Robert C. Carpenter

Robert Carpenter
(818) 677-3256
Office location:
Magnolia Hall 4110



Ph.D. University of Georgia

Research Specialities

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 in my lab is associated with the NSF LTER coral reef site in Moorea. See more details here ( As one of 4 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. See more details here ( 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.

Current Research Grants

National Science Foundation, Biol. Oceanogr. (OCE-1637396), MCR-LTERIII: Long-term dynamics of a coral reef ecosystem (with P. Edmunds [CSUN] and R. Schmitt/S. Holbrook [UCSB])

National Science Foundation, Biol. Oceanogr. (OCE-1026851), MCR-LTERII: Long-term dynamics of a coral reef ecosystem (with P. Edmunds [CSUN] and R. Schmitt/S. Holbrook [UCSB])

National Science Foundation, Biol. Oceanogr. (OCE-1415268),Ocean and acidification and coral reefs: scale dependence and adaptive capacity (with P. Edmunds [CSUN]) 

NASA, (NNX16AB05G), CORAL: COral Reef Airborne Laboratory (with E. Hochberg [BIOS])

Recent Publications (* students when the work was done)

Comeau, S., A. Venn, S. Tambutte, C. Pages, P. Edmunds, R. Carpenter, N. Evensen*. 2017. Coral pH regulation of the calcifying fluid is modulated by seawater dissolved inorganic carbon concentration.
Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

Shaw, E.C., R.C. Carpenter, C. Lantz, and P.J. Edmunds. (2016) Intraspecific variability in the response to ocean warming and acidification in the scleractinian coralAcropora pulchra. Marine Biology 163:210
DOI 10.1007/s00227-016-2986-8.

Edmunds P.J., S. Comeau, C. Lantz, A. Andersson, C. Briggs, A. Cohen, J.P. Gattuso, J. Grady, K. Gross, M. Johnson, E. Muller, J.B. Ries, S. Tambutté, E. Tambutté, A. Venn, and R.C. Carpenter. 2016. Integrating the effects of ocean acidification across functional scales on coral reefs. BioScience 66 (4):1-13 doi:10.1093/biosci/biw023.

Comeau, S., R.C. Carpenter, C. Lantz, and P.J. Edmunds. 2016. Parameterization of the response of calcification to temperature and pCO₂ in the coral Acropora pulchra and the alga Lithophyllum kotschyanum. Coral Reefs. DOI 10.1007/s00338-016-1425-0

Comeau, S., R.C. Carpenter, and P.J. Edmunds. 2016. Effects of pCO2 on net photosynthesis and respiration of tropical scleractinian corals and calcified algae. ICES J. Mar. Sci. doi:10.1093/icesjms/fsv267

Comeau, S., C. Lantz, P.J. Edmunds, and R.C. Carpenter. 2015. Framework of barrier reefs threatened by ocean acidification. Global Change Biology. doi: 10.1111/gcb.13023.

Comeau S., R.C. Carpenter, C.A. Lantz, and P.J. Edmunds. 2015. Ocean acidification accelerates dissolution of experimental coral reef communities. Biogeosciences 12:365-372. 

Edmunds, P.J., R. Steneck, R. Albright, R.C. Carpenter, A. Chui Pui, T-Y. Fan, S. Harii, H. Kitano, H. Kurihara, L. Legendre, S. Mitarai, S. Muko, T. Nozawa, J. Padilla-Gamino, N.N. Price, K. Sakai, G. Suzuki, M.J.H. van Oppen, A. Yarid, R.D. Gates. 2015. Geographic variation in long-term trajectories of change in coral recruitment: a global-to-local perspective. Marine and Freshwater Research,

Benes, K.M.* and R.C. Carpenter. 2015. Kelp canopy facilitates understory algal assemblage via competitive release during early stages of secondary succession. Ecology 96:241-251.

Edmunds, P.J., M.Adjeroud, M.L. Baskett, I.B. Baums, A.F. Budd, R.C. Carpenter, N.S. Fabina, Tung-Yung Fan, E.C. Franklin, K. Gross, X. Han, L. Jacobson, J.S. Klaus, T.R. McClanahan, J.K. O’Leary, M.J.H. van Oppen, X. Pochon, H.M. Putnam, T.B. Smith, M. Stat, H. Sweatman, R.van Woesik, R.D. Gates. 2015. Persistence and change in community composition of reef corals through present, past, and future climates. PLOS ONE 9:e107525. 

Comeau, S., P.J. Edmunds, C. Lantz, and R.C. Carpenter. 2014. Water flow modulates the response of coral reef communities to ocean acidification. Scientific Reports 4:6681.

Brown, A.* and R.C. Carpenter. 2014. Water flow influences the mechanisms and outcomes of interactions between massive Porites and coral reef algae. Marine Biology. DOI 10.1007/s00227-014-2593-5 

Gowan, J.*, J. Tootell*, R.C. Carpenter. 2014. The effects of water flow and sedimentation on interactions between massive Porites and algal turf. Coral Reefs 33:651-663.

Johnson, M.D.*, V. Moriarty, and R.C. Carpenter. 2014. Acclimitization of the crustose coralline alga Porolithon onkodes to variable pCO2. PLOS ONE 9:1-10. 

S. Comeau, P. J. Edmunds, N. B. Spindel, R. C. Carpenter. 2014. Fast coral reef calcifiers are more sensitive to ocean acidification in short-term laboratory incubations. Limnology and Oceanography 59:1081-1091.

Comeau, S., R.C. Carpenter, P.J. Edmunds. 2014. Effects of irradiance on the response of the coral Acropora pulchra and the calcifying alga Hydrolithon reinboldii to temperature elevation and ocean acidification. Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology 453-67-76. 

Comeau, S., P.J. Edmunds, N. B. Spindel, R.C. Carpenter. 2014. Diel pCO2 oscillations modulate the response of the coral Acropora hyacinthus to ocean acidification. Marine Ecology Progress Series 501-99-111.

Poray, A.K.* and R.C. Carpenter. 2014. Distributions of coral reef macroalgae in a back reef habitat in Moorea, French Polynesia. Coral Reefs. 33:67-76. 

Brown, A.* and R.C. Carpenter. 2013. Water flow mediated oxygen dynamics within massive Porites-algal turf interactions. Marine Ecology Progress Series 490:1-10.

Comeau, S, R.C. Carpenter, P.J. Edmunds. 2013. Effects of feeding and light intensity on the response of the coral Porites rus to ocean acidification. Marine Biology. DOI 10.1007/s00227-012-2165-5.

Alldredge, A.L, C.A. Carlson, and R.C. Carpenter. 2013. The organic carbon budget of a coral reef flat in Moorea, French Polynesia. Oceanography 26:108-113.

Edmunds, P.J., R.C. Carpenter, and S. Comeau. 2013. Understanding the threats of ocean acidification to coral reefs. Oceanography 26:149-152.

Leichter, James L., Alice L. Alldredge, Giacomo Bernardi, Craig A. Carlson, Robert C. Carpenter, Peter J. Edmunds, Melanie R. Fewings, Katherine M. Hanson, James L. Hench, Craig E. Nelson, Robert J. Toonen, Libe Washburn, and Alex S.J. Wyatt . 2013. Investigating Transport and Retention on a Tropical Island Coral Reef. Oceanography 26:52-63. 

Comeau S., Edmunds P. J., Spindel N.B., Carpenter R.C. 2013. The responses of eight coral reef calcifiers to increasing partial pressure of CO2 do not exhibit a "tipping point". Limnology and Oceanography 58:388-398. 

Comeau S., Carpenter R.C., Edmunds P.J., 2012. Coral reef calcifiers buffer their response to ocean acidification using both bicarbonate and carbonate. Proceedings of the Royal Society B 280:20122374.

Johnson, M.D.* and R.C. Carpenter. 2012. Ocean acidification and warming temperature decrease calcification in the crustose coralline alga Hydrolithon onkodes and increase susceptibility to grazing. Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology 434-435:94-101.

Adam, T.C., R.J. Schmitt, S.J. Holbrook, A.J. Brooks, P.J. Edmunds, R.C. Carpenter, and G. Bernardi. 2011. Herbivory, connectivity, and ecosystem resilience: response of a coral reef to a large-scale perturbation. PLoS One 6: 8. 08.

Ferrier, G.A.* and R.C. Carpenter. 2009. Subtidal benthic heterogeneity: flow environment modification and impacts on marine algal community structure and morphology. Biological Bulletin 217: 2. 115-129. 

Carpenter, R.C. and S.L. Williams. 2007. Mass transfer limitation of photosynthesis of coral algal turf communities. Marine Biology 151:435-450. 

Gamino-Padilla, J.L.* and R.C. Carpenter. 2007. Seasonal acclimitization of Asparagopsis taxiformis from different biogeographic regions. Limnology and Oceanography 52:833-842.

Gamino-Padilla, J.L.* and R.C. Carpenter. 2007. Thermal ecophysiology of Laurencia pacifica and Laurencia nidifica (Ceramiales) from tropical and warm-temperate regions. Journal of Phycology 43:686-692.

Haring, R.N.* and R.C. Carpenter. 2007. The effects of light and water flow on the thallus morphology of Pachydictyon coriaceum (Phaeophyta), Marine Biology 151:243-25

Carpenter, R.C. and S.L. Williams. 2007. Mass transfer limitation of photosynthesis of coral algal turf communities. Marine Biology 151:435-450. 

Carpenter, R.C. and P.J. Edmunds. 2006. Local and regional recovery of Diadema promotes recruitment of juvenile corals. Ecology Letters 9:271-280.

Stewart, H.L.* and R.C. Carpenter. 2003. The effects of water flow on photosynthesis and morphology of marine macroalgae. Ecology 84:2999-3012

Current Graduate Students

Joshua Manning- BS, University of Maine

Sarah Merolla- BS, University of Rhode Island

Lansing Perng- BS, UCLA

Jayslen Serrano- BA, CSUN

Bridget Shayka- BS, University of Virginia

Alicia Siravo- BS, University of Rhode Island

Recent Graduates from the Lab

Maggie Johnson (Ph.D., Scripps Inst. Oceanogr.) - BS, Colby College

Stella Swanson (Ph.D. UCSB) - BS, California State University, Long Beach

Anya Brown (Ph.D. program Univ. of Georgia)- BS, Brown University

Jennifer Gowan - (Lecturer UCSD), BS, UC Santa Barbara

Lauren Valentino- (NOAA, Miami, FL), BS, Univ. of Rhode Island

Heather Hillard- (Florida Fish and Wildlife Coastal Wildlife Conserv. Initiative)

Maureen Ho- (Ph.D. program Griffith Univ.), BS, California State University, Long Beach

Amy Briggs- (Ph.D. program Univ. of Georgia), BS, Stanford        University

Carolina Mor- (Pacific Science Center, Seattle), BS, Barry Univ.