Intertidal Algal Community Dynamics
I study the impact of herbivores on ecological processes in temperate intertidal habitats. The West Coast intertidal habitats host a great diversity of algal species. However, we don't have a great understanding of typical changes in community diversity to set a baseline to understand the patterns of change in these habitats. Critically my research sets a baseline of community diversity to study the impacts of habitat degradation and climate change. I study algal community dynamics at three sites in San Mateo County where I am comparing marine preserves to Pillar Point, a site where the harvesting of purple sea urchins and turban snails is allowed. Using field survey techniques in the winter and summer, I am building a database of current algal diversity and how that diversity might vary over these sites and through time.
As a component of algal diversity, I am focused on the local crustose coralline algae species as these are relatively poorly studied for their ecology and diversity in intertidal habitats. While there are a few different species of CCA, historical research typically lumps all of these algae into one functional category. But their relative abundance and diversity clearly varies over space and time. Additionally these algae are especially susceptible to climate change so understanding patterns of species abundance could be critical as climate change continues to impact these habitats.
Additionally, I am starting to build a database of genetic sequences for the algae in California. This database will be combined with the field data and vouchered specimens to better understand the morphological and genetic diversity of algal species in the intertidal habitat. In these projects I am leveraging class activities to train undergraduate students how to do interdisciplinary science in local habitats.
Below is the annual report that I have submitted as part of my research permit in San Mateo County. Certainly let me know if you have any questions or would like to access the photo quadrants or the raw data.