Student Project: Species interactions in urban ecosystems: Enhancing resilience and ecosystem services (Gosnell and Zarnoch Labs)

The labs of Dr. Zarnoch and Dr. Gosnell at Baruch College are excited to host Summer 2020 BUEE students.  Students will be exposed to field, lab, and modeling work that seeks to connect a basic understanding of the drivers and consequences of diversity with management issues.  These projects, detailed below, fit together.  BUEE student(s) will spend portions of time designing, implementing, and gathering data from field experiments in local coastal systems.  While field experiments are running, they will assist with meta-analyses that take a broader look at ecology questions.

Understanding how species interactions may enhance resilience and ecosystem services within urban salt marshes

Species interactions likely enhance the stability and ecosystem services of coastal marshes, yet they remain a largely overlooked aspect of urban marsh restoration. Mutualistic interactions between ribbed mussels and plants facilitate recovery of marshes following disturbance and likely assist establishment and growth in young restored marshes. Mussels and plants can provide organic carbon and facilitate diffusion of oxygen and nitrate to sediments, creating conditions that should enhance permanent removal of nitrogen by sediment bacteria, carbon sequestration, and improve local water quality. These effects may be particularly important in young restored marsh sediments, which contain very little organic matter. Our ongoing research is examining how the addition of ribbed mussels to marsh restoration projects in the Harlem River and Jamaica Bay may promote marsh growth/ sequestration and nitrogen-removal ecosystem services.  Students will design field and laboratory experiments, in collaboration with partner organizations, to clarify the mechanisms of marsh/mussel ecosystem services and test the effect of species interactions on salt marsh resilience.  This information will improve our ability to plan effective marsh restorations in coastal urban ecosystems.

Using meta-analyses to understand predator impacts and their mediation

One type of species interaction that has gained increasing attention in ecology is fear. Predators scare prey, and evidence suggests these fear, or non-consumptive, effects may be the major path through which predators influence communities.  Students will aid in completing two projects aimed at developing a better understanding of fear effects through meta-analyses. BUEE student(s) will explore how (or if) fear effects depend on predator biomass. They will also collect and analyze information to determine if species that captively-bred can be trained to avoid fear effects and if such training is worth the costs to management programs.