I am interested in species interactions and how these interactions can have large and unexpected effects on communities and ecosystems. Currently I am working on understanding how interspecific interactions alter cooperation. My work is primarily experimental, testing theory and using theory to make (and test!) predictions in the wild. My systems range from microcosms to entire oceans. My study organisms are primarily microorganisms, such as algae, protists and parasites, and invertebrates, such as daphnia and snails.
Keystone Community Concept
Currently, I am working on a large-scale microcosm experiment testing the keystone community concept (Mouquet 2013). Do some communities had a disproportionately large effect on the metacommunity compared to other communities? How can we measure this effect? Can we use this information to better plan reserves?
Resetarits, EJ, Cathey, S and Leibold, MA. (in press), Testing the keystone community concept: effects of landscape, patch removal, and environment on metacommunity structure. Ecology. Accepted Author Manuscript. doi:10.1002/ecy.2041
Community patterns of stickleback parasites
I am working with Dr. Daniel Bolnick on understanding what factors (spatial connectivity, morphology, genetic distance, and ecology) contribute to parasite richness and composition in Canadian threespine stickleback using a metacommunity approach.
Maintenance of cooperative toxicity
Allelopathic toxin production by some harmful algal blooms species (HABs) can be considered cooperative, since these toxins are released into the environment, inhibiting heterospecifics and predators, and thus providing a benefit to the entire population. Part of my dissertation focuses on understanding how allelopathic toxicity in the golden algal species, Prymnesium parvum, can be maintained in algal populations (particular HABs) if toxin production is costly and can be exploited by cheater strains that do not incur the costs of toxin production, while reaping the benefits. My work focuses on interspecific species interactions with P. parvum can help select against cheaters and promote cooperative toxicity.
Effects of competition of caste allocation across a parasitic trematode guild
I am currently working on a project with Dr. Mark Torchin from the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute and Dr. Ryan Hechinger from Scripps Institute of Oceanography investigating how competitive intensity for snail hosts alters the caste allocation of trematode parasites. These parasitic trematodes are diverse and specialized on the California Horn Snail as a secondary host, have high intraguild predation to defend individual snail hosts that follows a strict competitive hierarchy, and form soldier and reproductives castes of rediae. This study focuses on how trematode colony caste ratios vary based on competitive intensity.
Community patterns of Pseudo-nitzschia
I am currently working with Dr. Kate Hubbard (Florida Fish and Wildlife) to understand how space, time, and environment structure the distribution of different strains of Pseudo-nitzschia across the Atlantic ocean. Pseudo-nitzschia is a toxic marine diatom responsible for amnesiac shellfish poisoning.