Dr. Dan Okamoto (he/him/his) is an assistant professor in the Department of Biological Science at Florida State University.  He is a statistician, modeler, and field ecologist.  He works on how trophic interactions, climate, and fishing combine to affect dynamics of populations and communities, especially species like sea urchins, kelp, abalone, and forage fish. He enjoys working with communities and environmental managers to make fisheries and conservation more sustainable, productive, and equitable. He received his PhD from UCSB, a masters in Fisheries from the University of Alaska Fairbanks, and undergraduate degree from the University of Washington, and worked as a post-doctoral researcher at Simon Fraser University and the Hakai Institute and at Florida State University. 

Graduate Students

Nate Spindel (he/him) is a PhD student in Ecology and Evolution at FSU. He received his undergraduate degree from UCSB, and worked as a researcher and AAUS diver for PISCO, the Moorea Coral Reef LTER, and the UCSB SONGS monitoring program prior to migrating to FSU to work on kelp forest ecosystems and abalone population dynamics in beautiful British Columbia. Find him on twitter! 


Matthew Schumm (he/him) is a PhD student in Ecology and Evolution at FSU. He graduated in 2019 from the University of Chicago, where he researched bird ecomorphological patterns and macroecology and mussel population spatial ecology. He is excited to study population dynamics, distributions and evolution of marine and aquatic organisms. He is particularly interested in studying effects of harvest on evolution and demography using quantitative modeling, observations, and experiments. Matthew’s personal site: sites.google.com/view/mschumm. 


Maya Munstermann (she/her/hers) is a PhD student in Ecology and Evolution at FSU. She is interested in combining ecological and genomic research to investigate sea urchin thermal tolerance and biological response to multiple stressors. Maya received her Master’s degree from University of Hawaii at Hilo and her undergraduate degree from University of Connecticut. Outside of the lab, Maya enjoys free diving, photography, fishing, and hiking! For more information about her past research activities and community outreach experience, check out her website: http://www.mayamunstermann.weebly.com!


Donaven Baughman is a PhD student in Ecology and Evolution, co-advised by Andy Shantz and Daniel Okamoto at FSU. Before joining the Florida State University Coastal and Marine Lab, he received his undergraduate degree in Biology from Wichita State University in Kansas. Donaven’s research interests combine organismal biology, population ecology, and community ecology to understand how marine invertebrates respond to environmental stress and how their responses impact the sustainability and persistence of environmentally and commercially important marine species. In his free time, Donaven enjoys playing basketball, fishing, painting, and playing video games. Find him on Twitter @communityecodon
Grace Westphal will be starting her Ph.D. in Biology (Ecology & Evolution) in August 2022 and will be co-advised by Tara Stewart Merrill and Daniel Okamoto. She completed her undergraduate degree in Integrative Biology at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, with a dual major in English. Her current research focuses on understanding the role of genes and the environment in shaping invertebrate immunological traits, and the extent to which infectious disease drives clonal selection in Daphnia. Her research interests include environmental stressors on invertebrate health and disease and epidemiological modeling. She is passionate about conservation and science education; outside of the lab she enjoys reading and running.


Alaina Young is an incoming MSc student who will work on how temperature and ocean acidification affect fatty acid metabolism (and maybe parasitism?).  She is currently finishing her BSc with Honors at FSU and has worked broadly in fish, social sciences, and ecology.



Dr. Sam Karelitz (he/him/his) completed his PhD at the University of Otago in Dunedin, New Zealand in 2020, where his research focused on transgenerational plasticity and acclimation of sea urchins in response to ocean warming and acidification. His work combines physiology and molecular biology to better understand how organisms respond to changing environments as well as the mechanisms that may drive acclimation and adaptation to future ocean conditions.


2016-06-17 08.47.02
Dr. Diana P. López (she/her/hers) is an NSF Ocean Sciences Postdoctoral Research Fellow at FSU and starting in 2023 has been awarded an FSU Provost’s Postdoctoral Fellowship to continue her work with PI Okamoto and Dr. Don Levitan. She is a marine invertebrate enthusiast and her research focuses on physiological mechanisms of coral resistance to climate change driven stressors. She works closely with Smithsonian collaborators in Panama including Drs. Sean Connolly and Mark Torchin. She enjoys mentoring students from underepresented minorites in STEM and will leverage her native language, spanish, to mentor Latino students in Panama. She received her PhD from Temple University, a masters in Environmental Studies from Florida International University, and her undergraduate in Biological Science from Florida Atlantic University. Find her on twitter @marinecolopez
Dr. Christian Commander (he/him/his) is an ecologist and a postdoctoral scholar in the Department of Biological Science at Florida State University. He is examining how sea otter recovery affects both nearshore ecosystems and indigenous and commercial fisheries. His research interests are centered around using modeling and other approaches to better inform management and conservation. He received his Ph.D. from UNC Wilmington, a M.S. from CSU Sacramento, a B.S. from UC Davis, and worked as a postdoc at the University of Washington and NOAA. He is passionate about conservation and teaching, and outside of research he enjoys hiking and exploring with his dog Leo, sports, guitar, and traveling.


Rachele Ferraro (she/her) is a recent FSU graduate and now works in the lab as a research technician. In 2021 she received her undergraduate degrees in Biological Science and Environmental Science from Florida State University. Through the FSU scientific dive program, she became an AAUS certified diver and has volunteered with FWC on their artificial reef program. She is interested in the effects climate change and anthropogenic stressors have on ecosystems and how species adapt to environmental changes.
Marina Nunez (UROP 2021)
Isaiah Vasquez (UROP 2021)
Krista Fauni (UROP 2021)
Sofia Perez (UROP 2020)


Maya Tiseth (BSc 2021)
Kara Thornton  (BSc 2020)
Tony Cappellino is completed his FSU pursuing a bachelor’s degree in Biology. He assisted Dr. Okamoto in researching the effects of food availability on the annual growth of red sea urchins. In addition to research, Tony is passionate about music and is a member of the FSU Marching Chiefs. [he/him]


Trevor Alspach (UROP 2020)

Markus Thompson, MSc, RPBio is a Masters graduate advised by Dan Okamoto and Anne Salomon at SFU. He received his undergraduate degree from the University of British Columbia and has worked as an environmental consultant prior to enrolling in graduate school. He works as the CEO of Thalassia Environmental and works with Dan Okamoto on projects relating to herring, abalone, kelp forests and anything else underwater. [he/him]