Research themes

The Population and Ecosystem Modeling Lab at WHOI pursues several complimentary research themes related to marine primary productivity, ecosystem ecology, and fisheries science. Key topics include regional and global modeling of marine phytoplankton production, the impact of environmental variability on marine ecosystems and food webs, and the productivity of exploited fish populations. Mathematical and statistical modeling provides the methodological core for our work, utilizing tools from theoretical ecology, ocean modeling, spatial-temporal statistics, hierarchical modeling, and extreme value theory. Our approach integrates statistical data analyses with theoretical and process-based models of our study systems. A longterm goal of the group is the improved management of marine ecosystems through science-based decision making, particularly in the context of climate and oceanographic change.

Living Marine Resources

Marine fisheries represent one of the first and far-reaching human uses of our natural resources, yet stocks have been impacted in recent decades by overfishing, habitat destruction, and the accelerating pace of climate change. Our work in this area includes regional and global analysis of recruitment and growth variability, probabilistic modeling of recovery trajectories for depleted stocks, development of statistical stock assessment and decision-theoretic methods, and climate impact modeling using projections from general circulation models. We are also interested in aquacultural systems where we have helped develop models of harmful algal blooms in marine farms and coastal systems.

System Structure and Dynamics

The group maintains a broad interest in the underlying structure and dynamics of marine populations and ecosystems. Our published work in this area has investigated the dynamics of community matrix models and the role of top down control, the balance between primary production and carbon export, and the trophic structure of marine ecosystems on contemporary and geological timescales. Recent work has investigated how primary production and grazing respond to environmental variation on hourly to seasonal timescales.

Satellite Remote Sensing

Satellite remote sensing provides an unparalleled source of information on marine ecosystem processes. We use these data as central tools to inform studies across our research topics, including primary and fisheries productivity modelling, and the estimation of export production. We are particularly interested in developing new remote-sensing-based models of marine primary productivity and advancing their use in fisheries management and climate impact monitoring, including applications across spatial and temporal scales.

Ecological and Environmental Statistics

The Population and Ecosystem Modeling Laboratory has a general interest in applied ecological and environmental statistics beyond applications in our core marine research areas. Through diverse collaborations we help develop statistical methodology to address questions across the ecology and environmental science, including progress toward international biodiversity targets, the dynamics of international wildlife trade, paleo-atmospheric chemistry, spatial-temporal patterns of microbial genetic diversity, among others. Much of our statistical work makes use of Bayesian analysis - to this end we have an ongoing interest in the use and development of probabilistic programming languages and associated packages to perform Bayesian inference on complex ecological and environmental datasets.