Lab members

On board R/V Connecticut, September 2019. Photo by Daniel Hentz (WHOI).
Kirstin Meyer-Kaiser
Marine biologist 

Most of the ocean floor is blanketed by soft sediments, so hard-bottom habitats are usually isolated and island-like. Any solid object - be it a reef, a lone rock, or a shipwreck - will inevitably be colonized, and these substrata provide habitats for diverse and abundant communities of sponges, anemones, crabs, mussels, and fish. As a benthic ecologist, I study the colonization and connectivity of island-like hard-bottom habitats.

My research focuses on the early life-history stages of invertebrates, including larval dispersal and recruitment. The larval phase is the only opportunity for sessile organisms to spread to or colonize new environments, but larvae and new recruits suffer high mortality because of environmental stress and predation. I seek to understand how these restrictions affect the connectivity of populations and what factors might allow some larvae to disperse farther than others. I work at all depths from the intertidal to the deep sea and I have ongoing projects at polar, temperate, and tropical latitudes.

In order to collect samples and conduct experiments, I embark on frequent expeditions to the field. I use SCUBA and small boats to reach near-shore habitats and participate in oceanographic expeditions on larger research ships to sample off-shore or deep-sea habitats with remotely operated vehicles. Much of my work involves collection of high-resolution imagery - either video or photos - from the seafloor, and so image analysis is a staple of my research. I travel frequently, both domestically and internationally.

Currently, I am an Assistant Scientist at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI). Visit the blog portion of this site for the most recent information on my research activities, and contact me at if you are interested in joining my lab. More information for prospective students can be found under the "Opportunities" tab of this webpage.

Calvin Mires
Maritime archaeologist

Dr. Calvin Mires has almost 20 years of experience in maritime archaeology and underwater cultural heritage. He is a Research Associate III at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. He has led and worked on more than 30 maritime archaeology projects around the world, including Greek and Roman shipwrecks and harbors, Sweden's iconic warship Vasa, Confederate Blockade Runners in North and South Carolina, ship graveyards in Bermuda, and various sites in the Caribbean Sea, Pacific Ocean, and the Great Lakes. He is co-founder and instructor of SEAMAHP, a training program that leverages the concept of a ship's life-cycle to provide hands-on experiential learning to the public in maritime archaeology. Since 2015, he has co-directed the only maritime archaeology field schools in Massachusetts with cooperation of the Massachusetts Board of Underwater Archaeological Resources, the Trustees of Reservations, and the National Park Service, and has run maritime archaeological summer programs for middle and high school students. He is a Senior Tutor for the Nautical Archaeology Society for the New England region, a group that provides maritime archaeological training for the public. He has received grants from the National Park Service Maritime Heritage Program and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and has published in The International Journal of Nautical ArchaeologyThe Society for Historical Archaeology, and Bermuda Maritimes. He is currently involved in several projects in Massachusetts, including archaeological investigation of the 1626 Sparrow Hawk and deep-sea research on shipwrecks in Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary.

Johanna Weston
Postdoctoral Scholar

As an ecologist, I strive to understand how species interact with and are shaped by their environment. For a given species, I ask, “Where does it live?”, “How has it adapted to its environment?”, “Why is it there?”, and sometimes more importantly “Why is it not there?”. Asking and addressing these questions is fundamental to finding solutions to the challenges our Earth faces in the Anthropocene, such as pollution, biodiversity loss, and climate change. One of my favorite ecosystems to ask these questions is the hadal zone, which is where the ocean seafloor plunges to 6 to ~11 km deep, like at the Mariana Trench. Sounds extreme, but it's not too extreme for life! The hadal zone is a hotspot for biodiversity - home to diverse animals that evolved independently into each trench. Primarily, I use amphipods, shrimp-like crustaceans, as a model group to understand the drivers of biodiversity and how the physical environment shapes their ecology and distribution. Starting with my PhD at Newcastle University and now as a Postdoctoral Scholar, my research incorporates a range of techniques from describing multiple new species to science, like Eurythenes plasticus, using DNA barcoding to gain more robust identification, and applying population genomics to investigate connectivity between these inverted mountain ranges. I was fortunate to be part of the Five Deeps Expedition, a mission to take a human-occupied submersible to the deepest point of every ocean, and proud of communicating some of the deep scientific findings. At WHOI in the Meyer-Kaiser Lab, I am dually focused on advancing our knowledge of the hadal zone and moving to shallower waters to invertebrate dispersal more directly between island-like habitats. I'm happy to chat about all things hadal, amphipods, scientific illustration, and connectivity at

Kharis Schrage
PhD candidate in the MIT-WHOI Joint Program in Biological Oceanography

There is a black box in marine ecology - what happens during settlement? There is a fair amount of research on on benthic marine invertebrate adult ecology and even some on larval ecology in situ - but relatively few studies are able to link the two by quantifying settlement. My research focuses on this difficult-to-study life-history stage, specifically in the complex ecosystem of the Arctic. My dissertation involves the use of a unique camera system in the lab called CATAIN - Camera To Analyze Invertebrates - that photographs its own clear end cap that functions as a fouling panel. In this way, I can collect data on settlement and post-settlement mortality on time-scales of a day or less. I am applying this technique and others in the Arctic to better understand the seasonal and spatial of settling invertebrates. This will help us better understand the role of early life-history stages in setting up adult benthic community assemblages and diversity gradients throughout complex fjord ecosystems. In addition, I am investigating larval abundances and strategies in two low-food environments - the polar night and the Arctic deep sea. This work takes place using everything from intertidal sampling by hand to deploying equipment from large research vessels. I am from Alexandria, VA and travel extensively for work and for fun. I can usually be reached at

Sarah Zuidema
Research Assistant II

I always tell people that the ocean and its inhabitants have a really positive way of getting under your skin. For me, the organisms that really drew me in to a career in marine biology were invertebrates. I love that they are so wildly different from us, and have adaptations that stretch beyond anything my childhood imagination may have dreamed up. I completed my Marine Biology Master’s in Charleston, South Carolina where I studied white shrimp (Penaeus setiferus) and their parasite populations. I was primarily interested in a condition called black gill which occurs as part of an immune response in shrimp, and how that condition related to parasite infections and proxies for shrimp health. During my thesis research I developed a love of fieldwork, and was privileged to participate in otter trawl surveys, freshwater wetland sampling regimes, zooplankton collections, and crab-pot surveys. I also became very comfortable behind a microscope while dissecting hundreds of white shrimp. I was fortunate to spend time in the science education sector after grad school, and loved the look of wonder students wore when learning something new about the natural world. I taught in a variety of experiential learning settings before moving on to a husbandry-research position in the aquaculture sector. I worked in a Maine shellfish hatchery learning spawning and larval rearing protocols, and executed several research projects aimed at developing aquaculture-ready techniques to raise challenging shellfish species in a hatchery setting. I also assisted with shellfish recruitment fieldwork on mudflats and worked on a demonstration oyster farm housed in a lobster pound. My position at WHOI spans across four biology labs and heavily leverages my background in microscopy and zooplankton. In Kirstin’s lab I am processing a complex zooplankton sample set from Palau to examine the diversity of species residing in the Palau National Marine Sanctuary. These populations will also teach us about other factors: larval dispersal, fish abundances, and vertical migration patterns. I am always excited to discuss all things weird and wonderful in the world of invertebrates, and can be reached at

Golden Doodle

Kraken comes to the lab with Kirstin a few days a week. His research interests include environmental smells, creative and alternative tug toys, and novel disassembly methods for cellulose-based waste (i.e., cardboard). Kraken's dissertation, entitled "Investigations in misbehavior: methods for optimizing treat output in a Homo sapiens household," was heralded by the Canine Research Society as "the most comprehensive experiment in puppy misbehavior in several years." Since completing his education, Kraken has stayed on in the Meyer-Kaiser lab as a researcher in the global OCEM network (Olfactory Cues for Environmental Monitoring). His data collection involves daily walks along a set route in Woods Hole to monitor changes in environmental conditions along monthly, seasonal, and annual time-scales. 

Former lab members

Maikani Andres, Guest Student, 2023
Project: Recruitment of corals in Palau
Currently: Researcher at Palau International Coral Reef Center

Kimberly Nuñez, Summer Student Fellow, 2022
Project: Long-term changes in the Arctic deep sea: benthic community structure at HAUSGARTEN-I 2002-2012
Currently: MS student at University College Cork, Ireland

Hanny Rivera, Postdoctoral Investigator, 2018-2021
Project: Population connectivity and adaptation for thermal tolerance among corals in Palau Paper
Currently: Associate Director of Business Development at Gingko Bioworks (biotech start-up)

Amelia 'Mimi' Smith, Summer Student Fellow, 2020
Project: Ontogenetic development of the crinoid Poliometra prolixa in the Arctic deep sea. Paper
Currently: Energy and Sustainability Analyst at ICF (environmental consulting firm)