research group is also involved in the development of analytical techniques for the analysis of trace organic compounds in environmental samples.

Dave Gilliam

As an Assistant Professor at the National Coral Reef Institute at Nova Southeastern University, Dr. David Gilliam’s research interests focus on coral reef ecology as applied to fisheries, restoration, assessment, and monitoring. His projects have strong resource management goals through collaboration with local, state, and federal agencies. Research efforts include: two long-term southeast Florida reef monitoring projects, assessing the success of several reef restoration projects, and investigating methods to improve restoration success. He is currently on the Coral Advisory Panel for the South Atlantic Fisheries Management Council. Dr. Gilliam is also an advisor for DEP and FWC on reef damage and restoration issues. Dr. Gilliam received his BS from the University of Miami, and his MS and PhD from Nova Southeastern University.

Lew Gramer

Dr. Lew Gramer received his BS in theoretical mathematics from Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1990 (’90 XVIII-A), and a PhD in meteorology and physical oceanography from the University of Miami Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science in 2013. He currently has a joint appointment between the Cooperative Institute for Marine and Atmospheric Studies in Miami and Keys Marine Lab (under the auspices of the Florida Institute of Oceanography) in Long Key, Florida. His research interests include the dynamics of coastal and shelf oceanic and air-sea processes, focusing on processes that directly impact coral reef geochemistry and ecology. Ongoing projects seek to understand the dynamics that dominate sea-temperature variability on reef flats, slopes, and neighboring waters, specifically air-sea and benthic heat fluxes, heat advection and mixing, and associated physical oceanographic processes; to characterize upwelling and cross-shelf circulation on the northern Florida Reef Tract in order to quantify fluxes of heat, salt, and nutrients onto the reefs; and to develop manager-accessible, high-resolution satellite products for monitoring turbidity in shallow coastal environments, particularly coral reefs within the SEFCRI region.

Kurtis Gregg

Kurtis Gregg is a fisheries habitat specialist within NOAA Fisheries Service’s Habitat Conservation Division. Kurtis has state and federal regulatory experience, in addition to state and federal natural resource management expertise applicable to the Florida Reef Tract. Mr. Gregg provides additional support to the SEFCRI partnership with expertise in fisheries ecology, partnership building/coordination, land-based sources of pollution, and watershed management planning.

Dale Griffin

Dr. Griffin received a BS in microbiology, an MS in public health, and a PhD with a research focus on the use of molecular methods for detection of water quality indicators and pathogens in aquatic environments from the University of South Florida. In his first post-doctoral position, he worked on human viral detection assays, marine lysogeny, and isolation of viruses lytic to the red-tide agent Karenia brevis. In his second post-doctoral position, he worked on a project funded by NASA to study microbiology and public health issues associated with atmospheric transatlantic transport of African dust to the Caribbean and Americas. Dr. Griffin is currently employed by the US Geological Survey as an environmental public health microbiologist and is working on microbial water quality issues, long-range dust storm associated dispersion of microorganisms around the globe, and how the geochemistry of soils control the background distribution of pathogens across the contiguous United States. Dr. Griffin has expertise in aquatic public health microbiology, including the detection of water quality indicators, pathogenic microorganisms, and microbial source tracking.

Judy Lang

Dr. Judy Lang, formerly at the Texas Memorial Museum, University of Texas, is presently the Scientific Coordinator for the Atlantic and Gulf Rapid Reef Assessment Program and a Scientific Advisor to the RECON (Reef Condition) Project. Dr. Lang’s research has spanned coral behavior, taxonomy, biogeochemistry, monitoring, traditional native American knowledge systems, conservation-themed exhibits and public outreach. As the Scientific Coordinator for Atlantic and Gulf Rapid Reef Assessment, she helps coordinate a program of representative reef surveys for the wider Caribbean that are based on standardized, measurable indicators of ecological condition. Training, continuing education, and capacity building for participating researchers, managers, and students occupies much of her time. She is also the Chief Curator of the Our Reefs: Caribbean Connections traveling reef exhibits (1996, extensively revised in 2008, update pending) and serves on the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council’s Special Coral Scientific and Statistical Committee.

Jose Lopez

Dr. Jose (Joe) Lopez is a Professor at the Nova Southeastern University. He earned PhD at George Mason University studying the evolution of mitochondrial DNA and its transpositions in feline nuclear genomes. Dr. Lopez then applied his molecular evolutionary training in postdoctoral appointments characterizing the Montastraea annularis coral sibling species complex at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama, and sponge genetics at Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute in Ft Pierce, Florida. This allowed him to use submersible technology to investigate deep sea sponges and corals. Since 2007, Dr. Lopez’s research at the Nova Southeastern University Center for Excellence in Coral Reef Ecosystems Science has focused on marine invertebrate-microbial symbiosis, genomics, gene expression of organisms, marine microbiology, metagenomics and systematics, and systematics/phylogenetics, placing marine sponges on a global Tree of Life. He has recently initiated a novel “Global Invertebrate Genomics Alliance” that will coordinate genome sequencing of non-model invertebrate species (http://giga-cos.org) and is also involved with other invertebrate biologists in the global Earth Microbiome Project (earthmicrobiome.org).

Arthur Mariano

Dr. Arthur J. Mariano is a full professor of physical oceanography in the Division of Meteorology and Physical Oceanography at the University of Miami Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science. He received BS degrees in mathematics and marine science from Stockton State College and a PhD in physical oceanography from the University of Rhode. Arthur completed a post-doc at Harvard University and served as research faculty there. His research includes ocean currents, Lagrangian dynamics and prediction, ocean modeling, statistical data analysis and assimilation, remote sensing, ocean heat dynamics, and tagging large pelagic fish. He is a member of the NASA Sea Surface Temperature Science Team, co-principal investigator of the Consortium for the Advanced Research into the Transport of Hydrocarbons in the Environment, and the co-founder of the Lagrangian Analysis and Prediction of Coastal and Ocean Dynamics group. Arthur is an avid fisherman, the president of the Hollywood Hills Saltwater Fishing Science and Social Club, and speaks at many fishing clubs on the science of fishing and fish tagging.

Valerie Paul

Dr. Valerie Paul is Director of the Smithsonian Marine Station in Fort Pierce, Florida. She received her BA from the University of California, San Diego with majors in biology and studies in chemical ecology. She earned her PhD in marine biology from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography. She served as faculty, director, and professor at the University of Guam Marine Laboratory between 1985 and 2002. Her research interests include marine chemical ecology, marine plant-herbivore interactions, coral reef ecology, and marine natural products. As overgrowth of corals by algae is one of the most troubling conservation issues facing reefs worldwide, she has focused her research on understanding algal chemical defenses against herbivores and how these can facilitate algal blooms. She has also studied harmful benthic cyanobacteria blooms because of their increasing abundance. Dr. Paul was elected a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 1996 “for significant contributions to the field of marine chemical ecology and for major publications on the effects of secondary metabolites on interactions between marine plants and animals”.

Esther Peters

Dr. Peters is a full-time Term Assistant Professor in the Department of Environmental Science & Policy at George Mason University, an Adjunct Scientist with Mote Marine Laboratory, and an Adjunct Professor at Nova Southeastern University’s Oceanographic Center. Dr. Peters has taught histology and courses on diseases of corals and other reef organisms and supervises the Histology Laboratory at George Mason University. She studies cell and tissue alterations as a bridge to understanding the molecular and microbiological aspects of disease processes on populations, communities, and ecosystems. She received her MS in marine science from the University of South Florida and her PhD in biological oceanography from the University of Rhode Island’s Graduate School of Oceanography. Her research includes work on contaminant and biota monitoring programs in temperate estuarine and coastal marine environments, as well as tropical coral reef ecosystems in the Caribbean, Florida Keys, and southeast Florida. She is an internationally recognized expert on diseases of coral reef organisms and participates in the Coral Disease and Health Consortium.  An aquatic toxicologist and pathobiologist, Dr. Peters’ expertise includes the effects of exposures to chemical contaminants and other environmental stressors on a variety of invertebrates and fishes in both field and laboratory studies. She has performed extensive work on the comparative histopathology of invertebrates.

Manoj Shivlani

Manoj Shivlani is the Program Manager for the Northern Taiga Ventures, Inc. Center for Independent Experts, a program that has organized independent peer reviews of NOAA Fisheries assessments and products since 1998. He also serves as adjunct faculty at Miami-Dade College and at the University of Miami, teaching undergraduate courses and graduate seminars related to environmental science and policy, international ocean governance, and ocean policy. His research focuses on the human dimensions of coastal and marine resource issues, and he has conducted several projects related to southeast Florida coral reefs, including the socioeconomic impacts of the Florida Spiny Lobster Trap Reduction Program, use patterns of Florida Keys dive sites, user perceptions of the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, characterization of stakeholder groups in the upper Florida Reef Tract, and stakeholder preferences for the management of coral reefs in the SEFCRI region. Mr. Shivlani earned a BA in biology from Colgate University, an MA in marine affairs and policy from the University of Miami, and is completing his dissertation in International Relations at Florida International University.

Jack Stamates

Jack Stamates is a native of south Florida and an oceanographer at the NOAA Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratory (AOML) in Miami, Florida. The focus of his research has been the south Florida ecosystem, coastal ecosystem health, marine mammal acoustics, acoustical oceanography and oceanic and land-based sources of pollution. Jack is the director of AOML’s Florida Area Coastal Environment, which focuses on addressing water quality issues within the SEFCRI region. Mr. Stamates is a graduate of Miami Dade College (where he served as an adjunct faculty member), Florida International University, and the University of Miami Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science. A major emphasis of his work has been in the application of acoustical techniques to environmental research.

Brian Walker

Dr. Brian Walker is a research scientist at Nova Southeastern University. His research centers on the spatial distribution of organisms, coral reef ecology and geology, reef fish ecology, and landscape/seascape ecology. Of recent particular interest is the effect of latitude and climate change along the northern Florida Reef Tract. He is active in shallow and deep water benthic habitat mapping, habitat impact assessment and restoration, GIS spatial analyses, optical remote-sensing, and hydrographic survey research, particularly LIDAR and sonar-based seafloor discrimination. His research has taken place in the tropical Atlantic and Caribbean including Florida, Mexico, the Bahamas, Puerto Rico, and the US Virgin Islands. Dr. Walker has held many grants and contracts from various agencies, and he has authored numerous publications including technical reports, book chapters, and scientific peer-reviewed publications. His GIS and Spatial Ecology lab houses eight graduate students including three employees whose research includes map accuracy assessment, queen conch distributions, and long-term anchor impacts to coral reef communities.

Dana Wusinich-Mendez

Dana Wusinich-Mendez is the Atlantic and Caribbean Management Team Lead for the NOAA Coral Reef Conservation Program. Dana has been working with NOAA to support the efforts of coral reef resource managers in Florida, Puerto Rico, and the US Virgin Islands, and to build capacity for the effective management of marine protected areas in the Wider Caribbean region since 2002. She is a graduate of the Duke University Nicholas School of the Environment, where she focused on marine protected area and cooperative coastal resource management efforts. Prior to obtaining her Master’s in environmental management at Duke, Dana worked for the RARE Center for Tropical Conservation and Amigo de Sian Ka’an with communities on the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef System in southern Quintana Roo, Mexico to build capacity for the development and effective management of coral reef marine protected areas.

Joshua Voss

Dr. Joshua Voss is the Executive Director of NOAA’s Cooperative Institute for Ocean Exploration, Research, and Technology and an Assistant 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 40 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 Technical Advisory Committee, and the South Florida Marine Research Hub. 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.

Robert Brumbaugh

Dr. Robert Brumbaugh joined The Nature Conservancy in 2004 and is currently a Senior Marine Scientist in the Florida Chapter based in Coral Gables, Florida. In this role, Rob is responsible for helping to support the conservation of coral reefs, mangroves, oyster reefs and other coastal habitats that define the ecology of Florida’s coastal waters, and shape the culture and economies of Florida’s coastal communities.  A particular focus of Rob’s work is on quantifying ecosystem benefits of marine habitats, including fish production, water quality benefits, carbon storage and other functions that help to support economic and social well-being.  This information, in turn, helps the Conservancy and its partners better define objectives for conservation, restoration and management of these critical coastal ecosystems. Rob serves as Chair of the Florida Reef Resilience Program (FRRP) Steering Committee, which is comprised of state and federal management agencies, scientific research institutions and county government representatives. He also serves on the South Florida Coral Reef Initiative’s (SEFCRI) Technical Advisory Committee. Prior to joining the Conservancy’s Florida Chapter in 2017, Rob served on TNC’s Global Oceans Team and initiated and directed the Conservancy’s Mapping Ocean Wealth initiative, which was recognized with the 2017 Tourism for Tomorrow Innovation Award by the World Travel and Tourism Council.  This initiative continues to develop and expand, and Rob now serves on the Mapping Ocean Wealth core team to help inform ongoing work of this global initiative and to apply the results to conservation and management challenges in Florida. Rob holds a M.S. and Ph.D. in oceanography from Old Dominion University, holds a USCG captain’s license, and is qualified member of TNC’s Scientific Diving Program through the American Academy of Underwater Sciences.

Stephanie Schopmeyer

Stephanie Schopmeyer is an Associate Research Scientist with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Research Institute Coral Program. Her responsibilities include conducting long-term coral reef demographic and coral related disturbance response monitoring, providing expert advice for coral related management needs for the State of Florida, developing monitoring plans and strategies for coral habitats, and serving as a scientific advisor to the coral rescue team which focuses on preserving the genetic diversity of Florida’s corals against mortality caused by the current Stony Coral Tissue Loss Disease event through coral collection and live gene banking. She graduated with a Bachelor’s and Master’s degree from Georgia Southern University where her thesis focused on environmental stressors to corals and she has over 20 years of research experience in coral population and community ecology, coral propagation and restoration, and nearshore seagrass habitat ecology.

Laura Jay Grove

Laura Jay Grove is a Research Fishery Biologist at the National Marine Fisheries Service’s Southeast Fisheries Science Center (SEFSC) in Miami. Jay received her B.S. in marine biology from the University of New Hampshire, M.S. in marine science from the University of New England, and Ph.D. in fisheries from Auburn University. She joined NOAA in 2016 and is presently the Coral Reef Conservation Program’s National Coral Reef Monitoring Program’s (NCRMP) SEFSC lead. In this role, she is the lead fish data scientist ensuring high quality data collection and analysis. Jay is also NCRMP’s Florida sampling coordinator. Every other year she coordinates with multiple federal (NPS, FKNMS, EPA), state (FWC, FDEP), local (MDC, Broward), and academic institutions (NSU, UM, etc.) to survey fishes and corals throughout Florida (Dry Tortugas, Florida Keys, and Southeast Florida). This large survey effort provides domain-wide reef fish and coral population status and trends that are used to inform regional resource management. She is a principle investigator on multiple other research projects including fish method calibration and mesophotic reef studies in the U.S. Caribbean, and extending habitat mapping and reef surveys, and telemetry studies in Florida. Jay is a NOAA divemaster and field trainer with over 24 years of dive experience that allow her to continue learn through underwater observations. She has a background in marine science education and enjoys sharing science with all audiences whenever possible.