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Scuba Diver in Reef

Our Team

Moving marine science towards meaningful conservation outcomes requires a creative & dynamic team

Our growing collective of passionate scientists and collaborators have the expertise to plan and execute field programs, synthesize large datasets, quickly identify the relevant conservation needs or research questions, recommend innovative solutions, and communicate science to broad audiences.

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Ashlee Lillis, Ph.D.
Director & Chief Scientist

Dr. Ashlee Lillis is a marine ecologist with over 20 years of experience working in diverse habitats across the globe, from cold oceans to tropical waters, shallow to deep-sea environments. Her research focuses on the larval ecology of marine invertebrates and marine soundscapes. Ashlee is a National Geographic Explorer, a Guest Investigator at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, and has worked as a coral program manager for The Nature Conservancy, leading coral restoration projects in the Caribbean. Using a collaborative interdisciplinary approach, Dr. Lillis seeks to connect diverse ideas, techniques, and people to advance ocean research, conservation, and management objectives. Alongside her work to directly support conservation and communities, she remains inspired by exploring the unique and understudied regions, habitats, and organisms of the sea.  

Curriculum vitae

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Michelle Caputo, Ph.D.
Senior Scientist

Dr. Michelle Caputo studies the ecology, behavior, and conservation of marine organisms, with a focus on megafauna such as dolphins and whales. She brings a range of expertise in GIS, ecological modeling, stable isotope analysis, statistics, and population ecology. As a joint postdoctoral scientist at Florida International University and Rhodes University in South Africa, Michelle investigated the trophic and population ecology of cetaceans, sharks, and other top predators in a variety of systems, using field and laboratory techniques. Dr. Caputo continues to use rigorous scientific research to address pressing marine conservation concerns, including better understanding interactions between ecological processes and human activities. Her expertise in trophic ecology enables us to examine changes in ecosystem functioning related to environmental change and human intervention.

Curriculum vitae

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Research Associates

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Corina Marks

Corina Marks is a marine scientist with a passion for conservation, and holds a Masters degree in Coastal Policy & Science. She is equipped with a broad range of talents in project management, logistics, training, field sampling, data analysis and synthesis. Her skillset includes Graphical Information Systems (GIS) and mapping. During her career she has worked as a research technician and analyst at Moss Landing Marine Lab, CSU Monterey Bay, and Scripps Institution of Oceanography. Now based in St. Croix, US Virgin Islands, she leads coral reef conservation programs and manages a unique Caribbean eco-hotel.

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Emily Nixon

Emily Nixon is a dedicated marine conservationist, educator, and scientist with an interest in applying scientific inquiry to applied conservation and restoration. She brings experience in both lab and field settings in remote locations, with a skillset that includes coral reproduction, larval husbandry, genetic sampling, and molecular analysis. Emily is currently a Ph.D. candidate at Scripps Institution of Oceanography where she is investigating relationships between symbiont assemblages and juvenile coral recruitment with an aim to improve coral conservation outcomes.

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Sophie Cook

Sophie Cook has an interdisciplinary background across non-profit, education, tourism, diving, and conservation sectors that she integrates with her love for marine biodiversity and science. Her diverse experience, knowledge, and passion for ecology, not-to-mention Spanish fluency, makes her a versatile member of the SOS family. A life-long learner, Sophie recently completed her Masters in Marine Biodiversity and Conservation at Scripps Institution of Oceanography and now works for NOAA where she is using photogrammetry to better understand changes in reef ecology.

2023-24 Intern Cohort

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Emily Perkovic

Emily is a graduate student at James Cook University in Australia, where she is completing her Masters degree in Marine Biology. A lover of oceans and science communication, she has managed social media for three different marine conservation NGOs. Emily is lending her vast expertise to support our social media communications and education strategy. As an avid diver and underwater photographer, Emily is a tremendous asset to our intern team.

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Matella Ovo

Matella is currently a Biology major at the University of Papua New Guinea. Growing up on the island of New Guinea, she was always fascinated by marine wildlife and she has a passion for protecting ocean ecosystems. Matella has led the creation of our "What's that sound?" social media series and continues to share her knowledge by contributing to our educational posts.

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Lena Pollett

Lena is a hands-on marine biologist living in Indonesia, where she leads manta ray research for an NGO. She is a PADI Divemaster and experienced presenter of marine biology to diverse audiences. Her interests are not limited to marine megafauna and she is thrilled to be learning about different organisms and ecosystems by assisting SOS with the development of "shrimpfluencer" website and social media content.

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Hannah Zwalué

Hannah is a graduate of the University of Otago in New Zealand and aspiring graduate student. In the meantime she is a passionate marine ecologist and trustee of the New Zealand Sea Lion Trust. For her SOS internship she is masterfully running our social media accounts and contributing to the development of our organization's outreach.

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Fabiola Zavala

Fabiola is a talented marine scientist holding a Masters in Marine Biology from the University of Guanajuato in Mexico. Her thesis focused on microplastics in zooplankton and she has experience studying the ecology of humpback whales. As an SOS intern she is helping create video and educational posts for our "shrimpfluencer" campaign.

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Ayla Kroon

Ayla hails from the Netherlands and is a Masters student at the University of Lund in Sweden. Her graduate research project is being carried out in Thailand where she is studying the effects of soundscapes on coral larvae. Her background in art and science is supporting SOS in the development of educational graphics.

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