Research

A commercial ship on the Mississippi River.

Ship-borne Species Spread

Ships can spread organisms all over the world, some of which go on to become costly invasive species. We are using network models and environmental DNA surveys of global ports to better understand and predict ship-borne invasive species.

Yuri Lopez on a boat filtering an eDNA sample on a cold day in Muskegon, MI.

Environmental DNA

Environmental DNA, aka "eDNA", can be used for easier and quicker surveys in some cases. Our research seeks to better understand the ecology of eDNA and to develop and apply eDNA surveys to answer key questions in ecology and conservation.

A hand holding a Blue Darner dragonfly.

Dragonfly Biodiversity & Pollution

Dragonflies are fascinating insects that have a long-lived aquatic nymph stage. We are conducting surveys of ponds and wetlands and experiments with pesticides to determine how water quality impacts the survival and biodiversity of dragonfly nymphs.

Andrea Fuentes and Aaron West posing in front of "Wetland Restoration Project" sign.

Calumet Marsh Restorations

Marshes in the Calumet region of NE Illinois and NW Indiana have been severely harmed by hydrological modifications, pollution, and urbanization. However, they are making a comeback thanks several restoration efforts. We are using eDNA and traditional methods to study invasive species and macroinvertebrates in these marsh restorations.

Larval Dispersal Modeling

I am fascinated by how planktonic larvae, which often look and behave a lot different than their adults, spread in the ocean. My collaborators and I use behavioral experiments, field sampling, genetics, and hydrodynamic datasets to develop larvae-tracking models that can help us identify source-sink dynamics, predict the spread of oiled crab larvae, and other phenomena that can help us sustainably manage our coastal ecosystems.

Biofouling Communities

Biofouling communities are incredibly diverse assemblages of organisms that colonize submerged hard surfaces. They provide a great system for testing ecological theories, and also represent an important mode of non-indigenous species spread. I use field experiments, surveys, genetics, and demographic models to better understand these communities, whether they be on natural substrates in the Pacific Northwest, sea chests on commercial ships, or on algae in the Great Lakes.