Hello, and thank you for your interest in our lab group!
The marine biodiversity lab is located at Northeastern University’s Marine Science Center, on a rocky peninsula 12 miles north of Boston. It is a great place to work, both socially and scientifically. From an ecological perspective, the Marine Science Center is the only year-round field station on an exposed rocky shore on the entire East Coast of the United States. It is fantastic to be able to walk across the lawn from our research labs to our rocky intertidal field sites.
We are broadly interested in the links between community and ecosystem-level processes and particularly in understanding the reciprocal relationship between marine biodiversity and ecosystem functioning. We study the factors that create and maintain biodiversity in marine ecosystems and how that diversity, in turn, mediates ecosystem-level processes such as nutrient fluxes, photosynthesis rates, and biomass accumulation.
Research in the Bracken Lab evaluates the roles that marine organisms play in mediating the transformation and flux of energy and matter and combines rigorous field experiments with careful measurements of seawater and tissue chemistry. Current research projects include (1) evaluating the relative importance of top-down and bottom-up effects of consumers in mediating producer biomass and diversity; (2) examining how environmental context shapes the feedbacks between producer diversity and consumer effects in the Gulf of Maine; (3) quantifying potential community- and ecosystem-level impacts of of “Heterosiphonia” japonica, a newly discovered invasive seaweed on the U.S. East Coast; and (4) evaluating the bottom-up effects of the removal of sessile “cornerstone” species on the diversity and abundance of consumers at higher trophic levels.
I currently have three Ph.D. students, Kylla Benes, Brendan Gillis, and Christine Newton, and one M.S. student, Valerie Perini. Kylla is interested in how seaweed genetic diversity and population differences affect population demographics, community structure, and ecosystem functioning. Brendan has developed a method of delivering CO2 to individual tide pools and is planning experiments to cross CO2-mediated reductions in tide pool pH with reductions in biodiversity to test the effects of biodiversity change on the resilience and resistance of marine communities to ocean acidification. Chris is interested in mechanisms underlying the success and impacts of the invasive seaweed Heterosiphonia japonica in New England. Val is doing a variety of observations and experiments to understand the factors, including seasonality, tide height, and herbivores, that mediate nutrient availability to seaweeds on local rocky shores.
While I did not accept graduate students to start in the Fall of 2013 due to our transition to the Marine and Environmental Sciences Department, I will consider applications from strong candidates interested in entering our pending Ph.D. program in Ecology, Evolution, and Marine Biology in Fall 2014. If you are interested in doing graduate work here, please send me an email with a Curriculum Vitae and a statement explaining how your research interests mesh with the work going on in the marine biodiversity lab. Thanks again for your interest!