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Vania Coelho, PhD

Dr. Coelho is a tenured associate professor at the department of natural sciences and mathematics. She has a master’s degree in ecology and a Ph.D. in zoology, both from University of São Paulo, Brazil. She completed most of her doctorate research while she was working as a visiting scientist at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of Natural History, in Washington, D.C. After completing her doctorate, Dr. Coelho held a post-doctoral research scientist position initially, and later an associate research scientist position, at Columbia University. In 2007, she received the “Excellence in Education” Service Award from the City of San Rafael Chamber of Commerce, San Rafael, CA. From 2009 to 2013, Dr. Coelho served as faculty coordinator for Dominican’s Center for Sustainability. In 2012, she led a campus-wide sustainability assessment that resulted in a Bronze rating in 2013 for Dominican from AASHE’s STARS ( Currently, she is the Environmental Sciences representative for the department chair’s executive council, and the faculty advisor for all biology majors in the ecology and environmental sciences emphasis. She has also been the faculty advisor for Dominican’s student green club since its creation in 2007. Her current research focus is on coral reef ecology; she is particularly interested in management strategies that can help mitigate the effects of climate change on corals. Her most recent research project received funding from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Dr. Coelho teaches Bio Research Methodology, Ecology & Evolution, Environmental Sciences, International Field Biology and Marine Biology.

Associate Professor


Office:  Science Center #124
Lab:  Science Center #121

Academic Area

Ecology and Environmental Sciences

Educational Background

  • PhD Zoology, University of São Paulo, Brazil 
  • MSc Ecology, University of São Paulo, Brazil 
  • BSc Biology, University of São Paulo, Brazil

Teaching & Research

Dr. Coelho's current research focus is on conservation ecology of marine ecosystems, particularly coral reefs. Her interests include the role of protected reserves in ecosystem conservation, management strategies that can help mitigate the effects of climate change on corals, community involvement in conservation and restoration efforts, public education and awareness, and finally, university campus sustainability issues. In addition, she is interested in the influence of top-down and bottom-up processes in the structuring of epifaunal communities associated with algae, especially in tropical environments. She has also researched different aspects of ecology and evolutionary biology of marine crustaceans including behavior, functional morphology, natural history, systematics, and population ecology. Dr. Coelho’s courses reflect her interests and expertise in conservation biology, ecology,  environmental sciences, marine ecosystems, as well as, international teaching and scientific research.


Quinn LD, Kolipinski M, COELHO VR, Davis B, Vianney JM, Batjargal O, Alas M, Ghosh S. 2008. Germination of invasive plant seeds after digestion by horses in California. Natural Areas Journal 28(4): 356-362

COELHO VR, Manfrino C. 2007. Coral community decline at a remote Caribbean island: marine no-take reserves are not enough. Aquatic Conservation: Marine and Freshwater Ecosystems 17(7): 666-685

Brusca RC, COELHO VR, Taiti S. 2007. Isopoda. [chapter] In: Carlton, JT (ed). The Light and Smith Manual: Intertidal Invertebrates from Central California to Oregon. 4th edition. University of California Press, Berkeley. PP 503-542

COELHO VR. 2004. Feeding behavior, morphological adaptations and burrowing in thalassinidean crustaceans. Proceedings of the Symposium on “Ecology of Large Bioturbators in Tidal Flats and Shallow Sublittoral Sediments - From Individual Behavior to their Role as Ecosystem Engineers”. Pages 1-6. Nagasaki University, Nagasaki, Japan.

COELHO VR, Rodrigues SA. 2001. Setal diversity, trophic modes and functional morphology of feeding appendages of two callianassid shrimps, Callichirus major and Sergio mirim (Decapoda: Thalassinidea: Callianassidae). Journal of Natural History 35(10): 1447-1483

COELHO VR, Rodrigues SA. 2001. Trophic behavior, setal types and functional morphology of the feeding appendages of the laomediid shrimp, Axianassa australis. Journal of the Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom 81: 441-454

COELHO VR, Cooper RA, Rodrigues SA. 2000. Burrow morphology and behavior of the mud shrimp, Upogebia omissa (Decapoda: Thalassinidea: Upogebiidae). Marine Ecology Progress Series 200: 229-240

COELHO VR, Williams AB, Rodrigues SA. 2000. Trophic strategies and functional morphology of feeding appendages, with emphasis on setae, of Upogebia omissa and Pomatogebia operculata (Decapoda: Thalassinidea: Upogebiidae). Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society 130: 567-602


“Coral Growth Under Thermal Stress and Shading in American Samoa”, poster presented at the Twelfth International Coral Reef Symposium, Cairns, Queensland, Australia, 2012
“Will Coral Reefs Become Extinct? A Looming Consequence of Climate Change”, lecture presented at the World Affairs Council of Northern California, Marin Chapter, and co-sponsored by the Marin Chapter of the United Nations Association, San Rafael, CA, 2012
 “Preventing Bleaching Through Shading in Three Common Branching Coral Species: Case Studies in
Tutuila and Ofu”, lecture presented at the Department of Marine and Wildlife Resources, American Samoa, 2011
“Preventing Bleaching through Shading in Three Common Branching Coral Species: Preliminary Results from the Ofu Experiments”, lecture presented at the National Park Service Headquarters, American Samoa, 2011

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