When we think about a “pristine” untouched ecosystem we often have a single, preconceived image in mind. It could be a grassland with thousands of bison, a thick tropical forest, or a coral reef teeming with fish and sharks. These places certainly existed, and in many cases are now lost or replaced by alternatives, but there has always been variation and not everywhere would fit into these limited boxes. There must always have been marginal ecosystems and vast amounts of variation.
It is this variation that we propose can help conservation. If we can describe that variation we can do a better job at placing modern ecosystems into context. In this paper published in Conservation Biology we discuss our ideas of how the fossil record can be used to redefine what should be considered “pristine” and the positive benefits of doing so for conservation.
Open Access available
O’Dea, A., M. Dillon, E., H. Altieri, A. and L. Lepore, M. (2017), Look to the past for an optimistic future. Conservation Biology. doi:10.1111/cobi.12997
Urchins are the last abundant grazers of macroalgae on most Caribbean reefs following the historical overexploitation of herbivorous fishes.
The long-spined urchin Diadema antillarum was particularly effective at controlling macroalgae and facilitating coral dominance on Caribbean reefs until Continue reading
Lauren Graniero, student at Texas A&M and STRI short term Fellow, just published another paper that helps us make sense of the significance of stable isotope ratios in skeletal material. Continue reading
How do you extract tiny shark dermal denticles from marine sediments and how can they be used to reconstruct shark communities? In this new paper, Erin Dillon Continue reading
Caribbean coral reefs have transformed into algal-dominated habitats over recent decades, but the mechanisms of change are unresolved due to a lack of quantitative ecological data before large-scale human impacts. To understand the role of reduced herbivory in recent coral declines, we produce a high-resolution 3,000 year record of reef Continue reading
Brigida de Gracia, with the help of Felix, Paola and Abhy, have produced a unique guide to the identification of otoliths in Caribbean boney fishes from Bocas del Toro, Panama
Post-doctoral fellow Mauro Lepore gives a talk about Caribbean coral reefs at the Biomuseo in Panama
Follow the exploits of the O’Dea lab in the field on the Baseline Caribbean project
We are looking for three new interns/fellows to join the O’Dea lab. For more information download the flyers here: opportunities in the O’Dea lab
Project 1 (one position). Interoceanic differences in energy flow. Position open now, send CV and cover letter to email@example.com.
Project 2 (two positions). The ecological, life history and environmental differences between Holocene and modern Caribbean coral reef fish assemblages using fossil otoliths. To apply follow directions on the flyer.
The 37th Scientific Conference Association of Marine Laboratories of the Caribbean was held at CARMABI marine biology research station in Curaçao.
Our group presented a suite of posters and talks, and on the last day Continue reading
Felix Rodriguez and I just published a compendium of papers in Spanish for students and non-scientists in Latin America. The book is called “Historia natural del Istmo de Panama” and features a suite of papers covering different topics from the geology of the Isthmus to the future of fishing along both coasts of Panama. The book will be on sale across the Isthmus. Let me know if you wish to purchase a copy.
My contribution can be downloaded here: Historia natural de los mares panameños
How do we reveal the past conditions of Caribbean coral reefs? Ana Endara made a fun video of our (Katie Cramer, Richard Norris and the rest of the team’s) coring system in action.
I have been lucky to explore many Caribbean fossil and modern reefs over the last 14 years or so. One of the things that has always struck me was just how BIG the conch were in ancient reefs compared to those of the modern day. Bringing in archeologist Thomas Wake gave us a unique historical perspective Continue reading
We edited a special edition of the Bulletin of Marine Science entitled “Environmental, ecological, and evolutionary change in seas across the Isthmus of Panama”. This volume evolved from a colloquium Continue reading
This paper was written through a collaboration with evolutionary biologist Egbert Leigh who has worked at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama for most of his scientific career and takes inspiration from the plants and Continue reading
In the coming century, life in the ocean will be confronted with a suite of environmental conditions that have no analog in human history. Will marine species adapt or go extinct?
The last two years I have been involved in a dynamic working group called “Determinants of extinction in ancient and modern seas” led by Paul Harnik, Rowan Lockwood and Seth Finnegan and funded by NESCent. The aim of the working group is to use the history of life as preserved in the fossil record to help make better predictions about where life is heading in the future, especially in view of the looming sixth mass extinction.
We have just published our first paper in Trends in Ecology and Evolution. The study compares the patterns, drivers, and biological correlates of marine extinctions in the fossil, historical, and modern records and evaluates how this information can be used to better predict the impact of current and projected future environmental changes on extinction risk in the sea.
Download the pdf of the paper by clicking on the image.