Research
Home Research People Publications Links Opportunities


Phenotypic Plasticity
Phenotypic plasticity is the ability of an individual to alter its phenotype in response to the environment.  I focus on inducible offenses, which are features of organisms that are phenotypically plastic and enhance competitive ability or the ability to find, capture or consume prey.  I have shown that snails in the genus Lacuna change tooth shape in response to cues from their diet and the environment.  My interests span all levels, from the functional morphology of traits, the ecological consequences of traits, and the evolutionary patterns of these traits among closely related species.  Currently we are: (1) Developing and testing models of the costs and benefits of inducible, reversible morphologies, and the consequences of linked responses, including behavior, (2) Measuring factors considered important in these models including: lag time to induction, frequency of habitat variability, differential costs and benefits in terms of growth, and life-time fecundity associated with the function of different morphologies in different environments, (3) Determining the functional consequences of phenotypically plastic feeding apparatus morphology in gastropods, and (4) Assessing evolutionary patterns of form and variability in a phylogenetic context within the gastropod family Littorinidae as well as among other families of gastropods.

Functional Ecology
In general, functional ecology considers organismal traits (e.g, morphology, physiology, behavior) as mechanistic drivers of evolutionary and ecological patterns and processes.  We study the functional morphology of feeding apparatus of gastropods, mechanical properties of phenotypic features, and most recently, the role of thermal ecology in affecting the direct and indirect impact of non-native oysters that are invading the shores of the San Juan Archipleago in Washington State .

 

Invasion Ecology

I work on a wide range of aquatic invaders, both freshwater and marine, including the zebra mussel, Asiatic clam, Eurasian watermilfoil, marine aquaculture escapees, as well as organisms introduced through aquarium and ornamental trade and related activities.  We use a variety of species and approaches to develop general tools and understanding of biological invasion, its ecological controls and consequences, as well as applying this information to control introduction, spread and minimize ecological impacts of invasive species.  My current work focuses on links between hydrodynamics and the spread and control of these aquatic invaders, the potential for metapopulation dynamics to be exploited for control (zebra mussels and the Pacific oyster, Crassostrea gigas), system-specific differences in impacts and characteristics of invaders (zebra mussels, Dreissena polymorpa, quagga mussels, Dreissena bugensis, the golden mussel, Limnoperna fortuni, Asiatic clam, Corbicula fluminea) impacts of invaders in marine reserves and protected areas (C. gigas and other invaders). 

I have continuing collaborations with international scientists, especially those from the Former Soviet Union.  Considerable research was conducted on important invaders, including the zebra mussel, for over a hundred years that is not available to western scientists who do not read Russian or have access to Soviet scientific journals.  My goal has been to increase international communication and collaboration, make this vast literature available to western scientists, and exchange information, ideas and develop joint research ventures with Former Soviet scientists.

I am also studying the spread of invaders in marine reserves and sanctuaries, and how reserve design may facilitate or minimize the spread of likely invaders.  The spread of the non-native oyster Crassostrea gigas to marine reserves in the San Juan Islands may be undermining the utility of these sites as conservation tools.  In collaboration with Terrie Klinger, University of Washington , we have found that these invaders are more abundant inside than out of reserves.  We have conducted a series of field experiments and observations to determine if environmental, genetic or other factors have facilitated this invasion, the impacts of C. gigas on the benthic community, and potential mechanisms that may drive indirect impacts of this invader.

 

Restoration and Conservation Ecology

We are working with the Long Island Chapter of The Nature Conservancy on a project to restore hard clam, Mercenaria mercenaria, populations in Long Island bays.  The harvest of hard clams from Long Island bays, especially Great South Bay , was the most successful and profitable shellfish fishery in the northeast until over harvesting resulted in the complete collapse of hard clam populations and the fishery in the late 1970's.  Loss of this important ecosystem engineer has also had negative consequences for the entire ecosystem, thus restoring dense clam populations is an essential element of restoring ecosystem function and thereby restoring and protecting this important habitat and resource.  We are working to determine the bottlenecks in the population biology of hard clams that will impact restoration and recovery including adult fertilization efficiency, the densities of larvae produced in the system and their growth to metamorphosis, the impacts of harmful algal blooms on hard clam larvae, and the impacts of the legacy of larval diets and feeding on juvenile survivorship and growth.

We are also working on the impacts of invasion, larval dispersal and colonization in marine reserves, focusing on Pacific coast marine reserves, especially those in the Northern Puget Sound controlled by the University of Washington Friday Harbor Laboratories .  Introductions of non-native species for aquaculture is of growing concern.  My preliminary research indicates that aquaculture, rather than ballast water, is the primary source of invaders found in Pacific marine reserves and protected areas.  I will be expanding this research to include marine reserves and protected areas on the Atlantic and Gulf Coasts of the US to see if this pattern is universal.