Marine Mammal Genetics Staff

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Aimée Lang
NRC Postdoctoral Research Associate
Phone: (858) 546-5684
Fax: (858) 546-7003
E-mail: Aimee.Lang@noaa.gov

While completing my PhD at Scripps Institution of Oceanography, I worked with scientists at SWFSC on a project studying the population genetics of gray whales. This work gave me the opportunity to be part of a field research team that studied a small group of gray whales feeding off the coast of Sakhalin Island, Russia. Over time, we were able to collect samples from the majority of individuals that utilize this feeding ground, and my dissertation research used both population-level and individual-based analyses (e.g. parentage analysis, genetic tracking of individuals) to provide insight into the population structure of gray whales. After completing my PhD in 2010, I began work as a postdoc with the Marine Mammal Genetics Program. My current projects include:

- Assessing the population structure of gray whales on feeding grounds in the North Pacific

- Using a simulation-based approach to evaluate plausible levels of immigration into the Pacific Coast Feeding Group of gray whales

- Assessing relatedness of individuals within the Pacific Coast Feeding Group of gray whales to better understand patterns of recruitment

- Using mitogenomics to evaluate the subspecific taxonomy of blue whales

My work with gray whales has provided me with an opportunity to participate in the International Whaling Commission Scientific Committee meetings and has increased my interest in understanding how genetic analyses can be used to inform management decisions on both an international and domestic level. In addition to my work in the genetics lab, I also participate in our division’s shore-based counts of migrating gray whales.

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Barbara Taylor
Leader, Marine Mammal Genetics Program
Phone: (858) 546-5620
Fax: (858) 546-7003
E-mail: Barbara.Taylor@noaa.gov

In addition to leading the Marine Mammal Genetics Program, I actively participate in the IUCN Cetacean Specialist Group and chair the Marine Mammal Society’s Conservation Committee. My first ten years in marine mammal research were spent studying harbor porpoise, harbor seals, bowhead whales and humpback whales, mostly in Alaska. Since receiving my PhD at the University of California, San Diego, my research has shifted from a field orientation to a quantitative approach. My research interests include genetics focusing on identifying units to conserve; population dynamics of small populations; conservation biology; demography; population viability analysis and decision analysis.

Current projects:

* Participating in vaquita conservation science projects

* Performance testing of quantitative listing criteria for the Endangered Species Act

* Developing guidelines for using genetic data in taxonomy

My hobbies include tennis, kayaking, art (painting, printing, sculpture) and watching the Daily Show.

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Brittany Hanser
Laboratory Scientist
Phone: (858) 546-5629
Fax: (858) 546-7003
E-mail: Brittany.Hancock-hanser@noaa.gov

I started at the Fisheries as a volunteer in the genetics lab in August 2004. I have bachelors degrees in Marine Biology and Global Studies from the University of California at Santa Barbara. After my undergraduate work I interned with the Cetacean Behavior Laboratory at San Diego State University studying population parameters and behavior of bottlenose dolphins. I got my graduate degree in the same lab in 2007 studying bottlenose dolphins off the coast of Belize, Central America. My thesis included research on the social structure of the dolphins of Belize. My position here at Fisheries entails projects that include gender determination, sequencing, microsatellites, SNP discovery and genotyping, and all facets of next generation sequencing. I am very thankful to be a part of this group and really enjoy my work here.

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Eric Archer
Geneticist
Phone: (858) 546-7121
Fax: (858) 546-7003
E-mail: Eric.Archer@noaa.gov

From my graduate work on morphometric and genetic variation in striped dolphins, I have developed an interest in the development and detection of population subdivision in small cetaceans. I am interested in exploring new analytical tools for genetic data that will assist managers in the identification of marine mammal stocks. My current research has been focused on methods for delimiting cetacean subspecies. Some of the recent projects that I have been involved in are:

• Differentiation of global fin whale (Balaenoptera physalus) subspecies using mitogenomics

• Morphometric and genetic differentiation of coastal and offshore bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) in the Southern California Bight

• Development of a toolkit in R for summarizing genetic data and analyss of population structure.

• A variety of studies to evaluate the affect of the ETP tuna purse-seine fishery on dolphin reproduction and early mortality

On the off-hours, I enjoy teaching and practicing martial arts (Tang Soo Do), flying or anything to do with airplanes, and being frustrated by my inherent lack of talent on bass.

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Gabriela Serra-Valente
Collection Curator
Phone: (858) 546-5697
Fax: (858) 546-7003
E-mail: Gabriela.Serra-Valente@noaa.gov

I currently manage the Marine Mammal and Turtle Genetics Tissue Collection housed here at the Center under the Protected Resources Division. With over 120,000 tissue samples representing almost all cetacean, pinniped and marine turtles species, this collection is the largest of its kind in the world, and has become an invaluable resource for marine conservation research and fisheries management. My work mainly focuses on the maintenance of this collection to ensure long term sample integrity and preservation. Duties include sample inventory and curation, accessioning sample information into our database, managing the sample check-out/check-in tracking process within our genetics laboratory, and overseeing the maintenance of all of our freezers.

In the pursuit of a career in the marine sciences, I obtained a bachelor’s degree in Biology with a focus on Marine Biology from Ohio University and shortly after I had the opportunity to engage in several projects as a volunteer at Kewalo Basin Marine Mammal Laboratory, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, Texas A&M University, and the Southwest Fisheries Science Center. Each one of these institutions has provided a truly unique experience that enriched my career with skills in valuable fields such as genetics, photo id, cetacean behavior and animal husbandry.

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Karen Martien
Operations Research Analyst
Phone: (858) 546-7058
Fax: (858) 546-7003
E-mail: Karen.Martien@noaa.gov

My research focuses on using genetic analysis and genetic modeling techniques to inform management decisions for marine mammals. I also study genetic structuring of cetacean species in the central and western Pacific Ocean. My current projects include:

- Social structure of Hawai‘i Insular false killer whales

- Global genetic structure of false killer whales, melon-headed whales, and pygmy killer whales, all with a focus on Hawaiian waters

- Developing a framework for integrating multiple lines of evidence for delineating stocks under the U.S. Marine Mammal Protection Act

- Introgressive hybridization of Fraser's dolphin nuclear and mitochondrial DNA into the Mariana Islands population of bottlenose dolphins

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Kelly Robertson
Laboratory Scientist
Phone: (858) 546-7182
Fax: (858) 546-7003
E-mail: Kelly.Robertson@noaa.gov

My main role in the Marine Mammal Genetics Program is to participate in various genetics projects, including sequencing, microsatellites, and SNPs. I am also responsible for maintaining the Ancient DNA laboratory. I am in charge of species identifications on material collected from unidentified marine mammals that stranded or were taken incidentally in fishing operations. I also oversee the day to day operations of the SWFSC Marine Mammal and Marine Turtle Molecular Genetics Archive for the mammal group. This involves overseeing the archiving of samples, receiving samples, coordinating loans of samples, updating the database with data generated from processing samples, and providing CITES permit support for the import and export of samples.

In addition to my work in genetics, I also have technical skills in marine mammal life history. I am experienced in food habit and reproductive analyses, and aging of marine mammal teeth.

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Louella Dolar
Laboratory Technician
Phone: (858) 546-5621
Fax: (858) 546-7003
E-mail: Louella.Dolar@noaa.gov

Louella has worked part time in the marine mammal genetics laboratory of the Protected Resources Division at Southwest Fisheries Science Center since 2008 doing DNA extraction, PCR, sequencing and other lab support activities. She also carries out field research and consulting in Southeast Asia on the ecology, natural history and population estimation of pelagic and coastal cetaceans and dugongs and on marine mammal-fishery interactions and grass-roots conservation programs. She serves as Adjunct Professor at the Institute for Environmental and Marine Sciences at Silliman University, Philippines.

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Morgane Lauf
Laboratory Technician
Phone: (858) 334-2829
Fax: (858) 546-7003
E-mail: Morgane.Lauf@noaa.gov

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Phillip A. Morin
Research Molecular Geneticist
Phone: (858) 546-7165
Fax: (858) 546-7003
E-mail: Phillip.Morin@noaa.gov

My research has focused on the application of genetics to disease research, on conservation in a variety of terrestrial organisms, and now on marine organisms. I previously studied the evolution, phylogeography, and social structure of chimpanzees and other primates. I then moved into biotechnology research, and for 5 years (1995-1999) I worked in human genetic disease biotechnology, applying high-throughput microsatellite and SNP genotyping to linkage and association studies of complex disease, in human and baboon study populations. In 1999 I moved to Leipzig, Germany, where I formed the Laboratory for Conservation Genetics (LCG) as an incubator project within the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology. The LCG developed and applied genetics technologies for conservation, and performed basic research to improve genetics technologies for molecular ecology. I joined the SWFSC Marine Mammal Genetics Program in 2003. Current projects include the development of Single Nucleotide Polymorphisms (SNPs) as new molecular markers for population genetics studies, use of real-time PCR for DNA quantification, sex determination, and genotyping, and molecular methods for extracting and amplifying DNA from historical and preserved samples. Since 2008 the advances in high-throughput DNA sequencing technologies have allowed us to sequence hundreds of whole mitochondrial genomes for population and phylogeography studies, and to rapidly obtain dozens of nuclear sequences from population samples for SNP discovery.

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Victoria Pease
Assistant Lab Manager
Phone: (858) 546-5664
Fax: (858) 546-7003
E-mail: Vicki.Pease@noaa.gov

I started at Fisheries as a volunteer in the genetics lab in April 2003. My work in the genetics lab have included a diversity of projects, ranging from of sea turtle stock assessments, to screening new genetic markers on various marine mammals. In addition, I have also participated in a range of different field work studies, including sea turtle beach surveys, counts of migrating gray whales, aerial photogrammetry of leatherback turtles, and acting as a visiting scientist aboard the 2007 STAR-LITE ETP cruise. Currently, my main responsibility is assisting with lab management, and I also continue to work on marine mammal genetics.

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