Research

Our group is interested in understanding the functioning of aquatic ecosystems

and how that functioning can be effected by man or can affect man. We focus

much of our efforts investigating the organisms at the base of aquatic food webs,

phytoplankton, and have been particularly focused on harmful algae. We investigate

harmful algal blooms (HABs) caused by multiple classes of phytoplankton

(cyanobacteria, dinoflagellates, diatoms, pelagophytes) in diverse ecosystems

(e.g. estuaries, lakes, coastal ocean) using a multiple methods (field, laboratory,

experimental, molecular). In many cases, we explore how gene presence and

expression may facilitate the onset and demise of HAB events. We also explore

how community diversity changes over the course of blooms. These molecular

studies of HABs coupled with other approaches have collectively identified

how nutrient regulation of growth, zooplankton grazing, viral lysis, allelopathy

and grazing by bivalves influence the dynamics of HABs caused by genera

such as Alexandrium, Aureococcus, Aureoumbra, Cochlodinium, Dinophysis,

Microcystis, and Pseuodonitzschia.

 

A second research focus within our laboratory is climate change and coastal ocean

acidification. The combustion of fossil fuels has enriched levels of CO2 in the

world’s oceans and decreased ocean pH. The degradation of anthropogenically

enriched organic matter levels in coastal ecosystems can have a similar effect on

ocean chemistry today. The continuation of these processes can alter the growth,

survival, and diversity of marine organisms. Within this realm, we have been engaged

in studies that are investigating how future and current coastal ocean acidification

effects the survival and performance of algae and larvae from bivalves and fish

indigenous to North America. We further strive to understand how co-occurring

stressors related to both climate change and shallow coastal ecosystems (hypoxia,

thermal stress) affect the performance of marine animals.

 

A third area of interest of my lab group is the understanding the ecological

functioning and trophic status of shallow marine ecosystems. We investigate how

anthropogenic activities such as eutrophication and the depletion of fisheries may

alter the natural biogeochemical and/or ecological functioning of coastal ecosystems.

In many cases, we have explored the quantitative importance and impacts of various

nitrogen loading pathways on primary producers or the interactions and feedbacks

among nutrient delivery pathways, pelagic phytoplankton communities, benthic filter

feeders, and benthic autotrophs such as seagrass. All of these studies have important

societal impacts and relevance for the management of shallow, coastal ecosystems.

Many of these project are part of the lab’s Long Island Coastal Conservation and

Research Alliance program and the Shinnecock Bay Restoration Program.