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Dates: June 4, 2009 - June 18, 2009
Location: Bocas del Toro Research Station
Organizer: Dr. Rachel Collin
Registration Fee: $500 (some fellowships are available).


Dr. Rosana Rocha

Universidade Federal do Paraná, Brasil

Gretchen Lambert

University of Washington Friday Harbor Laboratories

Dr. Charles Lambert

University of Washington Friday Harbor Laboratories

Course description:

The course is aimed at graduate students, post-docs, or professionals who are interested in learning and applying knowledge about the diversity and ecology of one of the most conspicuous organisms in tropical benthic marine ecosystems. The students participating in this course will:

    • Learn to describe and identify the most common tunicates living on the mangroves and shallow coral reefs of the Bocas del Toro region
    • Learn general biological and ecological characteristics of the group
    • Gain hands-on ecological and taxonomic experience with tropical marine tunicates


Andrea Frey

University of New Hampshire
I am a first year Master’s student at the University of New Hampshire studying allorecognition among the color morphs of Botrylloides violaceus. B. violaceus is an invasive tunicate here on the northern Atlantic coast. 5-7 different color morphs of this species have been seen, my work focuses on determining genetically if these are the same species as well as the ability of the different color morphs to vascularly fuse with one another. I am also interested in the effect fusion has on the fitness of these tunicates. As well as the latitudinal distribution of these color morphs on the northern Atlantic coast of the US.

Christian Sardet

French National Research
I am a researcher with the French National Research Center CNRS and have worked on the reproduction, fertilization and development of marine invertebrates since the mid seventies when I moved to the Station Zoologique in Villefranche sur Mer (presently Observatoire Océanologique de Villefranche sur Mer). My group – the BioMarCell research group- has developed the use of several marine models organisms for basic research(ctenophores, chaetognaths, sea urchins). and in the last 20 years, ascidians In 2007 we organized the 4th International TunicateMeeting in Villefranche sur Mer. I have co-authored about a hundred publications on cell and developmental biology and now feels the need to know more about the diversity, the biology, phylogeny and ecology of ascidians particularly in light of my participation to the Tara Ocean expedition. I have been communicating about cells, developmental biology and marine organisms through prized films:. ”Fertilization, the story of sperm and egg”and “Voyage inside the Cell” and the recent DVD “Exploring the Living Cell”. I have also worked with the San Francisco Exploratorium and organize an annual festival of video documents about biology (BioClips) called "Cinéma of the Cell"

Christina Simkanin

University of Victoria, Canada
My research is focused on studying the effects of anthropogenic change on marine benthic ecosystems, including the impacts of global climate change and species introductions. For my doctoral research I am examining the establishment and spread of non-native tunicates in British Columbia, Canada. Specifically, I am studying the distribution of tunicates across habitat types and testing the effects of man-made structures and propagule supply on tunicate dispersal and colonization. By combining field data, manipulations and experiments I hope to explain some of the processes responsible for the spread of non-native tunicate species in B.C.

Marc Rius

Centre of Excellence for Invasion Biology
My main research interest is marine invasive species. I recently completed my PhD thesis which focused on the biology and population genetics of an invasive ascidian species, namely Microcosmus squamiger. I am currently a postdoctoral researcher at the Centre of Excellence for Invasion Biology, South Africa, where I have just started a multidisciplinary project that involves molecular ecology, larval biology, biogeography, marine ecology and oceanography, and of course ascidian taxonomy!

Stephan Bullard

University of Hartford
I am an Assistant Professor of Biology at the University of Hartford. My research focuses on benthic ecology and invasive species, with a major focus on invasive ascidians.

Mike Page

Marine Ecologist NIWA, New Zealand
I have been a marine ecologist at NIWA for 16 years and am currently completing a PhD in chemical ecology at Victoria University. My primary research interests are; chemical ecology and aquaculture of sponges, ascidian taxonomy, biotechnology, biodiversity, and I have some experience in tropical fisheries. My work has taken as me far south as Antarctica, northwards to the South Pacific Islands. Some of the research projects I have been involved in include; biodiversity studies in the western Ross Sea, Antarctica, chemical ecology of a biologically active marine sponge Mycale hentscheli, impact of spearfishing on parrotfishes in American Samoa, deepwater fisheries in Tonga, biodiversity studies of rock wall communities in Fiordland, New Zealand, and discovery of novel anti-inflammatory compounds from New Zealand ascidians and biosystematics of New Zealand ascidians. Outside work, my interests include; surfing, free-diving, mountain biking and hunting.

Mari Carmen Pineda Torres

Universitat de Barcelona (Spain)
I come from Barcelona, Spain, and my research interests involve ascidian biology and ecology. My studies comprise a Biology Degree and a Master’s Degree in Marine Sciences at the University of Barcelona, including a Master Thesis on the life cycle of the introduced ascidian Microcosmus squamiger in the Mediterranean Sea. Nowadays, I am working on my PhD, which focuses on the solitary ascidian Styela plicata. The goal of my research is to elucidate biological and molecular responses of this species to environmental perturbations, in order to use it as a marine pollution indicator. Furthermore, I am working on the phylogeography of this species and I am also collaborating on the barcoding of numerous ascidian species.

Lisa Draughon

Florida Atlantic University
In recent years, the problems of elevated levels of microalgae and fecal coliform bacteria have necessitated periodic closure of beaches along the Indian River Lagoon estuary of eastern Florida. My dissertation research investigates the potential bioremediation of these waters by utilizing the natural filtration ability of the tunicate Styela plicata. I’ve examined their filtration rate, salinity tolerance ranges, upper particle size filtration limits, and the viability of digested bacteria. All have shown that S. plicata has great potential for use as an intentional bioremediator. I will be completing my PhD in Integrative Biology later this year at Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton but hope to be able to continue my research with in-situ applications.

Nadia Bonnet

Universidade Federal do Paraná
I am a Master’s student at the “Universidade Federal do Paraná” in Brazil. I have been studying ascidians since 2005, when I was a graduate student. I have always been working with ascidians taxonomy, simple and colonial ones. Nowadays, I am studying the genus Ascidia, and making a review of some species of the genus with the goal of using these species in a phylogenetic analysis, just with morphological characters. My interests are taxonomy, biogeography and evolution of ascidians, using this information to the conservation of marine areas.

Gil Koplovitz

University of Alabama at Birmingham
I am a PhD student at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. My research focuses on chemical defenses against predation and fouling in Antarctic and sub-tropical ascidians. The Antarctic part of my research was done in Palmer Station, Antarctica, where I examined the feeding deterrent and antifoulant properties of organic secondary metabolites and inorganic acids from a suite of Antarctic ascidians against a variety of Antarctic benthic predators and fouling organisms. The other part of my research focuses on feeding deterrent secondary metabolites in ascidians from the Gulf of Mexico.

Su Shih-Wei

National Sun Yen-Sen University
I am Ph.D. student in the National Sun Yen-Sen university in Kaohsiung, Taiwan. I surveyed and recorded the distribution of ascidians in Taiwan and adjacent islands. I will try to research tunicates included habitual behavior, distribution, application of natural product and the phylogenetic relationships inferred from COI gene. With the taxonomic foundation, I will be able to work on the tunicates specimens and this course training is a good opportunity to meet other tunicate researchers from different parts of the world.

Ronaldo Ruy

Federal University of Ceara
I am a master's student at the Marine Sciences Institute from the Federal University of Ceara (Brazil). I have been studying ascidians on the intertidal rocky shores and also in harbor areas, working on research projects at the Animal Ecology Laboratory. My thesis project focuses on the assembly structure of ascidians from two harbors at the Ceara state, in order to detect and assess the influences of possible exotic species. I am interested in ascidian taxonomy and biogeography, as well as their ecology and invasion patterns.

Ashley Callahan

Memorial University, Newfoundland
I am a Master’s Student at Memorial University, Newfoundland, Canada. My research focuses on the abundance and biodiversity of macroinvertebrates on wharf pilings, including indigenous and non-indigenous ascidians. In addition, I am investigating variation in the cytochrome oxidase I gene of mitochondrial DNA of the non-indigenous ascidians (Botryllus schlosseri and Botrylloides violaceus), as well as two indigenous ascidians (Boltenia echinata & Halocynthia pyriformis), for future use in gene probes and to determine probable source populations.

Betzabé Moreno Dávila

Universidad del Mar, Mexico
I am a pre-graduate in Marine Biology from the Universidad del Mar (UMAR). My interest are the problems that exhibit as aquatic invaders species, as they can be a threat in an environment with great diversity as is the eastern tropical Pacific, so it is important to have prior knowledge of the faunal composition area and, thus, can made possible to determine that species are really invaders. Today, I am doing my thesis project, which aims are to revise the composition of the fauna belongs to the class Ascidiacea from the Pacific south of México, considering that in this region not exist any studies about littoral ascidians. In this way I would make a significant contribution to the south Pacific of Mexico, which will serve as the basis for further studies in the study area.

Aida Hernández Zanuy

Institute of Oceanology, Cuba
I am researcher of the Institute of Oceanology, of the Ministry of Sciences Technology and Environment in Havana, Cuba. During two decades I have participated in numerous researches in the main marine and coastal ecosystems in Cuba: coral reefs, mangroves and sea grass beds, directed to the sustainable management of the marine biodiversity. In most of them, I have studied ascidians as part of the benthic fauna. I presented my PhD. in Biology of Ecteinascidia turbinata, a beautiful and very abundant tunicate in cuban mangroves. Systematic, ecology and biological prospection’s ascidians are been always focus of my research work. My main research interest in this moment is marine invasive species (ascidians of course!) but I am interested in marine bioinvasions in general, because I am in charge of the Marine Biodiversity Division of the Institute, and this is one of the research lines that I would like to develop.