Dr Michelle Paddack

Post-doctoral researcher

My degrees

BA Marine Biology, University of California, Santa Cruz

MSc Marine Science, University of California, Santa Cruz

PhD Marine Science, Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science, University of Miami

Email: michelle.paddack@gmail.com

What I am now

Lecturer, Santa Barbara City College

My research

I specialize in the population dynamics and ecology of reef fishes (both tropical and temperate). My main interests are in examining how ecological interactions between fish and the reef environment influence the structuring and maintenance of reef communities and in determining how ecosystem-level perturbations (both environmental and anthropogenic) affect population dynamics and behaviors of reef fishes.

My current with TMEL focused on long-term and large-scale patterns in Caribbean reef-fish populations and investigating processes driving observed changes. Recent large-scale declines in live coral cover have been documented on coral reefs world-wide, yet little is known about the impacts of this change upon other members of coral reef communities. Although the combined effect of habitat destruction and fishing pressure is likely to impact reef fish populations, a lack of base-line data limits our ability to determine the status of reef fish populations, or understand how fish populations are responding to stressors. To this end, I compiled a database of reef fish abundance and biomass data that have been collected on reefs within the Caribbean region since scientists began to use scuba to collect these data. I used a combination of statistical and meta-analytical techniques to investigate trends, investigate driving processes, and generate predictions of responses of individual species and functional groups, and work collaboratively with scientists across the globe.

I also have a strong interest in herbivory on coral reefs, particularly, the role that herbivorous reef fishes play in determining the resilience of coral reefs against shifts to macroalgal-dominated states. My research in this field includes assessing top-down impacts of fish upon reef communities from species-level as well as functional-level perspectives, and impacts of benthic change on the population dynamics and behavior (e.g. growth, recruitment, habitat selection, grazing) of reef fishes.

A third major research focus has been on marine protected areas (MPAs). I work with governments and conservation organizations to aid in implementing MPAs and establishing monitoring programs and continue to conduct research on the response of reef fishes to varying levels of fishing pressure.


Paddack MJ, Sponaugle S, and Cowen RK.  In press. Small-scale demographic variation in the stoplight parrotfish, Sparisoma viride (Bonnaterre, 1788).  Journal of Fish Biology.

Côté IM and Paddack MJ. 2009. ‘Recycling’ data to derive environmental bioindicators.  Environmental Bioindicators.  4(3): 195-197

Paddack MJ, Reynolds JD, Aguilar C, Appeldoorn RS, Beets J, Burkett EW, Chittaro PM, Clarke K, Esteves R, Fonseca AC, Forrester GE, Friedlander AM, García-Sais J, González-Sansón G, Jordan LKB, McClellan DB, Miller MW, Molloy PP, Mumby PJ, Nagelkerken I, Nemeth M, Navas-Camacho R, Pitt J, Polunin NVC, Catalina Reyes-Nivia M, Robertson DR, Rodríguez Ramírez A, Salas E, Smith SR, Spieler RE, Steele MA, Williams ID, Wormald C, Watkinson AR,and  Côté IM. 2009. Recent region-wide declines in Caribbean reef fish abundance. Current Biology 19:590-595.

Paddack MJ, Sponaugle S, and Cowen RK. 2008.  Recruitment and habitat selection of newly settled Sparisoma viride to low coral-cover reefs. Marine Ecology Progress Series 369: 205-212.

Paddack MJ, Cowen RK, and Sponaugle S.2006.  Grazing pressure of herbivorous coral reef fishes on low coral-cover reefs. Coral Reefs 25:461-472.

Floeter SR, Behrens MD, Ferreira CEL, Paddack MJ, and Horn MH. 2005.  The latitudinal gradient of marine herbivorous fishes: patterns and processes.  Marine Biology 147(6): 1435-1447.

Paddack MJ, Shellito S, and Steneck R. 2003. Reef fish populations: distribution, abundance and size structure. In: Steneck R, Begin C, Brown J, Paddack M, Slingsby S (eds) A report on the status of the coral reefs of Bonaire with advice on the establishment of fish protection areas, p 31-39

Estes JA and Paddack MJ. 2002. No-take reserves in central California kelp forests: Metrics of human impact or the tip of the iceberg? In: Starr RM, Carr MH, J.Caselle, Estes JA, Pomeroy C, Syms C, VenTresca DA, M.M.Yoklavich (eds) A review of the ecological effectiveness of subtidal marine reserves in central California. NOAA National Marine Sanctuaries, Monterey Bay, Monterey,  CA, p 2-23

Paddack MJ and Estes JE. 2000. Kelp forest fish populations in marine reserves and adjacent exploited areas of Central California.  Ecological Applications 10(3): 855-870.