Charley Westbrook

Masters Student
PI: Rob Toonen

Being a graduate student at the Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology, on Coconut Island, has been the apoge of a childhood dream for me.  As a young kid, I heard of this institute in a documentary, it was described as an Island where people went to study the animals that lived in the ocean. Before I realized how far this Island was from home or how much math tutoring it would take to get me here, my heart was set on becoming a researcher at HIMB, a compulsory goal that I could never get rid of.

My research interest spans far and wide, I love critters of all shapes and sizes (except worms, screw worms). I have done work on the smallest of coral polyps and volunteered my time on projects with the larger more interactive animals like dolphins and monk seals.  However, all of my formal research has dealt with echinorderms like sea cucumbers, brittle stars and mostly urchins.  My initial study focused on the feeding behavior of the native collector urchin, Tripneustes gratilla, when exposed to alien invasive algae species.  The urchin’s potential as a biocontrol agent, for the control and removal of invasive algae species, was also assessed (published: https://peerj.com/articles/1235/).

Currently, I am investigating the use of artificial reproductive techniques and their effects on the early larval ontogeny of the collector urchin, I hope that as these tools are refined, they can be applied to conservation efforts through the supplementation of captive breeding programs. I look forward to sharing my finding as they emerge and hope to collaborate with you someday.