Lauren Sallan

Prof. Lauren Sallan, Assistant Professor
Email: lauren.sallan at

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Dr. Tai Kubo, Staff Scientist
Email: tai.kubo at

I am a vertebrate paleontologist and an evolutionary biologist. I excavated fossils, described some Mesozoic reptiles, and reconstructed the ecology of extinct tetrapods, mainly their diet and locomotion. I also investigated how the evolution of diet, locomotion, and body size occurred along with phylogenetic trees of dinosaurs and mammals. Here at OIST, I will work on basal tetrapods that invaded land. I will analyze micro-scale scars on their tooth surface that were generated during feeding and infer their diet through comparisons with modern analogs.

Chloe Nash, Postdoctoral Scholar
Email: chloe.nash at

I am an evolutionary biologist, with a focus on coral reef fishes. My research interests are on the integration of phylogenetics, assemblage patterns, morphological and ecological trait variation, and biomechanical potential of coral reef fish feeding modes to examine the evolutionary drivers of current species’ distributions and community compositions. I completed a BA in Biology and Environmental Studies from Wesleyan University and a PhD with the Committee of Evolutionary Biology (CEB) at the University of Chicago. The overarching goal of my PhD thesis was to explore the phylogenetics, evolution, and biogeography of the goatfishes (Family Mullidae), with a focus on their unique foraging behavior associated with substrate preferences and barbel use. To accomplish this, I inferred a comprehensive phylogeny using phylogenomics, examined global assemblage patterns using occurrence data, and assessed ecomorphological relationships between body and fin morphology with habitat use across the goatfishes. In my postdoctoral position in the Marine Macroevolution Unit at OIST, I plan to expand my research into the examination of population connectivity of diverse species, i.e. representatives of clades with variable modes of dispersal and life history traits, across the Ryukyus. In particular, I aim to test hypotheses about the morphological and life history traits associated with home range size, dispersal, habitat use, and population connectivity. The goal of this work is to identify informative traits that can be used to better predict dispersal potential across extant and fossil lineages. In my free time, I enjoy fish watching, cuddling with cats, and finding new cafes to try.

Nanako Okabe, Rotation Student
Email: nanako.okabe at

At university I worked on the wounding mechanisms of giant unicellular green algae. However, the unique appearance and diversity of the jawless fish that inhabited the Silurian to Devonian periods attracted me, then I am studying as a lab rotation student in this unit. How did the jawless fish that established kingdoms at that time feed? Did they compete with jawed fish? How did feeding traits influence the evolution of fish? I am excited by the possibilities in this field, including research using big data acquired from fossils and 3D models. I used to live on another small island in Japan so I love life in Okinawa. On weekends, I enjoy skin diving, watching baseball games and exploring izakaya!

Maria Lucia Reyes Suarez, Research Intern
Email: MariaLucia.ReyesSuarez at

I am a last-year biology student interested in understanding how aquatic systems behave biologically and ecologically. I have worked with zooplankton and macroinvertebrate communities in rivers and high mountain lakes in the Andes Mountain range in Colombia, emphasizing on diversity patterns and their exposure to invasive species. I am looking for an environment where I can increase my curiosity and passion for aquatic organisms and develop and improve my scientific and personal skills. In this way, at OIST I expect to participate in a community where I will freely share my ideas and knowledge, without any bias, in an inclusive environment where I can work with researchers from diverse backgrounds, in order to create more complex and comprehensive solutions and projects to any problems that arise.

Genki Togawa, Research Intern
Email: genki.togawa at

Now I’m not a researcher but I hope to be an evolutionary scientist. I’m working for the detachment system of insects so far. Specifically, with focusing on the structure of tarsus effective organs are searched. My current work is this but I desire to research evolution of microbe. That’s why I applied to OIST. In this internship period I would like to learn research methods and ‘biological evolution’ more deeply. よろしくお願いします Yoroshikuonegaisimasu

Rikako Ozaki, Research Intern
Email: rikako.ozaki at

I recently finished my master’s at the University of Auckland with a focus in species distribution modelling Oceanic manta rays and Spinetail devil rays, with a particular interest in the intersection between technology and conservation!! My fascination with these creatures started with a terrible sun burn - it was my first time on a boat and with blistered skin I hopped into the big blue and there was a huge Oceanic manta ray swimming past - and then I was hooked! Outside of manta watching I love diving, tennis, crocheting and eating good food. I am so excited to learn new skills and gain new experiences as a research intern at OIST!

Wahei Hagiwara, Research Intern
Email: wahei.hagiwara at

I was born in Okinawa and grew up here! At the University of Ryukyus, I majored in marine biology and especially studied brown macroalgae such as Cladosiphon Okamuranus(Okinawa Mozuku). In my thesis research, I was analyzing differential gene expression of Okinawa Mozuku which grow up in different nurseries by using RNA sequence method. So, I'm familiar with using command line, python to analyze gene expression. Paleobiology is a different field to it which I majored in, but I'm really interested in this field. I am especially interested in convergent evolution which we can see in the relationship between Ichthyosaurs and toothed whales. So, I want to learn new methods such as CAT scans of fossil teeth and to explore what they eat and how they move.

Yuxin Liu, Research Intern
Email: yuxin.liu at

I am interested in the adaptation and assimilation of marine organisms to global climate and environmental changes. I completed my undergraduate at Ocean University of China, where I worked on the ecophysiological response of brown algae to ocean acidification and eutrophication. After university, I used to study the photosynthetic genes of Chlamydomonas via high-throughput screening at Westlake University. During my master's at Tohoku University, I am exploring the diversity of epiphytic gastropods inhabiting seaweeds in northeastern Japan. My research experience includes morphology, physiology, genetics, and ecology investigations. The research intern at OIST will enhance my ability to integrate ecological research and molecular analysis. Also, I am looking forward to learning more about bioinformatics and genomics. I love swimming, scuba diving, and Judo. I enjoy diving during the field surveys and traveling.

Chihiro Kushida, Research Intern
Email: chihiro.kushida at

I was born and raised in Tokyo. I am a 3rd year undergraduate student at Saitama University and studying biology, especially social behaviors and sex differences in the brain in mice. In this unit, I am planning to make use of my experience in neuroscience to investigate the function of a barbel of ojisan fish (Parupeneus multifasciatus). Moreover, I am also interested in anatomy, and I am going to observe the running patterns of the blood vessel in Okinawan fish. Through this internship, I aim to interact with many leading researchers and learn about interdisciplinary approaches to both extant and extinct organisms. In my free time, I enjoy reading Tomoka Shibasaki’s novels, playing the piano, and visiting museums to see the fossils.

Makiko Ajimura, Research Unit Administrator(RUA)
Email: makiko.ajimura at

I am originally from Osaka. My duties are to provide administrative support to enable the unit to function smoothly and effectively. I am overjoyed to have the opportunity to work closely with marine science as an RUA and contribute to developing the Okinawan economy as a part of the OIST community. I love diving, traveling, the ocean, and of course, Okinawa! I especially love to watch the school of fish, then stealthily join them. My other favorites are cats, plants, and collecting the straw baskets.


Peter Reynolds (Research Intern)

Diala Edde (Research Intern)

Sam Fisher (Research Intern)

Jan Zimmermann (Research Intern)

Carolin Grether (Research Intern)

Adam Asmat (Research Intern)

Johannes "Nico" Wibisana (Rotation Student/Honorary Member)

Isaac Trindade-Santos (Postdoc)