We are located at Florida International University, Miami, FL, USA.
Our laboratory studies population and community ecology, and evolutionary ecology. Our research can be lumped into areas of population and community dynamics, spatial ecology, ecological monitoring, and life history evolution. We are very engaged in efforts to manage and restore the Everglades and work closely with State and Federal agencies.
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We use a variety of methods to document the density of aquatic animals in space and time with the goal of predicting how management and restoration actions will influence them in the future.
Below, two lab employees are sampling the density of small fishes with a 1 m² throw trap.
We also census large fish with an electrofisher mounted on our airboat. Below, Mike Bush is measuring a Bowfin (Amia calva) caught while electrofishing.
Life History Evolution
The timing and allocation of energy to different life functions like maturation and survival is a key contributor to population dynamics. We have studied how environmental conditions dictate the the pattern of allocation, shape life histories and affect the number of offspring adults contribute to future generations. Furthermore, the diversity of life histories represented by different species within communities can help predict future community composition. We have been studying the role of life history patterns within populations and communities.
Below is a picture of a field experiment conducted by Jessica Sanchez. Sailfin mollies (Poecilia latipinna) were held in cages exposed to light/shading and phosphorus addition/no-addition treatments to manipulate the autotroph-heterotroph ratio in biofilms that they fed on. We are interested in understanding how resource availability and quality affects life history and population dynamics.
In most ecosystems, animals move across the landscape to use different areas during their life cycle. This is definitely true for fish in the Everglades, where annual contraction and expansion of the flooded habitat is the norm. Spatial ecology integrates studies of local and regional populations and communities to better understand how these movements contribute to regional ecological dynamics. We study fish movement directly and incorporate those results into interpretation of our population and community time-series data through statistical analyses and simulation modeling.
Below is a photo of Liz Huselid tracking fish movement at some of our study sites.
Ecological Monitoring and Forecasting
Our studies of population and community dynamics, spatial ecology, and life histories are combined to provide a tool for assessing and communicating success of fisheries management in the Everglades. We contribute these results to the South Florida Ecosystem Task Force’s Biennial Report (or navigate to https://evergladesrestoration.gov/spbr/).
We have worked closely with modelers to develop simulation models that are used to evaluate alternative scenarios for future management of the Everglades. We also use our time-series data to forecast future conditions under alternative scenarios for future management.