My research in community ecology has been in two general areas: the role of disturbance in structuring natural communities and the ecology of host-parasite interactions.
Mangrove forest dynamics: My current research examines the role of lightning-generated canopy gaps in the regeneration of mangrove forests on the Caribbean coast of Panama. We are investigating with sampling and experimental studies a variety of biotic and abiotic factors that could account for spatial and temporal variation in patterns of gap regeneration. Such factors include propagule dispersal, competition among seedlings and saplings for light and nutrients, and herbivory by crabs and insects.
Estuarine host-parasite interactions: For about 10 years, I studied the interactions between the salt marsh snail Cerithidea californica and a diverse assemblage of larval trematodes that exploit it as first intermediate host in their life cycles. The two major questions this research addressed were (1) do parasites compete for snail hosts?, and (2) do parasites regulate snail population size?
Disturbance and succession in rocky seashore communities: My dissertation work demonstrated that intermediate levels of disturbance could maintain the diversity of intertidal algal assemblages, and tested several alternative models of succession. Later, I studied the effects of disturbance patch size and its interaction with herbivory on successional dynamics within intertidal mussel beds.