Our research focuses on plants and animals that live on the seafloor in shallow-waters and how the environment shapes their interactions and physiology. This research is often done in the framework of how humans modify coastal ecosystems and how best to manage them. Our current research (outlined below) is focused on: 1) how human-made structures shape the ecology of the northern Gulf of Mexico and 2) the effects of global environmental change on estuarine and sea- grasses.
Artificial reef ecology
Artificial reefs are human-made structures often placed in the ocean to increase fishing opportunities. Along the coast of Alabama, where this research is largely being done, hard substrate is a limiting resource, and reefs are surrounded by soft sediment. Therefore, these hard structures create habitat for invertebrate (e.g. barnacles, crabs, anemones) and algal communities that otherwise may not be there. Our research questions, in the Northern Gulf of Mexico, focus on describing primary production on and surrounding reefs and the link to fish production. Because these reefs could be stepping-stones for species range expansions into warming waters, we also seek to describe the role of reefs in the maintenance and spread of nuisance and vulnerable species under climate change.