Qiang He (aka Q)

q12014-Present: Post doc, Duke Univ. Marine Lab, Beaufort, NC, USA
2008-2013 Ph.D. in Ecology, Jiao Tong Univ., Shanghai, China
2011-2012 Visiting Ph.D. Student, Brown Univ., Providence, RI, USA
2004-2008 B.Sc., Beijing Normal Univ., Beijing, China

Address: 135 Duke Marine Lab Road, Beaufort, NC 28516, USA
Email: he_qiang(at)hotmail.com
Phone: 252 646 7028

Research Interests

QHE1I am generally interested in community ecology and conservation biology. My community ecology research examines how bottom-up (physical stress, drought, eutrophication), top-down (herbivory and predation) and non-consumptive species interaction (competition and facilitation) factors shape natural communities.

Most of my previous and current work has been conducted in coastal ecosystems, mainly salt marshes, though my interests extend to other ecosystems of Earth. I strive to address hypotheses of wide interests and environmental change issues that inform conservation. I use a variety of approaches to build my research upon solid experiments and statistics.

I conduct observations and manipulative experiments in the field, do GIS analysis to retrieve historical trends and capture large-scale patterns, and conduct global, cross-system syntheses to explore macro-patterns and generalities in community ecology. My main projects in the Silliman lab are to conduct field experiments on top-down control in salt marshes and to conduct quantitative syntheses of the salt marsh literature.


I also have a strong interest in coastal conservation research. Coastal ecosystems are among the most valuable on Earth, are home to nearly half of the world’s populations, and benefit human societies with access to trade, land development, oil/gas exploration, and food production. Despite their value, coastal ecosystems have been increasingly degraded by human activities, which is often more dramatic in the world’s fast developing regions.

In my coastal conservation research, I explore trends in and socioeconomic factors that drive coastal change, examine consequences of coastal change for human well-being and the effectiveness of current conservation measures, and make potential solutions. One of my recent conservation works holistically examined how coastal ecosystem change in China over the past six decades was driven by economic boom and population growth, showing that the role of economic growth actually outweighed that of population growth in this one of the world’s most populous countries.

While my current research is mostly on community ecology, I will try to seek research opportunities that can directly inform those conservation issues. It is my ultimate academic goal to move coastal conservation globally forward.



Plant-animal Interactions

He, Q., & Silliman, B. R*. 2015. Biogeographic consequences of nutrient enrichment for plant–herbivore interactions in coastal wetlands. Ecology Letters, 18: 462–471.

       Press release: Northern Coastal Marshes More Vulnerable to Nutrient Pollution

       Media coverage: EurekAlert!, Coastal Care, National Science Foundation News

       Cover Photo of the 2015 May issue of Ecology Letters.

He, Q., Altieri, A.H., & Cui, B*. 2015. Herbivory drives zonation of stress-tolerant marsh plants. Ecology, 96: 1318–1328.

He, Q., & Cui, B*. 2015. Multiple mechanisms sustain a plant-animal facilitation on a coastal ecotone. Scientific Reports 5: 8612.

Freitas, R., Schrack, E. C., He, Q., Silliman, B. R., Furlong, E. B., Telles, A. C., & Costa, C. S.B. Consumer control of the establishment of marsh foundation plants in intertidal mudflats. In review

QHE4Positive Species Interactions

He, Q., Bertness, M.D.* 2014. Extreme stresses, niches and positive species interactions along stress gradients. Ecology, 95: 1437–1443.

       Featured on the cover.

He, Q., Bertness, M.D.*, Altieri, A.H. 2013. Global shifts towards positive species interactions with increasing environmental stress. Ecology Letters 16: 695-706.

Press release: http://news.brown.edu/pressreleases/2013/01/ecostress.
Media coverage: Science Daily, Phys.org, redOrbit.
Most cited Ecology Letters paper of 2013.

He, Q., Cui, B., Bertness, M.D., An, Y*. 2012. Testing the importance of plant strategies on facilitation using congeners in a coastal community. Ecology 93: 2023–2029.

He, Q., Cui, B.S., An, Y*. 2011. The importance of facilitation in the zonation of shrubs along a coastal salinity gradient. Journal of Vegetation Science 22: 828–836.

QHE5Coastal Change and Conservation

He, Q., Bertness, M.D.*, Bruno, J.F., Li, B., Chen, G., Coverdale, T.C., Altieri, A.H., Bai, J., Sun, T., Pennings, S.C., Liu, J., Ehrlich, P.R., Cui, B*. Economic development and coastal ecosystem change in China. Scientific Reports 4: 5995.

Press release: https://news.brown.edu/articles/2014/08/china.
Editor’s Choice at Science.
Media coverage: Daily NewsScience Newsline, e! Science News.
Subject of an article at Scientific American.
Subject of an essay at The Conversation.

Fariña, J. M., He, Q., Silliman, B. R., & Bertness, M.D. Bottom-up and top-down human impacts interact to affect a protected coastal Chilean marsh. In revision

He, Q., Cui, B.S.*, An, Y. 2012. Physical stress, not biotic interactions, preclude an invasive grass from establishing in forb-dominated salt marshes. PLoS ONE 7: e33164.

Cui, B.S.*, He, Q., An, Y. 2011. Spartina alterniflora invasions and effects on crab communities in a western Pacific estuary. Ecological Engineering 37: 1920–1924.


He, Q., Chen, F.Y., Cui, B.S., An, Y*. 2012. Multi-scale segregations and edaphic determinants of marsh plant communities in a western Pacific estuary. Hydrobiologia 696: 171–183.

Cui, B.S.*, He, Q., Zhang, K.J., Chen, X. 2011. Determinants of annual-perennial plant zonation across a salt-fresh marsh interface: a multistage assessment. Oecologia 166: 1067–1075.

Cui, B.S.*, He, Q., An, Y. 2011. Community structure and abiotic determinants of salt marsh plant zonation vary across topographic gradients. Estuaries and Coasts 34: 459–469.

He, Q., Cui, B.S.*, Cai,Y.Z., Deng, J.F., Sun, T., Yang, Z.F. 2009. What confines an annual plant to two separate zones along coastal topographic gradients? Hydrobiologia 630: 327–340.

* My advisor of that research.