Isabel Porto Hannes


Geology Department

Evolution, Ecology, Behavior Program
isabelha at buffalo dot edu

Research interests

  • Aquatic ecology, population genetics, restoration and conservation

Personal statement

Isabel Porto Hannes was born and raised in Bogota, Colombia. She became a scuba diver in 1997 and her appreciation of aquatic environments motivated her to pursue a career in biology. She completed her Bachelors in Science in 2006 at the Universidad de los Andes (Bogota-Colombia). Her undergraduate project focused on coral-algal symbiosis, in particular, detecting sources of free living Symbiodinium in Caribbean coral reefs. She continued her education at Universidad de los Andes by pursuing a Masters in Science degree. Her Thesis research focused on genetic connectivity of the Caribbean coral species Montastrea faveolata along the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef. For the last two years she worked for Dr. Howard Lasker at University at Buffalo, supporting his research on the population genetics of the Caribbean octocoral species Pseudopterogorgia elisabethae.

Although her background/research is in marine ecology, during the past years she has become more familiar with freshwater systems. Since moving to Buffalo she has had the incredible experience of living the Great Lakes region and learning about its ecology and environmental challenges. While learning about the Great Lakes she was introduced to one of the most fascinating group of animals: freshwater pearly mussels (Family: Unionidae; also known as unionids or naiads). They are large bivalves that live in the sediments of rivers, streams, and lakes worldwide. Although this group is highly diverse, it is the most threaten taxa in the United States as a result of human impacts and recently by the introduction of exotic species (dreissenid mussels). Isabel’s research will focus on population genetics and demography of some representative taxa within unionids providing baseline data that will help resource managers and interested environmental agencies to develop restoration and conservation efforts to sustain the existing unionid community.

The interdisciplinary training that the ERIE program provides will be extremely beneficial for her doctoral research because it involves not only topics related to the biology of unionids and associated fish, but also aspects in hydrology, water chemistry, ecosystem management and environmental policy. Her main advisors are Dr. Lasker and Dr. Burlakova.



  • BS in Biological Sciences (Universidad de los Andes, Bogota-Colombia, 2006)
  • MS in Biological Sciences (Universidad de los Andes, Bogota-Colombia, 2008)

Publications / Presentations


  • Porto-Hannes I. & Lasker H.R. (2013). Isolation and characterization of 7 microsatellite loci in the Caribbean gorgonian Antillogorgia elisabethae. Marine Biodiversity DOI: 10.1007/s12526-013-0154-7

  • Shearer TL, Porto I, Zubillaga AL (2009) Restoration of coral populations in light of genetic diversity estimates. Coral Reefs. Volume 28, Issue 3, pp.727-733

  • Porto I, Granados C, Restrepo JC, Grajales A, Sanchez JA (2008) Macroalgal-associated dinoflagellates belonging to the genus Symbiodinium in Caribbean Reefs. PLoS ONE 3(5): e2160 doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0002160


  • Porto-Hannes I., Lasker H.R., & Burlakova L.E. (2013, March). Determination of dispersal and gene flow at multiple scales in unionids: from sperm to species. Poster presented at Freshwater Mollusk Conservation Society: Species Recovery and Restoration - From Concept to Implementation, Guntersville, Alabama. 
  • Blersch, D.M., Blersch, S.S., Habberfield, M., Hannes, I., Malzone, J., & Whiteway, S. (2012, June). The disconnect between ecosystem services concept and ecosystem function in stream restoration: where do we go from here? Paper presented at the 12th Annual American Ecological Engineering Society Meeting, Syracuse, New York.
  • Hannes, I.P, Burlakova, L., & Lasker, H. (2012, May). Proposed study of Unionid community below and above escarpments from Lake Ontario and Lake Erie tributaries. Poster presented at the 55th International Association for Great Lakes Research (IAGLR) Annual Conference, Cornwall, ON, Canada.
  • Hannes, A; Hannes I.P. 2011. Benthic Ecological Assessment for the Great Lakes Method.  4th National Conference of Ecosystem Restoration (NCER). Baltimore, MD.

  • Porto, I; Salazar, C; Shearer, T. Are Montastraea faveolata populations connected along the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef System?. Poster presented at 2008 XI International Coral Reef Symposium,  Fort Lauderdale, FL.

  • Porto, I; Sánchez, J.A. Where do free-living zooxanthellae live in the Caribbean coral reefs? Poster presented at 2006 Evolution Meeting, Stony Brook University, NY.