Meet the Team

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Jorge Urbán R., Ph.D.

Co-Director and Founder

Jorge is a graduate of National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM). He is a Professor of marine biology at the Universidad Autónoma de Baja California Sur (UABCS), La Paz, B.C.S., where he directs the “Research Project on Marine Mammals” (PRIMMA). Jorge has led gray whale and other cetacean research programs in Baja California since 1996. He has widely published in the scientific literature on marine mammals and marine conservation, and serves on the IUCN Cetacean Specialist Group, the Scientific Committee of the International Whaling Commission, and is a past President of the Mexican Society for Marine Mammalogy (SOMEMMA).

Steven L. Swartz, Ph.D.

Co-Director and Founder

Steven is a 1986 graduate of the University of California at Santa Cruz and has researched and published widely on gray whales and their breeding lagoons in Baja California. He served as a consultant to the Mexican government’s Ministry for the Environment, Natural Resources, and Fisheries (SEMARNAP), and worked for the Ocean Conservancy (previously the Center for Environmental Education), the U.S. Marine Mammal Commission, and the U.S. National Marine Fisheries Service.

Mary Lou Jones

Mary Lou is a 1985 graduate San Jose State University, Moss Landing Marine Laboratory. In addition to conducting the first systematic studies of gray whales in Laguna San Ignacio, Mary Lou undertook the first bathymetric studies of Laguna San Ignacio, the first multi-year evaluation of the potential impact of whale-watching activities on gray whales in the lagoon, and published the first estimate of gray whale calving interval based on photographic identification data. Her research on gray whales and other marine topics has appeared in numerous publications including the scientific journal of the International Whaling Commission’s Scientific Committee, the National Geographic Society, and the Encyclopedia of Marine Mammals. She was the lead editor and contributor to the 1984 “Gray Whale” book published by Academic Press.

Alejandro Gómez-Gallardo, Ph.D.

Alejandro received his Ph.D. in 2012. He is on the teaching faculty of, and is Director of the Department of Marine Sciences at the Autonomous University of Baja California Sur (UABCS), in La Paz, B.C.S, Mexico. His research and teaching interests include vertebrate anatomy, marine ecology, and the interactions between whale and human activities. He is a Past-President of the Mexican Society for Marine Mammalogy (SOMEMMA), and a founding member of the LSIESP.

Aaron Thode, Ph.D.

A professor of marine science and ocean acoustics at Scripps Institution of Oceanography in San Diego, California. His broad research interests include the physics of acoustic energy in the ocean, the acoustic behavior of marine animals, the detection and enumeration of marine animals like whales using passive acoustic techniques, and the effects of anthropogenic noise on marine life.

Benjamin Troyo V., Sergio Gonzalez C. and Mauricio Nájera Caballero

Benjamin Troyo V.,  Sergio Gonzalez C. and  Mauricio Nájera Caballero were the first team of researchers to begin the Laguna San Ignacio Ecosystem Science Program in 2006. They served as gray whale researchers for several winters at Laguna San Ignacio.

Benjamin graduated with Master’s Degrees in 2004 from the Autonomous University of Baja California Sur (UABCS). Benjamin accepted a position with the Ecology Project International as an instructor teaching island ecology and marine mammal ecology on Espiritu Santo Island and on cruises between Cabo Pulmo and Loreto, B.C.S. In 2012 to 2014 Benjamin taught research methods and Sociocultural studies at the ”Universidad Tecnológica de La Paz”. In 2015 Benjamin began research for his Ph.D. on the economics of gray whale eco-tourism in Baja California at the Center of Biological Investigations of Northwest S.C.(CIBNOR) in La Paz.

Sergio completed his Master’s degree in 2008 at UABCS. Sergio has worked as a naturalist and environmental educator at Cabo Pulmo National Marine Park and with conservation organizations in Baja California Sur on the conservation of Marine Park’s program for conservation of the coral reef ecosystems. Sergio is now working as a an environmental conservation consultant.

Mauricio Nájera Caballero was a LSIESP gray whale team researcher from 2006 to 2009, and has continued his post-graduate studies in marine science at the Instituto Politécnico Nacional, Centro Interdisciplinario de Ciencias Marinas (CICIMAR). His interests include the physical oceanographic and biological factors that influence the gray whales’ selection of breeding areas in Baja California (Nájera 2010).

Sergio Martínez Aguilar, Ph.D.

Director “Laboratorio de Investigación de Laguna San Ignacio Francisco ‘Pachico’ Mayoral, 24 febrero 2015” at Laguna San Ignacio

Sergio received his Master’s degree in Marine Science Student at the Autonomus University of Baja California Sur (UABCS) in La Paz, B.C.S. He made his Master’s and bachelor thesis on Humpback whale population assessment and recovery rates in México. Sergio is the LSIESP Field Research Chief and leads the gray whale photographic identification program at Laguna San Ignacio, where has conducted research on gray whales since 2009. In 2016 he completed his Ph.D. at UABCS.

Jessica Robles Mercado

Licentiate candidate, member of the research program of marine mammals (PRIMMA) of the Autonomous University of Baja California Sur, in La Paz, B.C.S, Mexico, currently researching the birth interval of gray whales that visit the San Ignacio Lagoon in the winter seasons since 2005 to 2012. Jessica completed her thesis on “The birth interval of gray whales (Eschrichtius robustus) in Laguna San Ignacio during the period from 2005 to 2011″ in September of 2012.

Hiram Rosales Nanduca, Ph.D.

Field Chief at Bahia Magdalena 

Since 2001, Hiram has worked in different projects regarding marine mammals of the Mexican Pacific. He graduated at the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) where he received his Ph.D. in 2011. Since 2009 he has worked as a member of the gray whale research team, in Laguna San Ignacio (2009-2011) as well as in Magdalena Bay (2012-2015). During 2012-2014 he received a post-Doctorial residency appointment at the Postgraduate program in Marine and Coast Science at the Autonomous University of Baja California Sur (UABCS). Between 2004 and 2015 he taught many marine mammal-related courses, at both UNAM and UABCS. His research interests range from population ecology to macroecology and conservation.

Ana Liria del Monte Madrigal

Graduate student in Marine Biology at the Autonomous University of B.C.S. in La Paz, México (UABCS). Liria is a researcher with the Laguna San Ignacio Ecosystem Science Program (LSIESP) and the Research Program of Marine Mammals (PRIMMA) since 2009. Liria’s interests are broad and they range from environmental education and conservation to the research and implementation of renewable energies. Currently she is working on her bachelor’s thesis project which focuses on a historical analysis of the eco-tourist activity of gray whale watching in San Ignacio Lagoon.

Delphine Mathias

Delphine is currently a Ph.D. candidate at Scripps Institution of Oceanography in San Diego, California. She studies the acoustic and diving behavior of depredating sperm whales in the Gulf of Alaska using a variety of instruments (acoustic recorders, bioacoustic tags, videocameras). Delphine has worked as a member of the gray whale acoustic research team in Laguna San Ignacio since 2007.

Tabata Olavarrieta G.

Tabata is a member of the Marina Mammal Research Program at the Autonomous University of Baja California Sur and graduate student in Marine Biology at the same institution. She has worked with the gray whale research team in Laguna San Ignacio since the 2010 season. Her bachelor thesis is about the “Feeding habits of Bryde’s whale (Balaenoptera edeni) in the Gulf of California.” Currently she is pursuing her Master’s degree at the Autonomous University of Baja California Sur, and her thesis is on the “Abundance of microplastics in La Paz Bay (Gulf of California) and phthalates levels in fin whale (Balaenoptera physalus).”

Anaid López Urbán

Anaid is a graduate student in marine science and recieved her Master’s degree in 2011 at the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) in Mexico City, D.F. She began working with LSIESP gray whale study team in 2009 where she is investigating the vocalizations of the gray whales and human noise in Laguna San Ignacio.  In 2012 Anaid accepted a position with the conservation organization Pronatura, where she is working on “Sea Conservation” programs.

Rafael Riosmena, Ph.D.

Professor Rafael Riosmena-Rodriguez leads the Marine Botany research group of Universidad Autónoma de Baja California Sur in La Paz Baja California Sur, México. He obtained his Ph.D. from the La Trobe University in 2002. Professor Riosmena-Rodríguez is deeply interested in understanding the role of marine plants (where algae are included) in coastal habitats and their evolutionary significance. His research areas include systematic, biogeography, and ecology of marine plants from subtropical habitats. He is an expert on rhodolith beds.

Juan Manuel Rodriguez-Baron

Juan Currently works in sea turtle ecology investigation associated at program to the Botany Research Group of Universidad Autonoma de Baja California Sur, Mexico. Rodriguez-Baron Obtained his MSc from the Centro Interdisciplinario de Ciencias Marinas, CICIMAR-IPN in 2010. His scientific Interests are in the areas of ecology and physiology of the current and ancient turtles in coastal and oceanic habitats, clarifying its life history. He is an expert in trophic ecology of Chelonids.

Ranulfo Mayoral

Ranulfo is a resident of Laguna San Ignacio where he was born and lives today with his family at the lagoon. He is a researcher with the Grupo Tortuguero and conducted sea turtle monitoring in the lagoon since 2000. Beginning in 2010, Ranulfo has documented the establishment of a permanent colony of California sealions on the islands within Laguna San Igancio in recent years. He is a “RARE” trained natural history guide with advanced first aid training and SECTUR certification. During the winter months Ranulfo works as an Eco-Tourism guide at the lagoon.

Juan Manuel López Vivas

Professor Juan Manuel Lopez Vivas is currently research associate professor at the Marine Botany group of the Universidad Autónoma de Baja California Sur in La Paz Baja California Sur, México. He obtained his Ph.D. coastal oceanography from the Universidad Autónoma de Baja California in Ensenada, Baja California. Professor Lopez-Vivas is interested in the cultivation of economically/ecologically important seaweed and seagrasses ecophysiology and their geographic distribution.

Bruce Reitherman

Bruce Reitherman began his life-long interest in Baja California as he finished his University education in the late 1970s. At that time, as an independent investigator working with friend and collaborator John Storrer, he studied the remarkably large and dense, ground-nesting population of ospreys that made their home on Isla Garzas and Isla Pelicanio in Laguna San Ignacio. A shift in career priorities soon lead from scientific research to documentary film-making, which he pursued enthusiastically for the next twenty years, visiting six continents and earning an Emmy Award while raising awareness of the need for the conservation of wild places and habitats. Bruce now enjoys a more sedentary life-style and resides with his family in Santa Barbara, California, where he works as an environmental consultant.

John Storrer

John received his Bachelor of Arts degree in Zoology from the University of California at Santa Barbara in 1979. Following his 1980’s research on the bird nesting colonies on the islands in Laguna San Ignacio, John formed “Storrer Environmental Services”, a consulting firm specializing in biological survey, environmental compliance monitoring, habitat restoration, and conservation planning. During the past 25 years John has conducted endangered species surveys, habitat assessments, and biological systems analyses for a variety of development projects. He and his company specialize in the design and implementation of mitigation programs for habitat recovery, rare plant restoration , resource management, and monitoring. As a LSIESP consultant he continues to contribute to the conservation of the bird breeding colonies in the lagoon.

Melania Guerra, Ph.D.

Melania received a B.S. degree in Mechanical Engineering in 2001 from the Universidad de Costa Rica, in San José, Costa Rica, where she is native from. In 2002, she worked as an intern at the Advanced Space Propulsion Laboratory at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas. In 2003 she joined the Marine Physical Laboratory at Scripps Institution of Oceanography and completed a Masters and Ph.D. degrees in Oceanography, working under Dr. Aaron Thode. As part of her graduate school data collection, Melania conducted acoustic fieldwork with the gray whales of Laguna San Ignacio during most of the winters between 2005-2012. She specializes in quantifying man-made ambient noise around marine mammals and measuring how it affects our ability to use passive acoustic methods to monitor them, as well as studying the impacts it causes on their acoustic ecology. Between 2011-2013 se worked as a Visiting Researcher at Cornell University’s Bioacoustics Research Program and is now a Research Associate at the University of Washington’s Applied Physics Lab in Seattle. Much of her current fieldwork takes her to the Arctic Ocean, where she again encounters the gray whales in their summer grounds.

 

Erandi Alcira Calderón Yáñez

Is a student in Marine Biology at the Universidad Autónoma de Baja California Sur (UABCS), in La Paz, México. Currently she is member of the research program of marine mammals (PRIMMA) and she is working on her bachelor’s thesis concerning the body condition of the gray whales investigating the skinny whale syndrome. Her research interests include the conservation and behavior of marine species. Erandi began to work in the gray whale research team in Laguna San Ignacio in 2011.

Diana Carina López Arzate

Diana is a graduate of the Autonomous National Univerisity of Mexico (UNAM) where she is currently completing her Master’s degree in Marine Science and Limnology. Her interests include cetacean bioacustics, and in the interaction of anthropogenic activities and marine mammals. As an undergraduate she evaluated the effect of broadband and narrow-band noises generated by motorboats on the spinner dolphin (Stenella longrirostris) in Kona Bay, Hawaii. In 2012 Diana joined the LSIESP and began working with the photographic identification and census of gray whales at the Lagoon San Ignacio, Mexico, which led her to the “Research Project on Marine Mammals” (PRIMMA) at the Autonomous University of Baja California Sur, La Paz, Mexico, where she began her Master’s research on determining the changes in the structure of the humpback whale song (Megaptera novaeangliae) in Los Cabos, B.C.S., México under the direction of Jorge Urban.

Laura Rodriguez

Laura Rodriguez: participated in gray whale research in Laguna San Ignacio beginning in 2012 by conducting abundance and photographic identification surveys. Laura completed her Master’s Thesis at Interdisciplinary Center of Marine Sciences (CICIMAR) on the use of stable isotopes to identify anthropogenic contamination and process of eutrophic in the seagrass Thalassia testudinum in the Caribbean Coastal. Laura intends to continue her academic research for her Doctorate degree.

Mauricio Rodriguez Alvarez

Began working as a gray whale researcher in Laguna San Ignacio during the winter of 2010. Mauricio is completing his Bachelor’s Thesis at UABCS on the comparison of the distribution of mother-calf pairs of gray whales in Laguna San Ignacio during the winters from 1978 to the present. Mauricio completed his thesis on “Changes in the distribution of gray whale (Eschrichtius robustus) mothers with calves in Laguna San Ignacio during the three periods: 1978-82, 1996-00, and 2007-11″ in September of 2012.

Lilia Alonso Lozano

Lilia is a graduate in Marine Biology student at the Autonomous University of Baja California Sur (UABCS). In 2014 she completed her thesis “Relation in the distribution and abundance of baleen whales, with environmental parameters in the Gulf of California Southwestern coast (January 2004-November 2005).” Lilia is currently pursuing her Masters degree in Marine and Coastal Sciences, at the same institution, where she is developing a project to investigate areas used by baleen whales between La Paz-Loreto to understand the environmental mechanisms that influence whales’ use of these areas, and to use this information to manage protected species areas sustainably. She is a member of the Marine Mammal Research Program (PRIMMA) where she has worked with the photo-ID team in Bahia Magdalena in 2012 and 2013.

Kerri Seger, Ph.D.

Kerri earned her PhD in 2016 in biological oceanography at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in San Diego, California. In 2012, she began working as a marine acoustics researcher with the LSIESP acoustics team, and a chapter of her thesis was dedicated to mapping the sound sources (and their relative intensities and daily schedules) in the three zones of Laguna San Ignacio. She is currently working as a post-doctoral researcher at the University of New Hampshire, determining which delphinid and beaked whale species frequent the Bering Sea, and whether any changes in the presence of these animals has occurred since 2008.  Her broad research interests include understanding the different soundscapes that whales communicate in, whether or not human noise changes those soundscapes, and if whales alter their behavior because of the noise. She would like to see her research used to guide decisions in marine sanctuary management

Constanza Torres Valdez

Constanza started working as a researcher in the Laguna San Igancio Ecosystem Science Program as a member of the gray whale research team during the 2012-2013 winter season. She has also worked with the Marine Mammal Research Program (PRIMA) at the Univeridad Autónoma de Baja California Sur (UABCS) in La Paz, Baja California Sur, Mexico doing field work and laboratory research, including gray whale photo-identification. She is currently studying Environmental Sciences in Morelia, Michoacán at the Universidad Autónoma de México (UNAM). Constanza will begin her thesis research on the genetics of Fin whales (Balenoptera physalus) with Jorge Urban R. at UABCS later in 2014.

Paulette Durazo Rodríguez

Paulette is a graduate student in Oceanology at the Autonomous University of Baja California (UABC) in Ensenada, México. She joined the Laguna San Ignacio Ecosystem Science Program gray whale research team in 2013 to conduct abundance and photo-identification  surveys in Laguna San Ignacio. She will begin studies for her Master’s degree at the Marine Science Faculty UABC in 2013, while researching the Feeding Ecology of Harbor Seals in Mexico’s Pacific waters.

Mariana Hidalgo Reza

Mariana is a biologist from the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM), where she completed her degree in the study of the behavior of the South American Sealion (Otara flavescens) in captivity. She is a member of the Program of Investigation for Marine Mammals (PRIMMA) at the Autonomous University of Baja California Sur (UABCS) from 2011 to the present, and worked as an investigator with the gray whale research team of the Laguna San Ignacio Ecosystem Science program (LSIESP / PCELSI) in 2014. She is currently pursuing her Master’s degree by researching the migration of humpback whales (Megaptera novaeangliae) using the analysis of stable isotopes of Carbon and Nitrogen (UNAM / PRIMMA), and she continues to work on analysis of photo-identification data of gray whales.

Carlos Alberto López Montalvo

Carlos is a graduate student in Marine Sciences that received his Master’s degree from the National  Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) in Mexico City, D.F. He is continuing studies for his Doctorate degree at the School of Marine and Coastal Sciences (CIMACO) of the Autonomous University of Baja California Sur (UABCS), La Paz, Mexico. Carlos worked on a variety of marine mammal projects for more than ten years.  His research is focused on the study of the trophic ecology of whale populations, specifically with humpback (Megaptera novaeangliae) and Bryde’s whales (Balaenoptera bryde), by using the analysis of stable isotopes and fatty acids. Currently he is researching the changes in the reproductive and energetic status of gray whales in their reproduction areas. Carlos has been a member of the LSIESP gray whale research team since 2014.

Lizbeth Sánchez Eliseo

Lizbeth is pursuing her bachelor’s degree at the San Nicolas University in Michoacán, México, where she is completing her studies. She is currently finishing her thesis at the Marine Mammal Research Program (PRIMMA) at the Autonomous University of Baja California Sur, in La Paz, México. Her research is focused on the distribution and abundance of gray whales (Eschrichtius robustus) in San Ignacio Lagoon, B.C.S., in regard to environmental parameters between the years 2009 and 2015. Lizbeth worked as a gray whale research team member in the years 2014 and 2015.

Ludovic Tenorio Hallé

After graduating in Acoustical Engineering in 2011 from the University of Southampton (England), Ludovic obtained a Masters degree in Signal Processing from the Grenoble Institute of Technology (France) in 2013. Specialized in underwater and marine mammal acoustics, he first came to Laguna San Ignacio as part of the acoustic research team while doing an internship at Scripps Institution of Oceanography (California) in 2013. In 2014, Ludovic joined the gray whale research team and spent the winter season assisting with photo-identification, abundance surveys and deployment/recovery of acoustic gear. He began studies for his PhD degree at Scripps Institution of Oceanography in the fall 2014.

Karen Cruz

Karen is a graduate student and researcher at the Universidad Juárez Autónoma de Tabasco, Tabasco, Mexico where she is pursuing her Master’s degree. She is interested in the ecology, anatomy, behavior and acoustics of marine mammals. Karen joined the LSIESP gray whale team in 2015 where she participated in the field studies at Laguna San Ignacio, collected and analyzed photographic identification data and conducted abundance surveys in the lagoon.

Kia Hayes

Kia received her Bachelor of Science degree in Conservation and Resource Studies from the University of California, Berkeley in 2013. Kia is a student and researcher at Texas Tech University where she is pursuing a Masters degree in Environmental Toxicology. In 2015 Kia worked as a member of the LSIESP gray whale research team. She collected and analyzed photographic identification data, and conducted abundance surveys in the lagoon. In addition Kia collected samples of gray whale lice to contribute to a whale lice genetics project of Humboldt State University.

Natalia Serna Urrea

Natalia is a native of Medellín, Colombia, she is a graduate student of CES University, Medellín, Colombia, where she studied biology. She is currently working in a publication with “Research Project on Marine Mammals” (PRIMMA) at the Autonomous University of Baja California Sur, in La Paz, Mexico about temporal distribution and numbers of calf of gray whales (Eschrichtius robustus) in the seasons 2010-2015 in San Ignacio Lagoon, B.C.S., In 2015 and 2016 she worked as a member of the gray whale research team at Laguna San Ignacio where she participated in field research including photographic identification data gathering and analysis, and conducting abundance surveys for gray whales in the lagoon.

Raquel Arroyo Loranca

Raquel is a native of Peru, and a graduate of UNAM where she completed her bachelor’s thesis on “Binding of wild-type and modified Cry1A toxins in resistant and susceptible larvae to Cry toxins of Pectinophora gossypiella and Plutella xylostella”, at Biotechnology Institute, UNAM. She completed her Master’s Thesis in Marine Ecology at CICESE on the “Spatial and temporal variations of phytoplankton biomass and production in the area off Punta Eugenia, B. C.” She is currently pursuing her PhD related to the effects that contaminants (toxins) in the sea have in marine animals. She began working at the “Research Project on Marine Mammals” (PRIMMA) at the Autonomous University of Baja California Sur, Mexico in 2014 and joined the gray whale research team at Bahia Magdalena in 2015 where she conducted photographic identification research and conducted abundance surveys for gray whales.

Vinnie Enrique Caicero Garcia

Vinnie is a graduate of the University of Veracruz, Veracruz, Mexico, where she studied biology. She worked on research and conservation programs for the marine turtles Caretta caretta and Chelonia mydas in Cozumel, Mexico. Vinnie is currently a student at the Autonomous University of Baja California Sur (UABCS) in La Paz, B.C.S., Mexico where she is studying statistical models to describe and predict marine mammal distribution in relation to climate change effects. Her thesis concerns habitat suitability of the short-beaked common dolphin (Delphinus delphis) and the long-beaked common dolphin (Delphinus capensis) in relation to oceanographic condition in the Eastern Tropical Pacific and adjacent waters. In 2015 Vinnie joined the LSIEP gray whale research team conducting photographic identification and abundance surveys for gray whales in Bahía Magdalena.

Gabriela Noemi Salazar Sanchez

Gabriela studied for her degree in Marine Biology at the Autonomous University of Yucatan (UADY), in Merida, Mexico. Currently she is working on her Master’s degree and thesis on the social structure and abundance of Bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) that reside in  Laguna San Ignacio, focusing on the social units of the dolphins. Gabriela’s research interests include the conservation, ecology and behavior of marine mammals. Gabriela began to work with the gray whale research team in Lagoon San Ignacio in 2016.

 

Eder Antonio Belmont Sánchez

Edar is a Biology graduate from the Universidad Autónoma Metropolitana unidad Xochimilco (Metropolitan Autonomous University campus Xochimilco), He made an internship with the Marine mammal research program (PRIMMA) at the Autonomous University of Baja California Sur (UABCS), the study was about “Monitoring the abundance and seasonal distribution of the gray whale (Eschrichtius robustus) during the winter season in Laguna San Ignacio, Baja California Sur, México in 2016”. His research interest is conservation of wildlife; and he would like to learn monitoring techniques for wildlife in terrestrial environments, mainly in forests and rainforests.

Miwako Yokoo Guerrero

Miwako is a graduate with a degree in Biology from General of University of the Incarnate Word (UIW), San Antonio, Texas in 2014. The following year, she began studying at the Autonomous University of South Baja California for her Master’s degree  in Marine and Coastal (CIMACO) Sciences, focusing her research on the relative abundance and distribution of gray whales in the Bay Magdalena – Bahia Almajas lagoon systems.

Omar Castaneda

Omar is a student at the Autonomous University of Baja California Sur (UABCS) in La Paz, B.C.S., Mexico.