Community ecology in a warming world

We research how climate change will affect the structure of aquatic communities, using empirical approaches to derive a mechanistic understanding. We quantify the pathways through which communities are affected both directly (e.g. organismal responses) and indirectly (e.g. shifts in interaction strengths among species), and aim to identify the underlying rules through which they operate. Our principal focus is seeking common responses to environmental changes across aquatic ecosystems.

Demographic responses to warming

Climate warming may drive organismal body temperatures beyond physiological thresholds, ultimately leading to detrimental effects on populations and communities. We monitored vital rates of coexisting barnacles over one year in the mid and high zones of the rocky intertidal on Salt Spring Island (British Columbia, Canada); a ‘hot spot’ for intertidal thermal stress.

Iceland hot pots

Just back from my first field season in freshwaters… well, I was really in the lab most of the time, but I did my critter collecting in the Hengill catchment, where there are 15 streams that range in temperature from 5 – 20 °C. This is a great ‘natural experiment’ for looking at the effects of temperature on communities and…

Community responses to warming

Community responses to warming in the field are poorly understood. We examined the effects of field-based warming on intertidal communities in the Salish Sea, which is a regional thermal ‘hot spot’ and therefore a model system for studying thermally stressed communities. We manipulated temperature at three tidal heights by deploying black- and white-bordered settlement plates. Click here to read more…

It’s “Dr. Becca” now

Results from my dissertation illustrate how environmental change can alter species-specific thermal responses, complex population dynamics, and interaction strengths, with cascading impacts on community dynamics. They further demonstrate how assemblages of multiple, interacting species will respond to climate change, which is imperative if we hope to effectively prepare for and adapt to its effects. Click here to read more…

London bound!

I will be starting a new postdoctoral position at Imperial College London in November, working with Dr. Guy Woodward. I will be conducting field experiments in the Hengill system to disentangle the abiotic (warming) and biotic (trout predation) contributions to food web structure in streams. Click here to read more…