Research

Life requires energy. Biological organization—the culmination of life in all its forms—is determined largely by the flow and transformation of energy. Three distinct types of energy affect biological systems: solar radiation (in the form of photons), thermal kinetic energy (as indexed by temperature), and chemical potential energy stored in reduced carbon compounds (i.e. food). Genomic, phenotypic, and taxonomic diversity and complexity are correlated with variation in energy availability in space and time.

My research focuses on how energy variation, both temporal and spatial, drives diversity, novelty, and complexity in biological systems. Energy, in the form of temperature and food, is intrinsically linked to climate, so my research also addresses how the intricate workings of biological systems will respond to climate change. My approach relies upon using a variety of methodologies, including theoretical, field, and synthetic database work. I strive to link these by building ecological and evolutionary quantitative models to both predict biological processes and create null expectations.

I have addressed research questions in a variety of systems including island mammals, fossil molluscs, terrestrial snails, paleo communities, and cross phyla comparisons. The core of my research focuses on marine systems and the bulk of my work is on deep-sea systems, at depths below 200 meters.  Globally, temperatures on the seafloor vary between -1 – 4˚ C.  Deep-sea organisms acquire chemical energy from falling particulate organic carbon (POC) derived from primary production in the euphotic (1-200 meters) zone, which represents a minimal amount (~1%) of surface production. Given this severe energy constraint, the deep sea provides an exceptionally good system to explore how fluctuations/limitations in energetics impact species, populations, communities, and ecosystems.

[The word cloud above was generated with Wordle and emphasizes words used with greater frequency in my publications and research statement.

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