My lab 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 diversity of methods (field, laboratory, experimental, molecular). In many cases, we explore how gene presence and expression may facilitate the onset and demise of HAB events. 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 Alexandrium, Aureococcus, Aureoumbra, Cochlodinium, Dinophysis, Microcystis, and Pseuodonitzschia.
A second and expanding research focus within our laboratory is 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.
A final 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 over-harvesting 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 Gobler’s Stony Brook - Southampton Coastal and Estuarine Research Program.