Invertebrates, Community Ecology, and Climate Change


Determining the effect of the physical environment on social behavior and community composition

Understanding how environmental conditions influence phenology, development, and community composition is important for predicting effects of climate change on species abundance, range expansions/contractions, and community dynamics, as well as for understanding how adult animal behavior may change in response to changing climate conditions. We approach this broad research objective from two angles- we study how variation in physical rearing environment drives within-species variation in mating behavior using butterflies, and how annual temperature patterns influence community composition and phenology in sessile benthic communities, with focus on colonial ascidians. Our benthic ecology work is largely done in collaboration with Dr. Jennifer Dijkstra at the University of New Hampshire.

Relevant Publications

Dijkstra, J.*, Westerman, E.*, Harris, L., (2017) Elevated seasonal temperatures eliminate thermal barriers of reproduction of a dominant invasive species: A community state change for northern communities? Diversity and Distributions 23(10) 1182-1192 Doi: 10.1111/ddi.12604      *co-first authors

Westerman, E.L., Monteiro, A. (2016) Rearing temperature influences adult response to changes in mating status. PLoS ONE Doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0146546 pdf

Dijkstra, J., Westerman, E., Harris, L.G. (2011) The effects of climate change on species composition, succession and phenology: A case study. Global Change Biology 17: 2360-2369. Doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2486.2010.02371.x pdf

Westerman, E., Dijkstra, J., Harris, L.G. (2009) High natural fusion rates in a botryllid ascidian. Marine Biology 156(12): 2613-2619. Doi: 10.1007/s00227-009-1287-x pdf

Westerman, E. Whitlatch, R., Dijkstra, J., and Harris, L.G. (2009) Variation in brooding period masks similarities in response to changing temperatures. Marine Ecology Progress Series 391:13-19. Doi: 10.3354/meps08107 pdf

Dijkstra, J., Dutton, A+., Westerman, E., Harris, L.G. (2008) Heart rate reflects osmotic stress levels in the two introduced colonial ascidians Botryllus schlosseri and Botrylloides violates. Marine Biology 154(5): 805-811. Doi: 10.1007/s00227-008-0973-4 pdf

Dijkstra, J., Harris, L.G., Westerman, E. (2007) Distribution and ecology of four colonial ascidians: Botryllus schlosseri, Botrylloides violates, Diploma listerianum and Didemnum sp. in the Gulf of Maine. Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology 342: 61-68. Doi: 10.1016/j.jembe.2006.10.015 pdf




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