In Fall 2013, Vanessa joined the Reef Ecology Lab as a PhD student. Her current research is on integrating ecological, biological, and genetic data to understand forces driving biogeography and population structures of coral reef fishes, focusing on the species Dascyllus aruanus and D. marginatus in the Red Sea. She mainly studies potential factors defining habitat ranges, population genetics, and connectivity in the two species, using molecular tools such as microsatellite markers and single nucleotide polymorphisms. This approach will give insight into the relationship between the adaptive potential/strategies of a species and its biogeographic range. This knowledge could then be used to learn more about the genetic history of the species and predict its potential fate. Additionally, Vanessa is quantifying recruitment of coral reef fishes in the Red Sea and how it differs among reef types and seasons of the year.
Her previous work included the investigation of the genetic structure of a reef-building coral Pocillopora verrucosa along a natural environmental gradient in the Red Sea (collaboration between the Alfred-Wegener-Institute in Bremerhaven AWI; Helmholtz-Center for Polar and Marine Research and Center for Marine Tropics ZMT, Germany; and the Reef Genomics Lab of the Red Sea Research Center, KAUST, Saudi Arabia) and the analysis of the genetic population structure of a benthic Antarctic shrimp species using molecular markers to assess the impact of climatic changes on marine ecosystems (Functional Ecology Lab at AWI, Germany).
Vanessa was born on San Andres Island in the Caribbean (Colombia). She later moved to Germany, where she completed her BSc in Biology at the University of Regensburg and her MSc in International Studies of Aquatic Tropical Ecology (ISATEC) at the Bremen University and ZMT.