Research Areas and Sub-Specialties

Seagrass Biology and Physiological Ecology

Student measures photosyhesis of seagrass with a PAM flourometerObjectives: To assess the habitat structure, reproductive biology, productivity, and physiological ecology of coastal submerged aquatic vegetation. Research in the Marine Botany Lab has recently focused on developing techniques to measure stress and population status in coastal seagrass communities and evaluate the scale-based variability in the information provided by these techniques. The overall goal of these investigations is to evaluate how to best assess trends in seagrass ecosystem health, and to provide scientific information and recommendations to promote

Background: Seagrass communities in subtidal and intertidal areas along the coast provide critical habitat for ecologically and economically important fishery resources and their condition largely determines the public's perception regarding the health of coastal ecosystems. These communities have declined in both area and quality, or they have been otherwise altered so that natural productivity and characteristics have been lost or diminished. Dr. Durako and his students are currently participating in wetland-habitat assessment research to: 1) evaluate the effects of light availability, nutrient enrichment and salinity variation on seagrasses, 2) evaluate the different conclusions that may result from interpreting structural and physiological data collected at differing spatial scales and according to different sampling designs, and 3) develop methods to measure those characteristics (ecoindicators) that may be used to document status and trends in the ecological and physiological condition of seagrass communities. The most recent activities associated with #3 involve evaluating optical sensors, such as PAM fluorometers, ship-based and satellite-based spectro-radiometers to assess submerged distribution, abundance and plant physiological condition.

Faculty researching this area include:

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Michael Durako




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