Our focus is on basic ecological and evolutionary research, with application to contemporary issues such as conservation biology, invasive species, marine protected areas, and global change:
i. Long-term ecological and evolutionary studies of community assembly and dynamics (See "Specific Opportunities" below.)
ii. Systematics, biogeography, ecology, and evolution of scyphozoan jellyfishes.
iii. Comparative phylogeography of intertidal invertebrates of Pacific North America.
iv. Population genomics of Mastigias jellyfishes.
General opportunities for undergraduate experience in my lab are outlined on the undergraduate information page.
Options for a graduate career in my lab are outlined on the graduate information page
Ongoing openings for postdocs are described on the post-doc information page.
"Do Parallel Patterns Arise from Parallel Processes?"
NSF Dimensions of Biodiversity OCE-1241255 & OCE-1241247
PI: M.N Dawson (UC Merced)
Co-PIs: J. Michael Beman (UC Merced), Julian P. Sachs (U. Washington)
Senior Personnel: Jessica Blois (UC Merced), Jere Lipps (UC Berkeley)
Graduate students: starting Fall 2013, Spring/Fall 2014, Spring/Fall 2015.
Laboratory technician: starting 2014.
Postdoctoral Scholar: starting 2016.
This project will examine the current and historical diversity in marine lakes that formed as melting ice sheets raised sea level. Many of these lakes were isolated from each other, providing opportunities for species in the lakes to evolve independently under similar environmental conditions.
We will examine the extent to which communities of marine microbes, algae, invertebrates, and fishes in a suite of ‘natural experiments’ are influenced in similar or divergent ways by factors including environmental change.
The 'natural experiments' we study have been running for many thousands of years in marine lakes. Marine lakes formed as melting ice sheets raised global sea level >100 m after the last glacial maximum, inundating coastal valleys and creating hundreds of marine lakes worldwide. Dozens are found in close proximity in several locations in the Indo-West Pacific region, and our focus is on exemplars in Indonesia and Palau; the latter includes the most famous marine lake, 'Jellyfish Lake', which holds millions of jellyfish of a subspecies found nowhere else in the world.
The island-like marine lake habitats were inoculated with marine life from the surrounding sea as they flooded, and then became isolated to varying degrees for the next 6000-15000 years—providing multiple, millennia-long, independent evolutionary ecological experiments. The long history of each lake—during which organisms colonized the lakes, populations waxed and waned, species changed and some were extirpated and perhaps replaced—was recorded in sediments deposited on the lake bottom. By coring down through these sediment layers we can examine how environmental conditions and the species inhabiting each lake varied through time and led to the modern marine lake communities we see today. Through species surveys, DNA sequencing, biogeochemical analysis, and modeling, we will explore the extent to which deterministic (e.g. selection) and stochastic (e.g. drift) processes collectively influence the diversity of species, genes, and function—and their interactions. The project examines the underlying processes that assemble and influence ecosystems, and asks whether these processes extend across different types of diversity (i.e. genes, species, and ways of living), different domains of life, and from land to sea.
The project will support more than a dozen early career scientists, from undergraduate students to a postdoc, including student groups promoting scholarship, professional development, and evidence-based public education. With colleagues at other institutions, we will study fossil DNA, develop physical and digital collections, and incorporate project data into a general framework for community ecology and biogeography. The research directly contributes baseline surveys of biodiversity in ecosystems that may become heavily used for tourism in the coming decade in West Papua, and contributes to ongoing assessment and protection of a newly inscribed World Heritage Site in Palau. Project PIs will work closely with government and non-government conservation and education groups, and with dive and tour guide businesses, to raise awareness of biodiversity value and threats in Indonesia and Palau.