Faculty Research

Photo taken from Fulweiler Lab's research photo series, "N Cycling Processes Across an Oyster Aquaculture Chronosequence"
Photo taken from the Fulweiler Lab’s research photo series, “N Cycling Processes Across an Oyster Aquaculture Chronosequence”

Bruce Anderson (brucea@bu.edu

Professor of Earth and Environment 

Dr. Anderson’s research goals center around improving our understanding of regional and large-scale coupling of Earth system components as a means of discerning the impacts of climate change upon both physical and human systems. Over the years, this effort has involved cross-disciplinary research in atmospheric sciences, physical oceanography, hydrology, statistics, and ecology using disparate data sources including in situ and remotely-sensed observations, global and regional numerical climate simulations, and theoretical and statistical modeling systems.

Peter Buston (buston@bu.edu

Assistant Professor of Biology and Director, BU Marine Program

The Buston Lab, in conjunction with an international network of collaborators, grapples with questions at the frontiers of behavioral ecology, population ecology and evolutionary biology in the marine environment. Our research combines long-term field studies with experimental manipulations, mathematical modeling and molecular genetics. We use a hypothesis driven approach to address fundamental questions at the interface of population-, evolutionary-, and behavioral ecology in marine systems.

Sarah Davies (daviessw@bu.edu

Assistant Professor, Biology

Changing climates and ongoing anthropogenic habitat modifications threaten natural ecosystems worldwide. In response to these threats, a species has four choices: i) remain in the natal habitat but suffer reduced fitness, ii) acclimate to current conditions by modifying their physiologies, iii) adapt to the local environment through natural selection on standing genetic variation, or iv) disperse to new, more favorable environments. Research in the Davies lab studies the potential roles of acclimation, adaptation, and dispersal in an organism’s response to rapid climate change.

Understanding how symbioses are maintained is fundamental as climate change disrupts symbiotic relationships worldwide. The coral–Symbiodinium symbiosis is essential and serves as the cornerstone for the entire reef ecosystem. Both symbiotic partners exhibit physiological stress responses when exposed to climate-associated stressors; however, Symbiodinium have been implicated as the ‘weak link’ in dysbiosis. Conversely, several lines of evidence suggest that only the host’s transcriptome exhibits a stress response, suggesting that coral hosts might actively control the symbiont’s environment and eventually facilitate dysbiosis. One major avenue of research in the Davies lab addresses how coral hosts regulate their symbiont’s environment.

John R. Finnerty (jrf3@bu.edu

Associate Professor of Biology

The Finnerty lab employs a highly interdisciplinary approach to study the causes of biodiversity and the origin of key evolutionary innovations.  We are simultaneously investigating genomic innovations (e.g., Hox genes, stress-response pathways), organismal innovations (e.g., bilateral symmetry, developmental plasticity), and ecological innovations (e.g., shifts in ecological niche—from marine to estuarine, and from free-living to parasitic). Our interdisciplinary approach is made possible and rendered cohesive by our focus on a single model system that exhibits an unusual degree of experimental versatility—Nematostella vectensis.

Robinson W. Fulweiler (rwf@bu.edu

Associate Professor of Earth and Environment and Biology

The Fulweiler lab focuses on biogeochemistry and ecosystem ecology from the watershed to the ocean. We are particularly interested in how anthropogenic changes effect the ecology and elemental cycling of ecosystems on a variety of scales (i.e. local: nutrient loading; regional/global: climate change). Current research is centered on the transformations and the ultimate fate of nitrogen in the marine environment,  the impact of climate change on benthic-pelagic coupling, silicon cycling in forests, salt marshes, and urban systems, and the environmental controls on greenhouse gas emissions in coastal systems.

Sucharita Gopal (suchi@bu.edu

Professor of Earth and Environment & Center for Remote Sensing

Dr. Gopal, a Boston University College of Arts & Sciences (CAS) professor of earth and environment, is a renowned expert (and devoted teacher) in the field of geographic information systems (GIS). It’s what laypeople might call “making maps with computers.” And, as Gopal teaches, maps are power. A long list of statistics on bicycle accidents at BU, for instance, is just an inscrutable jumble of numbers. But insert the data into GIS, overlay a map of campus, and the computer builds a map that makes the data instantly understandable. In that case, it becomes clear that most bike accidents don’t occur at intersections, as one might expect, but when the bike lane veers too close to parked cars and bicyclists get doored. Maps provide a deeper understanding of a problem, so people can choose the right solutions.

Alyssa B. Novak (abnovak@bu.edu

Research Assistant Professor, Earth and Environment

The Novak Lab is currently directing 3 projects in Great Marsh. Located in the Upper North Shore of Massachusetts, Great Marsh is the largest wetland-dominated estuary in New England. The area spans over 20,000 acres and is internationally recognized as vital habitat for migratory waterfowl, shorebirds and endangered species. The Novak Lab in partnership with a broad coalition of local entities – the “Great Marsh Resiliency Partnership” (GMRP) are working together to reduce the growing vulnerability of communities within the Great Marsh from coastal storms, sea level rise, flooding, and erosion by strengthening the resiliency of the ecological systems upon which those communities depend.  

Randi Rotjan (rrotjan@bu.edu

Research Assistant Professor, Biology

Dr. Rotjan’s research focuses on various ecological processes governing marine ecosystem structuring. Many of these processes touch on areas of symbiosis, food webs and trophodynamics, behavioral ecology, and conservation biology. Since key ecosystem engineers (specifically foundation species) have a disproportionate influence on ecosystem structure, we focus on factors and processes that influence their performance. We use exploratory observations combined with careful, manipulative experiments to discover the patterns and uncover the mechanisms guiding these dynamics. Specifically, we integrate field observations and lab experiments together with models to investigate factors that regulate the performance of marine ecosystem engineers and the cascading influence on ecosystem structure.