Center for Conservation Biology

Staff and Students


Center for Conservation Biology Staff and Students 



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Sammi Cheung- Undergrad Lab Volunteer 

Medical Laboratory Science Major

Class of 2021







 Gwen Ellis- Undergrad Lab Volunteer                               Woman with chin length brown hair wearing a black shirt stands in front of a green wall of shrubbery

 Biology Major

 UW Class of 2021









Deborah Giles, PhD- Research Scientist, Conservation Canines

Giles (she goes by her last name) joined Dr. Wasser’s whale scat project as the vessel Captain in 2009 – which utilizes a scat detection dog/handler team to locate floating killer whale and baleen whale scat to monitor the physiological health of whales in the Salish Sea.  In 2018, Giles was excited to move to the front of the boat and learn how to be a dog handler for the project with her canine companion Eba who became the newest member of the Conservation Canine’s Dog Team; check out Eba’s Instagram and Facebook accounts – Eba the Whale Dog!

Giles received her PhD from the University of California Davis in 2014. Her master’s thesis and PhD dissertation both focused on the federally listed southern resident killer whales. Formerly the research director at the Center for Whale Research, she is currently a resident scientist and lecturer at the University of Washington’s Friday Harbor Labs, where she teaches Marine Mammals of the Salish Sea and Marine Biology.

Giles is also the science and research director with the volunteer non-profit Wild Orca and she is the killer whale scientific adviser for the Orca Salmon Alliance, a program advisor for Killer Whale Tales, and is on the Steering Committee for the Salish Sea Ecosystem Advocates (SalishSEA).


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Kathleen Gobush, PhD- Research Affiliate, Wasser Lab

Dr. Kathleen Gobush an Affiliate Assistant Professor with the University of Washington. She has worked on wildlife and habitat issues across the globe for more than two decades as a research scientist, federal ecologist, philanthropic project manager and nonprofit program lead.  She earned her PhD in Zoology from the University of Washington and has lived in Seattle on and off since the late 1990’s.  Kathleen specializes in terrestrial and marine large mammal conservation and continues to publish original research that bridges wildlife science, protection, policy and emerging technology, including examining the long term impacts of poaching on African savanna elephant hormones, genetics and behavior, assessing African forest elephant population parameters with spatial capture recapture methods and initiating the development of real-time software for effective protected area management.  Concurrently, Kathleen is the Northwest Director for Defenders of Wildlife and is member of the IUCN Species Specialist Commission.



Kin-Lan Han, PhD- Research Scientist, Wasser Lab

Dr. Han’s educational journey led her from Cornell to the University of Maryland before earning her PhD at the University of Florida, Testing hypotheses driving genetic structure in the cooperatively breeding Brown-headed Nuthatch Sitta pusilla. She has taught undergraduate genetics and mentored students in molecular techniques and data analysis. Kin came to the pacific northwest for a postdoc position with Dr. Felipe Barreto at Oregon State University working on mitonuclear incompatibility and local adaptation. Kin arrived at CCB in the summer of 2019.




                                                    Kaitlin Harrigan- Research Scientist, Conservation Canines



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Yves Hoareau- Research Scientist, Wasser Lab

Currently working on the ivory tracking project, Yves is passionate about nature and wants to dedicate his career to wildlife preservation. Yves originates from France where he studied Biodiversity, Ecology, Ethology, Evolution, Genetics, Population Biology, and Programming. Attracted by the wonders of the Rockies, he came to the U.S to work at the University of Montana on numerous conservation subjects. Yves is now part of the team, sharing his diverse experiences to further help Wildlife conservation.





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Eunjin Jeon- Research Scientist, Wasser Lab

Eunjin (Jin) holds a B.S. in Biology and Masters in Genetics with many years experience working at the Forensic DNA Division of National Forensic Service and the medical center for Preimplantation Genetic Diagnosis. While building a professional career, she was always interested in wildlife and conservation of nature. Jin recently joined our team in 2020 and is sharing her professional experience and skills to wildlife conservation. She also likes the state of Washington because there are so many beautiful hiking areas nearby.





Ada holds a tiny bat in her right hand.

Ada Kaliszewska, PhD- Lab Manager, Wasser Lab

For Ada, species interactions, especially how closely interacting species influence one another’s evolution, have always fascinated her. As an undergraduate she worked on whale lice (cyamids) and used their genetics to study Right Whale interactions. After receiving her PhD from Harvard,( When caterpillars attack: Biogeography and life history evolution of the Miletinae (Lepidoptera: Lycaenidae) ), Dr. Kaliszewska came to Seattle for a postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Washington with Dr. Sharlene Santana and Dr. Jeff Riffel working on Chance or necessity? Adaptive vs. non adaptive evolution in plant-frugivore interactions. In 2019 she brought her expertise to CCB to lead our lab team. 






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Hyeon Jeong Kim- Graduate Student

Hyeon Jeong (HJ) Kim is a graduate student working towards developing a genetic tool to track the illegal poaching of pangolins. She is interested in expanding and applying the genetic and statistical techniques currently used for ivory origin assignment to help locate the source of poaching for species of pangolins world-wide. Her research will include identifying a set of genetic markers (SNPs) for population assignment tests, creating a genetic reference map of pangolin populations, and developing field methods for scientific sampling of poached pangolin seizures.





Woman in glasses with long hair stands in front of multiple trophies Mary Kuhner, PhD- Research Consultant / Data Analyst, Wasser Lab 

Mary received her PhD in Genetics from Berkeley and then came to Genetics (later Genome Sciences) at UW, where she was research-track faculty until 2020.  During this time she developed software for statistical analysis of populations, including the LAMARC package for estimating historical population sizes, growth rates, and patterns of gene flow.  Among other applications, this has been used to infer that whale populations prior to whaling were much larger than previously believed.  From around 2014 she was also involved in cancer research in collaboration with the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center.  She took a position with CCB in April 2020 to work on genetic analysis of elephants, both to improve identification of the source of smuggled ivory and to learn more about hybrid zones between forest and savannah elephants. In her spare time Mary plays and coaches chess; this year she is the Seattle City Champion and Washington Senior Champion.



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Dan Phillips- Manager of Program Operations, Center for Conservation Biology

Dan Phillips joined CCB in May of 2020 and is responsible for management of day-to-day operations, finance, administration and human resources functions at the Center.  Dan brings a 20-year career in the non-profit sector that includes developing and managing large multi-disciplinary work teams of research and development scientists, project managers, communicators, and policy advocates to advance life-saving medical diagnostics, vaccines and maternal and reproductive health technologies for people living in low-resource settings around the world.  Dan was immersed in wildlife conservation advocacy and fundraising as a Capital Projects Manager at Woodland Park Zoo, and spends most of his free time hiking, exploring and climbing in the mountains of the Pacific Northwest.




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Tammy Rock- Manager, Conservation Canines

Tammy is our resident Dog Whisperer. She ensures our hard working dogs are healthy, happy and on target.  Tammy oversees their continued training so they are always ready for duty and puts their noses to work in the field. Her years of working with dogs in various ways informs her strong work ethic and deep knowledge base.






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Will Sano- Graduate Student

Will Sano earned his bachelor’s degree from Brown University in 2016, where he researched the microbial communities of fermented foods and antibiotic-induced dysbiosis in the murine gut microbiome.

As a PhD student with the Center for Conservation Biology, Will is investigating the gut microbiome of reproductive female Southern Resident killer whales (SRKWs; Orcinus orca) in the Salish Sea.  The mammalian gut microbiome changes dramatically during gestation, supporting maternal and fetal health, and SRKWs experience a high rate of spontaneous abortions and stillbirths. Using fecal samples collected by our detection dogs, Will is tracking the SRKW microbiome and metabolome throughout successful and unsuccessful pregnancies to characterize the relationship between reproductive females and their resident microbes.




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Mia Taylor- Undergrad Lab Assistant

Double major in Ecology and Environmental Science with a focus in wildlife conservation

Class of 2022.







 Woman and dog in field with mountains and sunset in distance

Julianne Ubigau- Education and Outreach Coordinator, Center for Conservation Biology

Julie not only works as a handler for CK9 but also developed our Education program through her experience as a Science on Wheels and secondary science teacher. Just as she has a knack for getting dogs to trust her, she is able to use that knack to walk into a new classroom and have the students enthralled by her every word. She’s been an integral part of CK9 since she started in 2006 having taken on some of CK9’s more exploratory projects and making them a success.





 Woman in white hat stands on a trail in the forest

Keely Wolfram- Program Operations Specialist, Center for Conservation Biology 

After a career in the private sector, Keely joined CCB in early 2017. Her role at the Center enlists her love of organization and structure, ensuring staff and projects are always moving forward all while supporting a team that’s truly making a difference. A Seattle native, she enjoys working on campus with the constant energy. 





CCB Alumni