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 studies, manipulative field experiments, theoretical models, and time series analyses 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 act future environmental conditions. My work takes place in close collaboration with university, government, NGO, and citizen scientists on several themes:
Marine ecosystems under global change
How will ecosystems and the resources we derive from them respond to disturbances like climate change and biological invasion? A key challenge for tackling this question is a lack of general principles from which to predict the strength of novel interactions as species encounter one another for the first time. Our research is tackling this issue by
investigating the role behavioural and morphological traits play, independent from species identity, in determining the strength of
Patterns, process, and consequences of biological 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. Pertinent questions that my work asks are:
- To what extent must invasive populations be suppressed to protect native species from negative effects?
- How can we most effectively allocate resources for management intervention to maximize ecological protection and minimize socio-economic costs?
- How do environmental and biotic characteristics influence invasion intensity?
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.
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.