Laura’s work centers around food-webs and how impacts reverberate throughout the entire ecosystem, all the way to people. Her interest in this began while studying Magellanic penguins with Prof. P. Dee Boersma at the largest colony of Magellanic penguins in the world in Argentina. During this time, she witnessed the starvation of many penguin chicks and one of the largest reproductive failures for the colony in recent history. This catastrophic event sparked her interest in food-webs—an interest she then pursued in graduate school.
Laura received her PhD in the School of Aquatic and Fisheries Science at UW, where she looked at the impacts of fishing small “forage” fish on their predators, using a variety of mathematical models. Her work showed that fishing small fish like sardines and anchovies can have important negative impacts on predators, such as endangered seabirds and marine mammals. But, her work also highlighted many complexities, and even showed how fishing prey may benefit predators in some cases by removing competition pressures. Answers to important management questions are not always intuitive and require careful, rigorous analysis to point the way forward.
As another part of her graduate work, Laura worked with Phil and Dr. Tim Essington at UW on a national initiative to improve the implementation of an ecosystem perspective in fisheries management. Through this experience, Laura expanded her definition of ecosystems – that these include people, not just people as a pressure impacting food webs, but people as a vital part of the ecosystem that also need sustaining. This led to her interest in the current work she is doing as a Post-Doc with Phil. Laura and our team will be looking at the vulnerability of different fishing communities to climate change. How are equity, social connections, health, livelihoods, among many other factors of fishing communities affected by our changing oceans. Laura will also develop computer models that allow us to test management strategies that can help fishing communities adapt and improve their resilience to climate change.
Tiara is originally from Greenwood, South Carolina. She completed my B.S. in Biology in 2011 at Winthrop University in Rock Hill, South Carolina, where she developed an interest in marine science during a research trip in Costa Rica. Tiara received her M.S. in Biology with a concentration in Environmental Science in 2013 from Hampton University in Hampton, Virginia, where she conducted research on the water quality of the Chesapeake Bay linking sediment oxygen demand and nutrient cycling to the eutrophication of the Bay. After completing her M.S., she spent 2 months in Bali, Indonesia identifying the diversity and abundance of meiofauna in marine sediments across the coral triangle. She earned her PhD in Biology from UCLA in 2019, where she conducted research in Mo’orea, French Polynesia, Carpinteria Salt Marsh, and Upper Newport Bay. In Mo’orea, she observed the effects sedimentation and nutrient pollution have on the proliferation of coral reef macroalgae. In Carpinteria and Newport, she explored the effects of macroalgal decomposition on sediment biogeochemistry and the microbial community using environmental DNA (eDNA) techniques recently developed to assess the biodiversity of entire ecosystems with only a soil sample. Now for her postdoc, she will continue to use eDNA to develop a census of species found in Ellsworth Forest and compare species diversity across management treatments over the past 10 years.