Joint EESS Seminar and Stanford Woods Environmental Forum featuring Kelton McMahon
Dr. Kelton McMahon
Ocean Sciences Department
University of California, Santa Cruz
Towards a mechanistic understanding of coastal ecosystem functioning and resilience: Coupling advanced analytical tools with traditional ecological knowledge
Trophic dynamics and animal movements establish links among humans, animals, plants, microbes, and the environment through resource acquisition and allocation. These linkages, in turn, create a reciprocal relationship between ecosystem goods and services and the impacts of humans on ecosystem structure and function. My research combines advanced analytical tools, including compound-specific stable isotope analysis (CSIA), with traditional ecological knowledge to provide new levels of detail on these connections and the roles they play in ecosystem functioning and resilience. My talk will present three case studies around this theme: 1) developing CSIA tools to identify essential habitats and migration corridors for socio-ecologically important fishes, 2) examining coral reef productivity and diversity through carbon flow pathways in tropical seascapes, and 3) exploring terrestrial-marine coupling supporting a culturally important subsistence fishing system in the Arctic. This work draws upon multiple research fields with distinct knowledge systems and methods to develop a mechanistic understanding of how resource acquisition and allocation affect the functioning and resilience of human-inclusive ecosystems. Together, these projects illustrate my long-term research goals aimed at solving current and emerging challenges in the coastal ocean related to overfishing, invasive species, coastal development, and climate change. This research has and will continue to contribute directly to the kinds of knowledge to action policies necessary to exact real change in critical coastal ecosystem management.