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A group of scientists and citizen scientists collaborate in the first field survey on St. Eustatius in june 2015. Below the participants introduce themselves: 

Bert Hoeksema
Ronald Vonk

On this expedition I study marine groundwater crustaceans. In the range that stretches from deepsea sediments upward to shallow reef debris, and further upward to freshwater riverbeds, the location of these small animals determines species and history. On St. Eustatius the presence of almost any type of groundwater crustacean, offshore and on the island, is unknown and as such the island forms an interesting bridge between the relatively well explored areas of Haiti and the Dutch Leeward Antilles. Scuba diving for two hours in a day during 3 weeks allows for probing several spots on the southwest side of the island. Searching for the right type of coarse sand between the submerged lava ridges is done until approximately 20 meters depth.  First results are the presence of blind Microparasellid isopods and semi-oculate Melitid amphipods, specialised for a life just below the sandy bottom surface.The seafloor and also the shallow marine interstitial are habitats that were colonized at one point in time by pre-adapted benthic invertebrates seeking refuge from predation. Especially islands are reservates of more or less isolated pieces of seafloor that stick out of a landscape of uniformity. This makes it probable that offshoots of a general, more deeper seafloor fauna evolved in the shallow waters surrounding it.

Frank Stokvis 

My name is Frank Stokvis, I am senior research technician at the Naturalis Biodiversity Center's molecular lab. Besides working on molecular phylogenies of various groups, I am one of the coordinators of the DNA barcoding facility. Our goal in Statia is to build up a molecular reference library of the Dutch Caribbean. I support the expedition members with the collection and subsampling of specimens and the registration of the metadata by providing the necessary equipment, chemicals and datasheets. The results so far are very good!; 17 micro plates, each with 95 subsamples, are being filled up nicely by the enthusiastic crew. The groups they are working on are Octocorallia, Porifera, Echinoderata, Scleractinia, Hydrozoa, Decapoda, Tunicata, Annelida, Amphipoda, Zoantharia, Algae, Copepoda and Pisces.


Jaaziel E Garcia Hernandez

Hi everyone, my name is Jaaziel Garcia-Hernandez ("jaazi"), I am a graduate student and scientific diver at the University of Puerto Rico-Mayaguez (UPRM), where I am working on several research projects involving marine sponges from both shallow and mesophotic reefs. I was invited to be part of this expedition by Dr. Nicole de Voogd (Sponge Taxonomist at Naturalis Biodiversity Center), with the ultimate goal of cataloging Statia's sponge fauna. I have to admit that we have collected some very interesting species of sponges, I am anxious to see the final taxonomic and molecular results which would confirm if we have discovered new species for the island. Feel free to visit my instagram account at for picture updates of the expedition.

Slava Ivanenko

I am a senior researcher of Lomonosov Moscow State University (Department of Invertebrate Zoology). My expertise is taxonomy and ecology of crustacean copepods (aka “insects of the sea”) including symbionts (commensals, parasites and mutualists) of different taxa of marine invertebrates. My research project at Statia conducting in cooperation with scientists from Naturalis is dedicated to study of diversity, host specificity and phylogeography of poorly known and abundant symbiotic fauna of copepods (body length 0.5-2 mm) living on and in corals, sponges and echinoderms. During the field trip we conducted intensive sampling by SCUBA and collected unique collection of diverse and poorly known symbiotic copepods. Some of the collected copepods are tentatively identified as new species. The integrative approach including molecular, ecological and morphological data will be applied to follow study of the collected copepods and their invertebrate hosts. For more information follow the


Arjen Speksnijder

I am head of laboratories at Naturalis. My expertise is molecular biology and complex community analysis. My research question is to find the driving forces of biodiversity. My expertise at the Statia expedition is to assess biodiversity by analysis of eDNA with next generation sequencing. I sample the watercolumn, enrich sediments and collect filter feeders like Tunicates for shedded cells and DNA from the surrounding environment. The metagenome of these samples will be revealed later in the lab by generating thousands of DNA sequences per sample and identification will take place using international DNA reference databases. The results could reflect the visual observations during the expedition but also reveal diversity not observed by the naked eye.

James D. (Jim) Thomas

James Darwin Thomas, Professor, Nova Southeastern University, Halmos College of Natural Sciences and Oceanography.  

My research specialty is the diversity of cryptic coral reef amphipod crustaceans. He has dived and researched amphipods in reef systems all over the globe. The group of amphipods I study (Leucothoidae) are small, the size of a grain of rice, and live as commensal partners inside sponges and sea squirts where they use host generated currents to filter food. I joined the expedition to compare the diversity of Statia reefs with other Caribbean localities. My main goal is to investigate species distribution, document host/amphipod associations, and compare diversity levels with other reefs.
My first impression of Statia reefs is a quite healthy reef system that shows virtually no human impact. The rich and diverse sponge fauna provide a chance to encounter possible new species of leucothoid amphipods. On our second day of diving I collected and photographed a new species that is bright orange and exhibits a number of unique characters not found in other members of the family. In the first week of diving four new species have been discovered. It is very helpful to have both a sponge and tunicate expert on the expedition to help confirm host species for my amphipods. Such overlapping of expertise and interest is the hallmark of a successful marine biodiversity expedition and generates excitement after every dive and also later in the day when we arrive in the lab to document our species.


Simone Montano

I am an Italian post-doctoral researcher mainly interested about the coral health and diseases assessment of the coral reefs and about some emerging symbioses involving hydroids and several coral reefs taxa. My expertise at the Statia Expedition is to discover new associations not yet reported in the whole Caribbean Sea. To search for Zanclea-coral association is for me considered a priority. The results will be useful to improve the knowledge of the associated-coral fauna of St. Eustatius and more in general of the Caribbean.


Godfried van Moorsel

Round 1980, I stayed some years at Curaçao for coral-reef research. Since then I also visited Bonaire frequently. Many changes took place in the meantime. Now, visiting a site at about 800 km to the north, with a team of specialists, in order to record biodiversity - with stony corals for me - is a fabulous experience. We found several coral species not known from the above-mentioned islands. The same applies to fishes. Statia is small but the underwater landscape has a lot of variety with lava flows and other ecosystems. For more information go to

James Davis Reimer

My research on this expedition is focused on species and population diversity of the Order Zoantharia (colonial anemones), and for some species, their Symbiodinium. I lead a research group of 30 people at the University of the Ryukyus in Okinawa, Japan. Although I have participated in many biodiversity cruises around the Indo-Pacific, this is my first major expedition in the Caribbean. Zoantharian species that have reported as common in other areas of the Atlantic appear to be rare in Statia, while some other species are incredibly common, and often even dominant. For more information go to


Niels Schrieken

Niels Schrieken is a marine biologist, experienced expedition diver, owner of his consultancy business BiOrganized and co-initiator of the project Monitoring Underwater Oevers (MOO) of the ANEMOON foundation. He is very familiar with monitoring of marine species with the Roving Diving Technique (RDT). He has a number of new species for the Netherlands and a number of publications on the Dutch marine life on his name. He has trained many Dutch divers in monitoring the marine life.

Yee Wah Lau

Yee Wah focal group are Octocorallia, more commonly known as soft corals or gorgonians. She has previous experience with soft corals from the Caribbean and will contribute recording the species list of these Statia ocean inhabitants on this expedition. Next to generating a presence absence list and DNA barcoding, the collected data will be used for phylogenetic reconstruction, as the evolutionary relationships among Caribbean octocorals have received little attention and is not yet resolved. At the same time, other marine critters will be monitored as well. Monacanthus tuckeri, a small camouflaged filefish, finds shelter in between the branches of octocorals. Also a few species of ovulids (most commonly Cyphoma gibbosum) that predate on soft corals.


Marion Haarsma

My expertise is my ability as underwater photographer. And the fact I have been here before and made many nice pictures, enough material for 3 publications.My goal is to make as many pictures as I can of as many different species.My speciality is very broad, I love almost all marine creatures, great and small! But if I have to choose a special subject it would be the juvenile fish. It amazes me how different they are compared to the mature animal.My nicest encounter so far was on the very first day with the sepioteuthis. I have seen them before on Bonaire but there they always swam away. On Statia I could take a lot of nice pictures, here is my favourite!!! And second comes the Sea goddes, especially because I have said before the trip that there aren't many nudibranch on Statia...


Susan J. Hewitt

Susan J. Hewitt. A citizen scientist with 40 publications on molluscs (marine, freshwater, and terrestrial). 15 years volunteering at AMNH, worked at MCZ, taught at Yale. Field experience in Britain, Ireland (expedition with Conch. Soc.), California, New York State and Florida. 18 annual trips to island of Nevis, 50 km SE of Statia. Very active on iNaturalist and Wikipedia. Donated self-collected material to 8 museums. Already identified 180 species of shelled marine molluscs from Statia, 600 fm Nevis, 300 fm St. Kitts, 200 fm Montserrat.


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  • Statia Marine Expedition 2015

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