Our group is broadly interested in how human-induced changes alter how ecosystems function and the services that they provide.
Three primary questions drive much of our research:
1) What is the role of biodiversity and community structure in mediating ecosystem function, particularly in the context of global anthropogenic change?
2) Can artificial reefs be effective tools for fisheries and coral reef restoration?
3) What is the ecological relevance of trait variation (e.g., behavior) among individuals within populations?
Below are examples of some of the various approaches we use to address these questions.
Theory-driven applied ecology in a changing world
Artificial reefs mimic patch reefs and function as an ideal experimental unit that can be directly manipulated. We use this design to test three primary research questions:
1) What is the role of consumer excretion around artificial reef for mediation habitat characteristics?
2) How do fishing pressure and nutrient pollution mediate this process?
3) Can artificial reefs function to enhance local fisheries production?
4) Can artificial reefs be used for coral reef restoration (see video at right above)?
This research is conducted in The Bahamas and Haiti and in close collaboration with Craig Layman
The importance of consumers for mediating nutrient dynamics has long been recognized in freshwater and terrestrial ecosytems. Our research has extended this understanding to coastal marine ecosystems.
We have constructed the largest datset of cosumer nutrient excretion - allowing novel tests of the applicability of metabolic theory and ecological stoichiometry to describe these processes. We also use these data to understand the role of biodiversity, community structure and fishing pressure for mediating these dynamics at the ecosystem-scale in coral reef, seagrass and mangrove ecosystems.
We are now extending questions beyond the Caribbean and to the Pacific.
Fishing and nutrient pollution are two of the most pressing conservation issues in coastal ecosystems. Understanding how these stressors are altering the structure and function of coastal ecosystems provides allows me to frame my research in the context of theory and conservation. This research incorporates
We incorporate top-down (food web) and bottom-up (nutrient cycling) perspectives into this research in conjunction with a suite of approaches ranging from stable isotope analyses and manipulative experiments to ecosystem modeling and numerical simulations.
FOOD WEB ECOLOGY
Much of our research focuses on understanding trophic interactions between consumers and their resources.
This work ranges from: manipulations of fish abundances using cage experiments, to dietary analyses of fishes, including the invasive lionfish, to using stable isotopes to understand species interactions, niche widths and foraging behavior, including vampire bats in Peru (collaborator Daniel Streicker) or coral feeding strategies in Palua (collaborator Dustin Kemp).
A more recent direction of our research is understanding the role of individual behavior in mediating ecosystem processes. The underlying question is: does understanding variation in behavior within populations improve our understanding of emergent ecosystem-scale patterns?
This research is applied - using quantitative metrics to test how habitat restoration mediates movement behavior in juvenile salmonids, and theoretical - using population and biodiversity theory to test for emergent patterns in individual behavior.