1. Marine functional diversity and ecosystem functioning
The last two decades have seen the emergence of a biodiversity-ecosystem function paradigm in terrestrial systems, where clear links between biodiversity and ecosystem functioning have been established. My primary research interest focuses on the functional diversity of marine organisms and its effect on ecosystems. I combine observational and experimental field methods with modern analytical approaches to disentangle patterns of niche partitioning within assemblages, the effects of fine-scale environmental variation on ecological processes, and the consequences of disturbances for functional pathways.
I am particularly interested in the ecological role of marine organisms that are commonly overlooked, especially small, cryptic fishes (which I usually call "cryptobenthic fishes"). These fishes occur in great abundance in almost any hard-bottom ecosystem outside of the world's polar region and are likely a major link between microscopic prey organisms and higher trophic levels. On coral reefs, cryptobenthic reef fishes form the most abundant and most diverse group of vertebrates and we still know surprisingly little about these fishes' ecology, evolution, distribution, or phylogenetic relationships. My goal is to create a holistic understanding of cryptobenthic fish communities and their role within coastal marine ecosystems.
3. Behavioral ecology of marine fishes
While teleost fishes have once been seen as automatons with predisposed responses to environmental cues, it is now clear that fishes can display a variety of complex behavioral processes. I have a keen interest in the behavioral ecology of coral reef fishes, especially as it pertains to their functional role on coral reefs. I use underwater video, aquarium-based studies, as well as approaches such as acoustic telemetry to improve our understanding of coral reef fishes and their behavior, while trying to link these behaviors to ecosystem-wide processes.