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There are many past and present members of our lab, each pursuing independent research. These are the people who
make the lab. Click on their names to be directed to their personal home pages and learn more about their research.

Current Members

Paul Barber: El jefe.

Samantha (Sam) Cheng: Sam joined the lab as a Ph.D. student in 2010. She is interested in studying how behavior, ecology and life history influence realized dispersal and population connectivity, particularly in the context of fisheries and marine ecosystem conservation and management. She is examining this and other evolutionary questions in the big fin reef squid species complex (Sepioteuthis cf. lessoniana). She is also examining population genetics and spatial and temporal connectivity in other neritic squids. Read more about her research at She graduated from Scripps College (Claremont Colleges University Consortium) with a B.A. in Organismal Biology and Ecology, and spent a year as a Fulbright Fellow in Indonesia.

Allison Fritts-Penniman: Allison joined the lab as a Ph.D. student in 2010. Allison is broadly interested in the evolution and conservation of species diversity and adaptive genetic diversity. Allison plans to examine the role of natural selection in the speciation of Indo-Pacific coral reef fishes and how variation in selective pressure shapes contemporary patterns of phenotypic and genetic diversity. She has a B.S. in Natural Resources from Cornell University and worked at the Warm Springs Fish Technology Center. To learn more about her work, visit her website HERE.

Abril Iñiguez : Abril joined the lab as a Ph.D. student in 2010. Abril is interested in marine speciation. In particular, she is interested in how morphological or color differences may reinforce incomplete reproductive barriers, promoting the evolution of marine biodiversity in the Coral Triangle. She is a graduate of Pomona College with a B.A. in Biology and was a research assistant for Dr. Daniel Martinez studying the evolution of hydra.

Vanson Liu:Shang-Yin (Vanson) Liu: Vanson joined the lab as postdoc in 2013.  His broadly interested in the evolution, population genetics, phylogeography, systematics, species boundaries and conservation of coral reef fishes.  At UCLA he is studying the phylogenetic relationships of a tribe of blenniidae and the phylogeography pattern of blue green damsel in Indo-Pacific region.  Vanson finished his PhD on “Population connectivity of Pomacentrus coelestis in Northern West-Pacific” in 2008, then did a postdoc with Chang-Feng Dai at National Taiwan University, before joining Chaolun Allen Chen at theAcademia Sinica for shark DNA barcoding and symbiodinium genotyping projects.

Tyler McCraney: W. Tyler McCraney: Tyler joined the lab as a Ph.D. student in 2012. Tyler is interested in using genetics to study the ecology, evolution, and conservation of fishes. He plans to research the trophic ecology and community structure of Indo-West Pacific lionfishes, and wants to investigate local adaptation and ecological speciation on coral reefs. Tyler worked for the Genetics Program at NOAA Auke Bay Laboratories in Alaska, and has a M.S in Fisheries from Humboldt State University.

Sara Simmonds: Sara joined the lab as a 2009. has a research background in larval biology, dispersal, and population connectivity. Sara is interested in combining molecular and microgeochemical techniques to study the connectivity in reef associated snails. Sara has a B.Sc. (Hons) in Zoology from the University of Tasmania and a M.S. in Biology from California State University, Fullerton.

Rita Rachmawati: Rita joined the lab as Ph.D. student in Fall 2009 while on temporary leave from her job at the Indonesian Bureau of Fisheries. She is interested in coral-zooxanthellae symbiosis related to climate change and using molecular methods to understand how the coral-zooxanthellae symbiosis responds differently regional sea surface temperature variation in Indonesian waters. She holds a M.S. in Aquatic Science from Bogor Agricultural University, Indonesia.

Demian Willette: Demian joined the Barber lab as a Postdoctoral Research in September 2012. He is co-supervised by Dr. Paul Barber and Dr. Kent Carpenter (Old Dominion University). Demian is funded under the NSF-supported Coral Triangle Partnerships in International Research and Education (ctPIRE) project. His research interests include 1) examining the spread and impacts of an invasive seagrass in the Caribbean; 2) applying molecular and morphological tools in the development of more sustainable sardine fishery management in the Indo-Pacific; and 3) exploring mechanisms that create areas of high marine biodiversity. Demian has a B.S. in Biology from Iowa State University, M.S. in Biology from California State University Los Angeles, and a Ph.D. in Environmental Health Science from UCLA.

Tim Werner: Tim joined the lab as a Ph.D student in 2006. Tim’s research interest is in combining morphological and molecular approaches to resolve questions in marine systematics and biogeography, with a focus on holothurians. He is also active in applying science to real world challenges, currently as a research director with the New England Aquarium [] where he manages a team from the engineering, marine science, and fishing industry sectors engaged in the research and development of methods to reduce fisheries bycatch, and previously as a senior director at Conservation International (CI), an environmental non-profit organization, where he developed and managed programs in the South Pacific and for marine ecosystems. Tim holds a M.S. in Marine Zoology from University of Maryland, and a M.A. in Business Management from Stanford University.


I have been fortunate to work with some excellent students/scientists over the years. Here are some of the alumni of the lab and what they are currently doing.


Sarah Boyce: Sarah (don't forget the h) is a curatorial assistant in the the entomology department of the Museum of Comparative Zoology, Harvard. However, she is a crustacean biologist at heart, having studied the phylogenetics of calappid crabs as a masters student at Florida State University. At BU, Sarah worked on numerous projects as a Senior Research Technician, including the connectivity of Caribbean stomatopods, dispersal of Emerita sand crabs along the Pacific Coast, morphological and genetic identification of Indo-Pacific stomatopod larvae, and the used of nuclear markers in the phylogenetics of stomatopods.

Benita Chick: A graduate of Cornell University, Benita conducted a masters thesis studying the phylogeography of of sea cucumbers (holothurian) in Indonesia, where sea cucumbers are being severely overfished. She completed her thesis in 2007. She is presently working for Outward Bound in Hong Kong while she plans her next career move.



Dr. Eric Crandall: Eric is interested in understanding how populations of marine species are genetically and demographically connected by the dispersal of planktonic larvae. He is utilizing the unique and vastly different habitat constraints within the neritid family of snails to investigate the effect of stepping stones of available habitat (e.g. marine reserves) on marine population connectivity. Eric finished his Ph.D. thesis on "Isolation and Gene Flow in Indo-Pacific Species with Marine Larvae" in December 2007 and then did a postdoctoral fellowship with Kent Carpenter at Old Dominion University. He is currently a postdoctoral researcher with Carlos Garza in the NOAA lab in Santa Cruz.


Dr. Timery DeBoer : Timery is interested in the use of genetic data to inform marine conservation. Her dissertation research focused on comparing patterns of genetic connectivity of giant clams (Tridacna spp.) and their algal symbionts throughout the Indonesian Archipelago. Timery has extensive field experience and was a zoologist at The Nature Conservancy and a biological constultant prior to joining BU. She completed her Masters degree at UCSD studying behavior of red-faced warblers in Arizona and defended her PhD thesis "Evolution and Conservation of Giant Clams (Tridacna) across the Coral Triangle" in May 2010. She is now employed at the Ocean Genome Legacy.

Dr. Joshua Drew : Josh is interested in connectivity and conservation of marine fishes. His thesis research is focused on connectivity of reef fish populations over evolutionary and ecological time scales, as well as the barriers restrict connectivity and lead to speciation. Josh is also interested in the use of traditional ecological knowledge in marine conservation, and using that knowledge to document shifting baselines in marine resources. He got an M.S. SUNY Albany on "Marine reserves as a fisheries management alternative for the Bahamas" before working at WCS. Josh defended his thesis at BU in 2008, examining He is currently an NSF Bioinformatics Postdoctoral Fellow with Mark Westneat at the University of Chicago.

Dr. Devin Drown:Devin is interested in coevolutionary interactions, particularly host-parasite interactions. During his tenure as a Senior Research Technician in the Barber Lab, Devin developed and employed microsatellite markers in the study of the mating system of the coral reef fish, Abudefduf sordidus. Devin also pursued a projects looking at the genetic effects of size selective mortality in the coral reef fish Neopomocentrus filamentosus, and dispersal of the coral reef fish Plectroglyphidodon imparipennis between Johnston Atoll and the Hawaiian Islands. He completed his PhD thesis at Washington State University in the laboratory of Mark Dybdahl in 2009 studying coevolution of hosts and parasites. He is now a postdoctoral researchers working with Michael Wade in the Department of Biology at the University of Indiana.

Soren Faurby: Soren joined the lab as a Postdoctoral Fellow in May 2010. Funded by the Danish research fund, Villum Kann Rasmussen, Soren is examining evolution and diversification of marine tartigrades along the West Coast of North America. He received his Ph.D. from Aarhus University in Denmark where he studied various aspects of genetic variation in marine organisms including global phylogeography of marine tartigrades and the application of 3D imaging techniques to the study of horseshoe crabs.

Alison (Ali) Hamilton: Ali joined the lab as a postdoctoral scholar in 2009. Ali is interested in the processes that generate and maintain biodiversity (both species diversity and genetic diversity), especially for the squamate reptile faunas of remote island systems. She has been conducting research in the islands of the Vanuatu Archipelago since 2001, and her research is broadly focused on uncovering the history of colonization, differentiation and speciation within the islands of the southwestern Pacific Ocean. Ali joined the Barber lab in August 2009 after completing her Ph.D. at the Louisiana State University Museum of Natural Science. She is currently a postdoctoral scholar at the Smithsonian Institution

Megan Mach: Megan is interested marine invasive species and the factors that promote invasions. A graduate of the University of Washington, Megan finished her masters thesis in 2007 on "Genetic Structure of Menidia menidia Across an Environmental Gradient". She is now a Ph.D. student of Dr. Kai Chan and Dr. Dolin Levings in the department of Resource Management and Evionmental Studies at the University of Brittish Columbia.


Shinta Pardede: Shinta joined the lab from Indonesia on a fellowship from the Wildlife Conservation Society where she worked before joining the lab. She is especially interested in management and conservation of marine resources in Indonesia and conducted her thesis examining the fisheries biology, evolution, and genetic connectivity in fusiliers. She has returned to Indonesia where she continues to work for the Wildlife Conservation Society promoting coral reef conservation in Indonesia.


Elizabeth Sbrocco: Elizabeth joined the lab at Boston University as a Ph.D. student in 2006 after several years of running the lab as a technician. She is interested in the application of fine-scale poplulation genetics to the understanding the evolution and conservation of marine populations. She is interested in the role of environmental difference and physical oceanography in shaping connectivity and evolution of marine populations and has developed a publically available database for marine spatial ecology studies. A graduate of Duke University, in 2006 she defended her M.S. at the College of Charleston, focuing on dipsersal and evolution of Atlantic amphipods.She graduated in January 2012, and is currently a postdoctoral fellow at the National Center for Evolutionary Synthesis (NESCent).

Dr. Craig Starger: Craig Starger studies the population connectivity and conservation genetics of scleractinian corals. Craig was a postdoctoral researcher in the lab, funded by the NSF PIRE program and spent most of his tenue doing field work and helping run collaborative molecular labs in the Philippines and Indonesia. He finished his Ph.D. at Columbia University and the American Museum of Natural History in 2007 in the lab of Dr. Andrew Baker. After two and a half years with us,hes moved to the Smithsonian Institution where he did postdoctoral research with Dr. Chris Meyer. He is now a AAAS Science and Technology Policy Fellow at the U.S. State Department.

Michele Weber: Michele joined the lab in 2010 as a postdoctoral researcher funded by the NSF PIRE program. Michele is interested in the role of microbes in promoting diversity in coral reef environments. She is based full time in the Coral Triangle, and is presently working at the Indonesian Biodiversity Research Center, where she is conducting research and mentoring U.S. and Indonesian students. She received her Ph.D. from University of California, Berkeley, in 2009 examining the diversity of Symbiodidium in giant clams across their Pacific and Indian Ocean ranges.









Adjunct Lab Members: There are many students who have worked in the lab, but are members of other lab groups. We actively support students who wish to incorporate molecular tools into their research, regardless of lab affiliation.

Dr. Heidi Fisher:Heidi studied the effects of toxins on chemical communication and mate choice in aquatic ecosystem. Her work focused on a hybrid zone in Mexican swordtails, and is employing a spectrum of behavioral and genetic methods to understanding the breakdown of species boundaries in this system. She finshed her Ph.D. in 2006 under Gil Rosenthal and is presently doing a postdoc with Hopi Hoestra at Harvard University.

Beth Neeley: Beth studied the evolution of visual communication systems in Neotropical reef fishes. Her research used phylogenetics to frame questions about the adaptive response of body color patterns and visual sensitivities to environmental characteristics. She is a former member of the Rosenthal Lab. She is currently working for COMPASS, coordinating the dissemination of important scientific research to the general public.


Dr. Mindy Richlen: Mindy studied genetic variation in Gambierdiscus toxicus, which is a toxin-producing dinoflagellate responsible for ciguatera fish poisoning.  For her thesis she investigated the global distribution of toxic and non-toxic isolates of G. toxicus in order to determine if and how the genetic variability of G. toxicus relates to the biogeographic pattern of ciguatera incidence. A former member of the Lobel Lab, she is presently a postdoctoral fellow at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.


Jason Philibotte: Jason was focused on the connectivity of reef fish populations in Hawaii and central Pacific Atolls in the context of marine conservation and MPA siting and design. He is employing physical oceanographic models, larval otolith analyses, and genetics to explore the potential and realized dispersal of reef fish. Following BU, he worked for the Community Conservation Network in Hawaii and is now working as a Coastal Management Specialist for NOAA's National Marine Fisheries. He was a member of the Lobel Lab.