Ecological mechanics: exploring the physical aspects of life on rocky shores.
A variety of projects are ongoing, all aimed at understanding how plants and animals survive in the physically stressful environment of wave-swept rocky shores.
To explore how tide-pool copepods survive (and even thrive) in their highly variable environment, Mark Denny is collaborating with Wes Dowd (Washington State University) to measure how the pools' various stressor combine to effect the copepod's physiology. This ambitious project will expose copepods to various combinations of stressors in the lab, measure the resulting functional attributes, and tie these measurements to field conditions.
Fatigue in Mollusc Shells
The shells of snails, limpets, and mussels are constructed primarily from calcium carbonate, a material that is -- like glass-- strong but brittle. How does these shells survive the pounding of crashing waves? Rachel Crane is exploring how the micro-architecture of shell material affects the shells' strength and ability to resist the fatigue that can accompany repeated stresses.
Surviving Extreme Events
Plants and animals can adjust their physiology to cope with the day-to-day exigencies of the environment. But how has evolution equiped them to respond to rare, extreme events? One strategy is to maintain a high level of defense just in case an event occurs. The alternative is to wait until an event and quickly mount a defense. Mark Denny is exploring how samall-sclae variation in the thermal environment affects evolution's choice between these strategies.