Erin E. Easton


Assistant Professor, SEEMS

(956) 882-5025

Department: SEEMS
Office: PPOB2 1.400A
Location: Port Isabel

UTRGV Faculty Profile

Curriculum Vitae



Areas of Interest

  • Benthic ecology and evolution
  • Biodiversity
  • Taxonomy and phylogeny
  • Mesophotic coral ecosystems
  • Deep-sea ecosystems
  • Biogeography
  • Population connectivity
  • Soft- and hard-bottom communities
  • Meiofauna
  • Macrofauna
  • Megafauna
  • Seamounts and oceanic islands
  • Environmental drivers of biodiversity and connectivity patterns


  • 2014 Ph.D. Oceanography, Florida State University
  • 2009 M.S. Oceanography, Florida State University
  • 2002 B.S. Biology, Indiana University

Research Overview


Our research efforts are focused on exploring and characterizing the biodiversity of marine benthos from the coast to the deep sea and exploring the evolutionary patterns of select taxa. Benthos are fauna that live in, on, or in association with the seafloor. We focus on the study of epibenthic megafauna on hard-bottom habitats and meiofauna of soft-bottom habitats. To study these benthic communities, we use a variety of tools to conduct biodiversity surveys; to explore biogeographic, community assemblage, and connectivity patterns; to identify potential drivers of these patterns; and to understand the phylogenetic and evolutionary relationships of select taxa. Of particular interest are the benthic communities of mesophotic and deep-sea habitats in the South Pacific and Gulf of Mexico.

For soft-bottom communities, we focus on the meiofaunal and macrofaunal studies from community-level analyses to species-level analyses, in particular of harpacticoid copepods. Previous work has been conducted on the infaunal communities of the eastern Pacific continental slope and the harpacticoid species of that region and the coastal Gulf of Mexico. We are interested in expanding these studies to include studies of the soft-sediment communities of Rio Grande Valley coastal ecosystems to monitor changes in response to natural environmental gradients, natural and human-caused disturbances, and restoration efforts.

For hard-bottom communities, we focus on the sessile and mobile benthic macrofaunal communities of mesophotic and deep coral ecosystems in the Gulf of Mexico and the seamounts and oceanic islands of the southeast Pacific. Of particular interest to our lab are community-level studies to explore distribution and connectivity patterns and the environmental conditions driving the observed patterns as well es ecological, connectivity, and evolutionary studies of octocorals of the Gulf of Mexico mesophotic and deep coral ecosystems.



*graduate student authors, ** undergraduate student authors, ^Book chapter

  • A Freidlander, W Goodell, J Giddens, Erin Easton, and D Wagner. Deep-sea biodiversity at the
    extremes of the Salas y Gómez and Nazca ridges with implications for conservation. (2021)
  • A Mecho, B Dewitte, J Sellanes, S van Gennip, Erin Easton, and J Gusmoa. Environmental drivers of mesophotic echinoderm assemblages of the southeastern Pacific Ocean. (2021)
  • Tapia-Guerra, J.M., Mecho, A., Easton, E.E., Gallardo, M., Sellanes, J. 2021. First description of deep benthic habitats and communities of oceanic islands and seamounts of the Nazca Desventuradas Marine Park, Chile. Scientific Reports 11:6209.
  • Wagner, D., van der Meer, L., Gorny, M., Sellanes, J., Gaymer, C.F., Soto, E.H., Easton, E.E., Friedlander, A.M., Lindsay, D.J. Molodtsova, T.N., Boteler, B., Durussel, C., Gjerde, K.M., Currie, D., Gianni, M., Brooks, C.M., Shiple, M., Wilhelm, T.A., Quesada, M., Thomas, T., Dunstan, P.K, Clark, N.A., Villanueva, L., Pyle, R.L., Clark, M., Georgian, S.E., Morgan, L.E. 2021. The Salas y Gómez and Nazca ridges: A review of the importance, opportunities and challenges for protecting a global diversity hotspot on the high seas. Marine Policy 126:104377.
  • Mecho, A., Dewitte, B., Sellanes, J., van Gennip, S., Easton, E.E., Gusmao, J.B. 2021. Environmental drivers of mesophotic echinoderm assemblages of the southeastern Pacific Ocean. Frontiers in Marine Science. 8:574780.
  • Asorey, C., Sellanes, J., Easton, E. E., Bieler, R., Mecho, A. 2020. Architectonica karsteni Rutsch, 1934 (Gastropoda: Architectonicidae) in seamounts of the Nazca-Desventuradas Marine Park: First evidence of an extant population in Chilean waters since the Miocene. Nautilus. 134(2):1-10.
  • Shepherd, B., Pinheiro, H., Phelps, T., Easton, E. E., Pérez-Matus, A., Rocha, L. 2020. A New Species of Chromis (Teleostei: Pomacentridae) from mesophotic coral ecosystems of Rapa Nui (Easter Island) and Salas y Gómez, Chile. Copeia. 108 (2), 326-332.
  • Easton, E.E., Hicks, D. Complete mitogenome of Carijoa riisei (Octocorallia: Alcyonacaea: Stolonifera: Clavulariidae). Mitochondrial DNA Part. B. 5, 1826–1827.
  • Morelos*, N., Easton, E.E., Friedlander, A. M., Harvey, E. S., Garcia, R., Gaymer, C.F. 2019. Spatial and seasonal differences in the top predators of Easter Island: essential data for implementing the new Rapa Nui multiple-uses marine protected area. Aquatic Conservation: Marine and Freshwater Ecosystems. 29 (S2), 118–129.
  • Mecho, A., Sellanes, J., Easton, E.E., Gorny, M., Mah, C. 2019. Unexplored diversity of the mesophotic echinoderm fauna of the Easter Island ecoregion. Marine Biology, 166, 91.
  • Easton, E.E., Hicks, D. 2019. Complete mitochondrial genome of Callogorgia cf. gracilis (Octocorallia: Calcaxonia: Primnoidae). Mitochondrial DNA Part. B. 4, 361–362.
  • Hoeksema, B.M., Sellanes, J., Easton, E.E. 2019. A high-latitude, mesophotic Cycloseris field at 85 m depth off Rapa Nui (Easter Island). Bulletin of Marine Science. 95(1), 101–102.
  • ^Easton, E. E., Gorny, M., Mecho, A., Sellanes, J., Gaymer, C. F., Spalding, H. L., Aburto, J. 2019. Chile and the Salas y Gómez Ridge. In: Mesophotic Coral Ecosystems, Coral Reefs of the World, vol 12, pp. 477-490. Loya, Y., Puglise, K. Bridge, T. (eds.) Springer, Cham.
  • Rodriguez*, R., Easton, E. E., Shirley, T. C., Tunnell, J. W. Jr., Hicks, D. 2018. Preliminary multivariate comparison of coral assemblages on carbonate banks in the western Gulf of Mexico. Gulf and Caribbean Research. 29(1), 23–33.
  • Gorny, M., Easton, E. E., Sellanes, J. 2018. First record of black corals (Antipatharia) in shallow coastal waters of northern Chile by means of underwater video. Latin American Journal of Aquatic Research. 46, 457–460.
  • Easton, E. E., Gaymer, C. F., Friedlander, A.M., Herlan, J. J. 2018. Effects of herbivore abundance, wave exposure, and depth on benthic coral communities of the Easter Island Ecoregion. Marine and Freshwater Research. 69(6), 997–1006.
  • Rohal, M., Thistle, D. Easton E. E. 2018. Extraction of metazoan meiofauna from muddy deep-sea samples: operator and taxon effects on efficiency. Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology 502, 105–110.
  • Easton, E E., Sellanes, J. 2018. First record of the yellowfin soldierfish, Myripristis chryseres Jordan and Evermann 1903 (Beryciformes: Holocentridae), in the Easter Island Ecoregion. Pacific Science 72, 143–148.
  • Easton, E. E., Gaymer, C. F., Sellanes, J., Morales*, N., Berkenpas, E., Gorny, M. 2016. Diversity of deep-sea fishes of the Easter Island Ecoregion. Deep-sea Research Part II 137, 78–88.
  • Easton, E. E., Thistle, D. 2016. Do some deep-sea, sediment-dwelling species of harpacticoid copepods have 1,000-km-scale range sizes? Molecular Ecology 25, 4301-4318.
  • Easton, E. E., Darrow**, E. M., Spears T., Thistle D. 2014. The mitochondrial genomes of Amphiascoides atopus and Schizopera knabeni (Harpacticoida: Miraciidae) reveal similarities between the copepod orders Harpacticoida and Poecilostomatoida. Gene 538, 123–137.
  • Easton, E. E., Thistle, D. 2014. An effective procedure for DNA isolation and voucher recovery from millimeter-scale copepods and new primers for the 18S rRNA and cytb genes. Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology 465, 135–143.
  • Rohal, M., Thistle, D., Easton, E. E. 2014. Meiofaunal abundances on the continental rise off the coast of California. Deep-sea Research Part I 93, 131–144.
  • Easton, E. E., D. Thistle, and T. Spears. 2010. Species boundaries in Zausodes-complex species (Copepoda: Harpacticoida: Harpacticidae) from the north-eastern Gulf of Mexico. Invertebrate Systematics 24, 258–270.

Present Courses

  • MARS 2101 – Principles in Marine Sciences
  • MARS4370/5370 - Benthic Ecology
  • MARS 4301 - Marine Science Communication