Research conducted by my lab group focuses on plankton ecology. We are broadly interested in factors which promote phytoplankton growth (organic and inorganic nutrients), as well as factors which are responsible for algal mortality (zooplankton, viruses, filter-feeding bivalves) in diverse aquatic ecosystems including estuaries, the Great Lakes, and the North Atlantic Ocean. A primary focus of my lab within the field of plankton ecology has been the study of harmful algal blooms (HABs), having investigated blooms of brown tide (Aureococcus), cyanobacteria (Microcystis, Anabaena, Synechococcus), dinoflagellates (Cochlodinium, Alexandrium, Gymnodinium, Prorocentrum), and raphidophytes (Heterosigma) both locally and around the US. Our research is largely field-oriented and utilizes traditional, molecular, and experimental techniques to contrast the dynamics and ecological niche of HAB species with those of co-occurring non-harmful species.
Another research focus within my laboratory is on the ecological functioning and trophic status of estuaries. Estuaries represent some of the most productive, biodiverse, and important ecosystems on earth. However, with half of the US population, 90% of New York State counties, and 100% of Long Island townships being located on coastal water ways, a series of environmental problems have arisen in these systems in recent decades. My lab group is engaged in research aimed toward understanding how anthropogenic activities such as eutrophication, overharvesting of fisheries, and salt marsh / shoreline modification may alter the natural biogeochemical and/or ecological functioning of estuarine ecosystems.
A final area of interest of my lab is how phytoplankton influence biogeochemical cycles of organic carbon, nutrients, and trace metals in aquatic ecosystems. Photosynthetic fixation of elements into cellular material by phytoplankton is the primary source of organic matter to the world’s oceans. The synthesis and subsequent processing of this organic matter can have a substantial impact on nutrient cycles, microbial food webs, trace metal availability, the global carbon cycle and global warming. As such, our research in this area is focused on documenting and quantifying biogeochemical processes associated with the production and release of various elements and organic matter by phytoplankton.
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