Research Labs at HIMB

The HIMB’s mission is to conduct, promote and support research and training in tropical marine biology and is a world leader in research aimed at understanding and conserving tropical marine ecosystems. HIMB is home to over 100 researchers, postdocs, students and staff who leverage the unique setting to implement cutting edge research and develop new technologies that advance the informed stewardship marine and coastal biodiversity both in Hawai‘i and globally. The state of Hawai‘i provides salary support for tenured/tenure-track faculty and a portion of the research infrastructure. Research support is largely funded through federal grants obtained from NSF, USDA, EPA, NOAA, ONR and NASA. Contracts from the state of Hawai‘i fund monitoring of the coral reef and the coastal marine ecosystems.

Browse HIMB's research labs headed by HIMB faculty and publications.


Research Labs

For a description and link to lab websites, select a lab
The Donahue Lab is led by Megan Donahue, an ecologist with broad interests in the spatial dynamics of marine populations and communities and in the application of quantitative modeling to a range of marine ecological problems. Currently, primary research projects are related to spatial variation in coral demography and metacommunity dynamics of coral reef communities. With her students and postdoc, she has ongoing research projects on environmental drivers and spatial variation in reef bioerosion and on coral disease modeling.
The Gates Lab works on coral reefs, tropical marine ecosystems that protect coastlines, support tourism, and provide nutrition to many island nations. Our focus is on defining biological traits that drive the differences in performance among corals and reefs. Our goal is to contribute knowledge that expands our basic understanding of how coral reefs function, and informs the management and conservation of these beautiful, important, but threatened ecosystems. Research in the Gates lab is dynamic focusing on topics such as symbiosis, -omics and climate change, Data Analysis and Management, and Monitoring Reef Ecosystems.
The Franklin Lab performs research in quantitative marine ecology, fisheries science, marine population dynamics, ecological restoration, invasive species, and ecoinformatics of coral reef ecosystems. he Franklin Lab collaborates with the NOAA Pacific Island Fisheries Science Center on population assessment, life history, and essential fish habitat studies of coral reef associated organisms throughout the US Pacific (Hawaiian archipelago, Mariana archipelago, American Samoa, Pacific Remote Island Areas). Other ongoing coral reef projects occur throughout the Hawaiian Archipelago including the Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands. We work with many of the faculty at HIMB, as well as maintain active collaborations with researchers in Florida, Australia, and Colombia. A consistent emphasis of our research is the applied ecological analysis of coral reef ecosystems to support sustainable marine resource management using empirical data, geospatial technologies, and statistical modeling. These activities have involved collaborations with and support from local, state, and federal agencies as well as national and international researchers to leverage resources and expertise to provide scientifically-sound resource management solutions.
The Holland Lab uses tracking technologies to study the movements of sharks and fishes. Our research provides data to improve stewardship of marine resources and answer fundamental scientific questions about the behavioral ecology of marine animals. Major themes of our research include Marine Protected Area design, shark-human interactions, spawning migrations and foraging strategies of top predators, and digestive physiology and navigational abilities of sharks. Fieldwork activities are complemented with lab experiments investigating the physiology of our target species and developing new technologies to improve tracking science.
Marc Lammers is a marine mammal biologist specialized in bioacoustics with interests in behavioral ecology, animal communication, biosonar, sensory physiology, ecosystem monitoring and the assessment of anthropogenic impacts on marine life. The research that he and his students conduct is broad in scope and includes efforts to study the population dynamics of coastal dolphins and whales, investigating the function and variability in acoustic signaling behavior among dolphin species, acoustically monitoring the impact of anthropogenic activities on cetacean populations, and developing methods to acoustically monitor the biodiversity and long-term stability of coral reefs.
The overarching theme of research in the Rappé Lab is to understand the impact of microbial genetic diversity on ocean ecology, and interpreting this diversity through the lens of bacterial taxonomy and evolution. Led by Research Professor Michael Rappé, we investigate the ecology and evolution of marine microorganisms by combining surveys of natural microbial communities, nucleic acid sequence data, and studies with model systems in controlled settings. We borrow ideas, methods, and technology from various disciplines, including traditional marine microbiology, community ecology, biological oceanography, biogeochemistry, molecular biology, genomics, and informatics. While research in the Rappé lab has generally focused on three systems - planktonic marine environments spanning the near-shore to the open ocean, corals and coral reefs, and the oceanic deep subsurface biosphere - we pursue other opportunities that allow for us to follow interesting questions regarding the rich microbial diversity inhabiting our planet.

The emphasis of the Rodgers Lab research is diverse and multifaceted. We conduct assessments and monitoring of coral reefs statewide, field experimentation, manipulative experiments relating to local and global impacts to coral reefs, and conceptual analyses of coral physiological processes. Our applied research contributes to management strategies and legislative action. We frequently include students and interns in our research projects and conduct numerous outreach and educational activities

Our objective is to continue the legacy of our pioneering founder Dr. Paul Jokiel through research on the responses of coral reefs to climate change and to perpetuate the long-term statewide monitoring program established by this lab.

The Thomas Lab integrates physical, chemical, biological processes to examine many aspects of coastal ecology. Led by Flo Thomas, the lab's research is focused on four interconnected areas: 1) understanding how environmental variation at the scales of organisms affects the ecology of coral reef and macroalgae communities, 2) linking the physical aspects of the environment with organism responses through the application of engineering and physical models, 3) understanding how environmental characteristics influence the reproductive ecology of marine invertebrates, and 4) understanding how human induced changes in coastal systems impact near-shore coastal communities.
The ToBo Lab lab is shared by two PI’s Robert J. Toonen and Brian Bowen. Our lab focuses on understanding the patterns of marine biodiversity through the study of the genetics and ecology of a wide variety of marine species. Lab members have worked on everything from sea stars to dolphins, seeking to illuminate the underlying mechanisms behind differences in dispersal, distribution and speciation. Rob Toonen’s research focuses on the processes that influence dispersal and recruitment in coastal marine invertebrates, and the evolutionary consequences of larval developmental modes among Hawaiian coral reef species. Brian Bowen’s research program is focused on the biogeography of marine vertebrates, including turtles, seals and dolphins, with a strong focus on coral reef fish.