Current Lab Members




Feel like you're drifting though life? A long way from home? Misunderstood? Odds stacked against you? Maybe you're a marine plankter. If so, Mike has a place you can stay; it's small, cold, and dark, but it's got a door and we'll get you liquored up for free. If that kills you (which it will), we'll give you PCR. It won't bring you back to life, but it will immortalize you in one of a series of fabulous studies of scyphozoan phylogenomics, comparative biogeography and phylogeography, marine population genomics, rapid evolutionary radiation in marine zooplankton, conservation genetics of marine fishes, or the community ecology of marine lakes. Learn more here.
twitter: @MNDlab


Michael N Dawson           P.I.          [CV]

Mike Mike2017

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PProject scientist  




Lauren Schiebelhut:
Lauren is co-PI on our new project with Revive & Restore: "Understanding the Sunflower Sea Star’s Genomic Risk, and Potential for Genetic Rescue, from Sea Star Wasting Disease: Applying Genomic Resources to Improve Captive Breeding and Ecosystem Restoration."


Melissa DeBiasse:
Melissa is using a comparative genomics approach to understand susceptibility to wasting disease within and between sea star species. Outside of science she likes to run and bake.




Post-doctoral Scholars  

For Future Lab Members: Postdoctoral opportunities

(None at the moment! Maybe you soon ...?)








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Graduate Students  

For Future Lab Members: Graduate opportunities


Bailey Carlson
(F2019 - )


B.S. - University of Hawai'i, USA
thesis - Investigating connectivity and evolution of isolated marine populations using genomic and morphological based methods



Karly Higgins
(F2017 - present)


B.S. - University of Wyoming, USA
thesis - The Genomic and Transcriptomic
Basis of Behavior in a Cnidarian-
Dinoflagellate Symbiosis



Nattanon Wutthituntisil
(F2019 - )


B.Sc. - Mahidol University, Bangkok, Thailand
thesis - The molecular biogeography of jellyfish throughout Southeast Asia and the WesternPacific Ocean



Lisa Paggeot
(F2020 - )


M.S. - California State University, San Francisco
thesis - The genomic basis of cnidarian nematocyst acquisition by aeolid nudibranchs






Positions open beginning every Fall
- see here for any funded positions -
applications due by mid-December
of the preceding year.







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Undergraduate Students  

For Future Lab Members: Undergraduate opportunities

Daisy Ramos


F2019-current: Fieldwork, curation, & functional ecology

Sierra Montes


F2019-current: Fieldwork, curation, & functional ecology

Roxanna Khalili


F2019-current: Curation & lab practices, functional ecology




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Laboratory Staff

No positions open at this time.








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Marine lakes team

Lori J. Bell
Laboratory Manager
& Research Scientist

Coral Reef Research Foundation





Laura E. Martin
Lecturer, Researcher, and
Faculty Development & Assessment Coordinator
UC Merced





Gerda Ucharm
Marine biologist
Coral Reef Research Foundation





Sharon Patris
Marine biologist
Coral Reef Research Foundation

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None, currently



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L A B     A L U M N I

Postdoctoral Scholars



Dr. Vanessa Guerra (January 2020 - June 2020)
Current position: Project Scientist, USGS


Vanessa coordinated the startup phase and early fieldwork for our12-species population and community genomics project under the auspices of the California Conservation Genomics Consortium with the goal of understanding variation in susceptibilities to environmental change, species interactions, and the extent to which (and why) the historical demographies of interacting species in key habitats have been individualistic or concerted.




Dr. Dannise Ruiz (February 2017 - March 2019)
Current position: Project Scientist, USGS


I am a marine biologist by training and a postdoctoral scholar with the UC Conservation Genomics Consortium. My general interests include the origins and maintenance of variation in natural populations. Marine mortality events can cause a rapid change of variation in populations over wide geographic scales. At the Dawson lab, I work on the genomics of the sea star, Pisaster ochraceous. We examine how Pisaster populations respond to the sea star-wasting disease. My aim is to characterize how the sea star-wasting disease affects sea star populations by looking at genome-level responses to the disease.


twitter: @DanniseRuiz
GoogleScholar: ResearchGate:




Dr. Lauren Schiebelhut (October 2017 - January 2019)
Current position: Postdoc, UC Davis / Project Scientist UC Merced



I use population genomic techniques to study how mass mortality can reshape biodiversity. I’m interested in clarifying the evolutionary consequences of disturbance to better understand how we can maintain stability and viability of marine populations in a changing climate. The 2013 sea star wasting disease pandemic in Pisaster ochraceus provided a rare opportunity to disentangle the dynamic interaction between natural selection, dispersal, and extreme conditions as it unfolds. With before-and-after samples bracketing the mass mortality I aim to explore the genetic consequences of the event, trajectory of recovery in survivors and offspring, and implications for future events.

Twitter handle: @LMSchiebelhut




Dr. Giovanni Rapacciuolo (July 2017 - November 2018)
Current position: Research Scientist, California Academy of Sciences



Gio was a Postdoc within the Dimensions of Biodiversity project on Palau marine lakes. His research focused on the spatiotemporal drivers of biodiversity and extinction risk across a variety of ecological systems. Additionally, he is interested in the detection and attribution of species’ recent range shifts using historical data sources, such as repeated ecological surveys and museum specimens.

Find more about Gio at

twitter: @giorapac




Cynthia Hays (2010 & 2011)
Current position: Faculty, Keene State College


B.S. - Duke University, USA
M.S. - Florida State University, USA
Ph.D. - University of California, Santa Cruz, USA


I'm an evolutionary ecologist, and most of my research focuses on the interplay between ecological genetics (e.g. local adaptation, rates of inbreeding) and the distributions of marine 'plants', mostly macroalgae and seagrasses. In the Dawson lab, I am contributing to a multicampus collaboration with University of California PIs Mike Dawson, Rick Grosberg, Pete Raimondi, Brian Gaylord and John Largier funded by the University of California's Coastal Environmental Quality Initiative. The goal of this project is to begin to explore the links between (1) community characteristics such as species diversity, abundance patterns, and similarity in composition across sites, (2) population genetic characteristics, including genetic diversity, patterns of allelic richness, and genetic structure across sites, of common invertebrate and algal species found in rocky intertidal habitats along the California coastline, and to examine those links in light of (3) the nearshore physical oceanography of this region and hypothesized patterns of connectivity among sites.




Keith Bayha (2008-2010)
Current position: Project Manager - CBRN Scientific Analyst for Noblis-ESI, Washington DC

Keith and wallaby


I am interested in the molecular systematics, phylogeography, population genetics and invasion genetics of scyphozoan jellyfish and ctenophores. I am working on the NSF funded REVSYS project (a collaboration between the Dawson Lab and Allen Collins at the Smithsonian Institution) examining the phylogenetic relationships, both molecular and morphological, among the semaeostome jellyfish (Cnidaria: Scyphozoa), a group that includes moon jellies, sea nettles and the lion’s mane jellyfish of Sherlock Holmes' fame. Although these jellyfish cause extensive problems worldwide as blooming and invasive species, taxonomic knowledge of this group (as is true of jellyfish in general) is relatively poor. By combining morphological and genetic data, we will greatly contribute to knowledge of species diversity within the group, morphological characters that delineate species and evolutionary relationships among species.






Lauren Schiebelhut

Lauren Schiebelhut

B.S. - University of California, Merced, USA
thesis - Using large scale natural experiments to better
understand the distribution of genetic variation in
eastern North Pacific intertidal invertebrates



Liza Gomez Daglio


Liza Gomez-Daglio

website -
PhD - Phylogeography of shallow water jellyfish (Discomedusae) of the Eastern Pacific



Holly Swift

Holly Swift

website -
PhD - The ecological and evolutionary effects of
environmental perturbations on populations and


Sarah Abboud

Sarah Abboud

website -
MS - A global assessment of genetic diversity and distributions of medusozoans



Sharon Patris


M.S. 2015 - The expansion and impact on native species of a sea anemone introduced into a tropical marine lake (Jellyfish Lake, Palau)




Joan Lehman


M.S. 2010 - Population genetic analysis of the intertidal limpet Lottia scabra and inference of the causes and mechanisms of range limits


Laboratory Managers



Mira Parekh
Summer 2013 - Fall 2016



Adam Rosso





Anh Nguyen (AY2012-2013)
(formerly undergrad researcher
and volunteer)


Biz Green (AY2015)


Sarah Abboud (2010)
(enrolled as graduate student in 2011)


Lauren Schiebelhut (2009-2010)
(enrolled as graduate student in 2010)


Julia Vo (2007-2009)
(enrolled as CSULA grad student)


Joan Lehman (2008)
(enrolled as graduate student in 2009)






Mariana Rocha de Souza
(F2014-Su2016 >> U. Hawai'i)

Madlen Friedrich
Christian-Albrechts-University, Kiel, Germany
Spring 2015 (8 months)

Sabah Ul-Hasan
(S2015-F2016 >> Sistrom lab)

Gerlien Verhaegen
Université Catholique de Louvain, Belgium
Spring 2014 (4 months)

Sofie Rutsaert
ERASMUS MUNDUS programme, Galway, Ireland
Spring 2014 (4 months)

Giorgio Aglieri
Università del Salento, Italy
Fall 2010 (2 months)

Celia Churchill
University of Michigan, USA
Spring 2012 (1 week)

Barbara Scholz
LMU München, Germany
Spring 2013 (5 months)

Mariana Souza
University of Aix en Marseille, France
Spring 2013 (4 months)

Miguel Fernandez
(F2007-S2011 >> Kueppers lab)
Ph.D. 2013 - Consequences of spatial and temporal climate variability for species distribution modeling










Judith Bayardo-Guzman

F2016-Sp2017: Mastigias polyp spatial relationships

Serafino Bodavos
High school volunteer

Summer 2008.
Research: Compiling data on the fecundity advantage hypothesis in jellyfish.

Annie Schimon
Kalamazoo College undergraduate

Summer 2009.
Research: Population dynamics of marine lake zooplankton in response to environmental change.










Rebecca Armstrong

F2019-Sp2020: Curation & lab practices, plankton dynamics

Evan Gong

F2017-Sp2019: Curation and sample management

Carolina Karuppiah

Su2016-F2018: Curation, fieldwork, & functional ecology

Satya Karuppiah

Sp2017-F2018: Curation & lab practices

Sravani Mylavarapu

F2016: Curation & lab practices

Judith Bayardo-Guzman

Sp2015-Sp2016: Curation & lab practices

Kameron Jones

Sp2015-Su2016: Curation & lab practices

Angelica Nava

Sp2014-Sp2015: Population genetics, Palau

Victoria Onwu

Sp2014-Sp2015: Curation & morphometrics, Palau

Kiran Chauhan

F2011-Sp2014: Global change and jellyfish blooms

Jason Doornenbal

F2011-Sp2014: Population genetics of jellyfishes (Scyphozoa)

Bryanna Ludwig

F2012-Sp2014: Marine lake plankton dynamics

Aman Ahuja

F2012-Sp2013: Jellyfish blooms

Moon Park
F2011-F2012: Foraminifera diversity in marine lakes

Kirandeep Bains

F2010-Sp2012: Nerita curation

Garret Arauz
F2010-S2012: Marine lakes zooplankton dynamics
Lubna Aman
Sp2011-Su2012: Environmental diversity of marine lakes for foraminifera
Carly Stilphen
F2011-S2012: The role of long distance dispersal
Alfredo Villicana-Bedolla
F2010-S2011: Phylogeography of marine algae. Systematics of jellyfishes
David Ona
F2010: Comparative phylogeography of California marine algae

Vera Diaz

Fall 2009 - Spring 2010: Undergraduate
Fall 2010: Laboratory Assistant
Research: Jellyfish biodiversity.

Elain Nguyen

Fall 2008 - Spring 2010.
Research: Compiling data on the fecundity advantage hypothesis in jellyfish.

Emily Wilson

Fall 2008.
Research: Compiling data on the fecundity advantage hypothesis in jellyfish.

Kimberly Yan

Summer 2008.
Compiling data on gene flow correlated with different fluid regimes.