Our Team

Patrick L. Colin, PhD


Pat earned his M.S. (1970) and Ph.D. (1973) in Marine Sciences at the University of Miami Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences, working on the biology of western Atlantic reef fishes. In 1979 he moved to the Pacific, Enewetak Atoll, Marshall Islands, and later to Papua New Guinea and the Federated States of Micronesia. While at Enewetak in 1983 he built an epoxy fiberglass aircraft, called a COZY, which he still uses today in Palau for vertical and oblique aerial photography (the “eye in the sky”).

Lori J. Bell Colin, MSc

Laboratory Manager/Research Biologist

Lori is one of the founders of Coral Reef Research Foundation. Wearing many hats, she manages the day to day operations of the CRRF research lab, in addition to logistics, keeping things somewhat organized and participating in various research projects, particularly the marine lakes work.

Mathew Mesubed


Matt was CRRF’s first employee in Palau, hired in 1993 on the NCI project before we moved from Chuuk. Matt is our #1 boat driver, navigating the rock island with his eyes closed. When someone needs to get back to ‘the same spot’ in the ocean, they ask Matt! He participated in several NCI collection trips, including Yap, Guam and Ulithi, and of course both Southwest Islands trips.

Sharon Patris, MSc

Research Biologist

Sharon started working at CRRF in 2006 as our first full-time employee on the marine lakes project with new funding from the Packard Foundation. She was valedictorian of Xavier High School (Chuuk) in 2002, followed by her first foray out of Micronesia to Emmanuel College in Boston where she received her BSc in Biology in 2006. Her return to Palau was perfect timing for CRRF and she quickly became engrossed in the multi-disciplinary marine lakes project. Sharon is a natural at science and further pursued her education at the University of California, Merced, receiving her MSc. in Quantitative and Systems Biology. Her thesis (2015) was on the introduction and distribution of the invasive sea anemone (Exaiptasia sp.) in Jellyfish Lake. Her interests are in ecology and evolution, and marine lakes, but just about any science topic can stimulate her interest and she would really like to clone herself so she has time to work on everything! Sharon has served on the Helen Reef Project board and represents CRRF on the Palau National Invasive Species Committee.

Gerda Ucharm

Research Biologist

Gerda started working with CRRF in 2009 on the Packard Foundation-funded marine lakes project. Sharon trained her in the sampling details before heading off to graduate school. Though a bit shocked at the strenuous physical requirements of hiking the equipment into the marine lakes, Gerda quickly adapted and has excelled in maintaining the rigorous lakes’ sampling program for 7 years, with Emilio as her #1 assistant. Gerda is a graduate of Palau High School and attended Palau Community College in the marine science program. She loves science and is an avid adventurer; each marine lake trip is an exploration that might end up with a crocodile on the trail, discovery of stone money or or a hunt for jellyfish polyps in the lakes. A naturalist at heart, her observations in Jellyfish Lake at the time of the jellyfish disappearance (2016) have been critical to understanding this unique resource to Palau. As part of the lake work she runs the CRRF weather stations and maintains multiple arrays of instruments. Gerda also participated in several NCI collections- both in Palau and going on the Kosrae and Thailand trips.

Amber Skiwo, AS

Marine Lakes Research Assistant

Amber graduated from Palau Community College with an Associate of Science Degree in Environmental Marine Science in 2020. Since graduating she has worked with us here at CRRF as a research assistant. She assists the marine lakes team during their quarterly monitoring and their educational outreach program (Back to Nature: Jellyfish Lake). As much as she loves being out in the field she is planning to go back to school and pursue her Bachelor’s Degree in Marine Science.

John Swords, AA

Research Assistant

John Swords is a research assistant on multiple CRRF projects including fisheries and marine lakes, and is our primary drone pilot for dugong and other surveys. Originally from Anguar, the southern-most island of the main Palau islands, John grew up in the water and fishing around Palau.  After high school he lived and worked in Honolulu for 4 years where he completed an Associate of Arts degree in Liberal Arts. Upon returning to Palau he ran a boat charter business for several years and then worked with PICRC on a year-long project gathering data from fish landings, before moving to CRRF in 2017. His experience in Palau waters, and with fisheries and driving boats, makes him a valuable addition to our team. When not collecting or dissecting fish, or helping with stereo-video analysis, John is flying one of our drones to survey the dugongs found in Palau’s rock islands.

Alex Ferrier-Loh, MSc

Research Biologist/Mapping Specialist

Alex joined CRRF at the end of 2019 as a mapping technician to help collect and process bathymetric data from the reefs surrounding Palau. He has a BSc (2009) in Marine & Freshwater Biology from the University of Hull, UK and an MSc (2018) in Marine Biology from Bangor University, Wales where his thesis assessed the effect of marine protected areas on coral reef resilience in the Cayman Islands. Originally from Manchester, England, Alex has a wide range of experience in marine science, ranging from working as an Aquarist at the Dubai Aquarium, environmental consulting on projects throughout the Middle East, surveying reefs in the Caribbean and Malaysia, to tagging sea turtles in Western Australia.

Julian Dendy, MSc

GIS Analyst/Research Ecologist

Julian received his Bsc in Biology from University of New Mexico in 2001, after dragging himself back from his first visit to the tropics – a semester abroad program in Costa Rica that turned into a 1.5 year stay during which he worked as volunteer naturalist guide and studied forest regeneration from cattle pasture. He entered the Peace Corps with the hope of working in tropical forest conservation, and spent a year in an indigenous forest village in Panama before being transported (long story) to Palau in 2003, where he worked at The Nature Conservancy as an agency liason for two years.

Steve Lindfield, PhD

Associate Research Biologist

Dr. Steve Lindfield is a research biologist who was working at CRRF from early 2016 to late 2019 and continues to assist with ongoing projects remotely. Originally from the land down under, Steve received his PhD in 2015 from the University of Western Australia. Steve’s main research focus is on fish ecology and fisheries. He is interested in how fish communities respond to fishing pressure and finding the best management approaches for increasing the sustainability of coral reef fisheries. Steve is an experienced scientific diver who has been diving closed circuit rebreathers since 2008; he uses this technology along with stereo-video systems to accurately and efficiently assess the size structure of reef fish and study the deep reef ‘mesophotic’ coral ecosystems.

Vanessa Jaiteh, PhD

Associate Research Biologist

Vanessa joined CRRF in 2016 to work on fisheries-related projects. She has a BSc (2008) in Marine Biology from James Cook University Townsville and an Honours (2009) and PhD (2017) from Murdoch University in Perth. While employed at CRRF, she worked on various consultancies in Palau and the wider Pacific region before taking on the role of fisheries scientist at the Ministry of Natural Resources, Environment and Tourism in Palau. During this time, she continued to be involved in research projects with CRRF, including a GEF-funded study of Palau’s critically endangered dugongs. In late 2018, she was awarded a postdoctoral fellowship to study bycatch in Palau’s tuna longline fishery. The study, hosted by the Government of Palau, the Pacific Community (SPC) in New Caledonia, and the Pelagic Fisheries Research Group in Hawai’i, took her and her family from Palau to Noumea. Courtesy of the pandemic, Vanessa currently makes her home on the Central Coast of NSW, Australia, together with her partner Steve and their two children.

In Memory of Emilio Basilius


Sadly, we lost Emilio to a sudden illness in May, 2019 after working with Coral Reef Research Foundation for 25 years.  He was hired in 1994 as a collector and assistant on the NCI project, helping shelve and order new specimens and keeping sample bags labeled. He participated in several NCI collection trips, including Yap, Guam and Ulithi, and of course both Southwest Islands trips. He also assisted in some of the early trips to the marine lakes in the early 1990’s and was CRRF’s primary marine lake’s assistant ever since. He almost certainly spent more time in and visited more marine lakes in Palau than any other Palauan. Emilio was also our weather man- if we wanted to know about rain, we would ask him!  Emilio is sorely missed by all of us at CRRF; we miss him every day.

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