My research focuses on the eco-physiological thresholds controlling the distribution of marine benthic invertebrates.
Understanding patterns of species range shifts is of particular importance due to current changes in climate envelopes. Both local and global shifts in habitat assemblages are currently occurring, which have the potential to be of significant ecological consequence.
I am currently leading a project examining the effects of climate change on the invasion of predators on Antarctic marine benthos. Benthic communities on the Antarctic shelf have been essentially devoid of durophagous (skeleton-breaking) predators, including king crabs, for millions of years. However, rapidly rising sea temperatures appear to be facilitating the bathymetric expansion of king crabs off the western Antarctic Peninsula (WAP).
This could have a devastating effect on the vulnerable, endemic shelf fauna, which have evolved in isolation with limited defenses against durophagy. Using high-resolution imagery of the slope and shelf environments off the WAP, our team is investigating the current population status of king crabs and other megafauna. These data will provide a baseline for benthic assemblages around the WAP and will be used to facilitate understanding of the ecological mechanisms controlling the king crab distribution and the impact a population expansion may have.