Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution

Kelton McMahon
Kelton McMahon's photoKelton McMahon, Mr. Kelton Wells McMahon

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Research Interests
I study food web ecology through the lens of trophic dynamics and movement ecology, which establish links among humans, animals, plants, microbes, and the environment. I am interested in building a quantitative, mechanistic understanding of how consumer-resource relationships build the food web architecture that supports ecosystem function. I am particularly interested in how how natural and anthropogenic interactions affect resource utilization, carbon flow pathways, and trophic structure in coastal ecosystems. My research uses a multidisciplinary approach that draws upon expertise in ecology, oceanography, biochemistry, and geochemistry.  Much of my research is based on the development and application of cutting-edge analytical tools, such as compound-specific stable isotope analysis (CSIA) combined with advanced statistical modeling. Through controlled feeding experiments I develop a quantitative understanding of the biochemical and physiological mechanisms that support resource acquisition and allocation. I apply this knowledge in large scale field studies to examine a wide range of questions from individual nutritional ecology, to population connectivity, all the way up to entire ecosystem food web dynamics. My research is highly collaborative, engaging partnerships across academia, local/regional governance, and invested stakeholders to enhance both our research capacity, and the effectiveness of coastal management. My research program is firmly rooted in fundamental ecological theory, but extends beyond the ecological questions to the applied management and practical decision-making needed to resolve current and emerging coastal ocean challenges.


2014-present: Faculty Lecturer: Department of Ocean Sciences, University of California, Santa Cruz, CA. USA.
2013-present: Postdoctoral fellow: Department of Ocean Sciences, University of California, Santa Cruz, CA. USA. Supervisors: Dr. Mathew McCarthy and Dr. Thomas Guilderson, Project: Reconstructing decadal to century scale shifts in North Pacific Ocean phytoplankton community dynamics from δ13C compound-specific stable isotope analysis of long-lived deep-sea corals. 2011-2012: Postdoctoral Scholar: Red Sea Research Center, King Abdullah University of Science and Technology, Thuwal, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and Department of Biology, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Woods Hole, MA, USA. Supervisors: Dr. Michael Berumen and Dr. Simon R. Thorrold. Project: Examining the underlying mechanisms for food web architecture in coral reef seascapes using compound-specific stable isotope analysis

2005-2011: Ph.D. (Biological Oceanography) Massachusetts Institute of Technology-Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution Joint Program in Oceanography: Applied Ocean Science and Engineering. Advisor: Dr. Simon R. Thorrold. Dissertation Title: “Functional connectivity of coral reef fishes in a tropical seascape assessed by compound-specific stable isotope analyses.”

2001-2005: B.Sc. (Biology) Bates College, Summa Cum Laude. Advisors: Dr. William Ambrose Jr. (Biology) and Dr. Beverly Johnson (Geology). Honors Thesis Title: “The impact of a changing food supply on Arctic benthos: Digestibility of ice algae and phytoplankton”

Coral Reefs, vol. 30 (2011): Best paper award finalist Best Student Paper Award (2009) 4thInternational Otolith Symposium

Sally Richardson Best Student Paper Award (2009) 33rd Annual Larval Fish Conference

International Society for Reef Studies/Ocean Conservancy Coral Reef Research Fellowship (2008) Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution

National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship (2006-2009) Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution

Ocean Life Fellowship (2005-2006) Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution 

Graduate Council Fellowship (2005); Offer Declined

Presidential Award (2005; Offer Declined) 

Summa Cum Laude (2005)Bates College

Inducted to Phi Beta Kappa Honor Society (2005) 

Howard Hughes Summer Fellowship (2004-2005) Bates College

Dean’s Honors List (2001-2005)Bates College: (8 consecutive semesters) 

Arthur Crafts Award (2001)Bates College

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