Dr. Steve Gittings is chief scientist for NOAA’s National Marine Sanctuary System. He works with scientists to better understand and protect sanctuary ecosystems. His experience includes sanctuary management, deep reef and deep sea ecology, investigating ship accidents and groundings, and oil spill response. He has extensive field experience in scientific diving, ROV operations, and submersible use. Recently, Steve has been developing a trap designed to catch invasive lionfish in deep water. The trap minimizes by-catch, eliminates ghost-fishing, and could create new opportunities for fishermen to create a steady supply of lionfish to seafood and other developing markets.
Dr. Michelle Johnston is a marine biologist and NOAA dive master based at Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary, a vibrant coral reef system located in the Gulf of Mexico. She completed her B.S. in marine biology at the University of North Carolina Wilmington, and M.S. and Ph.D. degrees from the University of South Carolina, conducting water quality bacterial contaminant research at NOAA's Center for Coastal Health and Biomolecular Research. Currently, Michelle is the project manager for the sanctuary’s coral reef long-term coral monitoring program, as well as the coordinator for invasive lionfish activities. Michelle also served as the acting deputy superintendent for National Marine Sanctuary of American Samoa in 2013 where she conducted reef monitoring and combated the crown-of-thorns starfish invasion.
Dr. James Morris is an ecologist with the National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science. Dr. Morris has a bachelor’s and master’s of science in biology from East Carolina University and a Ph.D. in biology from North Carolina State University. His research focus includes invasive species and aquaculture. James has been researching lionfish since 2001. Read more about James in his People of NOS Profile.
The lionfish is a carnivorous fish native to the Indo-Pacific that is now an invasive species in the Atlantic. To date, four national marine sanctuaries have been invaded by lionfish—Gray’s Reef, Florida Keys, Flower Garden Banks, and Monitor.