RESEARCH AREAS

We use a combination of modelling and empirical work to understand the dynamics of biological turnover at all scales: from the turnover of energy and nutrients at the scale of individual organisms, to turnover of individuals in space and time (population and community ecology), to the turnover of species in geographical space (macroecology) and over macroevolutionary time. Most of our ongoing work falls into the following areas:

Species Richness Gradients

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One key challenge in the study of species richness gradients is that the traditional approach to testing hypotheses – essentially documenting correlations between species richness and hypothesized explanatory variables (such as temperature) – is insufficient to conclusively discern between competing hypotheses. <More>

Commonness and Rarity at Macroecological Scales

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The explosion of interest in the neutral theory of biodiversity, with the publication of Hubbell’s book in 2001, has reinvigorated the study of patterns of commonness and rarity, a topic that has been studied by ecologists since the seminal work of researchers such as Motomura, Fisher, MacArthur, and Preston nearly a century ago. A major challenge to understanding what drives such patterns in nature is that different mechanisms can give rise to very similar, or in some cases identical, predictions. <More>

Community Ecology

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We have very broad interests in community ecology (on coral reefs and elsewhere). These include heterospecific aggression and community structure in butterflyfishes, diversity-stability relationships, trophic dynamics of coral reefs and temporal niche partitioning in nitrogen competition by microalgae.  <More>

Dispersal and Connectivity on Coral Reefs

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Dispersal has a major effect on ecological and evolutionary dynamics. We are interested in better understanding dispersal in the coral reef environment, characterizing dispersal potential in a way that facilitates better predictive modelling of dispersal patterns, and understanding the demographic and community-level implications of dispersal. <More>

Ecological Energetics and the Dynamics of Reef-Building Corals

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The ecological distribution and population dynamics of organisms depends upon their energy and nutrient budgets: the rate at which they can acquire energy and nutrients from the environment, how they allocate it to maintenance, growth, and reproduction, and how those energy allocation patterns influence survival and reproductive schedules. From the standpoint of metabolism and energetics, corals are particularly interesting because they have multiple levels of organization – the coral colony, the individual polyp within the colony, and the individual zooxanthellae (algal symbionts) that live inside the colony. <More>

Effects of Fishing on Coral Reefs

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Although past work has also focused on the impact of fishing on the population viability of reef sharks, ongoing research in our group on the effects of fishing is focused mainly on the effect of no-take marine reserves on the dynamics of exploited populations and the associated fisheries. Currently, we are using empirical estimates of dispersal for a real reserve network in the central Great Barrier Reef to better quantify the demographic links between fished and no-take zones, and the impact of no-take zones on fishery yields. <More>

Effects of Climate Change on Coral Reefs

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Anyone who doesn’t live in a cave in the desert has heard that climate change is already adversely affecting important aspects of coral reefs – particularly the corals that are responsible for reef growth, and for the structural complexity that helps sustain reefs’ high biodiversity. We work on a range of topics with implications for reefs’ likely responses to climate change. <More>