We conduct research on the connections between populations, community and ecosystem ecology of aquatic systems. Our research deals with both basic and applied topics relating to ecosystem stability, the effects of climate on food webs, and the ecology of algae grown for purposes of generating energy as biofuel. 

 This is a real fish, see Sebastes nigrocinctus

Research Projects
 Climate and ecosystem stability
We are trying to understand how climate variation affects the diversity, structure and dynamic stability of ecosystems. We used time series of zooplankton communities and the physical environment to understand how mean conditions and the pace of variation shape diversity (Shurin et al. 2010).  Field mesocosm experiments also let us test how elevated temperatures affect the strength of top-down and bottom-up forces (Greig et al. 2012, Kratina et al. 2012), and how dispersal may buffer ecosystems against environmental change (Thompson and Shurin 2011).

         Jessie Clasen, Pavel Kratina and Hamish Greig, dream team of postdocs

Shovon Mandal in action 
 Ecology of algal biofuels
Cultivating phytoplankton to harvest energy-rich molecules such as lipids is one promising approach to reducing our reliance on fossil fuels and disruption of the carbon cycle.  However, large-scale production of bioenergy from phytoplankton is currently both unfeasible and unsustainable.  Many of the challenges are ecological, pertaining to nutrient use and recycling and interactions with colonizing pests and weeds.  We are employing a trait-based approach to analyzing the abilities for different strains to perform a variety of functions, and for evolution by mutation and artificial selection to simultaneously optimize these different functions.

 Evolution and ecosystems 
Variation in traits among individuals drives ecosystem processes, and can happen between members of the same or different species. The role of evolutionary processes in shaping ecosystems remains mysterious. We found that differences between benthic and pelagic feeding stickleback fishes shaped a number of ecosystem processes (Harmon et al. 2007), and former PhD student Travis Ingram showed that co-evolution between sticklebacks and their sculpin predators dampened top-down control (Ingram et al. 20112). Former post-doc Blake Matthews also showed variable impacts of different calanoid copepod species (Matthews et al. 2011). We are now investigating similar processes in lake zooplankton.

Thousands have lived without love, not one without water. - W. H. Auden

                                          Art by Simone des Roches

Some photos of 
past research projects:

Our warming experiment


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