Learn more about the MAREA project team and collaborators below.
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Heather Leslie
Director of the University
of Maine’s marine laboratory, the Darling Marine Center
and Libra Associate Professor of Marine

Heather conducts research on the ecology, policy, and management of coastal marine ecosystem. She is interested in understanding the drivers of ecological and social processes in marine systems, and how to more effectively connect science to marine policy and management. Specific research areas include coastal marine ecology; human-environment linkages, particularly those related to coastal areas; and the design and evaluation of marine management strategies. Read more Heather’s work at the Leslie Lab website.

Heather’s favorite sea creature is the northern acorn barnacle (Semibalanus balanoides) because it has so much personality and thrives in rough spots with grace and beauty.

Xavier Basurto
Associate Professor of Sustainability Science
Nicholas School of the Environment, Duke University

Xavier is a Mexican national passionate about understanding how people govern their interactions with each other in relation to the ocean, at by doing this shape who they are and the environment itself. Read more about Xavier’s work at the Basurto Lab website.

Xavier has too many favourite creatures! But Gastropods and in particular cephalopods rank very high!



Maja Schlüter
Associate Professor
Stockholm Resilience Centre, Stockholm University
Head of SES-LINK research group

Maja is a system scientist interested in the co-evolution of social-ecological systems, particularly in the interplay of how human and societal action shapes ecosystems andvice versa – ecosystem change affects people and societies. She develops mathematical and simulation models to systematically explore key social-ecological interactions that may explain change or lack thereof, e.g. the collapse of the Baltic cod or the emergence of self-governance of fisheries.

Maja’s favorite sea creature is the sea angel (Clione limacina) because it is truly beautiful when it floats through the arctic water hunting the sea devil (Limacina helicina).

Octavio Aburto-Oropeza
Assistant Professor at Scripps Institution of Oceanography (SIO)
Director of the Gulf of California Marine Program

Octavio’s research has focused on marine reserves and commercially exploited marine species and their fisheries. As a part of his responsibilities as coordinator of the Gulf of California Marine Program at Scripps, he has been working on studies that involve Mexico and other Latin America countries such as Belize, Costa Rica, and Ecuador, as well as the US. Through this program, he has helped to build a diverse scholarly environment that is effective in training students and professionals from these countries in field techniques, writing and presentation skills, and general professional development.


Emilie Lindkvist
Post-Doc Researcher
Stockholm Resilience Centre, Stockholm University

Emilie is overly enthusiastic about using simulation models to understand diverse aspects of sustainability and resilience in social-ecological systems. Agent-based modeling is one of her favorite methods because of its ability to capture ecological dynamics and the diversity of actors and their interactions, to study the co-evolution among social and ecological components – just as she is currently studying the small-scale fisheries of Baja California Sur.

Emilie’s favorite Sea creature is the beautiful little Bleak of the Baltic Sea. A lively and incredibly quick fish that she spent all her childhood summers trying to lure into the net and then use as bait to catch perch using hook and line.


Andrew Frederick Johnson
Post-Doc Researcher
Scripps Institution of Oceanography
Gulf of California Marine Program

Andrew is a fisheries ecologist interested in the impacts of fisheries on marine ecosystems. He is keen to understand how we can better integrate findings from marine ecological research working with economists and social scientists to better manage marine fish stocks. Andrew is also passionate about making science available to everyone and therefore invests a lot of time translating scientific findings from peer-review literature to and for magazine outlets. He is also editor in chief of the dataMares platform.

Andrew’s favorite sea creature is the sardine – because it is so incredibly important to many marine systems, tastes delicious, is highly nutritious and is too often understated.

Laura Gabrielle Elsler
PhD Candidate
Stockholm Resilience Centre, Stockholm University

Bridging the intermediate space between social and ecological systems, local and global scales, fast and slow processes remains one of the central and urgent needs for global sustainability. Lauras work is driven by the motivation to unveil, synthesize and experiment with typical systemic patterns. She employs mathematical models that are grounded from the vivid stories of fishermen and artisans in Baja California, Kenya, and Venice.

Laura’s favorite sea creature is the Great Pacific Octopus, being beyond imagination.


PhD Candidate
Scripps Institution of Oceanography
Gulf of California Marine Program

Alfredo is a fisheries oceanographer interested in the effects of climate variability on fish populations. His Ph.D. thesis is focused on understanding the differential effects of climate change on species of commercial importance in the Gulf of California. He is also very interested in understanding how these environmental-ecological systems relate to human well-being. Alfredo understands the importance of science communication, thus he collaborates as a data manager and data analyst for the dataMares web platform.

Alfredo’s favorite sea creature is the sperm whale. This creature is not only one of the biggest predators in the planet, but it is also a great explorer to the depths of the ocean.

Kara E. Pellowe
PhD student
University of Maine

Kara combines ecological field studies and social science interviews to identify and understand ecological and social mechanisms of resilience in the chocolate clam fishery of Loreto Bay.

Her favorite sea creatures are bivalves because they manage to have unique personalities without having brains.


Anastasia C. E. Quintana
PhD Candidate
Duke University, Nicholas School of the Environment
Duke Marine Lab
Basurto Lab

When do people succeed at marine resource management…and why do they fail? This is the question driving Anastasia’s research on small-scale fisheries in Baja California, Mexico. Her current research is focused on the role of antisocial behavior like spite, cheating, and conflict in fisheries management in artisanal fisheries in the Gulf of California, Mexico. Her research and teaching is driven by a passion for social and environmental justice, gender equality, and conservation.

Anastasia’s favourite sea creature is the trematode, Euhaplorchis californiensis (called “EUHA” pronounced “you-ha”). EUHA is a small flatworm that infects a marine snail in coastal California. When you see one of these marine snails, you might never realize that there is a high probability that inside this 1-inch-long snail is a colony of microscopic flatworm clones. These microscopic clonal colonies have soldiers and reproducers, like in bee colonies, and even though they are invisible to our eyes, they control an amazing amount of the ecological dynamics of the estuaries where they live. They are a real reminder that just because things are small, gross, and invisible to us, doesn’t mean that they’re not vitally important to understand the ocean.

Kyle C Cavanaugh
Assistant Professor
University of California, Los Angeles

Kyle is a coastal geographer who examines how coastal ecosystems respond to climate variability and direct human impacts. He is especially interested in understanding how climate change in impacting the distribution of important foundation species such as forests of mangroves and giant kelp.

Kyle’s favourite sea creature is the blue whale because of an exhibit at the Natural History Museum that amazed me as a child.



Björn Vollan
Robert Bosch Junior Professor of Sustainable Use of Natural Resources
University of Marburg, School of Business and Economics

Björn is a behavioral and environmental economist interested in how resource users develop and apply rules and norms to govern resource dilemma situations and collective action problems. Recently he has been working on the effectiveness and social implications of conservation strategies such as marine protected areas but also payment for environmental services and community-based conservation approaches. One of his methodological approaches is the use of behavioral experiments in order to understand which context factors are more likely to bring about pro-social behavior.

Björn’s favorite sea creature are penguins because they are role models to him: Look classic, fly in and out of the water, walk adorably funny, are good parents and are (almost) monogamous.


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Andrés Cisneros Montemayor
Program Manager & Research Associate
Nereus Program, Institute for the Oceans and Fisheries, The University of British Columbia

Andrés specializes in applied resource economics. Linking field and theoretic work, he has studied the economics of ecotourism, competing fishing sectors, alternative management strategies and ecosystem approaches to policy, in developing and developed regions including Belize, Canada, Central America, East Asia, Mexico, Patagonia, the USA and West Africa.

Andrés favorite sea creature – Tough one. Without trying to be snotty about it, I’d have to say that I love plunging down under the water and seeing many species interacting with each other in a local ecosystem, whether that’s a school of sardines and all the predators above and below, or a seal chasing after a salmon, or just a parrotfish grazing a reef. If you push me though, the finescale triggerfish (Balistes polylepis). Really cool anatomy and behavior, great case study for bioeconomic dynamics, favorite fish for my hometown ceviche, yet totally overlooked and underrated. It’s the squirrel of fishes.

Salvador Rodriguez-Van Dyck
Salvador Rodriguez-Van Dyck, Project Coordinator of strengthening communities and fisheries organizations
Sociedad de Historia Natural Niparajá, A.C.

Salvador was initially trained as an oceanographer, but his professional career drawn him into the social sciences (empirically) in 2006. He is particularly interested in understanding the mechanisms that encourage and strengthen the participation of fishers in management decisions, the use of traditional ecological knowledge in marine policies, and ways in which groups cooperate to more effectively manage their natural marine resources. He has over 10 years of experience in the Gulf of California promoting co-management among fishing communities and the participation of fishers in management decisions. A highlight of his experience has been his close involvement in applying innovative fisheries management tools in Baja California’s San Cosme-Punta Coyote Corridor, including the establishment of a network of marine reserves (zonas de refugio).

Salvador’s favorite sea creature are the rays mainly because of the peacefulness and mystery they represent.

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Raquel Lopez Sagastegui
Co-Managing Director

Raquel has worked for over ten years in the areas of communication and fundraising in non-profit and academic organizations in Mexico. She joined dataMares in 2015 to coordinate and further strengthen the initiative’s efforts towards driving transparency and open access to scientific information about Mexico’s oceans. She is keen on contributing to improve science communication practices that enrich public discourse and help inform decision-making. Her professional experience includes developing and coordinating communication and fundraising strategies for Centro de Colaboración Cívica (CCC), where she also provided support for institutional strengthening efforts.

Raquel’s favourite sea creature is the penguin. Because they’re always stylish, and so posh.

Juan José Cota-Nieto
Project officer
Centro para la Biodiversidad Marina y la Conservación A.C.

Juan José is the Project Officer at the CBMC and the coordinator of the Bahía Magdalena project. He is also the main liaison between scientists and fishermen for the Trackers project. José actively participates in collaborations with the fishing sector, including regional fishing cooperatives, federations and businessmen, as well as with NGO´s and government institutions. Jose participates in the collection of fisheries and spatial information, and is in constant communication with the GCMP´s collaborators in Mexico.

Juan José’s favorite sea creature is the Seahorse. One common misconception about seahorses is that they mate for life. Although monogamy within fish is not common, it does appear to exist for some. In this case, the mate-guarding hypothesis may be an explanation. This hypothesis states, “males remain with a single female because of ecological factors that make male parental care and protection of offspring especially advantageous. Because the rates of survival for newborn seahorses are so low, incubation is essential. Though not proven, males could have taken on this role because of the lengthy period the females require to produce their eggs. If males incubate while females prepare the next clutch (amounting to a third of body weight), they can reduce the interval between clutches.

Benigno Gustavo Guerrero Martinez
Coordinator of field activities
Centro para la Biodiversidad marina y la conservación A.C

Benigno is a current graduate student at the Southern Baja California Autonomous University (UABCS), writing his theses on the taxonomy of decapods (true crabs). Benigno has extensive experience in fieldwork, data management and in monitoring marine ecosystems, and he has worked in the Gulf of California as well as in the central and southern Mexican Pacific. At the Center for Marine Biodiversity and Conservation (CBMC), Beni is the Coordinator of Field Activities and the primary liaison with the UABCS. His chief role is the development of logistics concerning the ecological monitoring work that the CBMC carries out in the Gulf of California (GCMP Ecological Monitoring Program).

Benigno’s favorite sea creature are the true crabs, because they come in a variety of shapes and sizes and possess diverse evolutionary traits that have allowed them to exploit a wide range of environments.

Ismael Mascareñas-Osorio
Rocky Reef Monitoring Project Officer
M.C. in Centro para la Biodiversidad Marina y la Conservación A.C.

Ismael studied marine biology as an undergraduate student at the Universidad Autonoma de Baja California Sur (UABCS) and completed his Master degree on marine biology at the Universidad Autonoma de Baja California Sur in 2007. He has been working in the Upper Gulf project as a coordinator. Ismael specializes in reef fishes and he is one of the principal investigators in the CBMC rocky-reef monitoring program for more than 12 years.

Ismaels’s favorite sea creature is the Forcipiger flavissmus, longnose butterfly, for his colors.

Blanca Gonzalez Garcia-Mon
Blanca González García-Mon
PhD Student
Stockholm Resilience Center, Stockholm University

Blanca brings together empirical knowledge of small-scale fisheries and diverse methodologies to understand how seafood trade in Baja California Sur can influence food system´s resilience and sustainability. She is currently using network analysis and agent-based models as her main analytical tools to study the structure and dynamics of trade networks within social-ecological systems.

Blanca’s favorite sea creature is the coccolithophore because it is a microscopic organism that can enable the emergence of magnificent structures such as cliffs or food webs.