The research in my laboratory addresses fundamental questions about the way in which animals respond to their environment (phenotypically and evolutionarily) and aims to provide a foundation for the understanding of central issues in biological conservation and management. It focuses on the evolutionary and behavioural ecology of fishes, with an emphasis on breeding system evolution, life history diversity, phenotypic plasticity, maternal effects and survival strategies. We have worked extensively on the management and conservation of wild fish populations, including the restoration of endangered and threatened populations, and interactions between aquaculture and wild fish. A range of scientific approaches are used, from controlled laboratory experiments to large-scale field experiments, as well as more theoretical studies.
Examples of research conducted in the laboratory include:
(i) Mating system evolution –
Fishes with their diverse mating systems are excellent models for the study of mating system evolution, particularly in the face of environmental change. We explore the forms of selection shaping both males and females and their interactions, the spatial and temporal variability the intensities of such selection, and the evolution of alternative reproductive phenotypes, sperm competition and cryptic female choice.
(ii) Maternal and other effects on offspring performance –
This research extends that on mating systems to explore the evolutionary significance of maternal effects (e.g., egg size, breeding time and nesting location) and other transgenerational forces shaping offspring performance and population dynamics.
(iii) Life history diversity –
Our work in this area includes studies of reproductive investment by fishes, the role of life history diversity in population stability, the effects of phenotypic heterogeneity on intraspecific competition, and the evolution of the alternative life history strategies such as residency/anadromy and early maturity.
(iv) Invasion Biology and Consequences of the Escape of Cultured Fish – Within the context of conservation ecology, we study the relative roles of environment and genetics (i.e. non-indigenous origins and domestication) and associated phenotypic plasticity in the potential for invasive fishes, including escapees from aquaculture, to establish both within native and non-native ranges, and to assess impacts on the productivity and genetic integrity of wild fish populations and the ecosystem they inhabit.
(v) Restoration and Fish Conservation –
Our research here focuses on small population biology and captive breeding and release strategies to aid in the recovery of threatened populations, with a focus on salmonid fishes.
(vi) Evolutionary and Behavioural Ecology of Salmonids at Sea –
Recently, we have begun studies to explore the migratory patterns of salmonid fishes (salmon, trout and char) at sea using a variety of techniques (e.g. telemetry and otolith microchemistry) and combining this ecological genomics.
(vii) Growth-predation Risk Tradeoffs in Lemon Sharks –
This research aims to quantify the importance of coastal creek nursery habits and their conservation value for juvenile lemon sharks on the island of Eleuthera, Bahamas.