Robert Toonen


Research Professor

Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology

I have a hard time describing my research program in a few sentences. During my research career, I have used a variety of approaches (including individual behavioral assays, ecological experiments in both the field and laboratory, molecular genetic, and computer modeling approaches) in an effort to address a pretty broad variety of interesting biological questions. I don't fit neatly into any traditional niche, but I tend to focus my research interests primarily on marine invertebrates, although I am willing to acknowledge the occasional lesson learned from studying chordates as well. Projects that I have been involved with over the years include such diverse studies as jellyfish feeding behavior, chemical defenses of coral reef sponges, genetic structure and patterns of dispersal in corals, coral bleaching, invasive species biology, connectivity and marine protected area design, cues for larval settlement, modeling of optimal larval settlement behavior, population genetics and phylogenetics of marine invertebrates, conservation genetics of charismatic megafauna (such as sharks, sea turtles and marine mammals), and marine ornamental culture & aquarium science.

Obviously, with that grocery list of interests, it is not simple to describe the interests of my lab fully in a paragraph here. However, much of my current research focuses on the processes that influence dispersal and recruitment in coastal marine invertebrates, and I am particularly interested in the evolutionary consequences of larval developmental modes among Hawaiian coral reef species. In general, I try to approach my research from an ecological perspective to scale up from genes to individuals to populations, and ultimately to the micro- and macro-evolutionary consequences of the processes being studied.

ToBo Lab