What I am now
My research interests lie in understanding how ecosystems function and more specifically, what roles animals play in ecosystem functioning. While the role of animals in ecosystems are often studied in terms of their top-down effects on lower trophic levels through consumption, there is increasing interest in their bottom-up effects on primary producers, like plants and algae, through nutrient storage and excretion. Using a system of patch reefs off the coast of the Bahamas (and two incredibly charismatic species: Donkey Dung and the Five-Toothed Sea Cucumber!), I intend to examine the role that sea cucumbers play in recycling organic matter on the ocean floor and providing nutrients for primary produces like seagrass. By employing both observational and manipulative techniques, I hope to determine (i) how much nitrogen sea cucumbers are moving from the sediments back into the biosphere and (ii) whether or not the excretion of nutrients from these animals have a significant impact on seagrass growth rate and density. Currently, sea cucumber fisheries are expanding worldwide and overexploiting many populations. As such, it is important to understand the role these animals play in the productivity and health of their communities to better inform policy to promote sustainable fishing practices.