Marine Biology

cells-molecules-physiologygenetics-developmentmicrobiologyEcology and EvolutionMarine Biology

The Marine Biology Area has been remarkably successful in training research scientists. Over half the M.S. graduates have gone on to Ph.D. programs. Most of the others are employed in marine biology. Certain faculty members within the area are currently well funded. Classes take full advantage of our proximity to a diversity of environs, including rocky intertidal, sand and mudflat communities, and kelp forest habitats. Classes often go on boat trips. A highlight of the program is the Marine Biology Semester in which students spent a whole semester on Catalina Island fulfilling a large proprotion of their program requirements.

Larry Allen - ecology, behavior, and biogeography of fishes

Larry AllenProfessor and Chair
Ph.D. University of Southern California
Phone: 818-677-3356
Fax: 818-677-2034 
Office: Chaparral Hall 5101

I have extensive experience working on the community ecology of California coastal marine fishes particularly those that occur in the bays, estuaries and harbors of Southern California. In addition, recent efforts have dealt with fish assemblages in kelp bed and rock reefs in Southern California. Past research has also included investigations into biogeography of bay/estuarine and coastal marine fishes. My experience in the field of systematics has centered on the development and classification of clingfishes (Gobiesociformes) and wreckfishes (Polyprionidae). Currently, my students and I are investigating life history, ecology, population genetics, and recruitment mechanisms of several important commercial species of fishes including giant sea bass, soupfin sharks, white seabass, California halibut, kelp bass, barred sand bass, and spotted sand bass.

Robert Carpenter - physiological ecology of marine algae

Robert CarpenterProfessor
Ph.D. University of Georgia
Phone: 818-677-3256
Fax: 818-677-2034 
Office: Magnolia Hall 4110

My research interests are focused on the ecology of marine benthic communities. Specifically, I am interested in the coupling between physical aspects of the environment (primarily light and water flow) and the physiology of algae and algal communities, and in interactions between herbivores and algae, and how these processes cascade upward to the community level. One current research project is examining the role of hydrodynamics in controlling the rates of metabolism of coral reef algal communities in Hawaii and Moorea, French Polynesia. My students and I take a combined laboratory and field approach to test hypotheses about mass-transfer limitation of reef algae across spatial scales. We use a variety of sophisticated instrumentation to measure water flow at a variety of spatial scales and estimate rates of organismal metabolism in flumes. We have addressed similar questions in kelp forest environments at Santa Catalina Island. Another major research thrust is associated with the NSF LTER coral reef site in Moorea. As one of four PIs on this project, I am involved in quantifying long-term changes in coral reef community structure and function. Additionally, we are interested in how coral reef metabolism is driven by both large- and small-scale hydrodynamic processes and how this also might influence distributions and abundances of reef organisms and trophic dynamics. My most recent research focus has been on the effects of ocean acidification on coral reef calcifying organisms and communities. We are addressing these effects on organismal physiology, ecological interactions, and at the whole reef scale in Moorea. While my interests are focused on coral reefs and other algal-dominated marine communities, several students in my laboratory have conducted research on benthic invertebrates living in intertidal, kelp forest, and coral reef environments.

Steve Dudgeon - marine benthic ecology, life histories, and clonal organisms

Steve DudgeonProfessor
Ph.D. University of Maine
Phone: 818-677-7322
Fax: 818-677-2034
Office: Magnolia Hall 4105

My research interests lie in two areas. One is the different levels of integration exhibited among individual organisms aggregated in a group, clone or colony and how this variation impacts both, their population ecology, and the evolution of their life histories. The second is the scale- and context-dependence of ecological processes in community development. I study both benthic marine invertebrates and seaweeds for three reasons: (1) both taxa are easily manipulated in field and laboratory experiments; (2) interactions between these taxa are often central features of community organization; (3) a great diversity of unitary and clonal lifestyles (often in a single lineage) coexist in one ecosystem.

Peter Edmunds - physiological and conservation ecology of corals

Peter EdmundsProfessor
Ph.D. Glasgow University
Phone: 818-677-2502
Fax: 818-677-2034
Office: Magnolia Hall 4113

Research in my lab focuses on the physiological ecology of tropical reef corals, and I work at organismic, population, and community levels. My research program is structured into two thematic areas. First, I study the ecology and long-term dynamics of coral reefs in order to identify temporal trends and provide a rich ecological context within which mechanistic research can be designed. Over the last 24 years, most of my ecological research has taken place on the shallow reefs along the south coast of St. John, US Virgin Islands, where the natural resources are protected within the VI National Park and Biosphere Reserve. Close collaboration with the biologists and resource managers of the VI National Park has been critical in developing this project. In 2004, I started a large collaborative project to address the long-term dynamics of coral communities in Moorea, French Polynesia, as part of the US Long Term Ecological Research program. My research in Moorea is beginning to provide a fascinating time-series context that describes the dynamics of coral reefs in the south Pacific that are strongly affected by physical forces (e.g., large storm waves), and most recently, an outbreak of the crown of the thorns seastar, Acanthaster planci. Now in its 7th year, my work in Moorea is beginning to achieve the temporal detail necessary for meaningful contrasts with other biogeographic regions, notably in the Caribbean. Second, I study the biology of individual corals in order to better understand their basic functionality, specifically to establish mechanistic links between organism performance and community dynamics. For example, my long-term research in St. John has identified the dynamics of juvenile corals (colonies <4 cm diameter) as a critical process affecting community structure; surprisingly, juvenile corals in this relatively pristine location have higher mortality rates than found in more disturbed locations such as the Florida Keys. To explore the causal basis of this trend, over the last decade I have initiated a program exploring the mechanistic basis of the effects of temperature on these early life history stages, and now am beginning to explore the effects of ocean acidification in the same system.

Mark Steele - ecology of fishes

Mark SteeleProfessor
Ph.D. University of California, Santa Barbara
Phone: 818-677-4270
Fax: 818-677-2034
Office: Magnolia Hall 4100

The main goal of my research is to elucidate the causes of variation in abundance of organisms that live in open populations in order to understand and predict their dynamics and spatial patterns. I place particular emphasis on evaluating the relative importance of the various processes that determine patterns of abundance, population dynamics, and community structure. I have worked on reef fishes in temperate (southern California), subtropical (Gulf of California, Mexico), and tropical (Bahamas) systems, and also on estuarine fishes in southern California. A major focus of research in my lab is testing for equivalence of yield in biomass and reproductive output of reef fishes between artificial and natural reefs in Southern California. Other aspects of my lab's research program include: population dynamics and community structure of non-exploited reef fishes; density dependence in commercially-exploited reef fishes and implications for fisheries management using marine protected areas; and the ecology of estuarine fishes, particularly as related to wetland restoration projects.

Dawn Vaughn - interactions between organisms throughout their life histories

Dawn VaughnAssistant Professor
Ph.D. University of Washington
Phone: 818-677-4427
Fax: 818-677-2034
Office: Magnolia Hall 4109

How do species respond to environmental uncertainty? Environmental uncertainty, be it unpredictable change in the biotic environment (e.g., presence or absence of predators, competitors) or the abiotic environment (e.g., temperature, salinity, pH), is the norm for most organisms. How they cope with this unpredictability is of increasing interest because it suggests the potential to adapt to progressively disturbed environments and a warming climate. In my research, I use manipulative experiments to test for effects of environmental change on species performance and interactions. Environmental variability can impact species directly through changes in mortality, growth and reproduction, or indirectly by altering the outcome of interactions with other species. Ecosystems are built upon fundamental ecological interactions such as competition, symbiosis, and predation. Environmental change can influence these interactions, altering their strength and disrupting ecosystem function. My research evaluates the effects of a variety of physical and biological factors, independently and in concert. I study the interactions between predator and prey in marine planktonic and benthic habitats, and during larval and adult stages.


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Clare Wormald