My research is at the intersection of community and ecosystem ecology and my overarching goal is to use basic knowledge gained from this research to inform conservation of habitats and communities in the face of a changing world. Over the last 30 years, a vigorous debate has developed in ecology which concerns one of the most basic conceptual models of our time, namely whether communities are structured by forces from the top (consumers) or the bottom (resources) or as a result of the interactions between these forces. What gives this question critical new importance is the widespread occurrence of rapid and catastrophic phase shifts that have been associated with human alterations of top down and bottom up forces.
My students, collaborators, and I are conducting research at the forefront of this critical area, which has relevance not only to ecologists, but also to those concerned about the effects of climate change, alteration of biogeochemical cycling, and accelerating human use of natural resources. Specifically, my research seeks to further our basic understanding of how the relative strength of and interaction between top-down and bottom-up processes shape communities. Further, and perhaps most importantly, we ask why their relative importance varies across different coastal marine communities.