People Directory : Kirstin Meyer-Kaiser
WHOI Mailing Address:
Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution
266 Woods Hole Rd.
Woods Hole, MA 02543-1050
Ph.D., Biology, University of Oregon, 2016
B.S., Zoology, Northern Michigan University, 2011
Benthic ecology, community ecology, Arctic biology, invertebrate zoology, larval biology, connectivity, succession
I am a benthic ecologist specializing in sessile invertebrate communities. I work at all depths from the intertidal to the deep sea, where I investigate the processes of larval dispersal, recruitment, and succession to understand how communities assemble and take shape over time.
Much of my previous research has taken place in Arctic and temperate cold-water habitats, where animals must contend with environmental stressors in addition to the biological forces that shape their communities. Recently, I have observed a number of organisms in temperate and polar environments dispersing outside their normal range. While larvae that disperse into colder environments may not be able to survive through metamorphosis, there is the potential for these young individuals to survive as global temperatures continue to warm. I am beginning to investigate the mechanisms that facilitate poleward range expansion of invertebrate species.
When larvae disperse farther than they are "supposed to," they can colonize habitats that are not "supposed to" be there. One excellent example is shipwrecks, which form island-like habitats on the seafloor. The few larvae that disperse farther away from their parents to colonize wrecks form unique communities. Wrecks could also serve as stepping-stones to facilitate dispersal of some species between habitats that were not previously connected. Using SCUBA, underwater cameras, and remotely-operated vehicles for sampling, I am beginning to study the numerous shipwrecks in Cape Cod Bay and Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary as a model system to understand these dynamics.