global change

Anthropogenic global change is altering mean environmental conditions as well as the frequency of extreme events, creating potential chronic and acute environmental stress in many species of conservation and economic importance. In aquatic ecosystems, this includes altered regimes of temperature, salinity, pH (i.e., ocean acidification), and oxygen, as well as exposure to biological and chemical pollution.

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Our research group seeks to understand how and why organisms are affected by these environmental stressors, which is grounded in their (1) capability to find new suitable habitat (shifting in space and/or time), (2) phenotypic plasticity (the capacity to make biochemical adjustments and regain homeostasis under new conditions), (3) ability to mount rapid responses to acute stress, and (4) capacity for rapid genetic adaptation. Sublethal impacts also lead to indirect negative effects on fitness, such as reduced performance and species interactions (e.g., predation risk). However, some organisms have shown surprising capabilities to compensate within and across generations to persist in the face of strong environmental stressors.

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We are particularly interested in understanding why impacts and resilience between species and populations seem to differ so drastically – or in other words: what mechanisms allow some animals to thrive in such changing environments where others cannot? By deepening our understanding of the mechanisms that limit or facilitate persistence in the face of global change, we can not only forecast negative impacts on species of conservation concern and economic value, but also identify management strategies for promoting resilient populations and ecosystems.

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We have integrated approaches from genomics, physiology, behavioral ecology, and climate modeling to understand global change impacts in aquatic species across multiple ecological contexts, including studies of:

  • Mechanisms of thermal limitation (1, 2) & habitat suitability in estuarine fishes (1)
  • Sublethal impacts of osmotic stress in estuarine fishes (1)
  • Forecasted invasive predator & native prey interactions under climate change (1)
  • Sublethal impacts of pollutant exposure in endangered, estuarine fish (1)
  • Capacity for resilience to hypoxia and ocean acidification in harvested fishes adapted to upwelling environments (ongoing)
  • Alteration of predator-prey dynamics under hypoxia and ocean acidification in nearshore juvenile fishes (ongoing)

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We will soon be launching new global change research with the Headwaters to Oceans  & the Marine Global Change Ecology research groups and the MA Division of Marine Fisheries at the Gloucester Marine Laboratory. We also likely will have upcoming global change projects in collaboration with the Northeast Climate Science Center, USFWS Richard Cronin Aquatic Resource Center & USGS Conte Anadromous Fish Leetown Science Center.

If you are interested in research opportunities to get involved, please see our opportunities page! 

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