Dr. Demian Willette
Sofia joined the lab in 2015, is a senior in Biochemistry, and is currently using DNA barcoding methods to test the labeling accuracy of seafood certification schemes. Sofia is a co-author on ‘Using DNA barcoding to track seafood mislabeling in Los Angeles restaurants’ and is currently working on a second seafood DNA barcoding paper. Sophia is also part of the Heller Lab at LMU and plans to attend Medical School.
Nick joined the lab in 2015, is a senior in Environmental Science, and is testing if brush piles made of invasive plant species can enhance native biodiversity. This fieldwork is conducted at Ascot Hills Park in northeast Los Angeles. Nick is a co-author on ‘Using DNA barcoding to track seafood mislabeling in Los Angeles restaurants’, and with Sofia, has received multiple conference accolades for this work. Nick plans to pursue his Ph.D. after graduating from LMU.
Kelcie is a doctoral candidate at UCLA and has worked with the Willette Lab since 2015. Kelcie’s dissertation examines multiple ecological and evolutionary questions about the invasive seagrass Halophila stipulacea both in the Caribbean and Mediterranean Seas. Kelcie has received multiple awards and grants for her research, and has several manuscripts in review and in the works.
Jackie is a senior in Biology and joined the lab in 2016. Jackie’s current research looks at the effects of increasing global temperatures on the germination rate of native California black walnut seeds. Jackie has participated in multiple summer research program, including at the Chicago Field Museum, and is also conducts research with Dr. Wendy Binder at LMU. Jackie plans to pursue a Ph.D. after graduation.
Sophie joined the lab in 2016 and is a senior in Health and Human Sciences. Her research assesses the capability of a plasmodial slime mold species to solve transit networks on 3D printed terrains. She is using the urban landscape and traffic systems of Los Angeles to test her model. Sophie also conducts research with Dr. McCormack at LMU. Sophie plans to pursue a career in medicine or physical therapy after graduating.
Candice is a senior in Biology at LMU and joined the lab in 2017. Candice’s current research examines the capacity of seagrasses as a natural ‘blue carbon sink’ and their efficiency in sequestering carbon. Candice has conducted seagrass fieldwork in the U.S. Virgin Islands, Honduras, and Bonaire. Candice is currently co-authoring two scientific manuscripts and plans to enter into a Ph.D. program in marine science next.
Kesterlyn is Junior in Biology and joined the lab in 2017. Kesterlyn conducts fieldwork at Ascot Hills Park, an urban park in northeast Los Angeles. Her research assesses the current and future value of ecosystem services of this young park by assigning a dollar value to free services the park provides such as air purification, reduction of urban heat island effect, and recreation. Kesterlyn has presented at multiple conferences and plans to attend medical school after graduating.
Sydney joined the lab in 2017 and is a Junior in Biology at LMU. Sydney’s research examines the impact of seafood mislabeling at the end of the seafood supply chain. In collaboration with Los Angeles seafood restaurants, Sydney uses pricing data and mislabeling rates to calculate lost profit margins to restaurants due to seafood fraud.
Leo joined the lab in 2018 and is a Sophomore in Biology. Leo is exploring the evolutionary origins of a threatened freshwater sardine, Sardinella tawilis, that is endemic to Taal Lake – a lake within a volcanic caldera that was isolated from the sea as recently as 300 years ago. Leo uses SNPs to genotype and contrast S. tawilis from Taal Lake, Philippines to those of its marine sister species Sardinella hualiensis from Taiwan.
PAST LAB MEMBERS
Our lab frequently works with top-notch scientists and experts from around the world. Below is a list of some of our collaborators!
Dr. Sascha Steiner
Sascha is the founder and director of ITME and TROPIC and has been a long-time collaborator and colleague of the lab on our invasive seagrass work, primarily in Dominica (West Indies).
Dr. Mudjie Santos
Mudjie is a Research Scientist II in the National Fisheries Research and Development Institute (Philippines) and has partnered on multiple food security and fisheries management projects with the lab. He also was a teammate of Demian’s on local basketball leagues in the Philippines.
Dr. Peggy Fong
Peggy is a Professor at UCLA and partners with the lab on ecological studies on the invasive seagrass Halophila stipulacea in the Caribbean. She is also a cherished mentor of Demian’s.
Dr. Anna Toline
Anna is a marine scientist and Ocean Program Coordinator for the National Park Service Southeast region and partners with the lab on risk assessment and management strategies targeted at the invasive seagrass Halophila stipulacea within US National Parks, including the Virgin Islands National Park and the Coral Reef National Monument.
Dr. Gidon Winters
Gidon is a researcher at the Dead Sea & Arava Science Center (Israel) and partners with the lab in investigating the genetic basis for the rapid, global expansion of invasive seagrass Halophila stipulacea.
Dr. Eli Meyer
Eli is an Assistant Professor at Oregon State University and partners with the lab in the use of cutting-edge molecular methods, and is the co-organizer of our summer workshops on Catalina Island.
Dr. Paul Barber
Paul is a Professor at UCLA and partners with the lab in using molecular genetic tools to help address challenges with Illegal, Unregulated, and Unreported (IUU) fishing and seafood fraud. He is also an esteemed mentor of Demian’s.
Dr. Elizabeth Sbrocco
Elizabeth is a research scholar with the Ronin Institute and partners with the lab in on-going ecological niche modeling of the invasive seagrass, Halophila stipulacea, in the Caribbean.
Dr. Anchana Prathep
Anchana is a Professor at Prince of Songkhla University in Thailand and has and continues to collaborate with Demian on multiple scientific education programs.
Dr. Samantha Cheng
Sam is a post-doctoral scholar with the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis (NCEAS) at UC Santa Barbara and partners with the lab on a range of fisheries management topics.
Mr. Duncan Leadbitter
Duncan is the director of Australia-based fisheries and natural resource consulting group Fish Matter, and a fellow at the University of Wollongong (Australia). Duncan has collaborated with the lab on marine fisheries research.
Dr. Ines Gonzalez Viana, Dr. Lucy Gillis, and Dr. Rapti Siriwardana-de Zoysa
Ines, Lucy and Rapti are current research collaborators investigating social, ecological, and biological questions related to the invasive seagrass across the Caribbean Sea.