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Conservation experts

Conservation experts

November 15, 2022 at 10:37am

FIU has a team of conservation scientists, protecting some of the world’s most endangered and threatened species. 

This year’s 19th World Wildlife Conference will focus on stricter trade regulations for nearly 600 species of animals and plants under threat of extinction from international trade. More than 50 proposals have been put forward to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) and will be reviewed at the meeting of the Conference of the Parties (CoP19) from Nov. 14 - 25 in Panama. 

FIU experts are available to discuss many of the species included in the proposals and what these protections might mean for some of the world's most endangered species.

Members of FIU's College of Arts, Sciences & Education communications team are available to assist members of the media in contacting experts:


Mark Bond

Research Assistant Professor
College of Arts, Sciences & Education

Mark Bond puts critically important data into the hands of key decision-makers — to protect some of the world’s most endangered sharks and rays. His work is a mix of applied field research and international policy work, largely centered on sharks and rays. Today, one of the biggest threats to sharks and rays is overexploitation, driven by the global shark fin trade. Bond gathers and presents data to governments and decision-makers via multinational agreements, such as CITES, to protect these species. He also works with customs, fisheries, and environment enforcement officials to help implement domestic regulations and increase the compliance and data collection capacity required for effective management. He’s working to improve the regulation and enforcement of shark and ray management in the Bahamas, Dominican Republic, Jamaica, Haiti, South Africa, Madagascar, Mozambique, Tanzania and The Seychelles. 


Diego Cardeñosa

Distinguished Postdoctoral Scholar
College of Arts, Sciences & Education

Cardeñosa uses DNA detective work to uncover the mysteries of the global shark fin trade. His recent research showed two-thirds of shark species in the fin trade are at risk of extinction — and the study will provide key evidence for deliberations at the 19th meeting of the Conference of the Parties (CoP19) to CITES. He’s led groundbreaking research to trace fins back to their source. With funding from the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation, Cardeñosa also created a portable, easy-to-use DNA testing toolkit that gives customs officials and inspection personnel the power to identify illegal species on-site and have the proof to prosecute crimes. The tool is being used in Hong Kong and Peru with great success. Cardeñosa is available for interviews in Spanish.

Research highlights:

Twitter: @DiegoCardenosa
Instagram: @diegocardenosa


Mike Heithaus

Executive Dean and Marine Ecologist
College of Arts, Sciences & Education

Well-known internationally through his research on the ecological role of large sharks both in Australian and Florida waters, Mike Heithaus also serves as the executive dean of the College of Arts, Sciences & Education at FIU. He currently conducts research using cutting-edge technology, including cameras worn by animals, to unravel the lives of hard-to-study marine creatures from whales and dolphins to sharks, seals and turtles. His lab’s work in Shark Bay, Australia is the most detailed study of the ecological role of sharks in the world and has been used as the underpinning for affecting positive policy changes in shark conservation initiated by several prominent Non-Governmental Organizations. He also serves as a member of the science advisory committee for Pew Environment’s International Shark Campaign and was one of the lead researchers for Global FinPrint.

Research highlight: 

Twitter: @MikeHeithaus
Instagram: @mike_heithaus


Matt Shirley

Conservation Biologist
College of Arts, Sciences & Education

Matt Shirley is a conservation biologist relying on flagship species to advance conservation and ecology research in the West and Central African tropical forests and wetlands. His applied research programs are focused on crocodilians, pangolins, and forest-dwelling tortoises — where he employs different technology to better understand the secret lives of some of the world's most endangered species. His work has resulted in the recognition of 3 new crocodile species in Africa and a better understanding of the processes shaping their distribution, population structure, and abundance. This enables him to implement applied conservation work to ensure the future of these species populations, including conservation breeding and reintroductions, reinforcement of local national parks and wildlife management authority capacity, and training African graduate students. Recently his work is expanding into the policy domain, where Matt works with the IUCN to guide mechanisms for species trade through CITES. 

Research highlights:

Twitter: @projectmecistops


Hong Liu

Professor and Conservation Biologist
College of Arts, Sciences & Education

Hong Liu is on a mission to save some of the world's most endangered orchids. Her current research addresses important environmental issues such as predicting horticultural plant naturalization, the ecological consequences of specialized invasive pollinators and invasive mutualism. She's also interested in rare plant restoration, especially endangered orchids. She is currently leading several conservation and restoration research projects in a remote area in southwestern China where the first orchid nature preserve is situated. She teaches courses in restoration ecology and invasive species ecology. 

Research highlights:


Alessandro Cattenazi

Assistant Professor
College of Arts, Sciences & Education

Alessandro Catenazzi searches for biodiversity, identifying new species of amphibians in previously unexplored parts of the Amazon. His research is focused on frog ecology and conservation, and the directions of the lab are diverse — from disease ecology to taxonomy and community ecology to physiology, but all with the goal of documenting and preserving biological diversity. He has helped discover more than 60 previously unknown species of amphibians, along with 7 species of reptiles, a diatom and a spider.

Research highlights:


Christian Cox

Assistant Professor
College of Arts, Sciences & Education

Christian Cox studies the evolution of functional diversity in nature. Understanding how diversity is promoted and maintained within species is crucial for predicting the impact of selection and the potential for adaptive evolution at all biological levels. His research integrates physiology, evolutionary biology, transcriptomics and genomics to understand both the evolution and function of phenotypic, functional and genetic variation at different levels of biological organization, between sexes, within species and among species.

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