OIST Members

Dr. Marleen Klann, Staff Scientist
Email: marleen.klann at

My primary research interest is the development and evolution of animals, especially the nervous system. After graduating from Humboldt University of Berlin, I received my doctoral degree from Queen Mary, University of London. I enjoy having worked with different animals (insects, crustaceans, and annelids) and am looking forward to work on clown fish here at OIST. Personally, I like diving and underwater photography as well as knitting and nudibranchs are my favorites.

Dr. Ken Maeda, Staff Scientist
Email: ken.maeda at

I have studied life history of freshwater and estuarine goby. Goby is a highly diverse fish taxon and their life history is also very diverse. The fish I hold in the photograph is one of the biggest goby species in Okinawa, and the smallest species matures at 1 cm. Most of these species migrate between streams and the sea and could be transported to other streams and/or islands during the marine pelagic larval phase. Such “migration” and “larval dispersal” are foci of my research. I am working at OIST with gobies from 2008, but the goby work is endless. I hope to dig into their life history strategies more at this unit. (Researchmap: LINK)

Dr. Manon Mercader, Post-doc
Email: manon.mercader at

I am a marine conservation ecologist interested in the importance of young developmental stages (larvae and juveniles) in fish population maintenance. My postdotorate at OIST will aim at understanding the relationship between pigmentation, a striking aspect of metamorphosis and highly plastic trait in fish, and environmental factors. I love the ocean and spending my time in water, which makes my work a real passion. I also enjoy travelling, good food, yoga and all outdoor activities.

Dr. Marcela Herrera Sarrias, Post-doc
Email: marcela.herrera at

I grew up in Costa Rica, where I soon fell in love with tropical rainforests and coral reefs. After completing my undergraduate studies in biology, I went to Saudi Arabia to pursue a masters and PhD degree in marine molecular ecology. Now, for my postdoc at OIST I will investigate the role of hormones in local adaptation of reef fish in French Polynesia. Although I love spending my time in the water, I have also come to enjoy being in the lab and working with data. I like travelling and trying new foods, I can’t wait to explore Okinawa!

Dr. Kina Hayashi, Research Fellow
Email: kina.hayashi at

I have studied the ecology of anemone fish (population dynamics, community structure, coexistence mechanisms etc.) in the Ryukyu Islands. Currently, I would like to reveal the relationship between the territorial (aggressive) behavior of anemonefish and the color pattern of coral fish. Also, I am interested in species recognition of anemonefish.


Dr. Laurie Mitchell , Research Fellow
Email: laurie.mitchell at

I spent my childhood in New Zealand, where I developed a fascination for the natural world and marine life. Upon completing both my BSc and MSc at the University of Auckland, I moved to Australia to undertake my PhD in the Visual Ecology Lab at the University of Queensland. My PhD used anemonefishes as a model for studying reef fish colour vision and visual communication. For my postdoc at OIST, I am investigating the ultimate and proximate drivers of colour pattern diversity in anemonefishes. Most of my work is aquarium and laboratory based, and employs a multi-technical approach to study variation in the white bar pattern of anemonefishes. I enjoy playing guitar, board games, and computer games.

Dr. Saori Miura, Lab Manager
Email: saori_m at

I majored in Marine and Environmental Science and completed my PhD at the University of the Ryukyus. I was fascinated by the cute appearance of anemonefish and interested in the diversity of life history strategies of anemonefish. Starting with my love for anemonefish, I was fortunate to pursue physiological research on anemonefish Amphiprion clarkii for six years. And then, most of all, I would be more than happy because I can be involved in research on clownfish as a Lab manager at this unit. Personally, I love the sea, and good food from around the world. I also enjoy cooking, camping, and traveling.

Hiroki Takamiyagi, Marine Biology Technician
Email: hiroki.takamiyagi at

I am a marine biology technician and my main duty is to support our projects involved with fieldwork at the ocean. Born and raised in Okinawa, I am very grateful to be involved with these projects challenging to the mystery of life in this local water. I believe that the outcomes will also contribute to the understanding and conservation of Okinawan unique reef ecosystem, which is precious resource for all of us living in this islands. After graduating from the University of Hawaii with marine biology major, I had been working in seafood industry particularly with tuna for the longest time. My favorite pastimes are surfing, traditional Karate, and reading. 

James Hutasoit, Research Unit Technician
Email: james.hutasoit at

"Horas" means "hello" in Sumatran. I was born and raised in Medan, North Sumatra, Indonesia. I have been in Japan since 2007. Despite having a Political Science and English Literature background, I am fascinated by the more tangible Marine science, mainly Clownfish and Anemones. Why do clownfish have their habitat in poisonous anemones? The anemones protects the clownfish from predators and provides food scraps. In return, the clownfish uses its bright colors to lure fish into the anemone, where they are killed by the anemone's poison and eaten. The clownfish also fertilizes the anemone with its feces. And there are many other mysteries in this relationship that really interest me. Other than that, I am also fascinated by the freshwater ecosystem. In February 2022, I join and worked for the Marine Eco-Evo-Devo Unit (Vincent Laudet) to gain a better understanding of the role of hormones in the evolution of life history strategies from an ecological, evolutionary, and developmental standpoint. My main activity outside of the lab is playing Basketball. I'm also keen to take up sea kayaking and fishing in Okinawa.

Yuki Tara, Ph.D. Student
Email: yuki.tara at

I am happy that I can be a first rotation student in Marine Eco-Evo-Devo Unit. I am from Okinawa, and of course, I like beautiful sea and clownfish!
My background is pharmacology and I researched about anti-diabetic effect of natural product on pancreatic β cells in my undergraduate days. This is my first time to study about marine science, so I would like to learn a lot during this rotation.

Rio Kashimoto, Ph.D. Student
Email: rio.kashimoto2 at

My name is Rio Kashimoto and I am a PhD student in Marine Eco-Evo-Devo unit – Pf. Vincent Laudet. During my PhD, I will study genetic perspectives for clown fish hosting giant sea anemone live in Okinawa. I have investigated the occurrence of duplication of fluorescent protein gene in 18 species of coral genomes in Marine Genomics unit- Pf. Satoh (Co-supervisor). From an early age, I hoped to have a career in (Zoological & Medical) science and evolution. In 2019, I graduated from my master’s degree at Kyoto Prefectural University of Medicine, majoring in Oncology. I am especially interested in understanding and applying genomic novelties that explain the evolutionary success of symbiotic organisms, an important theme behind my PhD theses.

Jann Zwahlen, Ph.D. Student
Email: jann.zwahlen at

After obtaining my masters in coastal and marine biology and ecology from the University of Salento in Italy, I came to this beautiful island to get my PhD. In this unit I’m studying phenotypic plasticity in anemonefish pigmentation, mainly focusing on Amphiprion clarkii, the most abundant (and most beautiful) anemonefish species around Okinawa-jima. I will use a combination of genetic, ecological and physiological approaches to understand the mechanisms behind the pigmentation polymorphisms. In my free time I love spending my time in the sea or hiking in the forests and exploring new places.

Emma Gairin, Ph.D. Student
Email: emma.gairin at

My research interests revolve around the impacts of humans on marine environments. I have an undergraduate degree in geosciences from the University of Edinburgh and a master’s degree in ecology and evolution from ENS in Paris. As part of my previous studies, I studied the hydrogeology of Niijima in Tokyo Prefecture with the University of Tokyo, looked at marine protected area assessment in New Caledonia, and worked on coastal changes and fish population in French Polynesia… I love doing fieldwork in warm water and beautiful places! For my PhD, I will investigate the impacts of human presence and pollution on fish development during early life stages in temperate to tropical settings. In my free time, I am looking forward to joining a few student associations, playing music, baking cakes, and exploring Okinawa on land and underwater!

Noah Locke, Ph.D. Student
Email: noah.locke at

I am from Glasgow, Scotland where I did an undergraduate degree in marine and freshwater biology. I then went to Plymouth in the southwest of the UK for an MRes in applied marine sciences. This helped me realise I will never ever be a physicist, and much preferred the idea of subtropical temperatures to swimming in the (near) freezing UK sea. So I have come to Okinawa to get a PhD in marine ecology - I will be studying pigmentation-based recognition in anemonefish, particularly carrying out behavioural experiments using mutant anemonefish with unusual colour patterns.

Hsiao-chian Chen, PhD student
Email: h-chen at

My research background is in developmental and molecular biology. I gained a master degree in investigating the feathered-feet trait of chicken embryos at National Tsing Hua University and studied for fin morphology of goldfish in Academia, Taiwan. Interested in anemonefish pigmentation, my PhD project in OIST will focus on the morphology, distribution, and regulation mechanism of the pigment cells in the clownfish skin in the aspect of molecular and developmental biology. Beyond research, I am a bird-watcher, Sanshin (Okinawa traditional music instrument)-lover, and desire to explore the fascinating Okinawa in my free time.

Saacnicteh Toledo-Patino, Interdisciplinary Postdoctoral Fellow
Email: Saacnicteh.ToledoPatino at

I was born in Morelia, Mexico. In 2008, I moved to Germany to pursue my studies in Biochemistry at the University of Tübingen. For my doctoral studies, I joined Prof. Birte Hoecker's group for Protein Engineering and Evolution at the Max Planck Institute for Biology, where I obtained a degree in Structural Biology. Since completing my doctoral studies, my work has focused on elucidating fundamental principles of protein evolution. I employ state-of-the-art methods in structural biology to examine the atomic details of proteins. In late 2019, I joined Prof. Laurino's unit, where my focus shifted towards understanding protein-cofactor synergies. My current research, as an interdisciplinary postdoctoral fellow at OIST, centers on characterizing the stinging machinery of sea anemone—an ancient and sophisticated nano artillery.


Agneesh Barua, Ph.D. Student
Email: agneesh.barua at

I am a 5th year PhD that transferred to the Laudet Unit in November 2020. Although most of my work has been on snake venom evolution, in the Laudet unit I will use comparative genomics and transcriptomics to understand the evolutionary origins of pigmentation in fish. This shift is exciting because I can apply the skills I've developed during most of my PhD on a new study system. I am also hoping to make a move to evo-devo and study metamorphosis in fish. Looking forward to a most fruitful and inspiring time in my new home as a researcher .

Mathieu Reynaud, Special Research Student
Email: mathieu.reynaud at

After graduated from EPHE-PSL Paris University, I started my PhD at OIST in collaboration with EPHE University. My research interests are the environmental and anthropic perturbations on the young developmental stages of life in fish. Ocean is my first love, during my study I discovered research and coral reef ecosystems. Now it doesn’t leave me anymore. I enjoy hiking, photography and diving, my next goal is to fixe an old sailboat and set sail!

Minato Miyake, Rotation Student
Email: minato.miyake2 at

Previously, I studied the left-right asymmetric development of flatfish at the Marine Genetics Lab in Tohoku University, . My current lab rotation project at the Unit utilizes electron microscopy to study the ultrastructure of clownfish skin, aiming to understand the variation of pigment cells and their contribution to skin colors. I am also interested in marine invertebrates and the evolution and development of nervous systems.

Ayşe Haruka Oshima Açıkbaş, Rotation Student
Email: ayseharuka.oshima at

I'm Ayse! I have a bachelor in Biological Sciences from Carnegie Mellon University in Qatar and am currently in the process of learning and applying Bioinformatics skills and knowledge for my first rotation in this unit. My scientific interests are eco-evo-devo, genomics + transcriptomics, population genetics and epigenetics.
I like to play the piano, doodle, watch birds and their adorable, agitated ways, and spend a lot of time reconciling things in life like a typical human.

Lilian Carlu, Husbandry technician
Email: lilian.carlu at

I obtained my first diploma in nature protection and conservation. I worked a lot on ecosystems and animals biology and ecology. After I did a bachelor specialized in aquaculture and aquariology. For me fish are really interesting to study and there is a lot to learn about them. That’s why today I’m working in OIST on clownfish as technician, Clownfish husbandry. I like diving, fish biology and ecology so I can stay all of a day in front of a fish to observe it.

Polina Pilieva, Research Intern
Email: polina.pilieva at

My home town in Saint-Petersburg, Russia. Since my childhood I was interested in nature protection and that motivated me to study in Geo-ecology at Russian Hidrometeorological University in Saint-Petersburg. Since then I worked as cadaster ingenear and ecologist. Besides that large part of my life was connected with water, as a was a professional swimmer and sports-trainer.
My internship at Oist will aim at understanding the metamorphosis of salmonids different species and from different places from Kamchatka (Russia). Thus, I fill myself very comfortable at the Okinawa.
In additional my internship at Eco-Evo-Devo Unit I"m learning Japanese and try to improve my English language.When I have free time I fond of snorkeling, hiking and play the piano.


Academia Sinica Members

Fiona Lee, Lab Manager
Email: fiona at

I’m very optimistic about life, enjoy traveling, watching movies, reading, singing, writing calligraphy, hiking and also exploring new places and meeting new people.I am a research assistant at Marine Station in Academia Sinica of Taiwan and my research interests are extensive. Although I am a novice in this field working on clownfish, I am looking forward to it. It’s great to be a member of the group.

Sky Wu, Research Assistant
Email: as0210476 at

I am a research assistant at Marine Research Station in Academia Sinica. I have studied in reef larval fish culture and breeding corals. I’m interested in marine animal since I was a child so I’m really happy to join Marine Eco-Evo-Devo unit! I’m really enjoy scuba, freediving and underwater photography in free time.

Stefano Davide Vianello, Post-doc
Email: svianello22 at

I am a developmental biologist interested in endoderm and gut tube development. Having worked on this topic in mammalian embryonic stem cell models during all of my postgraduate studies, it is with a lot of excitment that I now turn to clownfish! My postdoctoral project here in the lab focuses on the transformation of the digestive tract of clownfish larvae as they undergo metamorphosis, and on the role of thyroid hormones in coordinating this process. In collaboration with other labs here at Academia Sinica, I am more generally studying gut metamorphosis across the tree of life. I am an advocate for intersectional open science, preprinting, and knowledge equity, and a strong critic of the current politics of publishing in academia. Aside from my work, I am interested in data communication and visual storytelling in developmental biology.