Lab Members

Post-doctoral fellows

Shaili Johri

I have a background in molecular genetics and conservation biology. My major research focus is to develop non-invasive tools for monitoring and conservation of wildlife populations. During my tenure at the University of Washington, Seattle I led a project to develop non-invasive monitoring methods to study ecological impacts of apex predator recovery. I developed a Real Time PCR and High Resolution Melt curve based method for species identification of large carnivores from scat.

As part of the project at UW, we used detection dogs for sampling of scat from seven large carnivores in high wolf density areas of Northeast Washington. This allowed high sample numbers which are necessary for comprehensive analyses in ecological studies. As part of this study we were able to determine  distribution of large carnivores by season, species interactions and resource use as well as impact of wolf recovery on human-wildlife conflicts.

I recently received a grant from the Society for Conservation Biology-Marine Section for biodiversity indexing of sharks in India. I am currently involved in developing a species identification method for -sharks, rays and chimaeras using portable sequencers.

Secondly, I am interested in developing microbiomes as a non-invasive monitoring tool for wildlife populations. I am currently involved in studying microbiomes from killer whales and sharks to determine the effect of contaminants like persistent organic pollutants and heavy metals on the health of these marine species.

PhD Students

Lais Lima

I enrolled the Joint Doctoral Program in Ecology at SDSU/UC Davis in the fall 2016. Before I joined the Dinsdale lab, I received my Bachelor in Biological Sciences (University of Brasilia, 2011) and defended a Master’s in Marine Ecology (Federal Fluminense University, 2015) in Brazil, where I was born and raised. The aim of my PhD dissertation is to investigate the relationships between the holobiont physiology and the associated microbiome. I am addressing this aim by conducting in situ and laboratory experiments in coral reefs and kelp forests.

More information about my research interests and publications:

Asha Goodman

I received my BS with an emphasis in molecular biology from San Diego State University in 2016. Following my graduation I moved to Seattle where I was hired as a level two laboratory technician at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center. In 2017 I returned to San Diego to enroll in the Joint Doctoral Program in Cellular and Molecular Biology at SDSU/UCSD. As a joint student of both Dr. Dinsdale and Dr. Forsberg, I intend to marry analytical techniques and next-generation sequencing to answer ecological questions concerning the well-being of sharks. The aim of my study is to develop measures of shark health, using both metabolomic analyses of the blood and metagenomic analysis of the skin microbes. By combining the two measures I will identify microbes that may be causing stress to the shark and be able to provide an early warning system of the declining health of the organism.


Graduate Students

Micheal Reed

I enrolled in the Biological and Medical Informatics Masters program in the fall of 2017 and have been involved with the Dinsdale lab for the same amount of time. My undergraduate work was done at UC San Diego (go Revelle!) in Human Biology where I was a member of the Leutgeb lab studying the role of the hippocampus in memory formation and spatial mapping. From there I participated in studying the role of key proteins of CRLF2 Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia at Loma Linda University with Dr. Kimberly Payne. Currently I am under the tutelage of Dr. Dinsdale investigating the microbial community structure and interactions in the mucosal layers of corals using metagenomics and other computational tools. From this analysis we hope to construct a mathematical model that can help us understand and predict these interactions so that ultimately we may comprehend the role microbes play in coral health.


Colton Johnson

I joined the Dinsdale Lab in 2018 after receiving my BS in Marine Biology from the University of Hawaii at Manoa. I am currently a Masters student in San Diego State University’s Ecology Program. I have a background in coral research, scientific diving, and fish research. My current research focuses on Leopard Shark skin microbial ecology. I am also currently working on a NSF GRFP proposal.

Ryan Hesse

I did my undergrad at Cal State Long Beach in Marine Biology, I did some work with a commercial jellyfish aquaculture lab and a small field project on kelp forest ecology out on Catalina island. I’ll be comparing the microbial and phage communities, along with phage abundance, on the skin of benthic condrichthyans to see how they differ based on the presence of a mucus layer.  

Undergraduate Students

Isabella Livingston

Hi! My name is Isabella Livingston and I am a third year Biology student with an emphasis in Zoology. I am extremely passionate about animals, especially Sharks, and I hope to pursue a career studying those beautiful creatures! Since joining the lab in Spring of this year, I have helped on a few different projects but mainly the study on Sharks that Shaili Johri has been conducting and putting together! This summer I spent some time in Sydney studying the marine and microbial ecology in the water in the harbor! Below are some pictures from my visit as well as a poster that was presented this summer in India of our findings in the Shark project!

Abigail Turnlund

I am an undergraduate majoring in Biology with an emphasis in Marine Biology at San Diego State University. Before attending San Diego State University, I first got involved in marine science by working at the Seymour Marine Discovery Center at Long Marine Lab at UC Santa Cruz. There I loved working with their swell sharks and plan on pursuing shark research in graduate school. Currently I am helping out with two projects in the lab, one looking at the role of microbes on sharks and the other linking genotypes to phenotypes for marine bacterial strains through experimental analysis.

Meredith Peterson

During my second year at San Diego State University, where I am currently an undergraduate student studying biology, I became a member of the Dinsdale lab. At a young age I spent a lot of time snorkeling and swimming in the ocean, which is where my interest in marine life and ecosystems was first sparked. Eager to discover more of what was beneath the ocean’s surface, I became a certified scuba diver at the age of ten. Ever since, my curiosity towards the oceans ecosystems and inhabitants has only continued to grow. When I first came to SDSU, becoming a member of a research lab was something I strived to do and the Dinsdale lab proved to be a perfect fit. As a member of the Dinsdale lab, I have had the opportunity to integrate my passion for scuba diving and marine life into my education. Now, I am currently completing my third year at SDSU and have worked on projects that study the linkage between genotypes and phenotypes of bacterial strains in different substrates as well as study the microbial community that lives on the skin of various species of sharks!

Anissa Bunch

My name is Anissa Busch. I am currently pursuing a B.S. in Environmental Sciences. After transferring to SDSU, I was eager and excited to have the opportunity to join a lab to further my interest in research. I have been involved with the Dinsdale lab since January 2018. After joining, my love of conservation for marine predators (such as sharks) has grown immensely.

I have worked on a couple of projects. In the summer of 2018, I worked with Dr. Johri on Chondrichthyan conservation. The project involved identifying species of the class, Chondrichthyes, taxonomically and mapping their range. I am now currently working on my own project with fellow undergraduates in the lab, Isabella and Emma. We are using environmental DNA (eDNA) to detect the presence of sharks and other organisms in their community. We are able to do this by collecting seawater samples, extracting and sequencing the DNA from the water, and analyzing the DNA to determine taxonomic identities. With this data, we want to use this information for a better understanding of sharks’ population size and their distribution.

In the future, I plan on furthering my education by obtaining a Master’s degree. I will be graduating in the summer of 2019. Being a part of the Dinsdale lab has given me many opportunities in research and I look forward to applying these skills in pursuing my academic career.


Honours students

Amber Skye

I recently graduated from a Bachelor of Science (Forensic Analytical Biological Science) and have since started my Honours under the supervision of Elizabeth Dinsdale. My project involves looking at the Metagenome Assembled Genomes (MAGs) of whale sharks (Rhincodon typus) from the Philippines, and how the skin microbiome fluctuates in each of the 22 individuals across time. I aim to complete my project ready for thesis submission in March of 2022.


Ewan Burns

In 2020 I graduated with a Bachelor of Science (Marine Biology) and will be conducting my Honours under Elizabeth Dinsdale throughout 2022. Throughout my project, I’ll be exploring magnetic bacteria on the surface of shark skin and hope to look at a possible association between the microbiome of shark species and their physical organs. Potential target species for the study include either Port Jackson sharks or gummy sharks. I aim to complete my project in November of 2022.


Will Mingorance

Having finished my Bachelor of Science (Marine Biology) in 2020 I am now a current Honours student under the supervision of Elizabeth Dinsdale and Lauren Meyer. My project involves analysing the heavy metal load in skin and muscle samples of different shark species then, comparing this data to the presence of heavy metal related genes found in the epidermal microbiome of the same sharks to see if there is any correlation. The species involved in the study are tiger, dusky, and Galapagos sharks that were sampled off the coast of Norfolk Island. The study is scheduled to be submitted in May 2022.


Undergraduate students

Maria Mora

I am an undergraduate student majoring in Microbiology and minoring in Cultural Proficiency. I am a transfer student from Southwestern College in Chula Vista but I also attended San Diego City College in order to transfer faster. As a community college student, I was given the opportunity to be part of the Bridges to the Baccalaureate program here at SDSU and it was during this program where I learned about the Dinsdale lab. After transferring, I allowed myself a semester to adjust and joined the Dinsdale lab in the Spring of 2018. I plan to pursue either an MD or MD/PhD program after completing my Bachelor’s degree.
Currently, I am working on a water quality project in collaboration with the Public Health and Environmental Engineering departments at SDSU. We are working with the North City Water Reclamation Facility (NCWRF) where they treat wastewater using several purification technologies. The goal is to understand how each treatment affects the metagenome of the microbial and viral communities.
Emma Kerr
My name is Emma Kerr, I am a second year undergraduate majoring in Biology with an emphasis in Ecology and minoring in Interdisciplinary Studies.  I joined the Dinsdale lab in Spring 2019.  I’m super passionate about the environment and wildlife conservation, and I’m looking forward to working on several of the ongoing projects in the lab including the shark microbiome, kelp, and eDNA projects.  After completing my degree at SDSU I plan to pursue marine research in graduate school.
Hayden Bursch
I am a 4th year undergraduate at SDSU majoring in Cellular and Molecular Biology. I joined Dr. Dinsdale’s lab in the fall of 2018, and I aim to study molecular pathways of marine organisms, and molecular physiology and genomics of viruses and bacteria. Currently, I am working on two projects with Lais Lima. The first is a study concerning the microbiome in the mucus of coral, and the second is a study of the microbiome of the algae’s: giant kelp and sargassum. To do this, we take the approach of shotgun genome sequencing, and analyze the metagenome of our samples through bioinformatics. 
Juliana Ortiz
My name is Juliana Ortiz and I am a 4th year Biology undergraduate on a pre-medical track. I joined the Dinsdale Lab in spring 2019. Although I want to go to medical school, I have always been interested in ecology and marine life. I especially have always loved sharks (they are my spirit animal) and I am excited to learn more about these creatures and the marine ecosystem as a whole!
Hannah Kranz
I am currently in my fourth and final undergraduate year majoring in Biology with an emphasis in Marine Biology. I connected with the Dinsdale Lab family Fall 2019. I am interested in the complex interactions within the microbiomes of marine organisms and assisting the masters students in their research wherever that may be! I am passionate about ecological conservation and public outreach. When I am not in lab, you can catch me on the slopes up in Mammoth shredding the frozen gnar or SCUBA diving collecting samples for our experiments. 

Hi! My name is Sofia Parker and I am a 3rd year Biology undergraduate with an emphasis in Marine Biology. I joined the Dinsdale lab in the spring of 2019. I have always loved the ocean and marine ecosystems. I hope to pursue a career that will allow me to be by the ocean or underwater almost everyday. I am currently learning about metagenomics and am excited to learn more about how microbes affect marine ecosystems!