Keystone species - holding the ecosystem together

Keystone species - holding the ecosystem together

Some species have a big impact on the ecosystem they live in - from altering the physical structure of their environment to dictating the populations and diversity of other species; these "keystone" species have a disproportionate effect on an ecosystem relative to their abundance. Read more about keystone species here.

Read More

Controversial Castor, or, the Re-Introduction of Beavers

Controversial Castor, or, the Re-Introduction of Beavers

The beaver is a great example of a controversial species re-introduction. The two species of rodent, Castor canadensis and Castor fiber, were aggressively hunted for their fur and glands, leading to many local extinctions, but not complete extinction. It has made a great comeback in some places like New Hampshire, and is just now starting to show up in England, bringing about mixed feelings in both cases. 

Read More

It’s an evolutionary arms-race out there!

It’s an evolutionary arms-race out there!

There’s always been a natural appeal to understanding the battle between two enemies.  As one adapts, so must the other.

Consider the sit-and-wait predator in his shiny patrol car waiting behind a freeway overpass to catch speeders on the highway.  As drivers became more aware of police, they had to employ radar guns to catch their prey...

Read More

It's (ecologically) disturbing!

It's (ecologically) disturbing!

Something that comes up often in my work at UNH is “disturbance,” which in the ecological sense, refers to an event that changes an ecosystem in some way. Some examples are a hurricane, a pest outbreak, an invasive organism, a fire, a tree falling down, and a timber harvest.

This comes up a lot because my research project involves New England cottontail habitat, which is young, brushy vegetation, which in many areas wouldn’t exist without disturbances.

Read More

Invasive plants: If we can't beat 'em...

Invasive plants: If we can't beat 'em...

Scientists, people with yards, and nature lovers generally all agree that invasive plants are the worst. Mention buckthorn or multiflora rose at a party and I bet you won’t hear anyone say how much they like them.  Before we go on, check out Christopher Wells’ post, Why Study Invasive Species?

So, does anyone have a reason to like invasive plants? I’m looking for a silver lining, to help me sleep at night. I have nightmares of Japanese knotweed gradually covering the New England area, such that wildflowers and trees are merely a memory.

Read More

Why study introduced species?

Why study introduced species?

I’ve always been interested in community ecology: the study of the organization and interactions within a group of organisms (predation, herbivory, symbiosis).  Interactions within a biological community fluctuate around equilibrium until they are disturbed...

Read More

Introduction to my sea anemone research

Introduction to my sea anemone research

On a survey looking for introduced (non-native) species carried out in 2000 they found this beautiful sea anemone (Sagartia elegans).  It was only found in one marina: Hawthorne Cove Marina in Salem Harbor, MA (along with quite a few other neat introduced animals and plants).

Read More