Community-wide mechanisms (using field experiments with spatially structured benthic communities such as reefs).
Current ecological theory suggests that habitat heterogeneity and dispersal limitation (or habitat isolation) can affect the maintenance of local populations from outside sources. Within a local scale, species interactions and resource acquisition can determine positive and negative growth rates. The combination of mechanisms at the two spatial scales (within and among habitats) therefore generates diversity patterns. I perform experimental work in relatively shallow benthic communities to test the effect of these mechanisms on the abundance and distribution of species.
The biogeography of rarity (field and laboratory experiments with fiddler crabs).
In order to understand biogeographic patterns of rarity, I have started work with fiddler crabs (Uca spp.). These species are not considered rare; it is a very cosmopolitan group that has greatly diversified. However, fiddler crabs are a good system to understand how rarity can emerge, given the highly variable environmental conditions in their habitat and their complex reproductive strategies driven by sexual selection. My approach with fiddler crabs is aimed at understanding the relationship between physiological constraints, reproductive behavior, and environment.
Bridging the gap between community-wide mechanisms and species-specific constraints to understand rarity (with amphipods, fiddler crabs and any other crustacean that gets in the way).
Community ecology tends to encounter two main obstacles: the scales at which processes occur and the complexity caused by the different life histories of coexisting species. In order to understand the mechanisms that give rise to rare species, one must approach the problem from both ecological and evolutionary perspectives. I am also interested in understanding how life history traits can constrain abundance and distribution patterns and use small crustaceans as research systems.
Applied studies on rarity: the role of invasive species and climate change on benthic communities (using simulation models and sea grass communities).
Most of my postdoctoral work at the Smithsonian Institution focused on understanding how invasive species and climate change would disrupt native community dynamics. I plan on working with these applied issues peripherally while addressing the fate and management of rare species.