We lead the effort to protect and conserve the world’s seahorses, pipefish, seadragons, and their relatives.
To promote the long-term conservation of the world's Syngnathiform (seahorses, pipefishes, seadragons, and their relatives) fishes through the illumination and alleviation of threats to wild populations and their ocean habitat.
Who We Are
As the recognized global authority on seahorses, pipefishes, seadragons, and their relatives, we are dedicated to the conservation of these important fishes.
The IUCN Seahorse, Pipefish and Seadragon Specialist Group provides independent technical and scientific advice to governments and other groups to improve the conservation status of these species. We regularly assess the threat of extinction for these animals, undertake and publish research that supports the survival of wild populations, and develop conservation action plans for threatened species.
The SPS SG is managed by Project Seahorse, a global marine conservation organization with expertise in seahorses and their relatives.
The group is currently made up of 28 members from 15 countries worldwide. We plan to broaden our scope to include more experts from other regions in the coming year. If you have suggestions or would like to find out how you can get involved, please get in touch.
Dr. Amanda Vincent (Chair) | Dr. José-Pedro Andrade | Dr. Lindsay Aylesworth | Paula B. Carlson | Dr. Louw Claassens | Dr. Miguel Correia | Dr. Sarah Foster | Dr. Healy Hamilton | Dr. David Harasti | Dr. Heather Koldewey | Dr. Parichart Laksanawimol | Dr. Adam Lim | Dr. Qiang (John) Lin | Dr. Patrick Louisy | Dr. Diego C. Luzzatto | Dr. Heather Masonjones | Dr. Nuno Monteiro | Dr. Arumugam Murugan | Dr. Tacyana P.R. Oliveira | Riley Pollom (Red List Authority Coordinator) | Dr. Helen Scales | Dr. Mohammad Reza Shokri | Dr. Richard Smith | Dr. Atsushi Sogabe | Lily Stanton | Dr. Lucy Woodall | Dr. Xiong Zhang
Dr. Amanda Vincent (Chair)
Amanda Vincent is the co-founder and Director of Project Seahorse and Professor at The University of British Columbia's Institute for the Oceans and Fisheries, Canada. She has a PhD in marine biology from the University of Cambridge and was Darwin Senior Research Fellow at the University of Oxford from 1994 to 1996. She is considered the leading authority on seahorse biology and conservation, and in 2000 was named a Pew Fellow in Marine Conservation. She is the Chair of the IUCN SSC Marine Conservation Committee and also serves as a Marine Representative on the IUCN Red List Committee.
Dr. José-Pedro Andrade
J. Pedro Andrade is Full Professor at the University of the Algarve and Head of the Fisheries Biology and Hydroecology (FBH) research group of the Center for Marine Sciences (CCMar). He graduated in Biology (University of Lisbon, 1982). His research focuses on fisheries resource management, studying the age, growth, reproduction and diet of several fish and cephalopod species. As member of the teaching staff of the University of the Algarve, he has continuous teaching activity in Marine Biology and Fisheries (since 1983) and Aquaculture and Fisheries (since 2005).
Dr. Lindsay Aylesworth
Lindsay is the lead field investigator for Project Seahorse's work supporting the Thailand Department of Fisheries to implement CITES recommendations. Lindsay’s research interests include detection rates, occupancy modeling, and geospatial analysis, specifically to address seahorse conservation, threats and management. Lindsay holds a MSc. in Coastal Environmental Management from Duke University, where she studied bycatch in Pacific Island fisheries and a BSc. from Georgetown University, where she explored illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing of the Patagonian toothfish. Twitter: @L_Aylesworth
Paula Branshaw Carlson
Paula Branshaw Carlson is Director of Husbandry at The Dallas World Aquarium, in Dallas, Texas. She is a 1986 graduate of Texas A&M University and possesses a Bachelor of Science in Marine Biology. She earned her Master of Arts in Zoo and Aquarium Leadership from George Mason University in 2010. She currently serves as Vice-Chair of the Marine Fishes Taxon Advisory Group (TAG) for the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA). Her aquarium passions are syngnathids - especially seadragons, and elasmobranchs. She frequently shares her work on the husbandry of Leafy seadragons, Phycodurus eques, and Ribbon pipefish, Haliichthys taeniolatus, with industry professionals at national and international conferences.
Dr. Louw Claassens
Louw Claassens is Director of the Knysna Basin Project, an environmental NGO based in Knysna, South Africa, (www.knysnabasinrpoject.co.za) and holds a Masters Degree in Aquatic Health from the University of Johannesburg. She recently completed her PhD through Rhodes University on: "Aspects of the population ecology, habitat use and behaviour of the Endangered Knysna seahorse (Hippocampus capensis Boulenger, 1900) in a residential marina estate, Knysna, South Africa: Implications for conservation."
Dr. Miguel Correia
Miguel is a researcher based at the University of the Algarve, Portugal, who has been studying both European seahorse species (Hippocampus guttulatus and Hippocampus hippocampus) since 2007, looking at several aspects of their biology and ecology. He has also developed a successful breeding program in captivity for both seahorse species. Miguel holds a PhD in Marine Ecology from the University of Algarve, an MSc. in Biology and Management of Marine Resources from University of Lisbon and a BSc. in Marine Biology from University of Algarve.
Dr. Sarah Foster
Sarah is a Research Associate with Project Seahorse at the University of British Columbia Institute for the Oceans and Fisheries. Her research and conservation work spans the areas of trade and bycatch — specifically the listing of marine species on the international trade convention CITES, and the issue of small fish species in bycatch. She holds a BSc and an MSc in marine biology from Dalhousie University, Nova Scotia, and a PhD from the University of British Columbia, where she studied bycatch in tropical shrimp fisheries.
Dr. Healy Hamilton
Dr. Healy Hamilton is currently Chief Scientist and Vice President for Conservation Science at NatureServe. She is a biodiversity scientist with broad interests in the evolution and conservation of the diversity of life. Her current research focus is global change biology, with an emphasis on forecasting the impacts of climate change on species and ecosystems for natural resource management and conservation. Dr. Hamilton also has deep interests in marine conservation, which she explores through study of the taxonomy, evolution and conservation genetics of seahorses and their relatives. She obtained her masters degree at Yale University and her Ph.D. at UC Berkeley, and for both degrees she conducted extensive fieldwork in South America. Dr. Hamilton is President of the Society for Conservation GIS, a Fellow of the World Conservation Monitoring Centre, and serves on the Science Committee of the National Park Service Advisory Board. She is a Switzer Foundation Environmental Leadership grantee and a former U.S. Fulbright Scholar.
Dr. David Harasti
David Harasti is a marine scientist who works for Fisheries NSW in Australia. He conducts research on marine protected areas and threatened marine species (sharks, seahorses and turtles). His primary passion is seahorse research and conservation and in 2014 he completed his doctorate on "The biology, ecology and conservation of the White's Seahorse Hippocampus whitei." He has been diving for 20 years and in that time he has developed a passion for marine life and underwater photography which can be seen through his website, www.daveharasti.com.
Dr. Heather Koldewey
Heather Koldewey is Senior Technical Advisor at the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) and the co-Founder and Field Programs Manager at Project Seahorse. She holds a BSc from the University of Plymouth and a PhD (Genetics) from the University of Wales, Swansea. Heather was previously the Section Head for Global Programmes, as well as Senior Curator for Aquarium Projects at ZSL.
Dr. Parichart Laksanawimol
Parichart Laksanawimol is a lecturer at Faculty of Science, Chandrakaseam Rajabhat University in Bangkok. Her research focuses on trade, aquaculture, histology, behavior and environmental factors affecting seahorses in Thailand. Currently she is studying temporal and spatial distribution, and life history of seahorses along the coast of Gulf of Thailand. She has studied Thai seahorses since 2002. Her Masters thesis was on “Histology of testis and brood pouch of brooding and non-brooding male seahorses, Hippocampus kuda” (Mahidol University, 2001-2004) and her PhD thesis focused on “Distribution, population dynamics and habitat preference of seahorses in the Eastern Gulf of Thailand” (Kasetsart University, 2007-2013).
Dr. Adam Lim
Adam Lim is a member of Save Our Seahorses Malaysia (SOS Malaysia). He studies syngnathid fishes extensively in Malaysian waters, focusing on various aspects of their biology and ecology, which provides a basis for their conservation. As part of his doctoral research, he studied the sound production mechanism and the acoustic signatures of various syngnathid species. Adam is also a member of the Bayer Young Environmental Envoy (Malaysia) alumni. He is currently a Research Associate of the Institute of Ocean and Earth Science (IOES), University of Malaya. He has a Bachelor of Science (Marine Biology) from the Universiti Malaysia Terengganu (UMT) and recently completed his Doctoral studies from the University of Malaya (UM).
Dr. Qiang (John) Lin
Qiang (John) Lin is a professor at the South China Sea Institute of Oceanology, Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS). His current focus is on the physiology, genome biology and evolution of fish in the syngnathid family (seahorse, pipefish, pipehorse and seadragon). He holds a PhD from the Sun Yet-san (Zhongshan) University on seahorse population genetics and conservation along China’s coast. As the director of International Partnership Program for Creative Research Teams and vice director of the CAS Key Laboratory of Tropical Marine Bio-resources and Ecology, he and his research group continue the research syngnathid fishes, as well as their conservation throughout the southeast Asian countries.
Dr. Patrick Louisy
Dr Patrick Louisy has been working on seahorse and pipefish biology and ecology for more than ten years. He is Associate Researcher at laboratory ECOMERS - Nice University, France, and is Scientific Manager of the French NGO Peau-Bleue which he founded in 1995. Patrick and Peau-Bleue have pioneered citizen science programs in France, including the Hippo-ATLAS project. Patrick is a well-known underwater photographer and a professional aquarist. He has published tens of books about marine life, on aquaria, aquarium husbandry and diving, including the notable “Europe and Mediterranean Marine Fish identification guide” and a wonderful new book on seahorses called "Hippocampes, une famille d’excentriques. "
Dr. Diego C. Luzzatto
Diego graduated in 1999 and earned his PhD in Biological Sciences in 2007 from Buenos Aires University (UBA). During that time he worked on population ecology of several species of marine invertebrates but also got involved in the description of the Patagonian Seahorse. Since he achieved his PhD he has been working for The National Scientific and Technical Research Council of Argentina (CONICET).
The research project focusses on "The genus Hippocampus in the Argentine Sea: Taxonomy, population ecology and guidelines for its management and conservation.”
Dr. Heather Masonjones
Heather Masonjones is a marine biologist specializing in behavioural ecology and reproductive physiology of seahorses and related fish species. Her research focuses on the evolution and diversification of male parental care in fishes, sexual selection and reproductive behaviour of fish, and the ecology and distribution of syngnathid fishes (seahorses and pipefishes) in Tampa Bay, the Florida Keys and the Bahamas.
Dr. Nuno Monteiro
Nuno Monteiro graduated in the University of Porto in 1996, where he also earned a MSc (2000) and a PhD (2005) as part of the GABBA Program. He moved to Research Centre in Biodiversity and Genetic Resources (CIBIO) in 2009, where he helped establish the Behavioural Ecology Group. He has been working mainly in animal behaviour, mating systems and sexual selection-related topics. Primarily using syngnathids as model species, he is currently addressing the mechanisms of post-copulatory sexual selection and its implications on species evolution.
Dr. Arumugam Murugan
Dr. Murugan is an Associate Professor at Vivekananda College, Manonmaniam Sundaranar University, India. He obtained an MSc in Coastal Aquaculture and earned PhD in Marine Biology from Annamalai University, India. His research interests include: taxonomy, systematics, exploitation and captive breeding of syngnathid fishes; breeding and rearing of coral reef fish, including syngnathids; and the taxonomy and systematics of fishes of the Tamil Nadu coast.
Dr. Tacyana P.R. Oliveira
Tacyana is an Assistant Professor at the State University of Paraíba (UEPB), Brazil, where she studies fish ecology, bioacoustics and conservation, primarily focusing on seahorses. She holds a BSc in Biology from the Federal University of Pernambuco (UFPE), and an MSc and a PhD in Zoology from the Federal University of Paraíba (UFPB). Tacyana has conducted research on population characteristics, habitat use, fisheries and trade/uses of seahorses to assist conservation initiatives in Brazil. During her PhD, she studied seahorse acoustic communication and, since then, has been assessing sound production and behaviour in these syngnathids, including their responses to human activities (i.e. boat traffic), particularly in estuarine ecosystems.
Riley Pollom (Red List Authority Coordinator)
Riley has worked in the field of biodiversity conservation for over 10 years. With degrees in geography and ecology from the University of Calgary, he has worked across Canada with businesses, NGOs, academia, and provincial and federal governments towards the conservation of diverse taxa, including burrowing owls, leopard frogs, cougars, and prairie dogs. Riley earned a MSc degree at Memorial University of Newfoundland where he studied freshwater fisheries and the infamous Atlantic cod through hydroacoustic field surveys. Recently he has brought his expertise to the IUCN Species Survival Commission’s Shark Specialist Group, where he now works to coordinate the efforts of ~130 international experts into a coherent global conservation agenda for over 1200 species of chondrichthyans. He remains as the Red List Authority for the SPS SG and is active in synganthid research and conservation.
Dr. Helen Scales
Dr. Helen Scales is a marine biologist turned author and documentary-maker based in Cambridge, England. Her work aims to nurture readers’ and listeners’ fascination in the natural world, especially the oceans. Her first book, Poseidon’s Steed (Penguin 2010), examined the curious lives of seahorses and the threats they face today. In Spirals in Time (Bloomsbury 2015), Helen explored the world of molluscs and their shells. Her stories about science and the ocean have appeared in the Guardian, BBC Wildlife Magazine, Natural History Magazine, Hakai and National Geographic News. Among her BBC radio documentaries, she’s explored the enduring dreams of living underwater and conquering the waves. Her latest book (Bloomsbury 2018) Eye of the Shoal dives into the wonders of fish. Website: www.helenscales.com
Dr. Mohammad Reza Shokri
Dr. Mohammad Reza Shokri is a marine biologist with research and teaching interests in fish ecology, coral reef ecology, marine conservation, and marine environmental management. His particular research interests include testing the surrogacy value of biotic and abiotic features of marine ecosystems, selecting and designing marine protected areas, coral reef molecular ecology, reef fish ecology, and the management and conservation of marine biodiversity. Dr. Shokri's work on seahorses and pipefishes began with university studies leading to a doctorate from University of Newcastle (Australia) where he tested the efficacy of seahorses and pipefishes as a flagship group to evaluate the conservation value of estuarine seagrass beds in estuaries in south-east Australia. After coming back to his home country Iran, Dr. Shokri continued studying the Caspian Sea pipefish. He loves working on these creatures because of their fascinating way of reproduction, and because most of them are listed internationally as Vulnerable or Endangered on the IUCN Red List and their protection could enlist public attention for their coexisting species and associated ecosystems.
Dr. Richard Smith
Richard Smith, a British marine biologist, underwater photographer and writer, aspires to promote an appreciation for the ocean's inhabitants and raise awareness of marine conservation issues through his images. A marine biologist by training, Richard's pioneering research on the biology and conservation of pygmy seahorses, led to the first PhD on these enigmatic fishes. Over the past decade, Richard's photographs and marine life focused features have appeared in a wide variety of publications around the world. Richard leads marine life expeditions where the aim is for participants to get more from their diving and photography by learning about the marine environment. Website: OceanRealmImages.com
Dr. Atsushi Sogabe
Atsushi Sogabe is an Associate Professor at the Faculty of Agriculture and Life Science, Hirosaki University. He holds BSc (2001), MSc (2003) and PhD (2007) from Ehime University. His research focuses on the diversity of mating systems in syngnathid fishes, especially concerning the life-long pair bonding in a monogamous pipefish. He is also currently working on the phylogeography and conservation genetics of syngnathid fishes in Japan.
Lily Stanton holds a BSc in Biology from the University of Victoria and an MSc in Biology from Acadia University. Focusing on conservation genetics, her master’s thesis examined the population genetic structure, taxonomy, and phylogeography of freshwater mussels in Atlantic Canada. Prior to joining Project Seahorse, Lily worked as Invertebrate Research Biologist with Fisheries and Oceans Canada and was involved in developing survey protocols, researching life history characteristics, identifying threats, and implementing the conservation management of aquatic species at risk. At Project Seahorse, Lily’s role is to provide technical and biological support to iSeahorse and the IUCN Seahorse, Pipefish & Seadragon Specialist Group.
Dr. Lucy Woodall
Dr. Woodall is a marine biologist based at the University of Oxford and is funded by Nekton. Her current research focuses on elucidating the processes that drive biodiversity in the marine biome and understanding the resilience of the ocean. She seeks to understand the impacts of human activities on the marine environment. In particular she has led deep sea research into microplastics and marine litter, and continues to engage and consult on these issues with national and international bodies. She has worked across the globe focusing on Syngnathidae and related fish, from seahorse conservation genetics in the shallows of the Mediterranean, to the biogeography bellowfish from remote Indian Ocean semounts.
Dr. Xiong Zhang
Xiong Zhang completed his PhD at The University of British Columbia where he studied seahorse biology and conservation with Dr. Amanda Vincent (supervisor) at Project Seahorse. A major interest of his PhD program was understanding seahorse distribution patterns and conservation issues, and providing scientific findings and conservation strategies to advance marine conservation, especially in China. During the last three years, he has conducted many field surveys along China's coast to determine seahorse taxonomy, distributions, fisheries, and trade in the country. His work has mobilized conservation action plans in governments, NGOs and raised awareness of seahorses in China. Before joining Project Seahorse, Xiong received his Masters degree from the Chinese Academy of Sciences, and Bachelors from Chongqing University, China.
Peet Joubert, Nature Management Services, South Africa
Click here for the directory of other fish specialist groups and Red List authorities on the IUCN website.
Banner image of Kulbicki’s pipefish (Festucalex kulbickii) by Richard Smith/oceanrealmimages.com