Research themes

The Population and Ecosystem Modeling Lab at WHOI is fundamentally interested in understanding the factors determining biological productivity in the ocean. We pursue complimentary and integrative research themes related to primary production, plankton ecology, biogeochemistry, food webs, ecosystem science, and fisheries. Mathematical and statistical modeling represents the core of our work, utilizing tools from theoretical ecology, ocean modeling, spatial-temporal statistics, hierarchical modeling, and extreme value theory, among others. We do a combination of basic and applied modeling, seeking to understand how systems work while contributing to science-based decision making, particularly in the context of climate variability and oceanographic change.

Marine Plankton

Marine plankton ("plankton" = drifting) span roughly five orders of magnitude in body size, contain multiple trophic levels that turn over on daily timescales, and are dispersed by complex fluid flows. This highly dynamic system forms the base of the marine food web, drives the global carbon cycle, and interacts with anthropogenic climate change. We work on several aspects of plankton ecology, including primary production modeling, eco-physiological modeling of phytoplankton, and trophic food web analysis.  

Marine Fisheries and Conservation

Marine fisheries represent one of the most far-reaching uses of our natural resources, yet stocks have been impacted in recent decades by overfishing, habitat destruction, and the accelerating pace of climate change. Our work in this area includes regional and global analysis of recruitment and growth variability, probabilistic modeling of recovery trajectories for depleted stocks, development of statistical stock assessment and decision-theoretic methods, and climate impact modeling using coupled climate models. 

Ocean Biogeochemistry

Biogeochemistry describes the physical and chemical interactions with marine ecosystems that determine the fluxes and availability of resources in the environment. Our work has focused on models of carbon export, organic matter remineralization at depth, and nutrient re-supply processes to the surface ocean. We have a particular interest in how climate processes interact with biogeochemistry and thereby modulate the productivity of marine ecosystems. 

Theoretical Ecology

The group maintains a broad interest in the general structure and dynamics of marine populations and ecosystems, touching on all our science themes listed above. Our theoretical work has investigated the dynamics of community matrix models and the role of top down control, ecosystem carbon and energy balances, and the trophic structure of marine ecosystems across timescales. 

Satellite Remote Sensing

Satellite remote sensing provides an unparalleled source of information on marine ecosystem processes which we use to inform studies across our research topics, including primary and fisheries productivity modelling, and the estimation of export production.  We are particularly interested in developing new remote-sensing-based models of marine primary productivity and advancing their use in fisheries management and ecosystem science.  

Ecological and Environmental Statistics

We maintain a general interest in applied ecological and environmental statistics beyond applications in our core marine research areas. Through collaboration we help develop statistical methodology to address questions across the ecological and environmental sciences. Much of our statistical work makes use of Bayesian analysis - to this end we have an ongoing interest in the use and development of probabilistic programming languages and associated packages to perform Bayesian inference on complex ecological and environmental datasets.