I am a PhD student in the Kroeker Lab at UC Santa Cruz, interested in the community and evolutionary dynamics of marine subtidal ecosystems. My passion for and focus on marine science began with a deep fascination with marine organisms and their
interactions, and has expanded to an appreciation of the role the ocean (and its biotic communities) has and will play in shaping the world as we humans experience it – and how our activities are impacting these critically important systems. In my studies and research at UCSC, I am investigating how changing environmental factors are influencing the ecology and evolution of marine ecosystems, and how changes may impact stakeholders.
During my undergraduate career, I pursued research on determinants of ecosystem function with PhD candidate Matthew Whalen and Dr. Jay Stachowicz. I took part in surveying both the Bodega Bay and Tamales Bay sites for the global seagrass research initiative, the Zostera Experimental Network (ZEN) and collaborated on a project investigating the effects of flow heterogeneity and diversity of fouling organisms on water column filtration. After graduating, I worked as a Junior Specialist
with Dr. Eric Sanford at the Bodega Marine Laboratory (BML) on a project investigating juvenile seastar ecology and the prevalence of wasting disease in Pisaster ochraceus juveniles. Before beginning graduate work, I was stationed out at the Bermuda Institute of Ocean Sciences (BIOS) helping to teach a marine invertebrate zoology course and assisting with lionfish and coral research. At UC Santa Cruz, I have been leading a multi-institutional group of researchers in a collaborative effort to elucidate the impact of ocean acidification on predator-prey interactions, using black perch (Embiotoca jacksoni) as a model species.
My current academic interests are widespread, but an overarching theme is an interest in the response of marine systems to “novel environments” (aka change, including changes in temperature and carbonate chemistry, as well as pollution and invasive species). This starts at the physiological and population levels and cascades up to the goal of understanding community- and ecosystem-level changes. I am also interested in how these changes then feed back to influence the evolution of the populations of species within the community. Included in this broad spectrum of interests are such topics as the role of species interactions in determining community structure, determinants of ecosystem function, population biology, evolutionary ecology, ecosystem modeling, biogeochemistry, and invasion biology. For more updates on my current avenues of exploration, see the Research tab.
My non-research interests are in science communication and education. With the world now within the recently coined “Anthropocene” and an increasing understanding of the impacts our society has had on global processes, it is more important than ever to bridge the gap between the academic and public worlds. To this end, I hope to promote an interest in, and understanding of, scientific research results to replace an unfortunately pervasive culture of misunderstanding and intimidation by improving my ability to communicate research results to more public audiences, as well as expand and refine my toolbox for effectively teaching college students core concepts of biology and experimental design while instilling in them the same passion for these systems that led me to pursue this career path. For more information, see the Science Communication tab.
In my blog, I record events, findings, or critters of particular interest that I come across in my studies and work in the world of ecological research, as well as reflections or updates on recent activities. I also post updates on twitter @ayjayjay.
My extracurricular interests include SCUBA diving, reading, hiking, and almost any sort of sport or athletics.
All photos property of Jason Toy, unless otherwise stated.