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The mission of the Institute for Ocean Conservation Science is to advance ocean conservation through science. More..

Who We Are
Introduction    |    Who We Are  

Who We Are

ellen_kDr. Ellen Pikitch, Executive Director

Ellen K. Pikitch, Ph.D. is the founder of our organization and is the inaugural Endowed Professor of Ocean Conservation Science at our home institution, the School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences at Stony Brook University. Ellen is an award-winning scientist, conservationist, and communicator who is transforming the way the ocean is perceived and managed. Ellen’s contributions range from the local to the global levels and have resulted in basic science innovations, fisheries management improvements, and domestic and international policy change. Ellen is frequently called upon to provide her expertise at professional meetings, global scale fora on the oceans, and to decision-makers at the state, national, and global levels.

Currently, Ellen’s areas of focus include marine protected areas and the use of eDNA technology for non-invasive assessment of fish and invertebrate communities. She is the scientific lead for the Ocean Sanctuary Alliance, a coalition of Member States that seeks to accelerate the creation of science-based MPAs. Ellen is a co-Principal Investigator on projects to assess marine protected areas in China, to improve the water quality and fish community through shellfish restoration in Shinnecock Bay, among others. She spent several years chairing the Lenfest Forage Fish Task Force from 2008-2012 and led an effort to develop a consensus on Ecosystem-Based Fisheries Management. Throughout the past few decades, Ellen has been a leading voice among scientists to communicate important research results and conservation perspectives to policymakers and the general public.

Ellen, a native New Yorker who has since traveled to more than 110 countries, has authored more than 200 scientific and popular articles and edited two books. View her faculty page here.


Christine SantoraChristine Santora, Assistant Director

Christine Santora is our Assistant Director and has been with the institute since its inception.She has eighteen years of experience working on a variety of marine science and policy issues and currently focuses on marine protected areas, fisheries management, and estuary restoration. One of her favorite aspects of the job is getting the chance to help build and promote the institute by developing programs, proposals, and strategic relationships. Christine is a Board Member of the Ocean Sanctuary Alliance, an organization that brings together diplomats and scientists to explore solutions for the oceans and to emphasize the establishment and good management of science-based MPAs. She is also a leading member of the Shinnecock Bay Restoration Program at Stony Brook University’s Southampton campus, which uses shellfish and eelgrass restoration to improve degraded water quality in the bay. Prior to these long-running initiatives, Christine was Project Director of the Lenfest Forage Fish Task Force, a four-year scientific effort that developed recommendations and ecosystem-based standards for the management of forage fish populations worldwide.

Christine has co-authored dozens of peer-reviewed papers and reports over the course of her career, including a flagship paper on Ecosystem-Based Fisheries Management published in the journal, Science. She is a proud alumna of the University of Rhode Island Marine Affairs Program, where she earned her graduate degree in 2002.


Dr_sara_cernadasDr. Sara Cernadas-Martin, Senior Postdoctoral Associate

Dr. Sara Cernadas-Martin has had a long relationship with IOCS and is currently our Senior Postdoctoral Associate. Sara is an interdisciplinary scientist with knowledge spanning the fields of marine biology, molecular genetics, and conservation ecology. She supervises and manages the fisheries-related research of the ShiRP Project, and is working with Dr. Pikitch to establish our new environmental DNA (eDNA) program to track species richness in Long Island estuaries.

In addition to her position with us at Stony Brook University, Sara is also an Adjunct Professor at Suffolk County Community College, where she teaches Introduction to Oceanography and Marine Biology. Some of her students have been so inspired by Sara that many have joined our organization as volunteers or interns! Sara's incredible dedication to teaching and student support has been recognized by the Nuria Protopopescu Memorial Teaching Award, a competitive award granted to those who demonstrate excellence, innovation, and creativity in lesson plans and student engagement.

Sara first joined us in 2012 when she became a Ph.D. Student in the Pikitch Lab within IOCS. Her research focused on the ecological characterization of summer flounder in Shinnecock Bay. Specifically, she studied their trophic dynamics, habitat distribution and preference, migration patterns, and otolith microchemistry. Before graduating in 2019, she was recognized as a Dr. W. Burghardt Turner Fellow for her strong commitment to inclusivity and community development. Sara holds an M.S. degree in Marine and Atmospheric Science from SBU and a Licentiate in Biology from the Universitat de Barcelona (UB) in Spain.


Dr._karine_kleinhausDr. Karine Kleinhaus, Research Associate

Dr. Kleinhaus first joined the IOCS team in Fall 2020 as a collaborator on our project to evaluate marine protected areas in China. In May 2020, she earned her Marine Conservation and Policy M.A. from Stony Brook University. She is a strong advocate for transnational cooperation in the study and conservation of the world's marine ecosystems, and focuses her research on reproduction and aging in the uniquely resilient corals of the northern Red Sea.

Before becoming an Associate Professor at the School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences at Stony Brook University, Dr. Kleinhaus practiced medicine and worked as a senior executive at a publicly-traded biotechnology company. Outside of Stony Brook University and IOCS, she is a Visiting Scientist at the coral lab of Professor Maoz Fine at the InterUniversity Institute of Marine Sciences in Eilat, Israel. She has been awarded grants from the National Science Foundation, the National Institutes of Health, and the Association of European Marine Biological Laboratories. View her faculty page here.


John BohorquezJohn Bohorquez, Ph.D. Candidate

John Bohorquez is a Ph.D. candidate with IOCS and is involved with many of our projects including Global Marine Protected Areas, Evaluating MPAs in China, and the Shinnecock Bay Restoration Program. Johnny’s primary focus is the finance and economics of marine protected areas (MPAs). Johnny works closely with MPAs in Latin America and the Caribbean where he is conducting a series of case studies on MPAs for his dissertation.

Outside of Stony Brook University and IOCS, John is a Technical Specialist with the Conservation Finance Alliance, with whom he has collaborated on several research projects pertaining to conservation finance, and is a part of their Protected Areas and Marine & Coastal Finance working groups. Recent outputs include a whitepaper report, "Conservation Finance: A Framework."

Prior to arriving at IOCS and Stony Brook University, John worked in finance, most recently as an Acquisitions Analyst at Urban American Management LLC, a New York-based private equity firm that invests in commercial real estate and energy retrofits. Before then, he was an analyst at EMAX LLC, a financial consulting firm specializing in real estate and renewable energy developments with the federal government. John's experience in energy and sustainability also extends to Latin America with Fusion LatAm LLC, based in Bogotá, Colombia.

John holds a B.A. in Economics and Environmental Studies from Bowdoin College, where he also minored in Earth and Oceanographic Sciences. Johnny often writes about both personal and professional perspectives here. You can usually find him wearing a pair of soccer cleats, ski boots, or rock climbing shoes.


Maria GrimaMaria Grima, Marine Sciences M.S. Student

Like many of our other team members, Maria has had a long relationship with IOCS. In the summer of her junior year at Stony Brook University (SBU), Maria met us through our partnership with the JFEW-SUNY Global Affairs Leadership Program. As a scholar of this program, she had the opportunity to observe and participate in the world of international ocean policy, where her interest in the Sustainable Development Goals was sparked. In May 2018, she graduated with a B.A. in Environmental Studies, with a concentration in Physical Anthropology and minors in Marine Science and Geospatial Science (GIS). She earned much of her degree by participating in field schools in Southampton, Kenya, and Madagascar. These immersive, hands-on experiences set her on the path to work in environmental conservation and research.

Before returning to SBU to work with us on her master's degree, Maria served as our Project Aide. She created media content, organized and led outreach events, and built an online platform to highlight our Marine Priority Areas project results. She worked and continues to work closely with our ShiRP Project by attending trawls, processing Baited Remote Underwater Videos, and organizing data.

Maria is our in-house GIS expert and takes care of our mapping needs across a variety of projects, including evaluating marine protected areas in China. She loves using maps to tell conservation stories, and is eager to share her skills with others through workshops and consulting!


Elizabeth SalzmanElizabeth Salzman, Marine Sciences M.S. Student

We are thrilled to welcome Elizabeth Salzman, our new M.S. student, to IOCS! She has had a long time love for the ocean and has worked for Cornell Cooperative Extension of Suffolk County doing marine education and outreach over the last five years. In May 2019, Elizabeth graduated with a B.A. in English from the Honors College at Stony Brook University. Her senior thesis explored rhetoric and human communication through the lens of Game Theory and its application in science. That, coupled with minors in Writing and Rhetoric and Environmental Studies, fostered her special interest in science communication.

Elizabeth has a particular passion for sharks. As part of her undergraduate work, she participated in the Global Finprint Project by analyzing Baited Remote Underwater Videos (BRUVs) and documenting species in different locations. In August of 2020, Elizabeth graduated from the Marine Conservation and Policy M.A. program at SoMAS, where she used stable isotope analyses to research the diet of juvenile sand tiger sharks in Great South Bay. While in the program, she conducted field work at the Cape Eleuthera Institute, collecting samples and data from local shark species.

Elizabeth is excited to continue her graduate studies with IOCS, and expects to work closely with the ShiRP project


Amanda NiekeAmanda Nieke, Undergraduate Intern

Amanda Nieke joined the IOCS team in Fall 2019 as our undergraduate intern. She is currently completing a Bachelor of Arts in Sustainability Studies at Stony Brook University and is on track to graduate in 2021.

Amanda works closely with our Assistant Director, Christine Santora, on a variety of projects. She is especially involved with our ShiRP Project, where she participates in trawls, processes our Baited Remote Underwater Video (BRUV) surveys, and assists with research and organization needs.

In the past, Amanda has interned and volunteered for Global FinPrint, an organization dedicated to studying marine species through BRUV surveys. Her main interests lie in marine and environmental conservation, and she is excited about where her studies will take her!


Tim FrankstoneTim Frankstone, Marine Sciences M.S. Graduate

Tim graduated from Stony Brook University with an M.S. in Marine Sciences in 2019, under the advisory of Dr. Pikitch. Immediately after graduating, he continued his work with IOCS as a Project Aide. Through this role, Tim further developed his thesis research on the environmental representation of Chinese Marine Protected Areas (MPAs). He spent five months at Jiaotong University, where he built a database of Chinese MPAs, liaised between the Shanghai and New York teams, reviewed Chinese literature, and processed remote sensing data. After returning to the United States at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, he began advancing this research remotely.

Fun fact: During his stay in Shanghai, Tim developed a passion for board games... an excellent way to pass time during quarantine!


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