This passion led me to follow a career in marine ecology through a B.Sc. at Oregon State University, a Fulbright Fellowship to work in sustainable fisheries in Ecuador, a M.Sc. at the Universidad San Francisco de Quito, and now as a PhD student at Brown. I am interested in the environmental and biological factors that affect diversity across multiple spatial scales, the ecological importance of diversity in marine systems, and the major threats facing this diversity. I am currently working to characterize patterns of spatial and temporal variation in fish community diversity in the Galapagos, while implementing field experiments to manipulate this diversity under realistic scenarios of environmental stress and measure the response in ecosystem functioning.
I am also passionate about teaching and science outreach, leading school presentations, creating films and documentaries about marine science and conservation, and exploring the natural world.
The 2015-2016 El Niño event was the strongest in almost 20 years. Sea surface temperatures were as much as 3 degrees C above average for the entire period from September 2015 to April 2016. This massive thermal shift alters the circulation of ocean currents surrounding the Galápagos Islands where we work.
Two of my thesis chapters concern the effects of this exceptionally strong and persistent El Niño on Galápagos reef fishes. The first addresses which species of the 450+ shallow reef fishes that live here respond positively (increased numbers and biomass) and which respond negatively (decreases) to warming ocean waters. I then ask what traits predict this response, and incorporate these traits into a predictive model. The second examines the circumstances surrounding warming-induced disease and its ecological implications.
Classic models of environmental stress posit that as the frequency and severity of stress increases, animals lose their capacity to forage and exert "top-down" control of ecosystems through their feeding behavior. Yet these models were developed in intertidal ecosystems where animals tend to be slow and attached to the bottom. I am exploring the relationship between wave stress magnitude and frequency and the capacity of different types of herbivores, from large swimming herbivorous fishes such as surgeonfishes (Acanthuridae) and parrotfishes (Scaridae) to sedentary sea urchins, to forage and exert top down control.
Exploring large multivariate community datasets
Do any of the species observed vary by exposure, treatment, and site?