Marine Benthic Ecologist
I am broadly interested in the relationships between marine invertebrates and their environment, particularly early life stages.
With unlimited time and money, most ideal experimental designs in biology would include sampling over multiple time periods. This would allow us to investigate behavioural, physiological, molecular and environmental changes linked to daylight, tides, seasons, and annual cycles. Unfortunately, logistical constraints often preclude such temporal replication. My research focuses on how relationships between environmental and biological variables may change over time, particularly as it relates to the surrogacy research described below.
Global Change Biology
Climate change and stratospheric ozone layer depletion are changing the environment in which marine invertebrates live. Extreme temperatures, increased UVR, ocean acidification, changing precipitation patterns, and increased storm intensities may all affect marine invertebrates, particularly early life stages and intertidal organisms. I have found that several stressors associated with global change may interact to exacerbate the negative effects on marine molluscan development. Importantly, consideration of only a single stressor may underestimate the effects of climate change.
Many marine environments and taxa are difficult to sample, either due to species rarity or habitat restrictions. As such, surrogates that are easier to sample may be crucial to provide an indication of species abundance or biodiversity. As part of my current work with Geoscience Australia, I'm primarily interested in abiotic surrogates, with the aim of relating geological and oceanographic data to marine biodiversity and community structure in deep sea environments. This research will be valuable to marine conservation groups to identify key areas of protection, as well as industry to ensure best practice during petroleum exploration and planning.
There is often a large barrier in science between academic research and public knowledge which seems to stem from communication difficulties on the academic side and disinterest on the public side. I'm interested in rhetoric and writing tactics that clearly convey scientific findings to a broad variety of audiences, including regional and cultural differences in effective communication styles.
Many marine invertebrates produce larvae that swim freely in the water for hours, weeks, or months before they find a suitable food or habitat cue and settle on the seafloor. Larvae can be exposed to different environmental pressures, including temperature and salinity changes, exposure to ultraviolet radiations, predation, and dietary constraints. My research focuses on how these potential stressors interact to affect larvae, both directly through increased mortality and slower development, and indirectly through latent effects. An understanding of the relationships of larvae to their environment is important because this ultimately controls population and community structure and biodiversity.