Fish dissection


The Choy Lab is located in the Integrative Oceanography Division at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California, San Diego. Research in our lab traces the flow of organic matter through marine ecosystems, focusing on the trophic connectivity of species and assemblages in deep pelagic waters. Our lab applies multi-disciplinary tools to investigate governing trophic processes and how they may shift with global environmental change and commercial fishing pressure.

We employ a targeted combination of empirical diet work and a diverse suite of biochemical tracers (stable isotopes, trace metals and contaminants, fatty acids), alongside ecosystem modeling and in-situ ecological observation with remotely operated vehicles.

Lab members in lab


Anela Choy

Principal Investigator

Anela is a sea-going biological oceanographer with research expertise in open ocean (water-column and deep-sea) food web structure and function. Her core research focuses on how organic matter flows through and connects species and assemblages, as driven by feeding and movement. Additionally, using a suite of multi-disciplinary tools, Anela’s work interrogates the impacts of global environmental change and commercial fishing pressure on pelagic ecosystems. Anela received her M.S. in Oceanography in 2008, and her Ph.D. in Oceanography in 2013, both from the University of Hawaii. She was a post-doctoral research fellow at the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute from 2015 to 2017.

Elizabeth Hetherington

Postdoctoral Researcher

Liz is broadly interested in marine food web ecology, predator-prey dynamics, and how climate change and other anthropogenic stressors affect food web relationships in marine ecosystems. As a postdoc, Liz is working on examining the diets and trophic ecology of siphonophores in deep pelagic ecosystems. Her work relies on stomach content and stable isotope analyses to elucidate the diets of marine organisms. Liz received her M.S. in Marine and Environmental Science from the University of San Diego in 2013, and her Ph.D. in Biology from the University of California, San Diego in 2018.

Tammy Russell

PhD Student, Biological Oceanography

Tammy is interested in how climate change and fisheries impact seabird distributions, including their foraging ecology and shifts in their associated food webs. Tammy is currently researching the distribution and diversity of seabirds within the California Current. She received her B.S. in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology from the University of California, Santa Cruz in 2018.

Julia Chavarry

Lab Technician

Julia is interested in human influences on the ocean and improving our understanding of the ecology of marine animals. Currently, Julia is examining the rate at which forage fishes encounter plastic debris off the California coast. In the Fall, Julia will be a Ph.D. student in Biological Oceanography in the Choy Lab, and is interested in researching the ecology of commercially valuable marine fish through a combination of empirical laboratory work and computational modeling. Julia received her B.A. in Earth and Planetary Sciences and Behavioral Biology from Johns Hopkins University in 2017.



Refining Understanding of Marine Food Webs Using Stable Isotopes

  1. Romero-Romero S, Choy CA, Hannides CCS, Popp BN, Drazen JC. In press. Differences in the trophic ecology of micronekton driven by diel vertical migration. Limnology and Oceanography.
  1. Pethybridge H*, Choy CA*, Logan J, Allain V, Lorrain A, Bodin N, Somes CJ, Young J, Ménard F, Langlais C, Duffy L, Hobday AJ, Kuhnert P,, Fry B, Menkes C, Olson R. A global meta-analysis of marine predator nitrogen stable isotopes: relationships between trophic structure and environmental conditions. 2018. *Equal first-authorship. Global Ecology and Biogeography 27: 1043-1055.
  1. Gloeckler K, Choy CA, Hannides C, Close H, Goetze E, Popp BN, Drazen JC. 2018. Stable isotope analysis of micronekton around Hawaii reveals suspended particles are an important nutritional source in the lower mesopelagic and upper bathypelagic zones. Limnology and Oceanography 63(3): 1168-1180.
  1. Madigan D, Chiang W, Wallsgrove N, Popp B, Kitagawa T, Choy CA, Tallmon J, Ahmen N, Fisher N, Sun C. 2016. Intrinsic tracers reveal recent foraging ecology of giant Pacific bluefin tuna at their primary spawning grounds. Marine Ecology Progress Series 553: 253-266.
  1. Choy CA, Popp BN, Hannides CCS, Drazen JC. 2015. Trophic structure and food resources of epipelagic and mesopelagic fishes in the North Pacific Subtropical Gyre ecosystem inferred from nitrogen isotopic compositions. Limnology and Oceanography 60: 1156-1171.
  1. Bradley CJ, Wallsgrove NJ, Choy CA, Drazen JC, Hetherington ED, Hoen DK, Popp BN. 2015. Trophic position estimates of marine teleosts using amino acid compound specific isotopic analysis. Limnology and Oceanography: Methods 13(9): 476-493.
  1. Arthur KE, Kelez S, Larsen T, Choy CA, Popp BN. 2014. Tracing the biosynthetic source of essential amino acids in marine turtles using δ13C fingerprints. Ecology 95(5): 1285-1293.
  1. Hannides CCS, Popp BN, Choy CA, Drazen JC. 2013. Midwater zooplankton and suspended particle dynamics in the North Pacific Subtropical Gyre: a stable isotope perspective. Limnology and Oceanography 58: 1931-1946.
  1. Choy CA, Davison P, Drazen JC, Flynn A, Gier E, Hoffman JC, McClain-Counts J, Miller T, Popp BN, Ross S, Sutton T. 2012. Global trophic position comparison of two dominant mesopelagic fish families (Myctophidae, Stomiidae) using amino acid nitrogen isotopic analyses. PLoS ONE 7(11): e50133.

Deep-Sea Food Web Ecology using in situ Observations

  1. Choy CA, Haddock SHD, Robison BH. 2017. Deep pelagic food web structure as revealed by in situ feeding observations. Proceedings of The Royal Society B 284: 20172116.
  1. Haddock S, Christianson L, Francis W, Martini S, Powers M, Dunn C, Pugh P, Mills C, Osborn K, Seibel B, Choy CA, Schnitzler C, Matsumoto G, Messié M, Schultz D, Winnikoff J, Gasca R, Browne W, Johnsen S, Schlining K, von Thun S, Erwin B, Ryan J, Thuesen E. 2017. Insights into the biodiversity, behavior, and bioluminescence of deep-sea organisms using molecular and maritime technology. Oceanography 30(4): 38-47. 10.5670/oceanog.2017.422

Diet and Ecology of Pelagic Species and Communities

  1. Portner EJ*, Polovina JJ, Choy CA. 2017. Patterns in micronekton diversity across the North Pacific Subtropical Gyre from the diet of longnose lancetfish (Alepisaurus ferox). *Graduate student mentoring product. Deep Sea Research Part I 125: 40-51.
  1. Duffy L, Kuhnert P, Pethybridge H, Young J, Olson R, Logan J, Goñi N, Romanov E, Allain V, Staudinger M, Abecassis M, Choy CA, Hobday AJ, Simier M, Galván-Magaña F, Potier M, Ménard F. 2017. Global trophic ecology of yellowfin, bigeye, and albacore tunas: understanding predation on micronekton communities at ocean-basin scales. Deep Sea Research Part II 140: 55-73.
  1. Choy CA, Portner E, Iwane M, Drazen J. 2013. The diets of five important mid-trophic mesopelagic fishes of the central North Pacific. Marine Ecology Progress Series 492: 169-184.
  1. Drazen JC, Popp BN, Choy CA, Clement T, De Forest L, Smith Jr. KL. 2008. Bypassing the abyssal benthic food web: Macrourid diet in the eastern North Pacific inferred from stomach content and stable isotope analyses. Limnology and Oceanography 53: 2644-2654.

Mercury Dynamics in Pelagic Food Webs

  1. Sackett DK, Drazen JC, Popp BN, Choy CA, Blum JD, Johnson MW. 2017. Carbon, nitrogen and mercury isotope evidence for the biogeochemical history of mercury in Hawaiian marine bottomfish. Environmental Science & Technology 51(23): 13976-13984.
  1. Sackett DK, Drazen JC, Choy CA, Popp BN, Pitz GL. 2015. Mercury sources and trophic ecology for Hawaiian bottomfish. Environmental Science & Technology 49(11): 6909-6918.
  1. Blum JD, Popp BN, Drazen JC, Choy CA, Johnson MW. 2013. Evidence for methylmercury production below the mixed layer in the North Pacific Ocean. Nature Geoscience 6: 879-884.
  1. Choy CA, Popp BN, Kaneko JJ, Drazen JC. 2009. The influence of depth on mercury levels in pelagic fishes and their prey. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA 106(33): 13865-13869.

Ecosystem Modeling

  1. Pethybridge H, Choy CA, Fulton EA, Polovina JJ. 2018, *Invited review. Improving ecosystem models with biochemical tracers. Annual Review of Marine Science 10: 199-228.
  1. Choy CA, Wabnitz C, Weijerman M, Woodworth-Jefcoats P, Polovina JJ. 2016. Finding the way to the top: how the composition of mid-trophic micronekton groups determines apex predator biomass in the central North Pacific. Marine Ecology Progress Series 549: 9-25.

Ecosystem Dynamics of Marine Plastic Pollution

  1. Katija K*, Choy CA*, Sherlock RE, Sherman AD, Robison BH. 2017. From the surface to the seafloor: How giant larvaceans transport microplastics into the deep sea. *Equal first-authorship. Science Advances 3(8): e1700715.
  1. Choy CA, Drazen JC. 2013. Plastic for dinner? Observations of frequent debris ingestion by large predatory fishes from the central North Pacific. Marine Ecology Progress Series 485: 155-163.

Global Trophodynamics of Marine Top Predators

  1. Young JW, Hunt BPV, Cook T, Llopiz J, Hazen E, Pethybridge H, Ceccarelli D, Lorrain A, Olson RJ, Allain V, Menkes C, Patterson T, Nicol S, Lehodey P, Kloser R, Arrizabalaga H, Choy CA. 2015. The trophodynamics of marine top predators: Current knowledge, recent advances and challenges. Deep Sea Research Part II 113: 170-187.
  1. Young JW, Olson RJ, Menard F, Kuhnert PM, Duffy LM, Allain V, Logan JM, Lorrain A, Somes CJ, Graham B, Goni N, Pethybridge H, Simier M, Potier M, Romanov E, Pagendam D, Hannides C, Choy CA. 2015. Setting the stage for a global-scale trophic analysis of marine top predators: a multi-workshop review. Reviews in Fish Biology and Fisheries 25: 261-272.

Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion in Earth Science

  1. Bruno BC, Wren J, Noa K, Wood-Charlson E, Ayau J, Leon Soon S, Needham H, Choy CA. 2016. Summer bridge program establishes nascent pipeline to expand and diversify Hawaiʻi’s undergraduate geoscience enrollment. Oceanography 29: 286-292.
Fish skull

Contact Us

Dr. Anela Choy

Assistant Professor
Integrative Oceanography Division
Scripps Institution of Oceanography
University of California, San Diego
9500 Gilman Drive, MC 0218
La Jolla, CA 92093-0218

e-mail address

Google scholar profile

Twitter @anelachoy

office phone  +1 (858) 822-3020

office location  Sverdrup Hall 2173

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