My research focuses on the dynamics of disturbance, resilience, recovery, and restoration of marine ecosystems and the species that call them home. This broad topic includes research on how, when, and why ecosystems and species decline and recover the way they do, how species interactions influence these processes, and how to prevent or reverse population declines using applied approaches ranging from bycatch reduction to active restoration techniques. You can find my CV here.
My interests in disturbance ecology stem from repeated exposure to extreme environmental events. My PhD dissertation research under Dr. Mike Heithaus at Florida International University focused on the legacy effects of a marine heat wave in Shark Bay, Western Australia, which resulted in major seagrass loss. Through a combination of observational and experimental work, I was able to estimate the impact of seagrass loss to the local megafauna community and determine whether or not predation risk generated by tiger sharks (Galeocerdo cuvier) could stabilize that community following such a destructive event. This triggered a greater interest in how consumers and extreme events can influence each other to influence the resilience and recovery of disturbed ecosystems. Since joining Mote in 2017, I have worked on the impacts of Hurricane Irma on seagrass ecosystems (the strongest storm to hit the keys in over 80 years), the influence of seagrass-coral dynamics on infection and mortality rates of coral from Stony Coral Tissue Loss Disease, the worst disease to hit the Florida Keys Barrier Reef in decades, and how to reduce nurse shark bycatch in spiny lobster traps, among other projects. I am driven by the belief that by increasing our understanding of disturbance and climate change impacts on ecosystems, we can design and implement intervention methods to promote ecological resilience, including species management, water management, and restoration. I use a combination of field experiments, lab experiments, surveys, and submersible camera technology to address these foci.