Board of Directors
Eric is an assistant professor of environmental social science in the Department of Coastal Studies at East Carolina University. Eric’s research primarily looks at human-environment relationships in coastal and marine ecosystems and how the coupled interactions contribute to the sustainability of the resources. Within this broad area, he looks at the decision-making strategies of stakeholders, the behaviors of resource users in response to changes, and how formal and informal institutions shape how people interact with the natural resource. He has explored this relationship across the region, in Jamaica, Belize, Panama, and St. Lucia. Eric earned his Bachelor of Science in Marine Biology from the University of North Carolina at Wilmington and a Master’s in Fisheries Science from Oregon State University. Eric has previously worked for the Belize Fisheries Department, Oceana Belize, and the United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organization.
Eric first became involved in GCFI in 2017, where he won a student award. He joined the board of GCFI in 2020.
Henri has spent most of his adult life associated, in various degrees, with universities of the Caribbean, Spain and Canada. His strong interest in the natural sciences led him to pursue a BSc in Biology at the University of Oviedo (Spain), an MSc in Natural Resource Management at the University of the West Indies (Barbados) and a PhD in Biology at McGill University (Canada). A few years ago Henri worked as a technical advisor to the Haitian government in issues pertaining to the development of fisheries and he is now a full-time Lecturer in Ecology at the University of the West Indies (Barbados) and an associate researcher within the FORCE project. As part of this diverse background, Henri is fluent in Spanish, French, English and Haitian creole. His post-graduate work focused on investigating settlement and post-settlement dynamics of coral reef fishes and in improving the methods we use to study the transition that most reef organisms make when moving from the open sea as larvae to the reef. Although still very much interested on issues pertaining to the population dynamics of reef organisms, Henri’s main line of research over the past few years has steered toward issues more directly related to improving the management of coral reef resources. He is currently working on the identification and development of simple indicators of the status of reef fish communities for ecosystem-based fisheries management in the Caribbean.
Mel Goodwin, PhD
Formally trained as a marine biologist, Dr. Goodwin is responsible for operations, program development, and implementation of a nonprofit information services organization devoted to sustainable development. Major activities include development of public information programs to communicate information on sustainable development issues and approaches, developing professional training programs in sustainable development for design and building professionals, incorporating sustainability principles into public school buildings and curricula, anddevelopment of neighborhood-based land use plans for the cities of Charleston and North Charleston. He worked for fifteen years as Projects Director on sustainable development initiatives in the Eastern Caribbean sponsored by public and private organizations including the Canadian International Development Agency, Caribbean Conservation Association, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, Inter American Foundation, Jessie Smith Noyes Foundation, Rockefeller Brothers Fund, U. S. Agency for International Development, and World Wildlife Fund – U.S. Recent activities include authoring more than 100 outreach lesson plans for middle school and high school classes dealing with NOAA’s Ocean Exploration Program, National Ocean Service, and the Aquarius Project
Bob is recently retired from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commissions’ Fish and Wildlife Research Institute where he served as the Principal Investigator of the queen conch research and restoration program in Marathon. His research focused on stock restoration, essential habitat, larval recruitment, endocrine disruption, marine fishery reserves, and stock structure. He has worked extensively on molluscan aquaculture for both commercial and restoration projects. In 1994 he received the first Florida Jaycees Outstanding Young Environmentalist award and in 2006 he was the first marine recipient of the Southeast Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies Fishery Biologist of the Year. In 2018, he received the Director’s Award for his lifetime of achievement.
Bob also served as the Principal Investigator on a number of climate change adaptation projects. He developed the KeysMAP (Florida Keys Marine Adaptation Planning) program which uses scenarios to develop climate adaptation strategies, identifies triggerpoints for implementing the strategies, and develops monitoring program to identify when the triggerpoint is attained. He was the leader of the Florida FWC climate change Research and Monitoring workgroup. He also served as the chair of the Monroe County Climate Change Advisory Committee whose objective is to make recommendations to the Board of County Commissioners on how best to adapt to a changing climate in the Florida Keys. In 2016 he received the Leadership Award Honorable Mention of the National Fish, Wildlife, and Plants Climate Adaptation Strategy.
Bob lives in Marathon, Florida in the Florida Keys with his wife Merlou and golden retriever Grace. When not working on GCFI activities, he is busy in his extensive tropical garden building ecosystems.
Assistant Executive Director
Fadilah Ali is an ecologist with a specialty in invasive species biology, control and management. Originally from Trinidad and Tobago, she received an M. Env. Sci. in Biodiversity and Conservation as well as an M. Phil in Ocean and Earth Science from the University of Southampton. During her time in Southampton she conducted research on biological indicators for water quality as well as the distribution and impact of marine debris on British coastlines. She is currently the Project Manager for the Caribbean Node of the Global Partnership on Marine Litter which GCFI is a co-host of together with UN Environment. Fadilah was previously heavily involved in research on the lionfish invasion within the Dutch Caribbean with a focus on their general and feeding ecology. To date she has analysed the stomach contents of more than 12,000 lionfish and has conducted research and worked as a consultant in many islands throughout the Caribbean.
Fadilah first became involved with GCFI in 2011 where she won the student award for best oral presentation and has served on the GCFI Board of Directors since 2014.
Alejandro works for the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s Fish and Wildlife Research Institute in Marathon. He is the team leader and research coordinator for the FWC/SFRL finfish program in the Florida Keys. His interests include fish biology and community ecology, especially the relationships between habitat structure and the distribution, abundance and connectivity of reef fishes. His work has examined tropical reef fisheries, community structure, fish spawning aggregations and stock assessment of reef, mangrove and estuarine fishes. He is actively involved in an annual multi-species visual censuses and juvenile seine surveys in near shore waters of the Florida Keys. Alejandro is actively involved in regional programs in the Caribbean region. Previously he has work in Venezuela and in the Pacific. Alejandro has been Chairman and Vice-chairman of GCFI and has been the Chair of the Program Committee for the last 8 years
Alfonso Aguilar-Perera is a marine science professor since 2006 with the Departamento de Recursos Marinos Tropicales of the Universidad Autónoma de Yucatán, in Mérida, Yucatán, México. He teaches Coastal Conservation and Management, Conservation of reef fishes, Marine protected areas design, and Science Communication. He received his MSc and Ph.D. from the University of Puerto Rico, Mayagüez Campus, and he did a postdoc in UPRM supported by the Caribbean Coral Reef Institute. His research addresses the conservation biology of grouper (Epinephelidae) aggregations in the Mexican Caribbean, and recently in the Gulf of Mexico. Also, he investigates the invasion of the red lionfish off the northern coast of the Yucatan Peninsula, in the Southern Gulf of Mexico. He is member of the IUCN groupers and wrasses specialist group and the Science for Conservation of Reef Fish Aggregations (SCRFA). He has been active member of the GCFI Students Award since 2009. For further information on his research and teaching interests you can view this link or his SCOPUS profile and Publons Profile
Dalila Aldana Aranda
Dalila Aldana Aranda is Profesor at CINVESTAV-IPN (Centro de Investigación y de Estudios Avanzados del Instituto Politécnico Nacional), a Research Center in Mexico. My research is mainly in nutrition, reproduction and aquaculture of marine Molluscs. I have been working extensively in conch of the genus Strombus (S. gigas, S. costatus, S. pugilis), also in an endemic conch from Yucatan Peninsula, and oyster Crassotrea virginica. I received my Ph.D. in Biology Oceanography and Aquaculture from University of West Bretagne, Brest, France, with Honorific Mention. In 1993, I received a second Ph. D. in populations Biology, at University de Marsella, France, receiving also an honorific mention. I have written over 70 scientific papers in my field, and I have produced 6 books of environmental education related to protect marine species. I have supervised 4 Ph. D., and 10 Master students. From 1997 to 2001, I coordinated the Iberoamerican Network of mollucs aquaculture from Iberoamerican Program of Science and Technology for Development (CYTED). In 2002, I was chair-woman of the Marine Laboratories Association in the Caribbean. In 2006, the Institute of Gulf and Caribbean Fisheries nominated me as their chair person, becoming the first woman in this Institute that received this nomination. Since June 2008, I am chair-woman of the Mexican Academy of Science (Southeast).
Lalo’s work focuses on understanding, managing, and communicating ecological and social processes in marine fisheries across the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean. He manages a multi-national team of scientists, experts, and stakeholders for the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) to develop fisheries management projects in Cuba and the region. He has been participating at GCFI for several years and hosted several technical workshops. He has been instrumental in developing the synergy between EDF’s and GCFI by sponsoring and funding fishers’ activities and participation in GCFI. He works in the implementation of sustainable fishing management practices through multi-stakeholder collaboration. His participation in the GCFI Board will increase diversity and bring the NGO’s perspective to the Board. Lalo’s work in organizing activities for GCFI he has shown a strong commitment to the GCFI and his interest to be a Board Director.
Megan Davis, Ph.D. is a Research Professor at Florida Atlantic University’s Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute in the program Aquaculture and Stock Enhancement. Over the past decades Megan has combined her strengths in aquaculture, marine ecology, technology transfer, business and project management to lead several international projects in Florida and throughout the Caribbean. She works on community-, industry- and fishery-based projects. She was co-founder of the Turks and Caicos Island’s commercial-scale queen conch farm; part of the Florida team that retrained commercial fishers to be clam farmers; and the science team lead on a large-scale spiny lobster aquaculture project in the Caribbean. She currently leads the Queen Conch Lab with projects in The Bahamas, Puerto Rico, Curacao and other Caribbean nations. She is the PI for the NOAA Fisheries Puerto Rico pilot-scale queen conch hatchery project with her Co-PI, a local conservation organization, and a commercial fishing association. Megan has served the aquaculture and marine science community through several leadership roles at FAU Harbor Branch as well as through membership on regional and national boards. She is the Chair of the NOAA Marine Fisheries Advisory Committee (MAFAC) and led the MAFAC task group that developed the National Seafood Council report. Megan is passionate about healthy and sustainable seafood and sea vegetable choices and shares information through culinary demonstrations.
Megan has been involved with GCFI since 1982 and previously served on the Board from 1986 – 1998.
Emma was previously Vice Chair of GCFI and is in her third term as a GCFI board member. She joined GCFI’s board in 2013 at GCFI66 and was the founding chair of GCFI’s Communications Committee. Emma coordinates ‘MPAConnect’ – a learning network of 32 marine protected areas in 11 Caribbean countries and territories that is managed through a partnership between GCFI and NOAA’s Coral Reef Conservation Program. Emma is also Senior Advisor to the Wider Caribbean Sea Turtle Conservation Network (WIDECAST) on marine protected areas and biodiversity monitoring, Technical Advisor on marine protected area management to Sustainable Grenadines Inc. and a member of the Board of Directors of Ocean Spirits Inc. in Grenada. She has worked in international environmental cooperation and grant management in Latin America and the Caribbean for 20 years. Emma is Australian, she studied coastal zone management at Sydney University and has a Master of Science in environmental management from Wageningen University in the Netherlands.
Prior starting her PhD, Frédérique was trained as an ecologist with a focus on terrestrial tropical ecosystems, after which she worked in the Caribbean over a period of three years for the Regional Activity Centre for the Protocol for Specially Protected Areas and Wildlife (SPAW-RAC) under UNEP-CEP, and for CANARI, focusing on coastal and marine biodiversity conservation and the management of natural resources and environmental issues.
Kelly is an Assistant Professor at the University of Trinidad and Tobago Centre for Maritime and Ocean Studies, and involved in undergraduate and graduate teaching programs. She has been an active participant in GCFI since attending as a graduate student in 2009, and now encourages her own students to attend. Kelly has a broad range of experience working on a variety of topics across a range of habitats in the Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean. Her research background includes artificial reefs, habitat ecology, invasive species, sargassum, turtles, fish ecology and fisheries. She has worked with local fishers on several of these projects and understands the value that comes from collaboration across sectors, so she is keen to contribute to the Fisheries for Fishers Program. Kelly’s enthusiasm for participatory marine conservation and her contacts throughout the region would provide a valuable contribution to the GCFI Board.
Cecil Marquez is an artisanal fisher from Gouyave, Grenada. In 2018, he received GCFI’s Gladding Memorial Award in recognition of his contributions to sustainable management of Grenada’s fisheries and marine resources. Cecil is an inspirational leader for many young fishers; they have followed his lead by adopting the use of manual longlines from small vessels to target swordfish and yellowfin tuna. More recently, Cecil popularized “Safety at Sea” by training and equipping fishers with safety equipment. Cecil was instrumental in establishing the Gouyave Marine Protected Area. Subsequently, the Grenada Fisheries Division delegated its management to the local community. Since 2019, Cecil has worked with GCFI to reduce abandoned, lost, discarded fishing gear (ALDFG) and distributed information to fish houses across Grenada. He attended a workshop in Panama representing GCFI where he learned methods to recover lost gear. Cecil continues to be a leader in the GCFI Fisheries for Fishers Initiative.
Christy Pattengill-Semmens is an Executive Director for Reef Environmental Education Foundation (REEF), a grassroots marine conservation non-profit organization based in the United States with programming world-wide. REEF’s Volunteer Fish Survey Project is the largest and longest-running ocean citizen science program, facilitating divers and snorkelers to collect marine fish and invertebrate distribution and abundance data in oceans around the world. Christy has been part of REEF’s programs since inception in the early 1990s, overseeing the implementation and expansion of program and facilitating the use of REEF data for science and management. Along with her husband, Brice Semmens, and colleagues from Oregon State University and Cayman Island Department of Environment, she is a lead scientist for REEF’s Grouper Moon Project, studying one of the last and largest known spawning aggregations of the endangered Nassau Grouper. Christy conducted her dissertation research on fish assemblages at the Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary in the Gulf of Mexico, and received her Ph.D. from Texas A&M University. She was inducted to the Women Divers Hall of Fame in 2021. Christy first started attending the annual GCFI conference in Key West in 1999.
Dr. Ruth Perry joined Royal Dutch Shell as a Marine Scientist and Regulatory Policy Specialist in 2014. Ruth integrates marine science and ocean technology into regulatory policy advocacy and decision-making in the areas of marine sound, marine spatial planning, renewable offshore energies, ocean observing, and marine mammal and life science for Shell’s offshore energy projects in the Americas. Ruth is also responsible for Shell’s U.S. public-private science and data collaborations to improve energy industry and the communities’ knowledge of the offshore marine environment. In addition, she advises on environmental permitting strategy and is currently supporting Shell’s US offshore wind projects in this capacity. As part of these responsibilities, she works with other ocean users to create collaborative and cooperative partnerships to advance regional research and monitoring. One recent partnership is serving as a founding member of an independent organization dedicated to providing for and advancing regional research and monitoring of fisheries and offshore wind interactions in federal waters – the Responsible Offshore Science Alliance.
Ruth has nearly 15 years of ocean technology research and system implementation, environmental permitting advising, and ocean policy and regulatory analysis and advocacy. She has a number of peer-reviewed, book chapter and media publications, including Popular Mechanics. She also serves as a member of many offshore national scientific steering committees and Boards, a few including the National Academy of Sciences Ocean Studies Board and recently the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Science Advisory Board, Integrated Ocean Observing Science Advisory Committee and Consortium of Ocean Leadership Board of Trustees. She earned a doctorate in Oceanography from Texas A&M University in 2013 and worked for Texas A&M University on developing their autonomous ocean observing programs and the Gulf of Mexico Ocean Observing System in building the Gulf’s autonomous program and increasing private industries’ involvement in ocean observations prior to joining Shell.
Joanna is the Marine Resources Officer for the Bermuda Government’s Department of Environment and Natural Resources, a post she has held since 2008. Prior to that, she worked at the Bermuda Institute of Ocean Sciences (BIOS), formerly the Bermuda Biological Station for Research. Her research experience has covered everything from the ecology and health of seagrasses, mangroves and corals (including contributing to the CariCoMP Program / GCRMN) to the biology, ecology and management of both coral reef and pelagic fishes, as well as assessments of marine protected areas and the recreational fishery in Bermuda. In addition to working on topics relevant to the development of management plans for various local commercial fishery species, her recent research has focused on the dynamics and management of grouper spawning aggregations and the biology, ecology and control of the invasive lionfish in Bermuda. A native Bermudian, Joanna has a B.Sc. from Southampton University in the U.K., and a Ph.D. from James Cook University in Townsville, Australia and currently serves as an Associate Editor for the GCFI affiliated journal Gulf and Caribbean Research.
Brice Semmens is an Associate Professor at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of California, San Diego. Prior to joining the faculty at Scripps, Brice was a National Research Council Postdoctoral Fellow at the Northwest Fisheries Science Center. Brice’s research centers on fisheries science and quantitative tools in fisheries and conservation. He is currently the Director of the California Cooperative Oceanic Fisheries Investigations (CalCOFI), and a co-PI for the Center for the Advancement of Population Assessment Methodologies (CAPAM). In the Caribbean, Brice coordinates the Grouper Moon Project, a cooperative long-term spawning aggregation monitoring program in the Cayman Islands, jointly run by the Reef Environmental Education Foundation (REEF) and the Cayman Islands Department of Environment (CIDOE). Brice joined the GCFI Board of Directors in 2015 and has been involved with GCFI since 2003 (when he won a student presentation award), and gave the keynote address for the 69th GCFI Cayman Islands conference in 2016.
Michelle Schärer-Umpierre is a marine biologist with expertise in fisheries science. Her specific areas of interest include fish spawning aggregations, marine ecosystems, endangered species and passive acoustic research. Dr. Schärer graduated from the Department of Marine Sciences at the University of Puerto Rico with a PhD in Biological Oceanography and an MS in Biology. During the last decades she has led multiple scientific research for local and federal resources agencies in Puerto Rico as wells as within academia. Many projects have been designed through non-governmental organizations such as debris assessment and removal, marine protected area compliance as well as education and outreach. Some results of research projects include a review of marine protected areas for fisheries in the US Caribbean, the evaluation and management of fish spawning aggregations, fisheries-independent sampling of deep-water snappers and groupers, an assessment of the social-ecological system of La Parguera, the description of novel techniques to assess spawning aggregations of grouper with passive acoustic signals, global fin print shark and ray study, coral reef monitoring, the landscape ecology of marine habitats and their importance for fish connectivity, characterizations of critical habitats and essential fish habitat for commercially important species, and developing biological criteria to determine coral reef condition in the Caribbean. She has been involved in fieldwork directly conducting multiple dives at research sites with a variety of colleagues. Her experience in the development of artisanal fisheries in Brazil and Puerto Rico has led to a better understanding of the sustainability needs in order to harvest stocks of important marine resources. A member of the Gulf and Caribbean Fisheries Institute since 2001 (54th conference in the Turks and Caicos Islands) she has been involved as a student, presenter and now as a board member.
Manoj Shivlani is the program manager for the Center for Independent Experts (CIE), which has been organizing and conducting independent peer reviews of NOAA Fisheries assessments and programs since 1998. He holds a PhD from Florida International University, where he did his dissertation work on long-term changes in Florida Keys commercial fishing communities, and a master’s degree in marine affairs and policy from the University of Miami. His research interests are in the human dimensions of coastal and marine management, especially in fisheries, tourism, and marine protected areas. Shivlani has conducted research in the western Atlantic and Caribbean, the Gulf of Mexico, and the South Atlantic, including the development of the Bahamas spiny lobster fishery management plan, fisheries costs and returns studies in the US Caribbean, socioeconomic valuation of marine protected areas and fishery spawning closures in Puerto Rico, a commercial fisher characterization study towards the development of the Dry Tortugas Ecological Reserve, central Florida red snapper fisher surveys on social networks, long-term monitoring of commercial fishery uses in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, a characterization of Southeast Florida Coral Reef Initiative area stakeholders, and evaluation of water quality perceptions of Biscayne Bay.
Shivlani’s teaching experience at the Division of Marine Ecosystems and Society (MES) at the University of Miami includes graduate seminars in ocean policy, marine scientific methods, international ocean law, and marine protected areas theory and management.