I study the causes and consequences biodiversity change in marine and freshwater systems. To do this, my collaborators and I use a variety of techniques at multiple scales of ecological organization—including behavioural observations, manipulative field experiments, theoretical models, and studies along anthropogenic gradients— to understand how drivers like invasion, climate change, and over-exploitation are altering species interactions within aquatic food webs. My aim is to advance foraging and population dynamics theory in ways that help practitioners and policy makers predict and manage for future environmental conditions. My work takes place in close collaboration with university, government, NGO, and citizen scientists on several themes:
Community response to changing species distributions
A key challenge for understanding how biodiversity will respond to disturbances like climate change and biological invasion is a lack of general principles from which to predict the strength of novel interactions as species encounter one another for the first time. My research is tackling this issue by investigating the role behavioural and morphological traits play, independent from species identity, in determining the strength of interactions between predators and prey.
Sample papers: Green and Côté 2014, Journal of Animal Ecology
Using ecological thresholds in conservation and management
The pace and scale of established invasions often greatly outstrip the resources available to eradicate them, setting up a long-term battle for control. To date there has been little focus on developing practical guidelines for efficiently combating the ecological effects of invasions for which complete eradication is unlikely. But there is hope: suppressing invasive species at local scale (particularly within protected areas and sensitive habitats) is proving an effective way to protect local communities from invasion impacts. My work supports the development of management strategies that are both effective and efficient at combating invader-induced changes to native communities.
Sample papers: Green et al. 2014, Ecological Applications
Size-based models of ecosystem productivity and stability
A key barrier to understanding how populations respond to disturbance is
a lack of species-specific data on growth rates, reproduction, and mortality needed to generate population models. My research is addressing this problem by developing biomass production modelling techniques that combine theory on the size basis of predator-prey interactions with metabolic
scaling principles governing the relationship between organism size, and growth and mortality rates. The result is an approach that can be used to create spatially-explicit estimates of
productivity from simple ‘snapshot’ surveys of community size structure.
Patterns, process, and consequences of invasion
Predicting the effects of invasion on recipient ecosystems is a top challenge for conservation. My research seeks to uncover magnitude and mechanisms of ecological change driven by invasive species in freshwater and marine communities. To address this ongoing problem, I build tools that help managers forecast the consequences of invasion intensification and spread, and decide how to best use resources to prevent and reverse the impacts of invasion.
The rapid spread of Indo-Pacific lionfish (Pterois volitans/miles) throughout the Western Atlantic, Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico is emerging as one of the most devastating marine invasions in history. Well defended from predation by venomous spines, and limited in what they can eat largely by the size of their mouths, lionfish populations are increasing at a rapid pace and spreading like wild fire throughout the region. My research is uncovering the effects of this invasion on Atlantic marine communities- which are proving to be the rapid depletion of many native fish species, including economically important fisheries species, and ecologically important algae grazers and parasite removers.
Pertinent questions that my work asks are:
- To what extent must lionfish populations be
suppressed to protect native species from negative effects?
- How can we most effectively allocate resources, in terms of maximizing ecological protection and minimizing control costs?
- Do environmental and biotic factors influence recolonization?
Uniting ecological and social science for conservation
How can we harness sufficient human and economic capital to tackle the biggest environmental challenges facing us today, and at relevant temporal and spatial scales? I am interested in understanding the role non-traditional methods and partnerships—such as market development, volunteer engagement, and media communication—play in addressing conservation problems. In particular, my research focuses on the ways a variety of societal sectors can influence the application of ecological research to conservation, in terms of identifying research needs, assisting with research execution, disseminating results, and facilitating uptake into practice.