The Valiela Lab

Laboratory Interests

Community and ecosystem ecology, predation, herbivory, coastal wetlands, watershed-estuary couplings, applied ecology

Our laboratory focuses on question relating to the structure and function of coastal ecosystems, including predation, herbivory, decomposition and nutrient cycles, eutrophication in coastal marine communities, watershed and coastal water interactions in shallow bays, salt marshes, mangroves, and estuaries. We have investigated short and long-term consequences of experimental eutrophication of salt marshes, using those manipulations to study how producers, consumers, and decomposers are linked in salt marshes and how these components of ecosystems are related to geochemical cycles of nutrients, particularly nitrogen, to decomposition of organic matter and to issues of eutrophication of salt marshes.

We are investigating the coupling of coastal watersheds and shallow coastal waters, including temperate and tropical coastal ecosystems. Increased urbanization and deforestation of coastal watersheds alters nutrient loading of groundwater and streams that transport nutrients to nearshore waters. We are measuring the extent of the nutrient transport to coastal bays and examining the consequences of nutrient entry on water quality, nutrient cycles, producers, and consumers.

To do these studies, we have developed different approaches, from mass balance work, to application of stable isotopic approaches, and modeling of the effect of land use changes on nutrient loads.

Current grants to the Valiela lab

Nitrogen loads to Great South Bay - The Nature Conservancy, Long Island Chapter

LTREB: Long-term changes in experimental salt marsh plots: Effects of chronic eutrophication and sea level rise - NSF

Stable isotopic approaches to understand and monitor eutrophication in land-estuary ecosystems - MIT Sea Grant

The Wild Harbor oil spill: Ecological effects 30 years later? - WHOI Sea Grant

Controls of harmful macroalgal blooms: Experimental and comparative studies. - ECOHAB/NOAA

Research Experience for Undergraduates: Coastal Bays of New England - REU/NSF

Fellowships awarded to graduate students

Long-term ecological effects of the Wild Harbor Oil Spill - Boston University Marine Program Palmer McLoud (J. Culbertson)

Macroalgal blooms in Waquoit Bay: the relative influence of nutrient supply, grazing, and predation. - EPA/STAR (S. Fox)

Macroalgal blooms in Waquoit Bay: The relative influence of nitrogen loads and grazers and links to watersheds. - NOAA/NERR (S. Fox)

Development of a sensitive and widespread indicator of estuarine nitrogen loads: Stable isotopic signatures in salt marsh cordgrass - NOAA/NERR (E. Kinney)

Migration patterns and trophic position of North Atlantic right whales - A.V. Stout Fund, Norcross Wildlife Foundation (N. Lysiak)

Historic and modern stable isotope ratios of North Atlantic right whale habitat use - Lerner Gray Grant, American Museum of Natural History (N. Lysiak)

Developing multi-isotope tracers to determine North Atlantic right whale habitat use - Sounds Conservancy Grant, Quebec Labrador Foundation (N. Lysiak)

SEASPACE Scholarship - Houston Underwater Club (N. Lysiak)

Stable isotopes of right whale baleen as indicators of growth, migration, reproduction, inter-annual productivity, and geographic range - Ocean Life Institute, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (N. Lysiak)

Distribution and controls of Seagrasses in Jobos Bay. - NOAA/NERR (Y. Olsen)

Human-driven loss of seagrass habitat: effect on food and cover for fish and invertebrates - The Sounds Conservancy, QLF(Y. Olsen)

Human-driven loss of seagrass habitat: relative importance of seagrass as food and cover - Lerner-Gray Fund for Marine Research, American Museum of Natural History (Y. Olsen)

An investigation of the effects of petroleum hydrocarbon contamination on the ecology of a salt marsh - EPA/STAR (E. Peacock)

MA thesis improvement grant - Lovell Foundation (E. Peacock)

Do nitrogen loads and water residence times control species composition and taxonomic structure of phytoplankton in Waquoit Bay, MA? - NOAA/NERR (G. Tomasky)