Chelsea Harms-Tuohy

e-mail: chelsea.harms@upr.edu                    


• Hometown: Winona, Texas

• Previous Education: Florida Institute of Technology 

• Degree obtained:  B.Sc. Marine Biology and M.Sc. in Invasive Species

• Graduate Advisor: Richard Appledorn, Ph.D.

• Area of Specialization: Biological Oceanography

• Research Interest: Lionfish management in Puerto Rico






Chelsea is a Ph.D. student working on lionfish management and control in Puerto Rico. Other topics include lionfish prey digestion and stomach content analyses using next generation sequencing technologies. Along with her husband, Evan Tuohy, she owns and operates Isla Mar Research Expeditions in Puerto Rico.

Project overview

The Indo-Pacific lionfish (Pterois volitans) is the most successful invasive marine fish species in the Western Atlantic and Caribbean oceans, currently found between northern South America and up the east coast of the United States. Lionfish occupy an extensive range of reef systems in their non-native habitat, competing with other large top predators for food resources – particularly members of the commercially important epinephelids and lutjanids. According to the NOAA’s Center for Coastal Fisheries and Habitat Research (CCFHR), lionfish occupy the same trophic level as these snappers and groupers and could hinder rebuilding efforts, as well as permanently impact native fish populations.

The increasing abundance of lionfish within marine reserves may complicate our ability to assess the efficacy of closing marine reserves to fishing pressure. My proposed doctoral research will investigate the functional morphological, behavioral, movement and dietary variations among subpopulations of the invasive lionfish in the Caribbean and Western Atlantic regions. The unique component of this proposed research is the comparison of these characteristics of the invasive lionfish between marine reserves and fished coral reefs.

One aspect of study involves tracking and monitoring lionfish movements. I will utilize conventional tagging methods to track lionfish in the waters of Puerto Rico. I also plan to utilize acoustic tagging methods for tracking the movements of lionfish within larger marine reserves in key targeted areas of their range in the Caribbean.

My results have direct implications for MPA management throughout the Caribbean and Western Atlantic. Finally, my expertise is invasive fish species interactions with their nonnative environments.