Coastal Research Crew
Dr. Tracey Smart, Senior Marine Scientist, Section Coordinator
Tracey is the Coastal Research Section Manager. She oversees the section's fishery-independent Reef Fish and Coastal Trawl Surveys and ensures that the section can continue their long-term research on fish, crustaceans, and sea turtles in the coastal and offshore waters off South Carolina and the southeast region. Tracey also serves as a data analyst, life history reader, and chief field scientist for the section and advises student at the College of Charleston. Her research interests include species distribution and environmental interactions, early life history ecology, and reproductive biology. Tracey joined the section in 2011, initially serving as data manager.
Degrees: B.S. Ecology and Evolutionary Biology (University of Arizona), M.S. Biology and Ph.D. Biology (University of Oregon).
Dr. Walter (Wally) Bubley, Associate Marine Scientist, Age-Growth Laboratory Manager
Wally is the lead biologist of the survey's age and growth laboratory and the fishery-dependent program. He cooperates and communicates with commercial and recreational fishermen as part of the survey's fishery-dependent program, meaning he organizes sampling efforts to obtain information that either cannot be gained through or supplements our fishery-dependent sampling. He also oversees the diet studies laboratory and acts as a chief scientist aboard Reef Fish Survey research cruises. His research interests include life history, including age/growth and reproduction, fish ecology, and fisheries science/management through the SEDAR stock assessment process. He joined the survey in 2014.
Degrees: B.S. Zoology (Miami University); M.S. Marine Biology (University of Charleston); Ph.D. Animal and Nutritional Sciences (University of New Hampshire)
Dr. Michael Arendt, Coastal Receiver Array Lead Investigator
Mike is in his third decade of employment with the SCDNR MRD during which time he has worked on a diversity of assignments addressing abiotic water quality, habitat characterizations, sea turtle and terrapin population studies, and remote video and telemetry data. In addition to annually managing multiple grants as a Principal Investigator, Dr. Arendt remains an active scientific diver (>650 SCDNR dives since 2002).
B.S. Biology (Virginia Military Institute); M.S. Marine Science (College of William and Mary/VIMS); Ph.D. Biological Sciences (University of South Carolina)
Dr. Julie Vecchio, Assistant Marine Scientist
Julie leads non-traditional research methods in the Coastal Research Section, including analysis of reef fish populations using video camera footage and reef fish ecology using stable isotopes. She serves as a data analyst for the section, working with others to produce peer-reviewed publications and participating in the fisheries stock assessment process. She participates in both the Southeast Reef Fish Survey and the Coastal Trawl Survey as a sea-going scientist. Her research interests include incorporating novel technologies into fishery stock assessments (including stable isotopes, NIRS, video, etc), marine community ecology, and communicating the importance of the field of fisheries to those outside of the field. She joined the survey in 2022.
Degrees: B.A. Biology (Albion College), M.S. Marine Biology (College of Charleston), PhD Marine Resource Assessment (University of South Florida)
James Brooks, Logistics and Supplies
James is involved with vessel logistics, the maintenance of gear and field work for the Reef Fish Survey. He assists with age growth, histology, and fecundity lab work. His interests are fishing, boating and being on the sea. James has been with the survey since 2014.
Degrees: B.S. Biology (College of Charleston)
Joseph (Joe) Evans, Age-Growth Biologist
Joe is a biologist in the Reef Fish Survey's age and growth laboratory. He helps process and age many of the life history samples collected by the survey. He also acts as a watch chief on Reef Fish Survey research cruises. Along with working in the age and growth laboratory, Joe lends his services as a diver to the Coastal Receiver Array project. Joe joined the survey in 2012.
Degree: B.S. Marine Biology (Roger Williams University)
Margaret Finch, Data Management, Life History Biologist
Margaret assists with data management, the processing and ageing of life history samples, and field work for MARMAP. She also enjoys doing data analyses in R and GIS. Her research interests include fish ecology and species distribution modeling of reef fish species. Margaret has been with the survey since 2015.
Degrees: B.S. Biology and Math (University of Mary Washington), M.S. Marine Biology (University of Charleston)
Keilin Gamboa-Salazar, Life History Biologist
Keilin is the lead life history biologist for the Coastal Trawl Survey. She is involved in collecting, processing, and interpreting fish age/growth and reproductive histology samples. She assists with data requests and analysis, reports, as well as cruise logistics and gear where needed. Her research interests include life history and behavior of marine life, especially the reproduction aspects. She has been with the Coastal Research Section since 2016, and with the Trawl Survey since 2021.
Degrees: B.S. Biology (Berry College); M.S. Marine Biology (College of Charleston)
Homer Hiers, Life History Biologist
Homer assists primarily with field research pertaining to gear maintenance and deployment, as well as the collection and processing of life history samples. He also assists with data entry and gear fabrication. His research interests include methane clathrates existing along the U.S. Atlantic coast as well as anthropogenic impacts on sustainable fisheries within the South Atlantic Bight. He has been contributing to the Survey since 2018.
Degrees: B.S. Geology (College of Charleston)
Kevin Kolmos, Life History Biologist, section Safety Officer
Kevin manages and maintains all aspects of the Marine Resource Division's Histology Laboratories. He focuses on reproductive biology within the Reef Fish Survey, serves as chief scientist on research cruises, and participates in regional stock assessments. Kevin is also a certified Scientific and Rescue Diver and assists with Dive Ops at MRD. His interests include marine ecology, MPA research, fisheries biology, and environmental resource management. Outside of work he enjoys surfing and fishing. He joined the Reef Fish Survey in 2007.
Degrees: B.S. Marine Biology (UNCW); M.S. Environmental Studies (University of Charleston)
Keyaira (Kiki) Morgan, Life History Biologist
Kiki is a life history biologist for the Coastal Trawl Survey. She is involved in the collection, processing, and interpretation of life history samples. She also participates in field work and assists with gear maintenance and vessel prep where needed. Alongside her work in CTS, Kiki is also involved in the analysis of video camera footage for the Reef Fish Survey. Her research interests include the behavioral ecology of marine fishes, and reef biodiversity. She has been with the Coastal Research Section since 2019, and officially joined the Coastal Trawl Survey in 2023.
Degrees: B.S. Marine Biology (College of Charleston)
Brandon Redding, Logistics and Supplies
Brandon is a biologist for the Coastal Research Section. He assists with vessel/fieldwork logistics and preparation for the Reef Fish Survey, along with maintenance of sampling gear. His other duties include the processing and reading life history samples collected by the survey and taking part in research cruises. His interests consist of fish life history, including age/growth and reproduction, and fisheries management. Brandon joined the survey in 2021 as an hourly while working on his M.S.
Degrees: B.S. Biology (Creighton University); M.S. Marine Biology (University of Charleston)
Wiley Sinkus, Life History Biologist
Wiley’s work as a life history fishery biologist involves collecting, processing, and interpreting samples from the Reef Fish Survey. His work spans both the histology and age growth labs. His research interests include marine fish ecology, toxicology, and fisheries management. Along with his work for RFS, Wiley is a member of the SC DNR Dive Team, working on a variety of projects involving scuba diving. Wiley has been a DNR employee since 2014. He recently returned to the SCDNR after taking a year long trip traveling the world.
Degrees: B.S. Biology (Wofford College), M.S. Marine Biology (University of Charleston)
Kevin Spanik, Diet Studies Biologist, section Safety Officer
Kevin is the lead biologist for our diet studies laboratory, overseeing the collection and processing of diet samples collected by the Reef Fish Survey. He also assists with age, growth, and various other life history studies. His research interests include natural resources management, fisheries ecology, taxonomy, and population dynamics. In addition to the South Atlantic, Kevin has research experience in the Mid- Atlantic, Chesapeake Bay, and Alaska. He joined the survey in 2014.
Degrees: B.S. Biology (Christopher Newport University); M.S. Marine Biology (University of Charleston; in progress)
Pearse Webster, Logistics and Trawl Survey Manager
Pearse is the chief scientist for field work conducted by the Coastal Trawl Survey. He handles permits, accounting, gear, cruise logistics, taxonomy, and histology. His interests include fabrication of custom gear and application of technology to sampling issues. He joined the survey and started trawling offshore in 1988, but started at MRRI in 1987 monitoring ingress of penaeid shrimp postlarvae.
Degree: B.S. Biology (College of Charleston)
C. Michelle Willis, Data Management, Life History Biologist
Michelle oversees the Reef Fish Survey's data management team and has a primary focus on database development and archival data/metadata management. She assists with life history studies through age determination of priority species and participates in offshore research cruises. Michelle's interests include the design and implementation of data management strategies, database design, and programming, Darwin Core data standards, as well as early life history of snappers and groupers. She is also the section’s contact for data and sample requests. She has been with the survey since 2010.
Degrees: B.S. Marine Biology (College of Charleston); M.S. Organizational Data Management (Charleston Southern University)
Amy Zimney, Database Manager
Amy assists with field research, data management, statistical analysis, and the dissemination of project results for the Coastal Trawl Survey. Her research interests include marine ecology and trophic dynamics. In addition to the South Atlantic, Amy has research experience in Hawaii, Alaska, and the Pacific Northwest. She has been with the survey since 2015.
Degrees: B.S. Wildlife Ecology (Washington State University); M.S. Marine Mammal Science (University of St Andrews, Scotland)