I’m a post-doctoral research associate studying marine ecology at the Virginia Institute of Marine Science, The College of William & Mary in Gloucester Point, VA.
My interests span from community ecology with a focus on seagrass and estuarine systems, to biodiversity science, to biostatistics. My research incorporates new ways of thinking about biological diversity, specifically the use of organismal ‘functional’ traits and evolutionary history to help answer ecological questions using a combined experimental and observational approach.
In particular, I’m interested in how functional traits, and phylogeny and taxonomy, can be used to understand patterns and processes in nature. I’m currently:
- Investigating how the structure and diversity of animal communities respond to the continued restoration of a foundational eelgrass species using data from the VIMS SAV Restoration program.
- Exploring global biogeographic patterns, mechanisms of community assembly, and drivers of productivity in reef fishes using data from the Reef Life Survey network.
- Investigating seasonal and interannual patterns in invertebrate diversity in Chesapeake Bay seagrass beds, with an emphasis on community responses to catastrophic warming events.
- Explaining how seagrass/macroalgal beds function, using experimental manipulations of estuarine consumers and conducting a literature review of faunal-macrophyte interactions.
Synthesis is also a major component of my research, focusing on the consequences of species extinctions for human well-being. Recently, I was involved in an NCEAS working group to generalize the influence of biodiversity on ecosystem multifunctionality, or the simultaneous provision of multiple ecosystem functions. As part of this group, I also recently summarized two decades of diversity-function experiments in marine habitats.
As a member of the the Zostera Experimental Network (ZEN), I helped investigated the relationships between invertebrate grazers, their seagrass habitat, their predators, and their environment across the entire northern hemisphere. Currently, the network is engaged in a second round of investigation to further characterize seagrass beds, all the way from microbes to macrophytes.
I started this blog, sample(ECOLOGY), to share some of the thoughts, explorations, and R code that I stash away on a daily basis. Hopefully someone out there will find some use for it as well. You can read more about my various projects here.
I also helped co-found the blog BioDiverse Perspectives, meant to foster discussion among graduate students studying biodiversity science all over the world. While I’ve since turned the reins over to actual students, its a great place to interact with fellow graduate students who are studying biodiversity science.
Follow me on Twitter!Follow @jslefche