The goal of my research is to broadly understand the factors that are important in the development and maintenance of biological communities. To date I have worked in marine systems. In pursuit of that goal I use two methodological approaches. First, I have use field observations of populations and community structure and distributions to motivate specific and testable hypotheses concerning mechanisms affecting their development and maintenance. These hypotheses are then tested using short-term field (and sometimes lab) experiments. In addition, I have attempted to assess the generality of putative mechanisms by comparing community dynamics during the period of the experimentation with long-term community patterns. In recent years I have done considerable work addressing questions concerned with patterns, mechanisms and consequences of dispersal variability. In particular, I have worked with collaborators using Macrocystis pyrifera, giant kelp, as a model species. We have made considerable progress modeling dispersal and from projected patterns of dispersal predicting consequences resulting from variability in dispersal.
The second approach I have taken is to test hypotheses generated from theory (generally, analytical models) using field experiments. As one can see from my grant, publication and community service record I also do a fair bit of applied ecology. I view this as a responsibility of ecologists particularly those working in systems that are perturbed by anthropogenic impacts. Many undergraduates and graduate students are keenly interested in applied ecological problems and jobs, and through my work I am able to introduce them to the applied arena.