Theoretical work in rocky shore communities:
In addition to work in east coast salt marshes, I have collaborated extensively in rocky intertidal habitats, where I am currently pursuing two areas of study: (1) the hypothesis that natural communities can exist as alternative stable states and (2) the role of foundation species in driving patterns of species diversity.
Both lines of research challenge current theory and have major conservation implications. Work on Gulf of Maine rocky shores indicates that alternative community stable states may be an interesting theoretical idea without a definitive empirical example, questioning its widespread incorporation into conservation theory and practice. Preliminary work on highly stressed, wind-swept Patagonia shores indicates that diversity patterns are generated and maintained not by keystone predators (starfish), but by keystone facilitators (mussels).
These results indicate that under increased physical stress (e.g. climate change), positive interactions may become relatively more important than predation in maintaining biodiversity. In the future, I will continue to examine important theoretical issues in rocky intertidal communities, but plan to work in more tropical systems (i.e., the Bahamas), which have received considerable less attention.
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