Research Projects

Some Current Projects

Image by Zdeněk Macháček

Generalized Functional Responses and Predator Diversity

Changes in predator diversity via extinction and invasion are increasingly widespread, often with dramatic ecological and socioeconomic consequences. Unfortunately, despite decades of research ecologists ability to predict how changes in predator diversity affects ecosystem function remains limited. We are engaged in NSF funded research focused on developing new theoretical, and statistical approaches that generalize predator functional responses to better predict predator diversity ecosystem function relationships.

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Understanding ecological responses to climate change and sea level rise


Global climate change and other anthropogenic activities are having dramatic and accelerating impacts on habitats and the natural functioning of ecosystems globally. Because environmental change poses a threat to biodiversity in affected landscapes, understanding and predicting how species respond to rapid environmental changes is a sorely needed focal point for research. In general, it is assumed that as habitats change and become less suitable, organisms must either acclimate to the novel conditions, migrate/retreat to less affected habitats, adapt in situ, or be extirpated.  We  are interested in the ecological and evolutionary adaptive responses by species and ecosystems to changing habitat conditions.

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Intraguild predation and host parasite dynamics

Parasites and pathogens are critical components of food webs. Parasites can account for more biomass than free-living species in some systems. Trophic interactions among host species are often paramount for parasite transmission and for regulating both the hosts and parasites population demographics. However, much of what we know about parasite transmission in complex communities focuses on single-host parasites with direct life cycles, or on a single life stage of parasites that use multiple hosts. We are investigating how intraguild predation (IGP) among hosts affects parasites whose life cycles involve multiple hosts in sequence.

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Effects of Plastic Pollution on Species Interactions in Coastal Food Webs

Plastic pollution is accumulating in our oceans, particularly in coastal habitats. Each plastic contains a unique cocktail of chemical additives, which gradually leach into the environment. Most of these chemical leachates are not well studied, but many have been shown to be bioactive, disrupting physiological functions or misinterpreted as chemical cues throughout an array of taxa. The resulting behavioral changes may have rippling effects in marine communities through ecological and trophic connections. We are investigating how bioactive leachates from plastic are impacting the behaviors and trophic interactions between octopuses and a variety of other benthic invertebrates in coastal food webs.