Research

My research focuses on the evolutionary ecology of consumer-resource interactions, movement and locomotion, and ecological niches. Specifically, I have three main avenues of research: 1) natural and anthropogenic causes of diet and niche variation as well as the consequences of that variation, 2) drivers of organismal movement across scales, and 3) stable isotope ecology.

 

Diets and niches

How diets and niches vary and how this variation affects other species is an essential question in ecology, and my research aims to better understand these variations using a broad suite of species. For example, I am currently researching how the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill, as well as how other factors like freshwater exposure and fisheries interactions, has affected common bottlenose dolphin diets. Other projects that I have worked on investigated how environmental factors such competition, resource diversity, and habitat structure affected intra- and interspecific niche overlap in amphibians and birds.

 

Understanding movement across scales

Movement is vital to how many organisms interact with the world. Movement offers a direct link from individual physiological and neurological processes driving behaviors that affect population and community level processes. My research aims to understand how environmental factors, such as temperature and resource distribution, affect movements and how these movements can in turn affect consumer-resource interactions and risks to environmental disturbances. My research also aims to understand how internal factors, such as body size, morphology, and internal state effect movement. Since the world is rapidly changing, understanding external and internal drivers of movement can help us make predictions regarding how species may react to climate change, habitat change and loss, urbanization, and increasing homogenization.

 

Stable Isotope Ecology


Stable isotopes are an invaluable tool in the ecologists toolkit, but their seeming simplicity masks important complications that can arise across trophic levels among different tissue types that are used to obtain the isotopes. Trophic discrimination occurs when consumers differentially select for heavy or lighter isotopes when incorporating them into their tissues. Different tissues incorporate new isotopes at different rates, and the rate that a tissue incorporates new isotopes determines the time period in which those isotopic data are relevant. Furthermore, laboratory studies that research trophic discrimination and incorporation rates do so in very sterile environments and these isotopic properties can vary with body size and temperature. When these complexities are not properly handled, ecological inferences will be erroneous. Oftentimes, important management decisions are made from studies that use isotopic data and it therefore vital to ensure that isotopic data is accurate as possible.