Research Team

SCEMFIS researchers contribute their knowledge of both the technical needs of industry and the challenges associated with competing successfully in the marketplace. Researchers for SCEMFIS include finfish and shellfish biologists as well as experts in marine mammal populations.

SCEMFIS Funded Researchers

SCEMFIS Directors

Center Director – Dr. Eric Powell presently serves as the Director of SCEMFIS and oversees the primary site at the University of Southern Mississippi. Eric Powell has been an oceanographer/marine biologist for over 35 years at Texas A&M University, Rutgers University, and USM.  Over that time, Powell has published 239 articles in refereed journals, including leading articles in the fields of meiobenthology, paleoecology and taphonomy, shellfish ecology, marine diseases, population dynamics modeling, and fisheries/resource management.  Powell is the leader or co-leader of several national programs including SSETI (Shelf and Slope Experimental Taphonomy Initiative), the NSF Ecology of Infectious Diseases group focused on shellfish diseases, and the USM/ODU modeling group. Powell is also a member of the NSF Ecology of Infectious Diseases Research Coordination Network.

Dr. Powell is the Chief Science Advisor for the NFI Clam Committee, and serves on a number of fisheries assessment groups including the Southern Demersal Working Group and the Invertebrate Subcommittee of the NMFS-NEFSC. Powell led the oyster assessment team at Rutgers for 17 years, developing the only peer-reviewed sustainable management program in the country for this species. As part of this program, Powell led an oyster restoration program that received the Coastal America 2008 Partnership Award from President Barak Obama for “the successful collaborative efforts between Federal, state, and local governments, as well as nongovernmental organizations and the private sector, in achieving an outstanding environmental victory for the Delaware Bay.”

VIMS Site Director – Dr. Roger Mann, Professor of Marine Science at the Virginia Institute of Marine Science (VIMS) and College of William and Mary and the Virginia Site Director of the Science Center for Marine Fisheries. Dr. Roger Mann hails from the United Kingdom where received a BSc in Biological Sciences from the University of East Anglia, and a PhD in Marine Science from Bangor University. After post doctoral and staff appointments at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution he joined the VIMS faculty in 1985. He served as the VIMS Director of Research and Advisory Services from 2003 through 2012. His research interests include fisheries biology, marine ecology and physiology, invasive species biology and climate change. He has published over 130 journal contributions and edited several books. Molluscan Ecology Lab Website

SCEMFIS Operations

Kelsey Kuykendall is the administrative assistant and technical manager for all aspects of SCEMFIS research falling under the leadership of the Director of SCEMFIS. Kelsey serves as primary manager for laboratory functions including planning of sampling events, hosting/attending meetings, and travel of technicians and graduate students. She provides clerical support to the Director of SCEMFIS including the construction of proposals and budgets.  Kelsey also carries out all phases of sample analysis and routine data management.

As the Co-Founder and Chief of Operations at Thalassas, she stays busy informing the public with an educational blog and funding periodic trash pickups and cleanup events via proceeds from the Thalassas online store.

Karen Reay is the CEO of Baywater Communications and received a B.S. in Biology from Juniata College and an M.S. in Marine Science from the Virginia Institute of Marine Science, William & Mary. Karen has worked in the Fisheries and Wildlife Department at Virginia Tech, the Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources, and the Center for Coastal Resources Management at VIMS. She has experience in web design, strategic planning, marketing, data, and information system development and incorporates these skills with her understanding of marine science. Karen has over 30 years of experience working with government, academic agencies and industry. Karen is the SCEMFIS webmaster and provides support within SCEMFIS Operations.


Dr. Alireza Abbaspourrad, Yongkeun Joh Assistant Professor of Food Chemistry and Ingredient Technology, Cornell University. Our research is focused on the rational design and synthesis of emulsions to fabricate multi-compartment emulsion-based vehicles for regulating lipid digestion and bioavailability in gastrointestinal tract. Another theme of our research is to understand the molecular and physical factors that impact bioavailability and stability of lipid and lipophilic food ingredients and develop effective emulsion-based systems and encapsulation technologies to enhance ingredient stability within food matrix.

Dr. Rujia Bi, Research Associate at the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Center for Limnology. Rujia holds a Ph.D. in Fisheries Science from Virginia Tech, a M.S. in Marine Biology from Texas A&M University at Galveston, and a B.S. in Marine Ecology from Ocean University of China. She is a fisheries scientist using interdisciplinary approaches involving fisheries biology, ecology, statistical modeling, management policy and computer simulations to improve management of fish populations. Her research focuses on understanding how fish populations respond to fishing, environmental factors, and climate change, as well as developing new approaches for modeling fish population dynamics and conducting stock assessments.

Dr. Steve Cadrin, Associate Professor of Fisheries Oceanography, School for Marine Science and Technology, University of Massachussetts and Director of the Massachusetts Marine Fisheries Institute’s Education Program. Steve has a Ph.D. in Fisheries Science from University of Rhode Island, a M.S. in Marine Biology from University of Massachusetts and a B.S. in Marine Science from Long Island University. He was a stock assessment scientist for twenty years with the Northeast Fisheries Science Center in Woods Hole, Massachusetts Marine Fisheries and New York Department of Environmental Conservation. Steve’s accomplishments include the advancement of stock assessment methods for a wide range of invertebrate and finfish species, development of harvest strategies for regional, national and international fishery resources, and global leadership in evaluating geographic stock structure and modeling spatially complex populations. His teaching and research agendas focus on population modeling, stock identification, fisheries management, collaborative research with fishermen, and application of advanced technologies for fishery science.

Dr. Spyros A. Kinnas is a Professor in the Department of Civil, Architectural and Environmental Engineering at The University of Texas at Austin. He is the Associate Director of the Offshore Technology Research Center, as well as the faculty in charge of the graduate program in Ocean Engineering at UT Austin. He holds a Diploma from the National Technical University of Athens, Greece,  and a PhD from Massachusetts Institute of Technology. His research under SCEMFIS is on theoretical, computational, and experimental methods to improve the efficiency of clam dredge systems. His work has led to new manifold and nozzle designs which can result into larger catches of clams with less fuel consumed in the pump system onboard of the fishing boat. His general area of interest is on theoretical and computational hydrodynamics with applications on the performance and design of ocean vehicles and offshore structures. His research focuses on the prediction of unsteady sheet and tip vortex cavitation, design of high-speed propulsors and ocean current turbines, free-surface entry, hull/propulsor interaction and propulsor hydro-acoustics, turbine farm modeling, separated flows, and wave/body interaction. His web site is:

Dr. John Klink, Professor Ocean, Earth & Atmospheric Sciences, Old Dominion University. Dr. Klinck is the Director of the OEAS Department’s Center for Coastal Physical Oceanography (CCPO). His research has considered the dynamics of a variety of oceanographic systems including the continental shelf, fjords, submarine canyons, and the Antarctic Circumpolar Current, using both analytical and numerical dynamical models. His analysis of the eddy resolving model for the North Atlantic flow considers the most realistic numerical simulation calculation to date. He is also interested in numerical models of bivalves which include environmental variation, as well as predation and disease.

Dr. Josh Kohut Associate Professor Center of Ocean Observing Leadership, Department of Marine and Coastal Sciences New Jersey Agriculture Experiment Station School of Environmental and Biological Sciences Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey. Physical processes in the coastal ocean are highly variable in space and time and play a critical role in coupled biological and chemical processes. From events lasting several hours to days on through inter-annual and decadal scales, the variability in the fluid itself structures marine ecological systems. My approach is to apply ocean observing technologies that now sample across these important time and space scales to better understand the physical ocean that structures marine ecosystems. Consequently, this new knowledge has relevancy to broader stakeholder communities with interests in the coastal ocean. Working through partnerships across these stakeholder groups, my research is collaborative and supports both science and application. Through these partnerships I am able to frame relevant scientific hypotheses and efficiently translate the output to better management and monitoring.

Dr. Robert Leaf joined GCRL in September of 2012 and has expertise in quantitative methods and computer-intensive modeling approaches. The goals of these analyses are to understand population regulation and appropriate and effective conservation and management strategies. Dr. Leaf received his Ph.D. in Fishery and Wildlife Sciences from the Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University in 2010, where he studied how phenology of individuals in harvested populations were altered under size-selective fishing. As a post-doctoral researcher in NOAA’s “Fisheries and the Environment” program, Dr. Leaf examined how phytoplankton bloom phenology determined recruitment patterns in northeast Atlantic ground fishes. His current work involves assessment of Gulf Menhaden, Gulf of Mexico Blue Crab, and Mississippi’s Red Drum stock. 

Dr. Daphne Munroe, Associate Professor, Rutgers University. Marine invertebrate populations are connected to one another by dispersal of early life stages called larvae.  On large scales (kms), physical and passive processes operate on mobile larvae, while at smaller scales (cm to m) biological and active processes dominate larval dispersal. My research aims to examine the intersection of these scales and how it translates to population dynamics.  I study spatial and temporal patterns of larval settlement in coastal and marine ecosystems and their influence on invertebrate populations.  My approach to these questions uses a combination of computer modeling, field-based research and laboratory experiments. 

Dr. Genny Nesslage is an Assistant Research Professor at the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science Chesapeake Biological Laboratory. Prior to her appointment at UMCES, she served as Senior Stock Assessment Scientist for the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission in Arlington, Virginia, and as an Assistant Professor of Vertebrate Ecology at Clarion University in Clarion, Pennsylvania. Her research focuses on assessing fish and wildlife populations, modeling invasive species dynamics, and addressing resource management issues through the use of statistical modeling and estimation techniques. She received her B.S. in Biology from Cornell University; M.S. in Wildlife Biology and Management from the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry; and dual Ph.D. degrees in Fisheries & Wildlife and Ecology, and Evolutionary Biology & Behavior from Michigan State University.

Dr. Andrew Scheld is a fisheries resource economist modeling human behavior, technology, and markets to better understand resource use, decision-making, and management in commercial and recreational fisheries. He received a B.S. in Resource Economics from the University of Massachusetts, an M.S. in Environmental and Natural Resource Economics from the University of Rhode Island, and a Ph.D. in Fisheries Science from the University of Washington. His current areas of research include: valuation and behavioral analyses of recreational fisheries; estimating the economic costs associated with derelict fishing gear; evaluating the impacts of resource variability on commercial fishing fleet structure; and analyzing joint production and selectivity in multispecies fisheries. He teaches marine resource economics, quantitative modeling, and sustainability and serves on the Committee on Economics and Social Sciences of the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission.

Dr. Justine Whitaker, Assistant Professor of Biology at Nicholls State University. Justine received her MS in Biology from William & Mary and her PhD in Wildlife & Fisheries at West Virginia University. After a postdoctoral position at the University of West Florida working in marine systems, she joined the Department of Biological Sciences at Nicholls State University. Her research focuses on using molecular tools to answer ecological and evolutionary questions with a focus on applications to management and conservation. Coastal Genomics Lab website.