FSU Biology - Ecology & Evolution
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Ecology and Conservation Biology

Why species occupy the habitats they do and what drives the fluctuations in their numbers are questions that are fundamental for understanding biodiversity; the answers are essential for conserving it. Organisms confront many challenges in their environment, from obtaining the energy needed to grow and reproduce to coping with an array of competitors, predators, and pathogens. Global change, whether via climatic shifts, the advent of invasive species, or habitat loss and fragmentation, is creating new challenges and changing the nature of biological communities and the composition of ecosystems. Ecological research has uncovered enormous complexity in the relationships of organisms to their environments and the challenge now is to distill that complexity into principles that will help us manage our ecosystems and preserve our biodiversity in a rapidly changing world.


Scott Burgess

My research combines ecological and evolutionary principles to study the population biology of coastal marine invertebrates. One main focus is on the evolution of dispersal, reproductive strategies, and life histories. Another main focus is on the ecology and evolution of cryptic species of corals in the genus Pocillopora. We typically use some combination of field and laboratory experiments, population, quantitative, and molecular genetics, and mathematical modeling/theory.

Michael Cortez

I use mathematical models to explore how adaptation and species interactions drive patterns observed across communities. Much of my past work has focused on predator-prey, host-pathogen, and other exploiter-victim systems.

Emily H. DuVal

My research program explores the evolution of social behavior in animals, particularly birds, with an emphasis on cooperation, sexual selection, and reproductive strategies.

Brian D. Inouye

At each level of organization, from genes to species to communities, one of the most exciting aspects of biology is diversity. Why do some communities consist of so many species, when others are dominated by just a few? The central goal of my research program is to join theoretical and empirical approaches to understanding population dynamics and community structure.

Don R. Levitan

I am interested in the ecology and evolution of marine invertebrates. My work examines the interactions between ecological processes, natural and sexual selection, and molecular evolution. I am particularly interested in how sperm availability and population density influence the evolution of gamete traits and reproductive behavior and the cascading effects of this selection on reproductive isolation and speciation.  I enjoy integrating field experiments and molecular studies with theory.

Austin R. Mast

My research program involves topics within the broadly defined area of biodiversity study. I am particularly interested in (1) the interplay of ecology and evolution that determines the form and function of plant life on Earth, (2) the use of biodiversity research specimens and digital information about them to bring that interplay into sharper focus, and (3) public engagement in the research to further science and STEM literacy goals.

Thomas E. Miller

At the heart of my interests is the problem of how ecology and evolution combine to determine the number and abundances of species in communities.

Daniel Okamoto

Is study population dynamics with a particular focus on marine species. I am interested in how environmental and trophic interactions regulate fluctuations in demographics (i.e. recruitment, growth, reproduction and mortality) and population size, and how management (especially in fisheries) impacts such dynamics in space and time. My research integrates field and laboratory experiments, field surveys, statistical analysis, mathematical theory and simulation modeling. Primary research taxa thus far include sea urchins, marine macroalgae, forage fish, reef fish and abalone.

Andrew Rassweiler

I am a quantitative marine ecologist with research interests straddling the linked fields of natural resource management and ecosystem resilience. I combine field experiments, data analysis and mathematical modeling to address basic and applied questions in temperate and tropical reef ecosystems.

David Thoms

Plant roots are analogous to the animal gut as both are important sites of nutrient acquisition and microbial activity. We use the plant model system, Arabidopsis thaliana, to study the role of innate immunity in establishing a healthy root microbiome. We use a combination of NextGen sequencing, microscopy, and genetics to study the mechanisms required for distinguishing between beneficial and pathogenic bacteria in a manner that modulates bacterial growth.

Joseph Travis

I am interested in how and why the features of animals, particularly freshwater fish and amphibians, vary from one population to another.  Variation among local populations of the same species represents the earliest stage in the adaptive generation of biodiversity and understanding that variation can give us insights into a variety of ecological and evolutionary processes that affect life histories, morphology, behavioral patterns, and even physiological responses.

Nora Underwood

I am a population biologist interested in the ecology and evolution of plant-insect interactions. I study how genotypic and phenotypic variation among individuals affects the long-term spatial and temporal dynamics of plant, herbivore and pollinator populations. I have field projects in both Florida and at the Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory in Colorado.

Alice A. Winn

I study plant population biology, life-history evolution, and ecological genetics.

Janie L. Wulff

I study the ecology of sponges and the organisms with which they interact as mutualistic partners, competitors, and prey, especially in coral reefs, seagrass meadows, and mangroves.

Emeritus Faculty2

Frances C. James

I am currently studying the evidence for the widely accepted hypothesis that birds are maniraptoran theropod dinosaurs and developing a model that characterizes forest-management options and their relative likelihood of providing sustainability for the full biodiversity of the longleaf-pine ecosystem


Kevin Dixon

Geographic variation in sexual selection.

Coastal and Marine Lab Faculty1

Sandra D. Brooke

My primary research is on coral reefs from shallow waters to the deep sea. My focus is on understanding their distribution, abundance, and physiology, as well as how they are affected by anthropogenic impacts.

Felicia C. Coleman

My research focus is marine ecology, particularly as it relates to reef fishes and their interactions with other species in their community and their habitat.

Dean Grubbs

My research interests are in ichthyology and marine ecology with an emphasis on the biology of coastal, pelagic, and deep sea fishes.  Much of my research focuses on exploited, imperiled, or poorly studied elasmobranch species and is often directed towards answering questions necessary for sustainable management and conservation of their populations.  I am particularly interested in the drivers of community structure and habitat use patterns as well as population dynamics and life history variability.

Jeroen Ingels

I am a marine ecologist with a wide interest in benthic biodiversity, ecosystem functioning and food web ecology in marine ecosystems. At the FSUCML my research focusses on creating a better understanding of the role of meiofauna in marine ecosystem function, and advancing our knowledge of meiofauna and nematode biology and ecology. Meiofaunal organisms are abundant in all marine ecosystems and play a pivotal role in key processes and functions. Despite their ecological importance, they are often overlooked and many aspects of their biology and ecology are still unknown.

Christopher Koenig

My research is focused on economically important reef fishes of the southeastern United States. Subject areas include studies of absolute abundance and survival in nursery habitats, demographics of reproductive groups on offshore spawning sites, deep-water coral-reef restoration, and trophic interactions of marine fishes.

1: Can mentor graduate students in the Department of Biological Science
2: Cannot mentor graduate students in the Department of Biological Science