Dr. Erin E. Easton, a former CCME doctoral fellow, is now an assistant professor at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley (UTRGV) in the School of Earth, Environmental, and Marine Sciences, where she is establishing a Benthic Ecology and Evolution Lab (eastonbenthos.org) to explore the biodiversity and evolution of marine benthos (fauna that live in, on, or in association with the seafloor) from the coast to the deep sea. Research in the Easton Benthic Ecology and Evolution Lab focuses on the study of epibenthic megafauna on hard-bottom habitats and meiofauna of soft-bottom habitats. To study these benthic communities, they use a variety of tools to conduct biodiversity surveys, to explore biogeographic and community assemblage patterns, to identify potential drivers of these patterns, and to understand the phylogenetic and evolutionary relationships of select taxa. Of particular interest are the benthic communities of mesophotic and deep-sea habitats in the South Pacific and Gulf of Mexico.
She obtained her BS in Biology from Indiana University (Bloomington) in 2002 and her MS and PhD in Oceanography from Florida State University in 2009 and 2014, respectively. She completed a three-year postdoctoral fellowship with the Ecology and Sustainable Management of Oceanic Islands in Coquimbo, Chile, where she studied the benthic communities the seamounts and oceanic islands, including Rapa Nui (known as Easter Island), of the southeast Pacific. In 2017, she joined CCME as a postdoctoral fellow at UTRGV. During this fellowship, she focused on the mesophotic coral ecosystems of the Gulf of Mexico in collaboration with Dr. David Hicks. This research included genetic studies on the octocorals of these reefs in collaboration with Dr. Peter Etnoyer and Thomas Greig of NOAA National Center for Coastal Ocean Science in Charleston, South Carolina.