Dr. Valentina Di Santo

Assistant Professor of Functional Morphology

Division of Functional Morphology

Bolin Centre for Climate Research

Department of Zoology

Stockholm University

valentina.disanto (at) zoologi.su.se

twitter: @valedisanto

Google Scholar Page

Valentina is a fish ecophysiologist and biomechanist. She was born in La Spezia, a town by the sea in Italy. She studied Natural Sciences and Conservation Biology at the University of Firenze in Italy. Her love for fishes brought her to the University of West Florida where she studied the effect of temperature on digestion rates and efficiency in stingrays and sharks. She then moved to Boston University to study in the Marine Program for her PhD, where she quantified the effects of ocean acidification and warming on little skate development, energetics and escape performance. At Boston University she also studied the effect of body size on thermal sensitivity in cleaner gobies from Florida and Belize. During that time, she conducted field work and taught several classes in the Marine Semester in Belize. After completing her PhD, she worked in George Lauder's Lab at Harvard University as a Postdoctoral Fellow, where she focused her research on biomechanics of fish locomotion. At Stockholm University, she combines eco-physiology and biomechanics tools to understand how fishes adjust their locomotor behavior when challenged by abiotic factors, such as temperature, pH, oxygen, and flow. 

Outside the lab, Valentina enjoys music, improving her ukulele playing skills, swimming and surfing.

Postdoctoral Fellows

Dr. Elizabeth Murphy

Elizabeth studies aquatic biomechanics: how organisms interact with their fluid environment. She has a background in organismal biology and fluid physics and her research addresses how organisms influence ecosystem processes and impact engineered systems, and how the functioning of organisms within their ecosystems is affected by environmental change. Elizabeth received a B.A. in integrative biology at University of California, Berkeley and a PhD in Environmental Science at the University of Virginia. At UVa, she conducted research in coastal ecology (specifically, studying creatures that live in the mud), as well as on the hydrodynamics of biofouling on ship hulls (why does algae growing on a boat create so much drag?). After completing her PhD, Elizabeth worked as a postdoctoral fellow in the department of Ecology and Environmental Sciences at Umeå University, where she studied the effects of warming and oxygen depletion on burrowing organisms in lake bottoms- and how those organisms transport solutes such as oxygen and nutrients between the lake water and sediment (mud). As a postdoc in the Di Santo lab, Elizabeth will study the hydrodynamics and kinematics of fish schooling, as well as the effects of boundary layer turbulence on fish swimming and walking performance. When not in the lab, Elizabeth enjoys hiking, cycling, SCUBA diving, baking, and learning about Swedish customs such as the all- important fika.


Website: https://elizabethmurphy.netlify.app


Graduate Students

Guadalupe Sepúlveda Rodríguez

PhD Student

Guadalupe was born in Mexico City, Mexico, but spent her childhood exploring the ocean in Zihuatanejo, a small fishing town off the Pacific Coast of Mexico. Her fascination for the ocean grew over time and she set her mind to becoming a marine biologist. Her dreams became a reality when she completed her BSc in Marine Science and Biology with a minor in Environmental Science at the University of Tampa and her MSc in Freshwater and Marine Biology at the University of Amsterdam. She is now a PhD student at Stockholm University in the Di Santo Lab. Her research goals include shedding light into the effects of climate change stressors on the physiology and biomechanics of fish locomotion and understanding the mechanisms that drive species to acclimate and adapt to changing environments. Currently, she is investigating the effect of speed on collective behavior in schooling and shoaling fishes. During her free time, Guadalupe enjoys doing yoga, swimming, diving, hiking and learning new languages.

Irene Villanueva Sanz

Master Student

Irene was born in Madrid, Spain. She completed her undergraduate degree in Biology at the Complutense University of Madrid (UCM). While an undergraduate at UCM she obtained the Erasmus Fellowship  to study at Lund University in Sweden in 2019. Currently, she is a  Master student in Ethology at Stockholm University (2019-2021). She is interested in animal behavior, physiology and adaptations to environmental variations. In the Lab, she is investigating the effect of climate change stressors on behavior and physiology, particularly during collective motion such as schooling behavior.

Guadalupe sepulveda.jpg

Hayley McDermott

Master Student

Originally from Cape Cod, Massachusetts, Hayley is now a first year Master student in Ethology at Stockholm University. She has previously studied at Háskóli íslands in Reykjavik, Iceland and received her Bachelor of Science degree in Biological Anthropology, with a minor in Biological Sciences from the George Washington University in Washington, DC. She is interested in the ontogeny of sharks and other cartilaginous fishes. 

Undergraduate Students

Joana Henze

Marine Biology Student


Joana was born in Halle Saale, Germany. Since early childhood she has been fascinated by marine organisms, and spent hours observing fishes in her home aquarium. After moving to Sweden, Joana started exploring the archipelago and she decided to study science. She studied Natural Sciences at Nyströmska Skolan (Söderköping) and attended a Marine Conservation program in Key West, USA. Joana wrote her bachelor’s thesis review paper on the effect of ocean warming on social behavior in schooling fishes after joining the Di Santo Lab at Stockholm University. In the Di Santo Lab, Joana is investigating maneuvering in schooling fishes.


Visiting Students

Rebecca Bridge

Erasmus Student


Rebecca is originally from Warrington, England. She studies Marine Biology & Zoology + International Experience at Bangor University, North Wales and joined the Di Santo Lab as part of her final year as an undergraduate. Her interests surround the impact of climate change stressors on marine animal physiology and behavior. In the lab, Rebecca will be undertaking research on the effect of temperature in fish schooling behavior and assisting her fellow lab members with their projects. During her spare time, she likes rock climbing, yoga and hiking.

Darby Finnegan

Fulbright Scholar


Darby is from Grangeville, Idaho, USA. She completed her B.S. in biology at Western Washington University, and she joined the Di Santo Lab this year as a Fulbright U.S. Student grantee. She is interested in using the fields of biomechanics and functional morphology to understand how fish are impacted by environmental changes, and in the lab, she studies how ocean acidification alters the development of schooling in fishes. When not in the lab, she enjoys trail running, playing the flute and guitar, and paddleboarding!

Lab Alumni

Matilda Vilmar  - Undergraduate Student

Effect of ocean warming and ocean acidification on elasmobranch locomotion

Belén Navarro Rivero - Master Student

Schooling behavior in forage fishes

Thao Vu - Undergraduate Student

Sexual dimorphism in the visual system of deep sea fishes

Annika Samuelson - Undergraduate Student

Maneuvering and unsteady swimming in Little skate

Anna Tran - Undergraduate Student

Effect of hypoxia on activity and metabolic rates of skate embryos