The salt marshes of the southeastern US comprise a dynamic and highly productive landscape. These systems, while extensively explored, still inspire researchers from around the world investigating topics ranging from biogeochemistry to trophic cascades.
In 2012, I conducted research on Sapelo Island, off the coast of Georgia. This research was made possible by NSF's Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) program, and paved the way to the work I am spearheading as a PhD student. My initial undergraduate research explored the importance of consumer body size (and population metabolic demand) in explaining the sign and strength of consumer-plant interactions. This work resulted in a peer-reviewed paper published in Oikos.
In the summer of 2013, I worked with Dr. John Griffin at Swansea University in Wales. While in his lab, I began to explore rock pools along the rocky intertidal. These pools contain countless species of marine macroalgae, gastropods, crustaceans and fish. Initially, I hope to link the physical factors within these rock pools to the presence/abundance of specific algal species and the community assemblage as a whole.
As a summer intern at the Gulf of Maine Research Institute (GMRI), I worked with the Casco Bay Aquatic System Survey (CBASS) program. While this program broadly monitors several Casco Bay habitats (from the Presumpscot River to the open ocean) using a suite of sampling techniques (e.g., seining, acoustics, jigging), I primarily focused on seining 12 sites within the estuary. Using the initial data from this summer, I began to explore multivariate statistics as a way to compare community assemblages across space and time.
As a PhD student at the University of Georgia, I've continued working in salt marshes to answer a growing number of research questions.
In the summer of 2015 I established monitoring plots within nine sites along the southeastern US coast (Florida - Virginia). This effort will inform my understanding of variability existing within consumer snail populations and snail-plant interactions across latitudes.
I have also partnered with additional researchers to study snail distributions across spatial scales (e.g. within and among marsh sites) and at additional sites along the Georgia Coast.
In 2017, I look forward to expanding my research to delve into the top-down effects of additional trophic levels (e.g. crabs) and the physiological mechanisms underlying variability in snail-plant interactions.