I’m broadly interested in how aquatic and marine ecosystems and communities function, with a particular interest in factors that impact ecosystem stability. I am predominantly focused on parasitic relationships and their potential to impact our view of ecosystem functioning and stability as a whole.
Funding: Irish Research Council Postgraduate Scholarship
Parasites have long been known to moderate host behaviour, metabolism, and survival. While these effects have been well documented at individual host level, there is very little and occasionally conflicting information on the effects of parasites at community and ecosystem levels. There is also an urgent need to understand the impact of parasites on community and ecosystem dynamics in light of global climate change, as parasites may have dramatic effects on the ability of ecosystems to resist and recover from disturbances. A thorough understanding of the role of parasites at the ecosystem level will aid in the development of best management practices and assist in ecosystem protection and recovery. I will be utilizing a model relationship between an acanthocephalan parasite, its intermediate amphipod host, and its final fish host in my studies. I will link laboratory, mesocosms, and field experiments in Irish lakes to address the following four key research questions:
1. How does parasitism affect ecosystem multifunctionality?
2. Do parasites enhance ecosystem stability?
3. Do increased temperatures modify effects of parasitism on ecosystem functioning and stability?
4. How does parasite prevalence determine their consequences for whole ecosystem processes?