Quantitative Marine Ecology Lab

Research

Environmental variability can occur on daily to decadal time scales. This variability can include natural variation, such as changes in seasons, or anthropogenic events like oil spills. Of course, these various forms of environmental variability shape ecosystems, and, consequently, the human communities that depend on them. In addition, climate change is expected to increase variability and uncertainty of these environmental factors. Our research program addresses questions that fall within the Venn diagram above:

  1. How does environmental variability, particularly rare events like heatwaves or algal blooms, affect the ecology and population dynamics of various species?

  2. How can we improve population monitoring programs given uncertainty?

  3. How can incorporating uncertainty in models help us make better decisions about fisheries and the conservation of endangered species?

  4. How are natural-human systems affected by environmental variability and how can we ensure they are robust to shocks, like the current COVID-19 pandemic?

We address these questions using a variety of mathematical and statistical tools as well as long-term field studies. We have current projects focused on socio-ecological systems, environmental variability and population dynamics, improving monitoring programs, and designing marine reserve networks. In addition to biology-focused work, we have also conducted research on pedagogy.

Field work

In addition to lots of statistics and math, our lab also conducts some field work. Currently, we have a project in coastal New Hampshire. We are deploying a set of underwater cameras, some with bait (a BRUV - baited remote underwater video) and some without bait (a RUV), to track fish and invertebrates. The video allows us to monitor various populations, and to study animal behavior, without needing to scuba dive or catch any organisms. This helps reduce costs and is less invasive. This work is funded by New Hampshire Sea Grant and the School of Marine Science and Ocean Engineering.

We are currently deploying these underwater cameras at Appledore Island in collaboration with the Shoals Marine Lab, within Great Bay at oyster farms and oyster restoration sites, and at the Coastal Marine Lab. Melanie Carolan (Vassar College) and Harris Krasner (University of New Hampshire) are working with QMEL graduate students Ana Silverio and Julia Saltzman to deploy these cameras. Melanie is spending the summer deploying these cameras at Shoals Marine Lab on Appledore Island, which is about seven miles from mainland Maine. Harris will be using the same methods but will focus on Great Bay Estuary and coastal New Hampshire. The lab’s other intern, Katherine Pagán Rivera from the University of Puerto Rico at Humacao, will be using audio from hydrophones stationed along the New Hampshire coast to estimate biodiversity from sound alone.

Here are just a few images from our cameras so far. More photos, and also videos, will be posted soon!