Current Members

Petersongear-redoDr. Bradley J. Peterson – My research is focused on understanding the role of organisms in changing resource availability within their communities and how these interactions might affect community development and stability. I use manipulative experiments in nearshore marine habitats to examine how “resource providers” affect other members of their communities. Most of my work is with plant-animal interactions within seagrass ecosystems along the eastern coast of the U.S. Despite the recognized importance of seagrasses, the critical environmental factors limiting seagrass assemblages are poorly understood, as are the biological interactions that directly and indirectly affect the health of seagrass ecosystems. Past projects have included looking at the role of sponges in Florida Bay to control phytoplankton blooms and increase light availability to the benthic plant community, the effect of marine protected areas on changing trophic transfer from nearby seagrass foraging grounds on both “no take” and unprotected reefs, and the possibility of herbivorous fish creating nutrient “hot spots” around patch reefs. One future direction within my lab will be to focus on positive interactions, bentho-pelagic coupling in near shore environments, and ecosystem engineering. We have investigated the role of hard clams in alleviating light stress of eelgrass by providing elevated nutrients to the sediments via their fecal production and the consequences of the dramatic decrease in hard clam abundance within the Long Island south shore estuaries on eelgrass spatial distribution.

Brad Peterson did his PhD under Dr. Ken Heck

Current Students


Rebecca Kulp (Ph.D. student) – I am a PhD candidate in the Peterson laboratory. I am interested in exploring how predator size alters their perception of habitat landscapes, and understanding how this perception affects foraging success. I am applying my dissertation questions to slipper snail (Crepidula fornicata) and seagrass (Zostera marina) beds, and using the Sayi mud crab (Dysapanopeus sayi) and green crab (Carcinus maenas) as model small and large predators. Dyspanopeus sayi can be found in very high densities, unlike larger decapod predators like C. maenas. I am interested in determining how smaller predator consumption rates are influenced by prey density, predation, and competition, and whether they are influenced differently than larger predators within the same habitat landscapes. Understanding whether smaller predators perceive habitat complexity differently from large predators can inform and improve our community and food web models.


Diana Chin (Ph.D. student) – I am a Ph.D. student in the Peterson lab with broad interests in community ecology and restoration. My academic and professional backgrounds are in marine science and environmental risk assessment. My current research focuses on interactions between seagrasses and chemosymbiotic bivalves (solemyid and lucinid clams). I am also interested in the effects that the life habits of these bivalves have on sediment chemistry and how they may affect the resilience of seagrass ecosystems to multiple environmental stressors.


Stephen Heck (Ph.D. Student) – I am a Ph.D. student working in the Peterson Lab. I am interested in investigating how anthropogenic activities drive changes in coastal marine ecosystems in order to understand how to best mitigate those impacts. Previously, I have been involved in benthic ecology research surrounding bay scallop restoration efforts in Nantucket, MA. I have also worked on a project using genetics to investigate the population dynamics of sea scallops on the Eastern seaboard. Over the past several years I have become increasingly interested in how habitat characteristics and transient predators influence the structure of seagrass communities.


Amanda Tinoco (M.S. student) – Amanda is a mystery to us all.





Alyson Lowell (Ph.D. student) – I am a PhD student in the Peterson lab. I am interested in mitigating the effects of ocean acidification in tropical and temperate marine communities with the end goal of optimizing experimental systems to modulate pCO2 in situ. I would like to use this system to develop a comprehensive model to investigate trophic relationships in response to elevated pCO2 My academic and professional background spans molecular and cellular biology, neuroscience, and benthic ecology. When I am not buried underneath a mountain of books and papers, I enjoy ambitious cooking projects, rock star autobiographies, and the New York City art scene.

KOToole Kaitlyn O’Toole (M.S. student) – I am currently a Master’s student in the Peterson Lab. I am working to create a model based on water column bio-optical properties to be used towards a habitat suitability model for seagrass restoration in Peconic Bay and Great South Bay. This involves water quality and seagrass assessments throughout both bays, focusing specifically on Zostera marina, or eelgrass. Improvement of water quality in both of these areas has made seagrass restoration feasible, and picking ideal areas for plantings will allow for a more efficient restoration program.

Leah Reidenbach (Ph.D. student) – I will be starting as PhD student in the Peterson lab in Fall 2017. I am broadly interested in how anthropogenically induced environmental changes affect coastal organisms, particularly marine primary producers. I aim to do research which can help us understand how future climate changes, including ocean acidification, warming, and eutrophication, interact to affect seagrass communities. Further, I hope my research can be applied by policy makers and local communities to guide decisions on how to mitigate the effects of climate change and improve water quality for both human and natural communities.

Dylan Cottrell (M.S. student) – I am a master’s student broadly interested in community ecology, seagrass/algal biology, and the links between terrestrial and marine ecosystems. I studied anoxia/hyperoxia as an undergrad and am looking forward to expanding on this work in seagrass beds and starting my graduate studies this fall!


Former Students:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAElizabeth Gomez (M.S. 2015) – A dynamic oyster reef bioenergetics model: predictions of secondary production based on different restoration scenarios




OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABrad Furman (Ph.D. 2015) – Space acquisition strategies of Zostera marina

Brad is a postdoctoral research associate with the University of Virginia, based out of Florida.



Amber Stubler (Ph.D 2015) – Effects of anthropogenic stressors on tropical sponge ecology

Amber is a postdoctoral research associate at the University of North Carolina Wilmington, soon to be an Assistant Professor at Occidental College.


OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERALisa Jackson (M.S. 2014) – The effect of patch dynamics and nutrient availability on the production of Zostera marina seeds within Shinnecock Bay, NY

Lisa is a Biological Scientist at Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute.


John is an Assistant Professor at Georgia Southern University.




 Jamie Brisbin (M.S. 2010) – Genetic Diversity and Gene Flow in Zostera marina Populations Across the Long Island Sound and South Shore Estuaries




Brooke Rodgers (M.S. 2010) – How does groundwater impact eelgrass in Long Island? The role of nitrogen and herbicide in reducing eelgrass growth, survival and photosynthetic efficiency




 Chuck Wall (Ph.D. 2010) – Benthic-pelagic coupling in eutrophic estuaries from the temperate and sub-tropical zones: The contrasting roles of benthic suspension feeding and nutrient loading




Konstantine Rountos (M.S. 2008) – The role of porewater sulfide toxicity among other multiple stressors in Zostera marina populations in Long Island South Shore Estuaries



Alexa Fournier (M.S. 2007) – Hemigrapsus sanguineus in Long Island salt marshes: Survey of an invasive crab and experimental evaluation of its interactions with resident species


Recent Posts

Welcome New Graduate Students!

We are excited to welcome Leah Reidenbach and Dylan Cottrell to the lab in fall 2017!

Leah completed her undergraduate degree at the University of Central Florida in 2013 where she worked with policy makers and educators to produce high school level education materials on the topic of sea level rise. This was followed by a marine lab internship at the Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation where she researched the effects of eutrophication on seagrass and macroalgae, as well as macroalgal physiology. Next, she completed her Master’s degree at California State University, Northridge in 2017.  Her thesis was on the effects of ocean acidification and eutrophication on the green bloom-forming macroalga Ulva spp.

Dylan completed his undergraduate studies in 2013, whereupon he served in the Peace Corps for two years in Malawi. Since his return, he has been working on a program to commercially farm seaweed.

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