FSU Biology - Ecology & Evolution
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Marine Biology

While the principles of ecology and evolution apply everywhere, organisms in the marine environment have unique ecological relationships that influence their populations and shape their long-term evolutionary trajectories. Many marine organisms disperse eggs or larvae very widely and this dispersal connects ecological and evolutionary processes among populations of adults that are often spread over very large geographic areas. The movement of water laterally and vertically transports organisms and nutrients in ways that can make marine food webs extremely large and complex. The flow of water and material from rivers to the ocean connects the inshore marine environment with terrestrial ecological processes that often unfold far from the shoreline. And of course marine invertebrates represent some of the most diverse groups of living organisms. Research in marine biology addresses the challenges of tracing how general ecological and evolutionary principles unfold in the ocean but also those of identifying how the unique features of marine environments influence the outcomes of these processes.


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.

Sarah Lester

The Lester Lab has an interdisciplinary research program addressing questions related to coastal and marine natural resource management, marine conservation science, ecosystem sustainability, and marine biogeography. We engage in collaborative projects with academic and non-academic researchers, NGOs, government entities, and stakeholders around the world. 

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.

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.

Joel Trexler

I am an ecologist interested in understanding how the environment affects organisms and they affect it. My students and I study the controls of population and community dynamics of fish and invertebrates in aquatic ecosystems, especially wetlands. We also study animal influences on their environment through engineering its structure and impacts on biogeochemical cycles. Much of my research is conducted in support of environmental management and restoration projects.

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

William F. Herrnkind

Much of my research has involved underwater technology, manipulative field experiments, and mesocosms to study the Caribbean spiny lobster.

Robert J. Livingston

I study aquatic ecology, pollution biology, field and lab experimentation, and ecosystem-level research in freshwater, estuarine, and marine systems.

Richard N. Mariscal

I study cnidarians, including their prey-predator interactions, symbiotic associations, and defense mechanisms.

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.

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.

Tara Stewart Merrill

The unifying theme of my research is understanding the causes and consequences of parasitism and infectious disease in aquatic ecosystems. How do largescale environmental changes—like climate change and biodiversity loss—influence pathogen spread? Why do epidemics start and what limits their size? To what extent do parasites constrain their host populations, and how do the suppressive effects of disease scale up to affect community structure and ecosystem function? To address these questions, I combine natural history, theoretical models, laboratory experiments, and field studies.

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