I am interested in linking community-level and ecosystem-level processes, especially in marine systems. Ecological communities are composed of suites of interacting species, and I study how those species mediate the transformation and flux of energy and nutrients. Like many complex systems, a functioning community can be greater than the sum of its parts, and my work highlights the emergent role of biodiversity as a driver of important ecosystem functions such as nutrient cycling and biomass accumulation. I am also interested in the role of local-scale versus large-scale processes, spatial subsidies, and non-traditional species interactions. For example, I have done quite a bit of research into the roles of consumers as mediators of nutrient availability in marine systems.
I received my B.S. in Biology from Florida State University in the spring of 2016. While there, my thesis work focused on the relationship between the anemone Aiptasia pallida and its endosymbiotic dinoflagellate algae. I found that anemones respond to light disturbances by moving in different ways depending on symbiont density and available zooplankton in the water column. I came to the west coast to study tide pools. I am broadly interested in how herbivores or filter feeders in intertidal communities affect local seaweed biodiversity via nutrient production, investigating questions at both the community and ecosystem levels.
The abiotic conditions that intertidal organisms experience differ depending on season and location. These differences can play important roles in determining the distributions and abundances of species at various locations. I am interested seaweed diversity along the U.S. west coast and how the abundances and roles of species change with latitude. I have been conducting observations and experiments at multiple sites spanning the California coast to investigate changes in the abundances and roles of particular species, especially rockweeds such as Pelvetiopsis californica (previously, Hesperophycus californicus), Pelvetiopsis limitata, and Silvetia compressa. Additionally, I have evaluated patterns of species co-occurrence to assess aggregation and segregation and evaluate potential changes in species interactions with latitude.
In 2012, I graduated from Northeastern University in Boston, Massachusetts, with a M.S. in Biology. For my thesis, I conducted several field experiments at the Wells National Estuarine Research Reserve in southern Maine, where I studied the consumptive and nonconsumptive effects of the invasive green crab (Carcinus maenas) on macroinfaunal diversity and abundance and ecosystem functioning in a New England salt marsh. Throughout graduate school, I had the opportunity to conduct various lab and field experiments to assess ecological impacts of benthic species on their environment, in both rocky shore and salt marsh habitats. I have always been interested in understanding the impacts of invasive species in their new environment and how we can minimize their potential negative effects.
After graduate school, I worked at the the NOAA (NMFS) Milford Laboratory in Connecticut. As a research technician at NOAA, I worked on several projects, including ocean acidification, dredging effects on marine habitat, and bioextraction of nutrients from marine environments using bivalves. In the field I have taken sediment cores, water samples, and biological samples for analysis. In the laboratory, I am proficient in using various analytical instruments such as the Lachat Quickchem 8500, Quaatro seal analytical, spectrophotometer, fluorometer, elemental analyzer, YSI and other various pieces of equipment. I had the opportunity to learn and master several techniques including water chemistry analysis (nitrate, nitrite, ammonium, phosphorus, silicate), sediment grain size, nutrients, DIC, pH, DOC, POC/PON, alkalinity, total phosphorus, and carbohydrate analysis.
Undergraduate researchers in the Bracken Lab are working on a variety of projects, including work to understand how herbivores, like snails on rocky shores, affect primary producers both from the top down, by consuming them, and from the bottom up, by recycling limiting nutrients. Students are conducting observations and experiments that allow us to partition the consumptive and non-consumptive effects of herbivores on primary producers, providing a novel, mechanistic understanding of the complex relationships between top-down and bottom-up processes in marine communities. This work focuses on interactions between snails and microalgae in tide pools on the California coast. Other projects include observations and experiments to understand the roles of seaweeds in California’s intertidal communities.
Carolina Aguila, M.S. in Biology Student, Northeastern University (Fall 2009-Spring 2011)
Alex Badten, Undergraduate Researcher, UC Irvine (Fall 2016-Spring 2017)
Kylla Benes, Ph.D. in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, UC Irvine (Winter 2009-Fall 2016)
Rachel Chatfield, Undergraduate Researcher, UC Irvine (Fall 2015-Spring 2016)
Marcy Cockrell, M.S. in Marine Biology, Northeastern University (Summer-Fall 2009)
James Douglass, Postdoctoral Research Associate (Summer 2010-Summer 2012)
Annick Drouin, Visiting Ph.D. Student, Laval University (Summer-Fall 2011, Summer 2012)
Robin Fales, Undergraduate Researcher, UC Irvine (Winter 2015-Summer 2016)
Adam Fuller, M.S. in Marine Biology, Northeastern University (Summer-Fall 2008)
Brendan Gillis, M.S. in Biology, Northeastern University (Fall 2010-Spring 2014)
Natalie Low, Undergraduate Intern, Brown University (Summer 2010)
Michael Hutson, Research Intern (Summer 2011)
Valerie Perini, M.S. in Biology, Northeastern University (Spring 2010-Fall 2013)
Christine Ramsay, Ph.D. in Ecology, Evolution, and Marine Biology, Northeastern University (Fall 2011-Spring 2015)
Molly Roberts, M.S. in Marine Biology, Northeastern University (Summer-Fall 2011)
Isaac Rosenthal, Undergraduate Intern (Summer 2012)
Vicky Selesnick, M.S. in Marine Biology, Northeastern University (Summer-Fall 2013)
Brian Taggart, M.S. in Marine Biology, Northeastern University (Summer-Fall 2010)
Victor Ya, Undergraduate Researcher, UC Irvine (Fall 2016-Spring 2017)
Robyn Zerebecki, M.S. in Marine Biology, Northeastern University (Summer-Fall 2009)