BSc Biology, Concentration in Marine Biology
What I am now
Broadly, I am interested in how nutrient cycling determines the productivity and functioning of marine ecosystems. More specifically, I am interested in quantifying the functional roles of animals in mediating nutrient pathways in tropical systems. In oligotrophic coral reefs, the role of animals in mediating nutrient pathways is especially amplified, because there are few inputs from alternate sources like upwelling and coastal runoff. In high biodiversity systems, many species fill the same ecological roles, but the extent to which these species are functionally redundant is not clear. The function of fishes in their input and recycling of nutrients has been well studied by other members of The Marine Ecology Lab, but the roles played by invertebrate taxa, like sea cucumbers, are far less understood. Sea cucumbers facilitate complex nutrient cycling by processing organic matter and making it available to primary producers through the efflux of inorganic nitrogen. Considering this, sea cucumbers are an intensely exploited fishery in many countries, where several populations are endangered worldwide. The ecosystem services lost in the absence of sea cucumbers may not be fully realized, so data collection in an unexploited area is imperative. I propose to investigate the functional roles of two dominant sea cucumber species in Bahamian coral patch reefs. I will determine if (1) the Donkey Dung sea cucumber (H. Mexicana) and the Five-toothed sea cucumber (A. actinopyga) differ in their nitrogen excretion rates, and (2) if the two species differ in their effect on turtle seagrass (T. testudinum) productivity. Using a system of patch reefs, I will conduct a species manipulation experiment and an observational study to disentangle the functional roles of two sea cucumber species, and the overall role that sea cucumbers play in coastal tropical ecosystems.