I joined the Lirman Lab in the fall of 2007 after completing my undergraduate degree in marine science from UCLA and my masters from San Francisco State University. Happy to move to clearer and warmer water for my dissertation work, I switched from studying benthic ecology in the seagrasses and kelp systems of California to the stony coral reefs of the Caribbean. My dissertation has focused on the spatial dynamics between coral reef diversity and natural variation in the seascape. Using theoretical principles from species area relationships, island biogeography and habitat complexity, I am exploring how natural variations in reef size, structural complexity, and spatial configuration in the seascape can impact the diversity and abundance of corals found on a reef. These spatial metrics are often overlooked in reef science that assumes all reefs of given type are ecologically equivalent. My researchshows that not only is large scale intra-habitat variation important, but easily quantified. I use remotely sensed images from satellites, ArcGIS, and spatial analysis techniques to simply and cost-effectively measure the metrics of spatial reef heterogeneity. The ultimate goal of my dissertation research is to apply this link between diversity and seascape heterogeneity to management. I show how assessment of marine reserve performance can be improved by considering seascape heterogeneity in the analysis (Huntington et al. 2010, PLoS ONE) and coral monitoring protocols can underestimate coral species richness when reef size is ignored (Huntington and Lirman, in review, L&O: Methods).
My research interests in benthic ecology are vast and include marine reserve design and performance, landscape ecology, and adaptive management. To this end, I have collaborated on several projects over the past few years investigating algal removal effects on corals (McClanahan et al. 2011), evidence of cascading reserve effects on corals (Huntington et al. 2011), parrotfish grazing impacts on coral recruitment and survival, variation in reserve performance (Karnauskas et al. 2011), and coral nursery projects (Lirman et al. 2010).
I defend my dissertation this October 2011! After some time off back in California, I will return to Miami to work as a National Research Council Post Doctoral Fellow with NOAA and the Southeast Fisheries Science Center. I will be working with Dr. Margaret Miller to develop best practices in coral nursery outplanting techniques using naturally recovering Acropora populations as a model.
Huntington BE, Karnauskas M, Lirman D. (2011) Corals fail to recover at a Caribbean marine reserve despite ten years of reserve designation. Coral Reefs. doi: 10.1007/s00338-011-0809-4
Huntington BE. (2011) Confronting publication bias in marine reserve meta-analyses. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment 9:375-376.
McClanahan T, Huntington BE, Cokos B. (2011) Coral responses to macroalgal reductions and fishery closure on Caribbean patch reefs. Marine Ecology Progress Series 437:89-102
Karnauskas M, Huntington BE, Babcock E, Lirman D. (2011) Preexisting spatial patterns in fish abundances influence species-specific responses in a Caribbean marine reserve. Marine Ecology Progress Series 432:235–246
Meyer JR, Michel E, McIntyre PB, Huntington BE, Long D & Lara G. (2011) Scale dependent processes of community assembly in endemic gastropods in Lake Tanganyika, East Africa. Freshwater Biology. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2427.2011.02639.x
Huntington BE, Karnauskas M, Babcock E, Lirman D. (2010) Untangling natural seascape variation from marine reserve effects using a landscape approach. PLoS ONE 5:e12327
Lirman D, Thyberg T, Herlan J, Hill C, Young-Lahiff C, Schopmeyer S, Huntington B, Santos R, and Drury C. (2010). Propagation of the threatened staghorn coral Acropora cervicornis: methods to minimize the impacts of fragment collection and maximize production. Coral Reefs 29:729-735.