Sean P. Powers, Ph.D.

Sean P. Powers, Ph.D.

Senior Marine Scientist III

Professor and Chair, Department of Marine Sciences University of South Alabama


Dr. Sean Powers currently serves as Chair of the Marine Sciences department at the University of South Alabama and is a Senior Marine Scientist at the Dauphin Island Sea Lab.  Dr. Powers research lab, personnel, and graduate student are located in the Shelby Center for Ecosystem-Based Fisheries Management at the Dauphin Island Sea Lab. Dr. Powers grew up in New Orleans and received his Bachelors of Science at Loyola University and a Master of Science degree from the University of New Orleans.  He then moved to Texas to pursue his Ph.D. in biology and oceanography from Texas A&M University.  Dr. Powers joined the faculty at the University of South Alabama and the Dauphin Island Sea Lab in 2003.

Dr. Powers’s research focuses on the ecology of marine fish and invertebrates, particularly those that support commercial and recreational fisheries. The ultimate goal of his research program is to provide scientifically sound information to direct conservation and restoration efforts of marine fisheries and habitats. He has published over 100  peer-reviewed scientific articles, many in leading journals in the field (Science, Ecology, Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Science, PLOS One); Served as PI or Co-PI on over 28 million dollars in extramural grant funding; advised 14 graduate students (7 PhD. And 7 MS); and engaged a variety of groups including national non-governmental organization (NGOs), regional conservation and sportsman groups in an effort to develop sustainable management practices for marine resources. 

Research Interest

Two of the major problems impacting marine ecosystems are the overharvest of fisheries species and loss or degradation of marine biogenic habitats. According to current estimates, over 2/3 of the world's fisheries are fully or over-exploited with only 3 percent of overfished stocks recovering. While poor management strategies and destructive harvest practices have contributed greatly to this decline, natural and anthropogenic changes in environmental conditions have also affected fisheries. Chief among these latter factors is the destruction and/or degradation of important habitats for fish, particularly juvenile stages, resulting from coastal development, declining water quality, and pollution as well as natural perturbations.

The fisheries ecology lab conducts research on a wide range of species from oysters to sharks and in a variety of locations from Alabama to Alaska. Research projects conducted by Dr. Sean Powers, Dr. Bob Shipp, and Dr. Marcus Drymon, their graduate students and research associates in this research group are designed to (1) quantify the relationship between fisheries species and marine habitats and (2) determine the community and ecosystem level effects of overharvesting of marine fishes and shellfish. Because fishing pressure disproportionately targets higher trophic levels and larger individuals (i.e., fishermen want to catch the big fish) large, predatory species are particularly vulnerable to overharvest. These large predatory species can often exert a high degree of control on their prey populations (smaller fish and invertebrates) thus transmitting the effects of overharvesting throughout the food web and potentially affecting other economically important species (e.g., crabs, oysters, scallops). In the Fisheries lab, we perform experimentation and field surveys to detect and quantify the effects of changes in top-down control (predator to prey). From a marine resources management perspective, information on these types of effects as well as the response of fisheries species to habitat loss is critical for effective conservation and restoration of marine finfish and shellfish populations. 


Who We Are

Primary Investigators: 
Dr. Sean Powers, Ph. D, Texas A&M Univ., 1997; M.S., Univ. of New Orleans, 1992; B.S., Loyola Univ., 1990; Professor and Chair of Marine Sciences, University of South Alabama 
Dr. Bob Shipp, Ph.D, Florida State Univ., 1970; M.S., Florida State Univ., 1966; B.S., Spring Hill College, 1964; Professor Emeritus, University of South Alabama

Current Lab Members:

  Name Position Education
Crystal Hightower Lab Manager M.S. Univ. of South Alabama; B.S. Univ. of North Alabama
Dr. Mark Albins Research Associate Univ. of Hawaii at Manoa, M.S. Cal State, Fullerton, B.A., Univ. California, Berkeley
Dr. Jeffrey Plumlee Post Doctorate B.S., Texas A&M University; M.S., Texas A&M University; Ph.D., University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Adam Jung M.S. Student  
Justin McDonald Research Assistant M.S., University of South Alabama
Manuel Coffill-Rivera Ph.D. Student B.S., Florida Gulf Coast University; M.S., Mississippi State University
Monica Powers Project Lead: Shipp Red Snapper Tagging Program M.S., Univ. North Carolina, Chapel Hill 
Jackie Wilson Research Technician  
Trey Spearman Benthic Habitat Manager;
Project Lead: Fisheries Independent Survey Trawl
M.S., University of South Alabama, B.S., Auburn University 
Dylan Kiene Ph.D. Student  
Deepa Shrestha Research Data Management Specialist M.S., University of South Alabama; B.S. University of South Alabama

Former Interns:

Hailey Smith
Anna Hill
Cole Bagget
Natalie Munich
Bethany Kiley

Cory Sanko- Wildlife Tech at Glen Canyon National Recreation Area
Josef Schuster- Biological Scientist I, Florida Fish and Wildlife Research Institute
Alyssa Tuner
Abbey Woodard- Naturalist at Ocean Rider Seahorse Farm

Jade Carver, M.S. student Louisiana State University
Elizabeth Greenheck, M.S. student University of Southern Mississippi
Joseph O'Brien, Technician at Rutgers University
Christian Walker, M.S. student Louisiana State University

Cidia Dominique, M.S. student University of North Carolina
Leo Hijikata
Emily Shallow, M.S. student Lousiana State University
Steven Stang, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission

Kevin Anderson
Aubrey Foulk, Ph.D. student Northeastern University 
Mitchell Lovell, M.S. student Lousiana State University
John Whitinger, M.S. student Northern Michigan University

Jacob Eagleton
Andrew Fuehring
Ed Kim, M.S. student University of South Alabama
Kelly Nichols
Locke Revels
Desaray Swanson

Kyle Hafstad
Oliver Ho
Michelle Louie 
Brandy Malbrough
Lauren Still, Marine Fisheries Lab, University of Florida
Trish Vosburg 

Jaylyn Babitch, M.S. student University of Louisiana, Lafayette
Cody Eggenberger, M.S. student Florida International University
George Jarvis, M.S. student California State University, Northridge
Mariah Livernois, M.S. student University of South Alabama

Kihoto Gitonga
Chester Lindley, M.S. student Bren School, UCSB
Megann Santana, M.S. Troy University 

Pavel Dimens, M.S.,Texas A&M Corpus Christi, Ph.D. grad student GCRL
Aaron Pilnick, National Aquarium, Baltimore, MD

Laura Stone, M.S., Mobile Baykeeper
Chris Free, Ph.D, Rutgers University

Fall 2011
Jennifer Chiu, graduate student at Moss Landing Marine Lab, California
Brian McKenna,Fisheries Biologist, Fairbanks Alaska
Mark Kirk 

Summer 2011
Jessica Hill, Hawaii Nature Hui
Jay Jackson, Payne Environmental Services 
Brian Klimek, M.S. student University of South Alabama

Fall 2010
Amanda Brown, graduate student at University of North Florida 
Suni Chutkan, Intern at NOAA Office of National Marine Sanctuaries
Trey Spearman, M.S. University of South Alabama
Summer 2010
Neal Wepking, NOAA Fisheries Observer
Veronica Cruz
Evan Collins, graduate student at University of Georgia
Fall 2009
Nicholas Bawden
Luke Dodd, Ph.D student at University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
Kate Nixon, Knauss Fellow, Washington D.C
Summer 2009
Suzannah Leahy, James Cook University
Kevin Jagnandan, Ph. D student at University of California, Riverside 
Fall 2008 
Cora Ann Johnston, Ph.D,
Eleni Petrou, Research Fellow at Bocas del Toro Research Station, Panama 
Summer 2008
Ben Toscano, Ph.D,
James Swarthout

Fisheries Ecology Lab Alumni

Former Post Docs:

Dr. Kelly Boyle, 2017-2019, Current position is Assistant Professor, University of New Orleans, New Orleans, LA. Email: 

J. Marcus to Current position: Assistant Extension Professor, MS State University, Biloxi, MS. Email:

Dr. F. Joel Fodrie, 2006 – 2008, Current position: Assistant Professor, Institute of Marine Sciences & Department of Marine Sciences, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Morehead City, NC. Email:

Dr. Matthew J. Johnson, 2006 – 2008, Current position: Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Biological Sciences Unit, New Orleans, LA. Email:

Dr. Frank Hernandez, 2004 – 2006, Current position: Assistant Professor - Fisheries Oceanography and Ecology, Gulf Coast Research Laboratory, Ocean Springs, MS. Email:

Former Students:

Ed Kim, M.S., 2022, Current Position: Assistant Scientist, Anderson Cabot Center for Ocean Life, New England Aquarium in Boston, MA. Email:

Frank D'Alonzo, M.S., 2020

Trey Spearman, M.S., 2015, Current position: Benthic Habitat Manager, Fisheries Ecology Lab, Dauphin Island Sea Lab. Email:

Dr. Andrea Kroetz, Ph.D., 2015, Current position: Fisheries Biologist, Riverside Technology, Inc., In support of NMFS Southeast Fisheries Science Center, Email:

Dr. Meagan Schrandt, Ph.D., 2015, Current position: FL Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, FWRI, St. Petersburg, FL. Email:

Amanda Jefferson, M.S., 2017, Current position: Extension Associate, MS State University Coastal Research and Extension Center, Biloxi, MS. Email:

Mariah Livernois, M.S., 2018, Current position: PhD student TX A&M Galveston. Email:

Emily Seubert, M.S., 2018, Current position: Extension Associate, MS State University Coastal Research and Extension Center, Biloxi, MS. Email:

Dr. T. Reid Nelson, Ph.D., 2019, Current position: Post Doc, UC Santa Cruz & NOAA Fisheries, Santa Cruz, CA. Email:

Dr. Nate Geraldi M.S., 2006, Ph.D, University of Current position: Research Fellow School of Biological Sciences, Queen’s University, Belfast, Northern Ireland. Email:

Kevan Gregalis, M.S., 2006, Current position: 

Dr. J. Marcus Drymon, Ph.D., 2010, Current Position: Research Assistant Professor, University of South Alabama, Mobile, AL. Email:

Brad Reynolds, M.S., 2009, Current position: Commercial fisherman, Cordova, AK. Email:

Dr. Glen Miller, Ph.D., 2011, Current position: Instructor of Biological Sciences at Florida Institute of Technology, Melbourne, FL. Email:

Dr. Matthew Ajemian, Ph.D., 2011, Current position: Assistant Research Professor, Florida Atlantic University, Harbor Branch. Email:

Matthew Kenworthy, M.S., 2011, Current position: PhD student, University of North Carolina. Email:

Dr. Steven Scyphers, Ph.D., 2012, Current position: NSF SEES Postdoctoral Fellow and Adjunct Faculty, Three Seas Program, Northeastern University, Boston, MA. Email:

Crystal LouAllen Hightower, M.S., 2013, Current position: Research Laboratory Manager Fisheries Ecology Lab, Dauphin Island Sea Lab. Email:

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