Research in my lab is focused on the physical and biological processes underlying the recruitment dynamics of marine organisms. Our most frequent study system is in tropical and subtropical coral reefs. The successful return of pelagic larvae to the benthic juvenile habitat depends on oceanographic processes and larval behavior that together influence the transport, growth, and survivorship of larvae. For such organisms with complex life histories (life history stages occupying different environments), it has been historically difficult to study events occurring across the interfaces of these different stages. As a result, we have a limited understanding of the connectivity between stages and how processes or events occurring in one stage influence the subsequent stage.
To investigate how larvae interact with their physical environment to successfully recruit to the juvenile population, and how events occurring during the larval phase influence recruitment to, and survivorship during, the juvenile phase, our research addresses questions related to: (1) the dispersal of larvae during the pelagic phase, with particular emphasis on the return of late-stage larvae to the benthic settlement habitat; (2) multiple processes influencing population connectivity; (3) the growth and survivorship of larvae and young juveniles, and (4) the behavior of larvae, juveniles, and their predators. We approach these issues from both sides of the problem: through collection and detailed analysis of larvae in the pelagic realm as well as measuring behavior and success of new recruits on the reef. Our interdisciplinary efforts are aimed at linking larvae to successful juveniles to better quantify critical processes affecting population replenishment and connectivity.
For a current copy of Su Sponaugle’s CV, please contact her.
Phone: 541- 867- 0314