• Title Professor of Biology
  • Education PhD, Johns Hopkins University
  • Phone 617-353-5560
  • Area of Interest marine biology, evolutionary ecology, and conservation biology
  • CV

Current Research

Our laboratory is devoted to understanding the processes that create, maintain, extinguish, and conserve aquatic biodiversity. Our work is broad, encompassing marine, freshwater, and watershed ecosystems in both temperate and tropical environments.

Our current work is concentrated in two areas. The first concerns the fundamental dynamics of coupled human-natural systems (CHANS). This is the scientific basis for sustainable economies and inhabited (by people) ecosystems. We study driving biophysical processes using modern observational and experimental methods and explore the influence of embedded cultural-social-economic dynamics through a computer modeling and decision tool approach called MIMES-MIDAS. Our models are dynamic and spatially explicit, and we use them to reveal ecosystem service tradeoffs and outcome scenarios under alternative policies. The models are nourished by data from novel observational and analytical methods including nonlinear time series analysis, historical ecology, high-volume benthic photogrammetry and other forms of remote sensing. The interdisciplinary implications of this work are explored through comparative study of human-natural landscapes in our CHANS program at BU’s Pardee Center for the Study of the Longer-Range Future. Our “home” system is coastal Massachusetts and the Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary. The CHANS program also includes three developing world landscapes: the Lower Mekong Basin in Cambodia with a focus on the Tonle Sap (Great Lake); the Florida and Caribbean coral reef systems; and the Nile Valley/Great Lakes region of East Africa, with a particular focus on Lake Victoria. Our empirical contributions to these ecosystem projects come through fieldwork in community ecology, fish biology, fisheries science, and food web reconstruction using stable isotopes.

Our second research thrust is the study of degradation and regenerative processes on coral reefs. Our currently active field sites include Biscayne Bay and the Florida Reef Tract, the Mesoamerican Reef in Belize, and the Abrolhos Bank in Brazil. We also work in the Phoenix Islands of Kiribati (central Pacific). We are conducting collaborative experiments in coral reef ontogeny and restoration with the Coral Restoration Foundation and several universities in Florida, the University of Belize, and other colleagues. We use marine reserves and zoning schemes as adaptive management experiments, examining the outcomes of different management regimes with new diagnostics for marine ecosystem health and resilience, such as CHI, the Coral Health Index, and other measures of microbial, benthic and fish community function. We do this work by diving or with remote cameras and sampling devices at greater depths. Two of the four grad students in the lab are dedicated to understanding the genomics, physiology, and population biology of resilience to climate change impacts in reef-building corals. Kaufman is in his second term on the Steering Committee for NOAA’s Coral Restoration Consortium.

The lab is continuously engaged in aquatic conservation policy and innovation. We are highly collaborative, working with several labs at BU (e.g., Gopal, Finnerty, Lobel, Gilmore, Woodcock) as well as close working relationships with conservation organizations (chiefly Conservation International, and the Massachusetts Audubon Society) and state and federal agencies both in the US and abroad. Our students are encouraged to join the PIs in the invention of conservation solutions, especially for the precarious New England coastal ecosystem and its fisheries.

Selected Publications

  • Kaufman LS (2019) Climate Change: Final arbiter of the mass extinction of freshwater fishes. Pp,. 237-245 In: Lovejoy, T. and L. Hannah (Eds). Climate change And Biodiversity. Yale University Press. 416pp.
  • Precht WF, Vollmer SV, Modys AB, Kaufman L (2019) Fossil Acropora prolifera (Lamarck, 1816) reveals coral hybridization is not only a recent phenomenon. Proc. Biol. Soc. Wash. 132 (1): 40-55.
  • Glaser SM, Hendrix CS, Franck B, Wedig K, Kaufman L (2019) Armed conflict and fisheries in the Lake Victoria basin. Ecology and Society 24 (1): 25.
  • Lapointe D, Cooperman MS, Chapman LJ, Clark TD, Val AL, Ferreira MS, Balirwa JS, Mbabazi D, Mwanja M, Chhom L, Hannah L, Kaufman L, Farrell AP, Cooke SJ (2018) Predicted impacts of climate warming on aerobic performance and upper thermal tolerance of six tropical freshwater fishes spanning three continents. Conservation Physiology 6 (1): coy056.
  • Burmester EM, Finnerty JR, Kaufman L (2019) Temperature and symbiosis affect lesion recovery in experimentally wounded, facultatively symbiotic temperate corals. Marine Ecology Progress Series 570: 87-99.
  • Klein ES, Glaser SM, Jordaan A, Kaufman L, Rosenberg AA (2016) A complex past: historical and contemporary fisheries demonstrate nonlinear dynamics and a loss of determinism. Marine Ecology Progress Series 557: 237-246.
  • Pasquarella VJ, Holden C, Kaufman L, Woodcock CE (2016) From imagery to ecology: Leveraging time series of all available Landsat observations to map and monitor ecosystem state and dynamics. Remote Sensing in Ecology and Conservation 2 (3): 152-170.
  • Boumans R, Roman J, Altman I, Kaufman L (2015) The Multiscale Integrated Model of Ecosystem Services (MIMES): Simulating the interactions of coupled human and natural systems. Ecosystem Services 12:30-41.

Courses Taught:

  • KHC 301 Climate Change (a large team-taught course for the Kilachand Honors College)
  • BI 546 Marine Megafaunal Ecology of Stellwagen Bank and Adjacent Waters
  • BI 539 Coral Reef Dynamics
  • BI 541 Coral Reef Resilience and Restoration

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