Reef Fish Ecology Laboratory
Dr Su Sponaugle

UPDATE: Su Sponaugle is now a Professor in the Department of Zoology at Oregon State University. Her primary lab is located at the Hatfield Marine Research Center in Newport, Oregon. If you are interested in becoming a graduate student in her lab, please write her at ( and consider applying to OSU (Zoology Department in the College of Science). She expects to continue working on coral reef fishes in the Straits of Florida, but may expand the scope of her studies to include temperate fish research.

Seeking New Graduate Student!
Graduate Research Assistant position in Ecological Oceanography

Position for new PhD student available beginning Fall 2014 to develop a dissertation in conjunction with a new National Science Foundation funded project to examine the drivers of spatial patterns of planktonic organisms in a dynamic subtropical oceanographic environment. High-resolution in situ imagery combined with targeted net sampling and individual daily growth measurements of larval fishes will be used to study predator-prey interactions and identify the biological and physical processes driving fine-scale plankton distributions. The successful applicant will have a strong interest in biological oceanography and quantitative marine ecology. Undergraduate research experience coupled with background in biostatistics preferred. Applicants should be highly motivated, organized, and able to work both independently as well as within a team. Applications may be submitted through the Department of Zoology, Oregon State University ( until December 15, 2013. In addition, please send a letter of interest, curriculum vitae, and unofficial transcripts to Position is with the laboratories of Drs. Su Sponaugle ( and Robert Cowen ( at Oregon State University’s Hatfield Marine Science Center ( in Newport, Oregon.


The overarching research focus of Su Sponaugle’s Reef Fish Ecology Lab is directed at the dynamics of population replenishment and connectivity in marine organisms. We are particularly interested in the transition between the pelagic larval stage and the reef-based juvenile stage in tropical coral reef fishes and invertebrates. Some of our efforts have focused on identifying the physical and biological processes creating temporal and spatial pattern in larval supply. Other efforts are directed at identifying the linkages between the pelagic life of larvae and subsequent recruitment of juveniles to the reef. Recently, we completed a 7-yr monthly time series of fish recruitment to cross-shelf habitats in the upper Florida Keys. These baseline data are useful for quantifying overall population replenishment, designing and evaluating marine reserves, and interpreting future environmental changes. A recent highly interdisciplinary NSF-sponsored project involved the integration of intensive field sampling and biophysical modeling to define dispersal kernels for reef fish populations in the oceanographically dynamic Florida Keys. Such approaches begin to allow us to tease apart the relative contributions of physical oceanography and fish biology and behavior on the connectivity of local populations. A collaborative NOAA-funded study is now enabling us to expand our studies on horizontal connectivity among populations to vertical spatial scales as we compare the recruitment and demography of reef fish populations among shallow, deep, and mesophotic reefs.

We are always happy to discuss research opportunities with both prospective graduate students and potential collaborators. There also are frequently opportunities for undergraduates to volunteer and gain experience assisting with aspects of our ongoing research. Direct links to recent publications (see Publications page) illustrate some of the research output of the lab and provide a sense of the work being conducted by a suite of graduate and undergraduate students.