Chief Science Officer
Dr. Sonia J. Rowley is a postdoctoral research associate at the Department of Geology and Geophysics, University of Hawai'i, and invertebrate zoologist at the Bernice Pauahi Bishop Museum, Honolulu. She is also part of the Poseidon/Cis-Lunar Development Laboratories test dive team. Sonia specializes in the evolution and diversity of gorgonian (sea fan) octocorals, particularly across bathymetry throughout the Indo-Pacific. Raised on diving vessels in the UK by her parents, Sonia has >30 years diving and expedition experience around the globe. From her first dive at age 11, she hunted unknown shipwrecks with her family, eventually combining her passion for diving and natural history by becoming a marine biologist. Research activities include ocean acidification at natural volcanic CO2 vents, temperate gorgonian disease, deep-ocean exploration on the high seas, and gorgonian responses to environmental change. Her research is now primarily focused on the exploration and discovery of the coral-reef ‘Twilight Zone’ (a.k.a. Mesophotic Coral Ecosystems, 30–150 m depth) throughout the Indo-Pacific. Determined to better understand the role of gorgonians as model taxa on these deep coral reefs, she continually addresses novel research questions by uniquely integrating analytical techniques and experience; from electronically controlled rebreathers, ecology, geology, taxonomy, statistics, microbiology, and photography, to genetics, and experimental procedures in aquaria. With the overarching aim of elucidating evolutionary mechanisms of divergence leading to gorgonian diversity within the Indo-Pacific, she endeavours to discover and disseminate her findings to the general and scientific communities alike.