Our Team


Dan Pondella

Daniel Pondella

Professor, Biology; Director, Vantuna Research Group
(323) 259-2955

Dan Pondella teaches the biology of marine fishes, biodiversity of marine ecosystems, and biological oceanography.

Portrait of Jeremy Claisse

Jeremy Claisse

Associate Director
Jeremy earned his B.S. in Aquatic Biology from UC Santa Barbara in 2000. He later joined the Vantuna Research Group in 2009 as a post-doctoral researcher after earning his M.S. and Ph.D. in...
Jonathan Williams

Jonathan Williams

Research Scientist
(323) 259-2891
B.S., UNC Wilmington, M.S., CSU Northridge Jonathan has been working for the VRG since 2006, originally as a Research Associate, and now as a Research Scientist.  He has served as a data...
Chelsea Williams

Chelsea Muñoz Williams

Research Associate, Grants Manager
(323) 259-2618
Chelsea originally worked for the Vantuna Research Group in 2007 as an undergraduate research assistant and went on to graduate from Occidental College with a B.A. in Biology. She now holds the...
Matt Robart

Matt Robart

Research Associate, Dive & Boating Safety Officer
(323) 259-2676
Matt is a Research Associate who has been working with the Vantuna Research Group since the fall of 2015, and has studied estuarine and coastal ocean processes and ecology in Oregon and...
Zoe Scholz

Zoe Scholz

Research Assistant
Zoe started working with the Vantuna Research Group in 2018 as a full-time Research Assistant. She received a B.S. in Marine Biology and a B.A. in Art from the University of California, Santa...
Research Associate Erin Jaco

Erin Jaco

Research Associate
(323) 341-4212
Erin began working as a Research Associate with the Vantuna Research Group in 2019. She received a B.S. in Biology from Oregon State University in 2014 and an M.S. in Biology from California...

Field Research Assistants

Laurel Zahn

Laurel Zahn

Field Research Associate
Laurel received her B.S. in Marine Biology from UC Santa Cruz in 2005. She began working for the VRG in 2008 as a Research Assistant while working on her M.S. degree at CSU Long Beach. After ...
Adam Obaza

Adam Obaza

Field Research Assistant
Adam started officially working with Vantuna Research Group in 2016, though has collaborated on various dive and research activities since 2012. He previously worked with NOAA Fisheries on...
Portrait of Aaron Sugimoto

Aaron Sugimoto

Field Research Assistant
Aaron began working for the Vantuna Research Group in 2015 as an undergraduate research technician. He received his B.A. in Biology from Occidental College in May 2017. As an undergrad abroad in...
Sam Soule

Sam Soule

Field Research Assistant
Sam began working for the Vantuna Research Group in 2017 as an undergraduate research assistant. In 2018, he received his B.A. in Biology with a Marine emphasis from Occidental College. As an...
Portrait of Austin Pyles

Austin Pyles

Field Research Assistant
Austin started working with the VRG in 2018 as a research diver. He received his B.S. in Environmental Biology from Cal Poly Pomona. As an undergraduate he assisted with California native...
Portrait of Jacob Eagleton

Jacob Eagleton

Field Research Assistant
Jacob started working for the VRG in 2018 as a volunteer field research assistant. He graduated from California State Polytechnic University of Pomona in 2016 with a B.S. in General Biology. At...

Sigfrido Zimmermann

Field Research Assistant

Amanda Tinoco

Field Research Assistant

Shelby Shapiro

Field Research Assistant


Gary Jordan

Gary Jordan

Larval Fish Taxonomist
Gary Jordan has been associated with the Vantuna Research Group since April 1976.  In that year, Gary supervised the identification of larval fish collected from the various waterways of King...

Daniel Ramirez

Assistant Larval Fish Taxonomist

Undergraduate Research Assistants

Hannah Hoefs
Clay Pollock
Xavier Nelson-Rowntree
Sarah Ashey
Lauren Chin
Dafna Erana


Undergraduate Research Technicians

Zoe Barbour
Anna Blasnek
Conor Brennan
Logan Hand
Cole Ivie
Lex Ligon
Nicole McGee
Jason Park
Jacey Reed
Nicole Rios
McClaran Shirley
Chiara Serafini

NSF Marine Biodiversity Collection Research Assistants

Claire Considine
Matthew Klein 
Selah Wilson

Volunteer Research Technicians

David Muñoz
Rachel Ann Arias (Crescenta Valley High School)
Jake Fiengold (University of Chicago)

Affiliate Researchers

Doc Stephens

John S. Stephens, Jr.

Founder, Executive Director
Dr. John Stephens, Jr. is an Emeritus Professor of Environmental Biology (1959-2003). He recieved his B.A. from Stanford University and his M.S. and Ph.D. from UCLA. He founded the Vantuna...
Professor Amanda Zellmer

Amanda Zellmer McCormack

Assistant Professor, Biology
(323) 341-4995

Amanda Zellmer’s research focuses on the utility and development of computational methods for studying spatial ecological and evolutionary processes, particularly in the context of conservation biology.