Professional Staff

Luke Tornabene - Assistant Professor and Curator of Fishes

My wider interests include the biology, taxonomy and evolution of fishes. I am specifically interested in how changes in morphology, ecology, and life history impact the tempo of fish diversification. I have a strong interest in phylogenomics and the use of next-generation sequencing technology to provide elegant answers to evolutionary questions at or below the species level. My current research projects include:

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  • Biogeography, community assembly, phylogenetics, and adaptation in mesophotic reef fishes

  • Speciation in coral reef fishes of the Indo-Malay Archipelago.

  • Deep phylogenetic relationships of gobioid fishes using NGS phylogenomic datasets obtained via targeted gene-capture

  • Evolution of microhabitat association of cryptobenthic reef fishes

  • Evolution of unique life-history traits and reproductive strategies in gobioid fishes

  • Systematics of dwarfgobies, genus Eviota, an ultra-diverse lineage of miniature reef fishes in the Indo-Pacific

  • Character evolution, systematics and habitat association of the American seven-spined gobies (Tribe Gobiosomatini)

  • Assessing extinction risk of Caribbean and tropical Eastern Pacific gobies and sleepers using IUCN Redlist criteria

  • Biogeography and systematics of groundfishes of the eastern North Pacific ocean.

Katherine Maslenikov - Collection Manager

My interests center around building and curating the University of Washington’s Fish Collection and supporting the ichthyology community through access to the UW’s specimens, tissues, and data. I strive to provide greater access to specimen data through partnerships with bioinformatics initiatives (iDigBio, GBIF, VertNet, OBIS, etc.). I value community outreach and education, and partner with local STEM programs to reach the K-12 audience in addition to the university community. My research interests include the systematics, taxonomy, and biogeography of the ichthyofauna of the eastern North Pacific, with ongoing projects with the family Liparidae as well as projects documenting species distributions.

Marta Gomez-Buckley - PhD Student

It is very exciting to be part of the Ichthyology Team at SAFS and the Burke Museum. I am a proud UW alumna, and I am back at SAFS as a pre-doctoral student. I did my Master degree, under Professor Bruce Miller in 2000 on trophic dynamics of juvenile rockfish (S. diploproa and S. nigrocinctus) associated with drifting algal mats in the San Juan Archipelago. I also received a Secondary Science Teaching Certification from UW Tacoma in 2008. My interest has expanded to cryptobenthic coral reef fishes, especially gobies from the genus Eviota. For my doctoral research, I am focusing on the phylogenetic analysis and functional ecology of this group of fishes. Their diversity, small size and short life cycles give them a high potential to be key coral reef ecosystem indicators of environmental changes. I am currently working on the morphological identification and DNA sequencing of samples from 400 cryptobenthic reef fishes I collected in April 2017 from the Vava’u Archipelago, Kingdom of Tonga. One of the things I enjoy the most is taking science underwater by research SCUBA diving. I have ‘blown bubbles for science’ in many different ecosystems, ranging from the Canary Islands, Spain, where I am originally from and where I did my undergraduate degree in Marine Sciences, to Puget Sound, Alaska, the Caribbean, Micronesia, Fiji, and of course, Tonga. I am very excited about participating in outreach programs at SAFS and the Burke Museum. The recently awarded IRES grant, a three year undergraduate mentoring program at three south Pacific locations, will be a great opportunity to apply my eight-year experience teaching science.

Calder Atta - Masters Student

My research interests are centered around the evolution and diversity of fishes. As of 2017 I am a graduate student in the Tornabene lab and a research assistant in the UW Ichthyology Collection. My primary work in the collection involves facilitating the transferal and archival of larvae and egg specimens from NOAA’s annual Alaskan ichthyoplankton surveys. My fascination with nature and the ocean was inevitable given my childhood in Hawaii, but I became immersed in the world of fishes starting in 2014 with my undergraduate thesis at Boston University. My thesis work focused on the relationship between feeding behavior and jaw mechanics of flooded forest fishes (in the families Cyprinidae and Serrasalmidae). My current research topics in the Tornabene lab include understanding the distribution of Alaskan flatfish from an evolutionary perspective using both genetic and morphological tools, and characterizing the incredibly diverse reef fish communities in the northern Red Sea. As a fish taxonomists in training, I am continuously studying how to identify fishes from all over the world. This journey has taken me from the vibrant coral reefs in Hawaii, the Caribbean, and the Red Sea, to tropical river systems in South America and Southeast Asia, and now to the frigid North Pacific coasts. I believe that every organism has a story to tell, that teaches us to appreciate the beauty on this finite planet and about our role in understanding and protecting its invaluable resources


Jennifer Gardner – Masters Student

I worked in the UW Fish Collection from 2010-2014, after meeting Katherine at an incoming freshmen event and all but begging her to let me volunteer. My work in the collection led me to do my capstone research project on snailfish, trying to identify which species lay their eggs in king crabs. This work led to a publication which won Best Student Paper in Copeia for 2016.  I then took a three year hiatus from systematics and worked with Dave Beauchamp’s lab as part of the Washington Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit. I worked on multiple different projects in this lab focusing on food web ecology of lakes, reservoirs, and Puget Sound. When the time came to return to school I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to return to systematics. I am very excited to be part of the Tornabene lab and to be returning to the UW Fish Collection. My research is going to be on systematics of snailfish of the genus Careproctus. Additionally, I hope to do some research looking at snailfish eyeballs and potential novel evolutions within them. My hobbies outside of research include hiking, backpacking, dog sitting, and rock climbing. 


Rachel Manning - Masters Student

I’ve worked in the UW Fish Collection since September 2015, formerly as an undergraduate intern working primarily with the adult collection and now on an archival project with the ichthyoplankton collection. My research project is on the systematics and evolution of a new genus of goby from the Caribbean. My other research interests lie in the alpha level systematics, population genetics and zoogeography of the eastern North Pacific, with a particular interest in the rockfishes (genus Sebastes) and snailfishes (family Liparidae) of the region—though I’ll do just about anything to get near any species of fish. I particularly enjoy going out to sea on research cruises whenever the opportunity presents itself—so far, I’ve spent 3.5 weeks in the Aleutians on a groundfish survey and more recently, 2.5 weeks along the U.S. West Coast on a hake Merluccius productus survey. My hobbies outside of working in the collection (though is it really considered work if you love every second of it?) include fishing, fishing. . .and you guessed it, more fishing. Currently, I’m involved with the facilitation and curation of ecologically and taxonomically valuable ichthyoplankton archives into the UW Fish Collection. These ichthyofauna are collected by NOAA Fisheries’ Alaska Fisheries Science Center (AFSC) during annual research cruises across several Large Marine Ecosystems of the Northern Pacific and Arctic oceans, and the various implementations of these research collections have been largely responsible for the exceptional management of certain Alaskan fisheries—Walleye Pollock (Theregra chalcogramma) being a great example. 

Sarah Yerrace - Undergraduate Collection Staff, Senior Capstone Researcher

I started volunteering in the Ichthyology Collection at the start of my freshman year at UW in October, 2015. I help with cataloging incoming specimens, checking loans in or out of the collection, and basically any other house keeping jobs. I love helping out during events at the Burke, such as Behind the Scenes night. To me, the most awe inspiring thing about fishes is the diversity both across species and within a species. It blows my mind to see a tiny fish— for example, a yellow tang the size of a dime— and compare it to another tang the size of a dinner plate. At this point, I can't imagine doing anything else with my life other than studying the ocean.

Sam Ghods - Lab Technician

I am a recent graduate of the School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences and I have been working at the UW Fish Collection since February 2016. My work in the collection ranges from cataloging of frozen specimens from NMFS and other survey trawls, organizing and labeling of specimens in the fish and otolith collections, preparing loans for professional researchers to utilize, and other odds and ends that need doing. I am interested in all things related to the study of fishes and am currently conducting capstone research doing next generation RAD sequencing of snailfishes (Family Liparidae). My other interests include basketball, playing guitar, traveling (both near and far), and long walks on the beach. In the future I hope to return to the University of Washington and do a master’s program through the Tornabene Lab looking at taxonomy and systematics. 

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Jalene Weatherholt - Undergraduate Collection Staff

Jalene is a sophomore majoring in Environmental Science Resource Management and an intended Marine Biology double major. Her interest in Ichthyology sparked during a tour of the collection in the beginning of her freshman year and has grown through her time volunteering and working in the collection. Growing up in the San Francisco Bay Area, the marine world has always fascinated her; this passion continues now at the University of Washington. Jalene's activities outside of the collection include playing for the UW Women's Water Polo Club team and acting as a student Ambassador for the College of the Environment.

Katlyn Fuentes - Undergraduate Collection Staff, Senior Capstone Researcher

I'm an Aquatic and Fishery Science student new to the University of Washington, where I am also minoring in Anthropology. Previous to my attending the University of Washington, I was studying Marine Biology at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. I've always been a little crazy when it comes to anything related to plants/animals, so I jump at any and all chances to get involved with hands-on research/fieldwork!  While at UH, I had some amazing opportunities to delve into the wonders that are natural history museums! I've had experience  collecting specimens for the University Herbarium, imaging specimens from the University Entomology Museum, and also assisting with the Hawaiian Rare Plant Program at the Lyon Arboretum Seed Conservation Laboratory. I started working at the Ichthyology Collections in February of 2017, and thus far, I've been helping with labeling and organizing specimens from the otolith collection. I am eager to explore more facets of the collection - like the Dry Skeleton Collection - and get involved in as many projects as I can get my hands on! In particular, I'm really looking forward to learning more about the inner-workings of operating museum collections, and also learning more about the biodiversity and phylogeny of Pacific Northwest fishes.

Emily McFarland - Undergraduate Collection Staff

I began volunteering in the lab in the spring of my freshman year at UW in 2017 and I couldn't be happier to be on board. As corny or cliche as it may sound, I've felt almost called by the ocean ever since I was a little girl. Our ocean and the creatures that inhabit it are so vastly different than anything we can find on the surface—it's an alien world right here on Earth. I'm not entirely sure where I want my career path to go; for now I just plan on going wherever my lab work takes me. I know I'll be happy as long as I'm working in this field. Currently, I'm mostly working on goby phylogenetic projects, helping with the DNA extraction and sequencing processes. I've also had the pleasure of taking digital photos of goby specimens using a stereomicroscope, helping catalog specimens for the collection, and reviewing submersible dive videos. 

Jenna Barrett - Undergraduate Collection Staff, Senior Capstone Researcher

I'm a junior at UW currently studying Aquatic and Fishery Sciences and Oceanography. I've dreamt about studying aquatic sciences since I was young, but now that I'm here I've yet to figure out what I actually want to focus on in such a vast field. So far, deep sea ecology has best sparked my interests. Working in the lab has turned out great in that aspect. So far I've been transcribing submersible fish surveys to look at changes in deep-reef fish communities with depth! Being able to see actual recorded submersible footage from St. Eustatius and Bonaire is incredible. Learning how these fishes are utilizing their environment is an awesome first-hand view of the intense biodiversity of our oceans.


Dara Yiu - Senior Capstone Researcher

My interest in aquatic ecology, evolution, and biodiversity has led me to pursue research opportunities in diverse systems. As an undergraduate, I have spent time studying sockeye salmon ecology in the Bristol Bay watershed, juvenile sea urchin predation dynamics in the San Juan Islands, and the effects of shoreline development and restoration along urban waterfronts in Puget Sound. I am conducting my SAFS capstone project in the Fish Systematics and Biodiversity Lab where I have been investigating potential cryptic speciation in the Blackbelly Dwarfgoby species complex. Analyzing the morphologies and systematics of these small but widespread fishes has allowed me to study the processes influencing the cryptic radiations, rapid evolution, and the substantial diversity in the tropical Indo-Pacific region. I hope to continue studying phylogenetics, evolution, and ecology through a lens that will contribute to better understanding of global biodiversity.  

Jonathon Huie - Senior Capstone Researcher

My research interests center around the evolution of fish biodiversity and natural history. I prefer to take a comparative approach using functional morphology, physiology, and phylogenetics to better understand fish ecology and performance. Some of my past work has involved comparing the jaw biomechanics of scale-feeding fishes over ontogeny as well as examining the link between diet and morphology in phytophagous pacus. As part of the Fish Systematics and Biodiveristy Lab, I am currently conducting my SAFS capstone project on neon gobies from the genus Elacatinus, by comparing the cranial morphology of cleaners and non-cleaners. I am also pursuing a side project investigating the variation in goby gill raker and pharyngeal jaw morphology, with an emphasis on sediment sifting genera. In the future, I hope to apply my knowledge to a wide range of systems and continue studying how the most diverse group of vertebrates do what they do.


Quillen Tran - Undergraduate Collection Intern

I am a senior in the School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences, currently doing my capstone on the decorating behavior of Oregonia gracilis. Scientifically, I am most interested in decapod crustaceans, but more importantly, I am passionate about museums and museum-adjacent organizations such as aquariums. To me, these organizations represent an incredible opportunity for sharing knowledge about the marine environment, and in the case of museums and research collections specifically, they represent the safeguarding of history and the immense potential for the creation of new knowledge. This passion is what led me to volunteer at the UW Fish Collection, and it has been an incredibly fulfilling and educational experience so far. I work primarily in the wet-preserved adult collection on a variety of tasks, currently including the massive relabeling project, cataloguing new specimens, and giving tours to the public. After graduation, I plan to apply to the UW Museology program and continue my journey towards learning more about museums’ roles in public outreach and education—and hopefully, also continue working at the Fish Collection for as long as I can.