Our Team

Meet the team behind the Vantuna Research Group.

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.

Chelsea Williams

Chelsea Muñoz Williams

Assistant Director
(323) 259-2618
Chelsea started working with 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 with an emphasis in...
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
Jonathan has been working for the VRG since 2006, originally as a Research Associate, and now as a Research Scientist. He got his B.S. from UNC Wilmington and M.S. from CSU Northdridge. He has...
Brian Cohn

Brian Cohn

Research Associate
Brian began working for the VRG in 2021 as a Research Associate. He received his B.S. in Marine Biology from California State University, Long Beach in 2016 and his M.S. in Biology from...
Clay Pollock with a wolf eel

Clay Pollock

NSF REPS Participant
Clay started working in the VRG in 2017 as an undergraduate research assistant. He graduated from Occidental in 2020 with a B.A. in Biology with an emphasis in Marine Biology and a minor in...
Mac Power

Mac Power

Research Assistant
Mac began diving with the VRG as a Field Research Assistant in 2021 and joined as a full-time Research Assistant in 2022. He received a B.S. in Aquatic Biology from UC Santa Barbara in 2019....
Brynn O'Hara

Brynn O'Hara

Research Assistant
Brynn started working with the Vantuna Research Group in 2022 as a Research Assistant. She received a B.S. in Marine Biology from the University of California, Santa Cruz in 2021. Her previous...
Daniel Ramirez

Daniel Ramirez

Research Assistant & Larval Fish Taxonomist
Daniel started working as a research assistant focusing on larval fish taxonomy for the VRG in 2016. He graduated from Cal Poly Pomona with a B.S. in biology and emphasis in zoology in 2018....
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...
Jenny Wong headshot

Jenny Wong

Outreach Coordinator
Jenny joined the VRG as Outreach Coordinator in 2020. Jenny currently is overseeing outreach for projects funded by the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management including "Supplemental Data Regarding...
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 ...
Bill Power

Bill Power

Field Research Assistant
Bill has been diving with the VRG since 2007 but only recently joined as a staff member in 2020. Bill graduated from UCLA in 1986 with a B.S. in Geology and a focus in Paleobiology. He then...
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...
Mason Emery

Mason Emery

Seasonal Field Research Assistant
Mason received a B.S. in Marine Biology from the University of California, Santa Cruz in 2017. After graduation, he worked Raimondi-Carr lab assisting Ph.D. candidates with research diving...

Sigfrido Zimmermann

Field Research Assistant

Erika Nava

Field Research Assistant

Undergraduate Research Assistants - Fall 2022

Matthew Klein - Microplastics in Topsmelt (Atherinops affinis)
Cole Ivie
Alyssa Player
Katie Placensia
Oscar Petter
Sean Choe
Madi Valiente - Age and Growth of the California Corbina (Menticirrhus undulatus)
Kristie Dela Cruz - Age and Growth of Sargo (Anisotremus davidsonii)
Dylan Gould
Ilana Baum
Marisa Mow
Julia Lindemuth
Maggie Schaffzin
Josua Biggs
Leila Warren
Djuna Day-Booth
Walter Hornor
Anna Seevak
Ella Dunning




Katie Lam (University of Washington '21)
Allison Smith (Occidental College '22)
Auxenia Privett-Mendoza (Smith College '21)
Lorenzo Blanco (Polytechnic School) - Age and Growth of the California Lizardfish (Synodus lucioceps)
Athena Naylor (Westridge School) - Age and Growth of Garibaldi (Hypsypops rubicundus) from an in-situ Mark-Recapture Experiment
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 J. Zellmer

Associate 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.