I’m a post-doctoral research associate studying marine science at the Virginia Institute of Marine Science, The College of William & Mary in Gloucester Point, VA.
My research interests span from marine community ecology with a focus on seagrass systems, to biodiversity science, to ecological statistics. My research focuses on new ways of thinking about biodiversity, 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 describe and explain 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.
I also use synthetic approaches to generalize the contributions of diversity to human well-being. Does every species matter, or can we lose some with only minor consequences? Currently, I’m leading an investigation of whether diversity matters when we consider the suite of functions that underpin healthy ecosystems as part of an NCEAS working group. We also recently summarized two decades of diversity-function experiments in marine habitats.
As part 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’m scarce around those parts these days, its a great place to interact with fellow graduate students who are studying biodiversity science.
Follow me on Twitter!Follow @jslefche