Fiorenza Micheli's group is involved in a diverse set of research projects being conducted at a diverse set of study locations. These projects are united by the common goal of investigating how coastal marine assemblages are shaped through the interplay of physical factors and biological interactions, and examining how much of the observed variation in these assemblages can be attributed to human impacts on the marine environment.
Post-doc Francesco Ferretti, Dr. Fiorenza Micheli, and collaborators www.sharkbaselines.org are leading a project on shark baselines. Through the comparison of oceanic sectors in different stages of depletion, and by reconstructing the history of their exploitation, the shark baseline project aims to investigate the structure and population abundance of large sharks in natural ecosystems and to infer global change in their abundance as an effect of human perturbation. With a focus on coastal and pelagic ecosystems, the team is integrating a large volume of data from many oceanic sectors to answer crucial questions such as: (1) How many sharks can have a natural ecosystem of certain environmental settings and spatial scale? (2) Given a certain habitat (coastal or pelagic), what are the dominant species of sharks under natural conditions? (3) To what extent have sharks declined globally due to fishing?
Post-doc Rodrigo Beas is developing a kelp forest ecological model to inform the placement of Marine Protected Areas in the Monterey Bay. MPAs are crucial in protecting marine resources and supporting a diversity of ecosystem services such as food production, flood and storm protection as well as ecotourism. The aim of this study is to construct, refine and validate a quantitative model of a kelp forest ecosystem, including an improved food web, that will help ecologists monitor and evaluate the MPAs recently established along the coast of central California. Such a model will help ecologists and managers understand why some species might increase and others decrease in numbers inside and outside MPAs.
To accurately assess the efficacy of marine protected areas, scientists will need a better understanding of how biophysical processes operate at small scales in marine protected areas. Such research efforts contribute to Stanford's Marine Life Observatory (MLO) and Center for Ocean Solutions initiatives, emphasizing the application of science to inform decision-making and policy action. Dr. Micheli, postdoc Steven Litvin, along with Drs. Stephen Monismith (Stanford Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering), Mark Denny, and collaborators, are establishing a kelp forest observatory in the marine protected area adjacent to Stanford's Hopkins Marine Station. This project monitors small-scale physical, chemical and biological processes that affect near-shore kelp forests within the marine protected area. In addition, Drs. Fiorenza Micheli and Steve Litvin, along with physiologists from Hopkins, Dr. George Somero and Jody Beers, are using laboratory experiments to understand how low dissolved oxygen waters affect fish communities in near shore kelp forests.
Dr. Fiorenza Micheli and Mexican NGO Comunidad y Biodiversidad have partnered to investigate the impacts of oceanographic variability on coastal marine ecosystems and human communities of the Pacific coast of Baja California, Mexico, and the influences of local and global feedbacks on the resilience and adaptive capacity of these systems. Charles Boch is a researcher on this project, working from both Baja California and Hopkins Marine Station. This project will (1) characterize coastal oceanographic variability and the patterns and drivers of hypoxic events; (2) assess the impacts of coastal oceanographic variability, particularly hypoxic events, on nearshore species, ecosystems, and fisheries, and compare these impacts with past influence of El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) events; (3) assess the cultural, social, and economic variables that influence the responses of local communities to these impacts, particularly their willingness and ability to invest in local conservation and adaptation; and (4) assess the willingness of selected groups of US citizens to support these local conservation efforts and determine what factors influence such contributions.
As a physical oceanographer, Paul Leary is interested in coastal scale internal flows set up by stratified environments. As a community ecologist, he is interested community level responses to stressors advected by stratified flows. As a design engineer, he works to develop creative sensing and monitoring technology to better understand these physical and biological processes. Currently he is studying hypoxia in the Monterey Bay as transported by internal waves/tidal bores, and the community level response in kelp forest fishes in the short and long term.