My research lies at the intersection of environmental change, individual heterogeneity, and population dynamics in coupled marine-terrestrial systems. Using seabirds as a model species, I study how environmental variation and environmental change act on populations through individual movement, physiology, and life histories. My favorite research questions involve applications of basic ecological concepts to real-world conservation challenges.
Movement and migration
Even within seemingly homogeneous populations, individuals may differ considerably in patterns of movement, habitat selection, and migration. I'm interested in how individual characteristics, such as size, sex, condition, and status, interact with environmental factors to determine the distribution of individuals across the landscape.
Diet and energetics
Individual movement decisions depend on energy, which means balancing the equation between energy expended and energy gained. During reproduction, this includes providing for the energy needs of offspring. I study how diet quality and availability vary across a fluid marine landscape, and how this variation affects individual habitat use and movements.
Stress levels are closely linked with nutrition. Individuals developing in highly stressful conditions tend to have lower long-term survival and fitness. I am interested in how stress levels during nestling development can be used to understand changes in environmental conditions and predict reproductive success, post-fledging survival, and recruitment rates.
Genetics basis of movement ecology
The ability of individuals to respond to changing environments depends on how much flexibility is built into their genetic structure, and how quickly they can adapt complex migratory patterns to new climate conditions. I am interested in how genetic variation contributes to varying migratory decisions of individuals, and whether these decisions are fixed or plastic.
In highly developed marine environments, seabirds are regularly exposed to contaminants: not only during oil and chemical spills, but in the course of daily life. I am interested in understanding how contaminant loads vary through space and between individuals, and how chronic exposure to contaminants affects population parameters.
Seabird habitat management and restoration
Academic research and conservation action often run on separate tracks, but each becomes more powerful when they inform one another. I am interested in identifying rapid diagnostic tools for understanding the effects of enviromental disturbances, as well as developing science to guide restoration efforts. I work with managers and agencies to provide research that informs seabird habitat management and creation, risk assessment, and spatial planning.