Dr. Mike Gil (he/his)

Principal Investigator

Ph.D., University of Florida, USA (2015)

B.S., University of Texas at Austin, USA (2008)

michael.gil [at]

Ramaley C-389

I’m broadly interested in the intersection of ecology, evolution, conservation, and animal behavior. I use a combination of field experiments and modeling to understand how individual decision-making by wild animals can shape ecosystems and how these systems respond to human-driven environmental change. Much of my empirical work has focused on spying on fish in coral reefs, ‘Big Brother’/‘1984’-style to carefully measure (with the help of many cameras) how environmental inputs map onto behavioral outputs. My favorite study species (so far), the roving herbivores (e.g., parrotfish, surgeonfish, rabbitfish), are especially interesting to probe, because they perform the critical ecological function of controlling (by eating) algae, which can otherwise kill coral and degrade entire coral reef ecosystems. In addition to my ‘traditional Academic activities’ of research, teaching and mentoring, I founded and direct, a mass-science-communication platform that uses vlogging (video blogging) to humanize scientists, demystify the process of scientific discovery, and make STEM careers accessible to all. To learn more, check out and

Ella Henry (she/her)

Ph.D. student

BA & MA, University of Cambridge, UK

Hi, I’m Ella, a first-year grad student in the Gil Lab. I am fascinated by the adaptive value of collective behaviour. Social behaviour can act as a ‘hidden’ agent of selection through strengthening or relaxing the selection a trait is under, but collective behaviour’s selective pressure is rarely studied. I want to understand whether certain performance traits of group living species, such as rigid interaction rules or the use of a quorum response to reach consensus, correlate with other behavioural and physical traits. Does the presence of collective behaviour accelerate or retard the rate of evolution; does it ecologically trap populations at sub-optimal fitness peaks? What role may collective behaviour play in the evolutionary responses to anthropogenic change ‒ will behaving collectively buffer the impact of developing abiotic selection pressures, or leave species more vulnerable? Outside of my research, I am committed to making science accessible to all, through outreach in the form of podcasts, blogs and talks.

Samantha “Sam” Rothberg (she/her)

Ph.D. student

BA, Amherst College, USA

Sam is a first year PhD student in the Gil Lab. Originally from Scarsdale, NY, she has spent the past five years attending school and then working at Amherst College. In Amherst, Sam worked in labs researching chickadee social behavior and plant disease ecology. Through her research and her work leading outdoor trips, she has spent a lot of time mentoring diverse groups of students and is incredibly excited to continue to do so. Sam is interested in using field-based and mathematical methods to study the effect of social behavior on larger-scale community dynamics. She is also passionate about examining and rethinking the effect of global power structures (colonialism, capitalism, etc.) on the construction of ecological theories and conservation plans. In her free time, Sam loves to run, climb, make puns, and bake/eat dessert.

Theo Bragstad (he/him)

Undergraduate student

Hi, I’m Theo! I’m a sophomore undergraduate student in the Gil Lab. I’m studying computer science in the school of engineering. On a broad level I enjoy finding ways to use technology and computer science to solve problems creatively. More specific to the Lab, I’m interested in applying software and data analysis techniques to better understand animal behavior within their natural environments, and I am also interested in learning about AI/ML and how those types of techniques can be used to have a positive impact within a variety of fields including ecology. I was born and raised in Boulder, and in my free time I like to play tennis, mountain/road bike, hike, and spend time with my family and dogs.

Anna Klein (she/her)

Undergraduate student

Hi, I’m Anna! I am a junior undergraduate student studying Ecology and evolutionary biology with a minor in Space. I am interested in exploring how changes in environmental systems can affect an organism’s biology and behavior overtime. Considering the amount of changes in the environment, I think it is important to study the outcomes of these changes so that we can better understand and mitigate the impact of our behavior as human beings on the natural world. Previously, I worked as a member of a conservation crew involved with forest management in Chaffee County, CO. I enjoy my free time playing lacrosse, and exploring the outdoors as much as possible.

Nicole Perez (she/her)

Undergraduate student

Hello, I’m Nicole, a first-year undergraduate student joining the Gil Lab! I’m currently studying ecology & evolutionary biology, along with media production here at Boulder. I’m curious to explore how organisms in marine ecosystems connect and interact with each other, interested in learning to apply a technological lens to this. I am also very passionate about science communication, finding new and niche ways to present academic findings to the public in a way that is not only informative, but also entertaining. I’ve lived in Colorado my whole life, with some of my favorite things being hiking, roller skating, going for long walks, and helping my mom with her garden.  

Kate Silvester (she/her)

Undergraduate student

Hi my name is Kate and I am a senior undergraduate student studying Ecology and Evolutionary Biology with a minor in Anthropology. I am broadly interested in marine ecology and behavior but more specific to the Gil Lab, I’m interested in group and schooling dynamics in reef fish. I want to explore how group behavior can affect coral ecosystems and the potential for adaptation in fish behavior with the presence of climate change. My life outside of school involves Muay Thai, working with dogs and exploring nature.


Liam Gutierrez (he/him)

Undergraduate student

Hey, I’m Liam, and I’m an undergraduate student studying Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at the University of Colorado, Boulder. I’m interested in a broad spectrum of biology, and love to find ways to solve problems. In my spare time I love to rock climb, make music, go on outdoor adventures, and cook.

Eva Ramey (she/her)

Lab Manager

MAS, Scripps Institution of Oceanography at University of California San Diego, USA

BA, Lewis & Clark College, USA

I’m broadly interested in addressing research questions related to quantifying how marine organism social networking is impacted by environmental changes across trophic levels and how social interactions and functional roles of marine organisms shift over space and time in response to both disturbance and ecosystem restoration scenarios. Overall, as a marine ecologist I’m dedicated to using science to help make a difference for conservation. I have a diverse background working in terrestrial and marine research and science education. I’m motivated by the important work of advocating for and fostering justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion in marine science. My experience conducting research on coral reefs inspired me to become a dive professional and I enjoy sharing my love for the ocean through teaching SCUBA diving and underwater photography.

Kalen Meine (he/his)

Research Technician

Why do big piles of things behave differently than small piles of things? Why do big piles of living things do even weirder stuff? Why be social? How often are living things cooperating and we don’t notice? When do living things act out deeper patterns we mostly connect to other branches of science? What are all these creepy crawlies thinking, and how does that affect how the living world looksThese are the sorts of questions that make me pace the floor and write on windows- but first, we need heaps and heaps of data, and here in the lab I’m working on building new instruments and software to put coral reefs under surveillance. The rest of the time I’m tutoring high school and undergrad students and accumulating more books than can possibly be read in one lifetime.

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