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SFG Team

Steve Gaines

Steve Gaines

Principal Investigator, Dean of the Bren School of Environmental Science and Management

Steve’s research focuses on marine ecology and conservation, sustainable fisheries, the design of marine reserves, and the impact of climate change on ocean ecosystems. He has served as director of the UC Santa Barbara Marine Science Institute, and as UCSB Acting Dean of Science and Acting Vice Chancellor for Research. Steve became Dean of the Bren School in January 2010 and currently serves as a science advisor for the Joint Ocean Commission and is a lead investigator for the Sustainable Fisheries Group, which seeks market based solutions to achieve economic revitalization of fisheries. Steve earned a BS in Biology from the University of California, Irvine and a PhD, in Ecology from Oregon State University.

Contact Information:
office: Bren Hall 2410
phone: 805-893-4339
email: gaines[at]bren.ucsb.edu
Gaines Lab Website

Christopher Costello

Chris Costello

Principal Investigator, Professor of Environmental and Resource Economics

Chris is Professor of Environmental and Resource Economics at the Bren School at UC Santa Barbara. He joined UCSB after receiving his PhD from UC Berkeley in 2000. His research is primarily in the area of natural resource management and property rights under uncertainty, with a particular emphasis on information, its value, and its effect on management decisions. He is also interested in the process and design of adaptive management programs in which learning (to resolve uncertainty or asymmetric information) is actively pursued. Topical interests include fisheries management, biological diversity, introduced species, regulation of polluting industries, and marine policy. Costello frequently collaborates with researchers outside of economics such as statistics, ecology, biogeography, and mathematics. Costello serves as a science adviser to the Ocean Protection Council, the Marine Life Protection Act Initiative, and the Communication Partnership for Science and the Sea, and he is a Faculty Research Fellow at the National Bureau of Economic Research.

Contact Information:
office: Bren Hall 4410
phone: 805-893-5802
email: costello[at]bren.ucsb.edu
Christopher Costello's Home Page

Sarah Lester

Sarah Lester

Principal Investigator, Research and Program Manager

Sarah received her BS from University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and her PhD in marine ecology from UC Santa Barbara. For her dissertation research, she studied the role of dispersal ability in determining geographic range size for marine taxa and large-scale patterns of reproductive output in intertidal invertebrates. Following her PhD, she was the Project Manger for the California Current Ecosystem-Based Management (CCEBM) initiative, a collaborative effort to synthesize, advance, and communicate the natural and social science needed for more comprehensive ecosystem-based management along the U.S. west coast. Sarah is the Research and Program Manager of the Sustainable Fisheries Group and helps SFG with science communications and works with on-the-ground partners to connect science and research to the implementation of conservation and sustainable fisheries projects. Her recent research has focused on the ecological effects of marine protected areas, applying tradeoff analysis to marine resource management and spatial planning, sustainable fisheries management, and ecosystem-based management. She also recently worked as scientific staff for the Ocean Health Index project.

Contact Information:
office: Marine Science Research Building, Rm 4322B
phone: 805-893-5175
email: lester[at]msi.ucsb.edu

Matt Burgess

Postdoctoral Researcher

Originally hailing from Montreal, Canada, Matt got his Honours B.Sc. in Ecology from the University of Toronto in 2009, after switching from an Economics major. He got his Ph.D in 2014 from the University of Minnesota in Ecology, Evolution, and Behavior, under the co-supervision of David Tilman and Stephen Polasky, working on developing mechanistic threat predictors for harvested species; studying potential impacts of fleet diversity on the yields, profits, and ecological impacts of fisheries; and other ecological and economic questions related to fisheries, conservation, and food security. At SFG, Matt is working on a global assessment of historical and current trends in the threat potential of fisheries and other harvests; and plans to explore other questions at the intersection of fisheries ecology, economics, and policy. For more information, see Matt’s website.

Contact Information:
office: Bren Hall 4029
email: mburgess[at]bren.ucsb.edu

Tyler Clavelle

Tyler Clavelle

Research Assistant

Tyler received his BA as a double major in Biology and Economics from Bucknell University in 2009. Following graduation, he spent two years working as the assistant manager of the Bimini Biological Field Station, a shark research lab in Bimini, Bahamas. After developing an interest in science and policy intersections, Tyler returned to graduate school and earned his Master's degree in coastal marine resource management from the Bren School of Environmental Science and Management at UCSB. For his thesis work, he developed a bio-economic modeling approach for examining the production of fish meal substitutes in artisanal fishing communities in Baja California Sur, Mexico. Tyler's interests include aquaculture, small scale fisheries, offshore renewable energy, and using marine spatial planning and bio-economic modeling to inform policy and management.

Contact Information:
office: Bren Hall 4528
email: tclavelle[at]bren.ucsb.edu

Michaela Clemence

Michaela Clemence

Project Manager

Michaela grew up on the coast in New England as tidal pool explorer and an avid architect of the sand. Since those days, she has worked to understand the connection between the ocean and the communities who depend on it and how to use scientific and conservation tools to guide decision making and reduce user conflicts in marine resource management. At SFG, she works with partners to integrate innovative science and modeling into on-the-ground projects. Prior to working at SFG, she was a 2012 Sea Grant Knauss Fellow in the Program Coordination Office in NOAA Headquarters in Washington, DC. She received her BS in biology and environmental science from the University of Richmond and her Master's degree in coastal marine resource management from the Bren School of Environmental Science and Management at UCSB. Her graduate work focused on marine spatial planning and bio-economic modeling for offshore shrimp aquaculture in Mexico. Michaela has also previously worked with Bren as the Latin American Fisheries Fellowship (LAFF) Coordinator, the Partnership for Interdisciplinary Study of Coastal Oceans (PISCO) on the Science of Marine Reserves team, the National Marine Fisheries Service on the role of MPAs in resource management in the Caribbean, and as a corporate recruiter for bio-pharmaceutical companies in Boston.

Contact Information:
office: Marine Science Research Building, Rm 4322
phone: 805-570-7565
email: mclemence[at]bren.ucsb.edu

Florian Diekert

Postdoctoral Researcher

Florian is a visiting postdoctoral researcher from Oslo, Norway. He is an economist working on a variety of issues related to renewable resources, with a focus in fisheries. Florian grew up in Germany and studied International Relations in Dresden. He obtained his PhD from the University of Oslo in 2011 where he was the first student to be co-supervised by both economists and biologists. Hence, he immediately felt at home with the diverse crowd at SFG. While collaborating with SFG, Florian will continue his research agenda on the interplay between regime-shift risk and strategic interactions, as well as open up new collaborations that relate to questions about the sustainable management of natural resources.

Contact Information:
office: Bren Hall 3031
email: f.k.diekert[at]ibv.uio.no

Grant McDermott

Visiting Researcher

Grant is a visiting scholar from the Norwegian School of Economics where he is finishing his PhD. Originally from Cape Town, South Africa, he received his undergraduate degree in economics from the University of Cape Town in 2005. The next several years were spent working in the financial and economic sectors of South Africa and the UK, punctuated by extended periods of travel. Most notable of these was a seven-month unsupported bicycle journey from Cairo to Cape Town, which raised $200,000 for a development project in Tanzania. His research interests lie within the field of environmental and resource economics, predominantly climate change and energy use with a broad empirical focus. While at SFG, Grant will be collaborating on projects related to climate impacts on fisheries, and the empirical evaluation of environmental policy. For more information, see Grant’s website.

Contact Information:
office: Bren Hall 4418
email: gmcdermott[at]bren.ucsb.edu

Gavin McDonald

Gavin McDonald

Project Researcher

Gavin grew up just outside of Boston, spending his summers at beaches throughout New England. With a strong interest in science and math, Gavin began his career as a mechanical engineer. He holds both a Bachelor's and Master's degree in Mechanical Engineering from Georgia Tech, along with a Master Professionnel in Integrated Manufacturing from École Nationale Supérieure d'Arts et Métiers (ENSAM) in Metz, France. After three years working as a Research Engineer at the aerospace research and development company Busek, he decided to go back to school to follow his lifelong passion for coastal marine conservation. Gavin received a Master's degree from the Bren School of Environmental Science & Management at UCSB. For his thesis work, he developed a model to quantify the socioeconomic value that non-consumptive private recreational boaters place on the Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary. While at Bren he worked as a scientific diver for PISCO (Partnership for Interdisciplinary Studies of Coastal Oceans) and as a research assistant for NCEAS (the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis). His interests lie in using science to improve fisheries management for the benefit of both conservation and the livelihoods of fishers. His work at SFG includes bio-economic modeling, data-poor stock assessments, and data collection and management. Gavin is a PADI Divemaster and AAUS Scientific Diver.

Contact Information:
office: Bren Hall 4528
email: gmcdonald[at]bren.ucsb.edu

Katie Nichols

Project Specialist

Katie works as a project specialist with SFG to manage several different ventures and facilitate communication and coordination within and outside the team. Most recently Katie worked as a Resource Management Specialist with NOAA Fisheries Service’s Marine National Monument Program in Hawaii. Katie received her BA in Environmental Studies and Marine Biology from UC Santa Cruz and her MS in Marine Ecology from San Diego State. Her master’s research focused on kelp forest community dynamics inside and outside marine reserves. After completing her MS, she traveled to Washington DC as a 2010 Knauss Sea Grant fellow for NOAA’s National Marine Fisheries Service. Her interests include resource management and the development of practical solutions to the challenges facing fisheries and marine ecosystems. Katie is a scientific diver and has worked extensively in marine science education. In the past, she has worked on projects with the Partnership for Interdisciplinary Study of Coastal Oceans (PISCO), Broadreach, The Catalina Island Marine Institute, and The Ocean Conservancy in places including Alaska, Belize, Tasmania, French Polynesia and the Caribbean.

Contact Information:
office: Bren Hall 4528
phone: 805-893-7443
email: knichols[at]bren.ucsb.edu

Bruno Nkuiya

Bruno Nkuiya

Postdoctoral Researcher

Bruno’s research agenda broadly covers topics in environmental economics and natural resource economics.  His research combines issues related to industrial pollution control under international trade, adaptation, uncertainty and risk, game theory, applied econometrics, and the bio-economic modeling of antibiotic use subject to bacterial resistance. His recent work has focused on how environmental policies should be adapted in response to threats of regime shifts such as climate change. Bruno has also tested empirically whether various assumptions adopted in theoretical models match patterns observed in data.  He obtained his Ph.D. in economics at the University of Montreal. As a postdoctoral researcher with Sustainable Fisheries Group, Bruno's primary research focus is on the design of fisheries policies to balance conservation, environmental, and economic goals.​

Contact Information:
office: Bren Hall 4418
email: bnkuiya[at]bren.ucsb.edu

Dan Ovando

Dan Ovando

Project Researcher

Dan received his BS in Ecosystem Science and Policy as well as Biology the University of Miami in Coral Gables. After completing his BS, he worked as the program coordinator and lab manager for a shark research program based out of the Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science in Miami. In this role, Dan conducted research on the ecology of south Florida sharks and developed community awareness of these keystone predators. Dan earned a Master’s degree at the Bren School of Environmental Science and Management, pursuing his interest in developing practical solutions to the challenges facing marine ecosystems. For his thesis work, he conducted an analysis of the economic viability and ecological sustainability of a proposed red abalone fishing cooperative, as part of an effort to support the development of community managed fisheries in the Santa Barbara region.  He currently works as a research scientist with SFG, where his principal study areas include the development and performance of cooperative fisheries, the assessment of data-poor fisheries, and the use of bio-economic models in fisheries management.

Contact Information:
office: Bren Hall 4528
email: dovando[at]bren.ucsb.edu

Cody Szuwalski

Cody Szuwalski

Fisheries Scientist

Cody earned his BS in Environmental Science and an MA in Aquatic Ecology from the University of Kansas while researching the causes of the decline of an endangered minnow, the Topeka shiner. He moved to Seattle to study Fishery Science at the University of Washington where he completed his doctoral dissertation on the assessment and management of snow crab in the Bering Sea.  At SFG, Cody will be exploring practical ways to assess and manage data-limited fisheries and the strategies by which managers should increase the intensity of monitoring and management.  Management strategies under uncertainty and climate change, improving stock assessment methodology, and decision analysis for fisheries management are other research avenues Cody plans to investigate while at SFG.

Contact Information:
office: Bren Hall 4528
email: cszuwalski[at]bren.ucsb.edu

Lennon Thomas

Lennon Thomas

Project Researcher

Lennon received her BS in marine biology and her MS in marine science from Hawaii Pacific University.  For her thesis work, Lennon completed a stock assessment on the Kona crab fishery in the Main Hawaiian Islands to assist the State of Hawaii Department of Aquatic Resources and Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council (WPRFMC) in making management decisions for this fishery. After graduating, Lennon began working at the NOAA Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center with the Stock Assessment Program.  During this time, she researched and applied data-poor assessment techniques to coral reef fish stocks. Lennon has served as a working group member and lead rapporteur for the International Scientific Committee for Tuna and Tuna-like species (ISC) Billfish Working Group and currently works in the ISC’s Secretariat Office to provide technical and scientific assistance to the ISC chair in developing and preparing meeting products. Lennon is interested in methods and tools used to manage and assess data-poor stocks, sustainable solutions for the management of coral reef fisheries, and is very passionate about field work. Her role at SFG will include providing scientific input to multi-use marine spatial planning initiatives.

Contact Information:
office: Bren Hall 4528
email: lthomas[at]bren.ucsb.edu

Morgan Visalli

Research Assistant

Morgan received her BS as a double major in Ecosystem Science & Policy and Visual Journalism from the University of Miami. After completing her BS, she earned a Master’s degree in Coastal Marine Resource Management and Strategic Environmental Communication at the Bren School of Environmental Science and Management at UCSB. For her thesis work, she collected data while living in Baja California Sur, Mexico, and then developed a bio-economic model to evaluate the feasibility fish meal substitute production in small-scale fishing communities. In the past, Morgan has worked at the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis, Rare, Olazul, and the RJ Dunlap Marine Conservation Program. She currently works at SFG as a research assistant, providing scientific input to marine spatial planning initiatives and helping with communication and outreach activities.

Contact Information:
office: Bren Hall 4528
email: mvisalli[at]bren.ucsb.edu