Field of Focus
  • Ecology
  • Fisheries
  • Population Biology
  • Biological Oceanography
  • B.A., Plan II, The University of Texas at Austin, TX, USA, 2000
  • B.S. Biology, The University of Texas at Austin, TX, USA, 2000
  • Ph.D. Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution/Massachusetts Institute of Technology Joint Program, MA, USA, 2007

My research focuses on using the “natural tag” properties of carbonate hard parts in marine and diadromous fishes to examine dynamics of migration, dispersal and life history dynamics of species with mobile phases. This field has grown exponentially in the past couple of decades, yet many questions remain about highly migratory or dispersive species, particularly in the marine environment. Otolith chemistry has the potential to reveal key information about identity and movement patterns that is essential for the effective management of exploited species and ecosystems. I am particularly keen to combine otolith chemistry methods with alternative approaches to assess movement and connectivity, including genetics, tissue stable isotopes and satellite telemetry. I strongly believe the combination of these diverse methods can potentially triangulate questions that would be difficult to answer using only one approach.

A second major area of interest is the degree to which environmental events can be detected in chemical signatures of both otoliths and other biogenic carbonates (e.g. corals, bivalve shells). For instance, Ba/Ca ratios are most abundant in nutrient-rich waters and they can serve as powerful proxies for temporal fluctuations in upwelling or sediment plumes in reef or estuarine habitats. Analyses of these proxies in carbonate skeletal hard parts allow us to reconstruct time series of environmental variability for specific habitats. This information is essential in order to better understand the response of fish population dynamics to anthropogenic perturbations.

Current lab research involves species and habitats in the Gulf of Mexico, the North Atlantic and the Great Barrier Reef. Specific topics of interest include: 1) ontogenetic shifts in coastal distributions and population mixing of migratory fishes (e.g. American shad in the North Atlantic); 2) variation in habitat use patterns among discrete populations of diadromous species (e.g. southern flounder in Texas, barramundi in northern Australia); 3) influence of energetic status on population connectivity patterns (e.g. black bream in southern Australia); 4) flood and upwelling events recorded in Porites coral skeletons and damselfish otoliths (Great Barrier Reef).