Understanding species diversity in coralline algae
My research focuses on understanding species diversity in a group of marine calcifying algae called corallines. Recent molecular advances have shown that species diversity in red algae has been vastly underestimated and there are hundreds of species awaiting proper classification and identification. I am using an integrative taxonomic approach combining molecular techniques, morphology, biogeography and ecology in order to gain a more accurate understanding of species diversity in coralline algae. Using this approach I have described several new species and genera. Please see my publications for more details.
Coralline algal diversity - Are urchin barrens really barren?
In addition to documenting species, I am examining the community structure of coralline algae within urchin ‘barrens’ and kelp forests. According to the classic otter-urchin-kelp trophic cascade, when sea otters are removed from kelp forests, urchins increase in abundance, grazing down the kelps and ultimately creating “urchin barrens.” These denuded habitats represent alternative stable states dominated by coralline algae, whose calcified thalli resist urchin grazing, and generally lead to declines in species diversity across all trophic levels. Using DNA barcode identifications, we are documenting the species diversity of subtidal coralline algae at sites along the central coast of British Columbia, Canada, representing a gradient of otter occupation, urchin abundance, and kelp forest density. Photo credit Jenn Burt.