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

The Marine Mammal Research Program (MMRP) is led by Lars Bejder. Our program conducts both empirical and applied research focusing on marine mammals and other megafauna in Hawaiian, national and international waters. Our research themes support conservation and management objectives and seek to identify effects of human activities on cetaceans, and the development of appropriate mitigation and management strategies. We investigate cetacean population dynamics and behavior, ecosystem interactions and food webs.

The emphasis of the Coral Reef Ecology 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 Hawai‘i Coral Reef Assessment and Monitoring Program.

The Coral Resilience 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 Coral Resilience lab is dynamic focusing on topics such as symbiosis, -omics and climate change, Data Analysis and Management, and Monitoring Reef Ecosystems.

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. Our research projects investigate spatial variation in coral demography and metacommunity dynamics of coral reef communities. We are interested in environmental drivers and spatial variation in reef bioerosion and on coral disease modeling.

Research in the Elizabeth Madin Lab focuses on understanding dynamics of ecosystems, primarily (but not exclusively) through landscapes of risk in marine systems. In particular, we're interested in how humans are changing landscapes of risk, and ecosystems, on local to global scales. We're also focused on developing new ways to harness the power of emerging technologies, including remote imaging tools such as satellites, drones, micro-cameras, and others, to improve our understanding of human impacts on marine environments and inform conservation practice and policy.

The Franklin Lab performs research in quantitative marine ecology, fisheries science, marine population dynamics, ecological restoration, invasive species, and ecoinformatics of coral reef ecosystems. The 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 involve 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 goal of Heʻeia NERR is to conduct and facilitate collaborative research to inform adaptive co-management within the Reserve, which includes HIMB and the lands and waters surrounding it. We are guided by a fundamental question aimed at understanding the most effective ecosystem-based management strategies that contribute to the resilience and integrity of estuarine ecosystems. We answer this by assessing a holistic suite of ecosystem services that encompass the services that humans provide to ecosystems, as well as the existential benefits that humans receive from ecosystems. In our research, we use a reciprocal collaboration model that has four components: (1) conducting culturally-appropriate research, (2) co-developing research with the Indigenous people and local community (IPLC) of the Kāneʻohe Bay region, (3) co-producing new knowledge with the IPLC of place; and (4) informing policy through co-produced knowledge. Aside from conducting monitoring and novel research, the Heʻeia NERR also has an education arm and a policy arm, which we use to conduct outreach to a broad spectrum of members in our larger community.

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.

The Johansen Lab is led by Jacob Johansen. With a background in eco-physiology and behavioral ecology, research in the Johansen Lab focuses on how tropical coral reef organisms react and adapt to natural and human-induced environmental stress. Core strengths in research and student training include coral reef ecology, environmental stress responses, physiological tolerance, movement patterns and behavioral ecology of fishes. Lab research has a strong focus on species habitat selection, range-shift, habitat invasions, and the capacity of species to mitigate ongoing stressors. We use a combination of field and state-of-the-art laboratory techniques to quantify impacts of disturbances on ecosystem health and resilience, and provide practical solutions to policymakers, communities and industries.

Research in the J. Madin Geometric Ecology Lab is focused on quantitative ecology, biophysics and informatics. Major themes in our research include understanding the effects of storm waves on coral reefs, add to the growing compilation of scleractinian coral life history traits, phylogenetic and biogeographic data in The Coral Trait Database, and identifying coral biogeographical range shifts.

The MakerLab is a discovery lab and makerspace led by Dr. Judy Lemus that focuses on the intersection of scientific and educational research. Our goals are to create innovative professional development opportunities for undergraduate and graduate students, especially those that help integrate different knowledge systems and ways of knowing. We also employ community-based participatory research as an approach to science education and outreach. Research in the MakerLab is dynamic because we design and study learning environments that explore and encourage creativity, science, art, service, and civic engagement.

The Marine Ecological Theory Lab is led by Lisa McManus. Our research is focused on developing mathematical models to address ecological and evolutionary questions in coral reefs and other marine systems. We are particularly interested in large-scale population responses to environmental change, eco-evolutionary feedbacks, and metapopulation dynamics.

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 REMS Lab is led by Dr. Malia Rivera. Our mission is to understand how our students best learn science, and using this information, along with place-based pedagogies, create educational pathways for the next generation of Hawai‘i’s ocean scientists, managers, and stewards. Our REMS programs support high school level students and classes, recent graduates and early undergraduates interested in marine related STEM degrees, and graduate students and postdocs who are interested in working at the intersection of marine science and education research. Our scholarly activities include developing authentic investigative marine science lessons and curricula, as well as investigations into the development of scientific identity through participation in place-based science education, particularly for students from historically excluded groups. To achieve this, we frequently collaborate with community partners, transdisciplinary faculty and scholars including those from the College of Education and Kawaihuelani Center for Hawaiian Language, as well as HIMB’s scientific research faculty to facilitate broader impacts of their research within a place-based context.

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 focuses on the biogeography of marine vertebrates, including turtles, seals and dolphins, with an emphasis on coral reef fish.