Matthew A. Whalen
Phone: (804) 684-7484, 7148
Office: Andrews Hall, 124
Department: Biological Sciences
Advisor: J. Emmett Duffy
B.S., College of William & Mary, Biology and Anthropology
I am generally interested in questions about marine ecology, food webs, and biodiversity. What are the causes and consequences of biodiversity? What are the relative roles of resources and consumption in food webs? How do we maintain the functions of ecosystems that benefit us?
My thesis research focuses on ecosystems that are structured by underwater vascular plants (seagrasses). I use these systems as a setting in which I investigate marine community interactions. My research involves experimental manipulation of a seagrass food web in the field. Specifically, I alter the system from the "bottom-up" through nutrient enrichment and from the "top-down" through the exclusion of invertebrate grazers. The results of my experiments show that nutrients and inconspicuous crustacean grazers (amphipods and isopods) regulate the amount of algae that grow on seagrass leaves. These algae compete with seagrasses for light and nutrients and can smother seagrasses if their growth is unchecked.
This academic year, I am teaching 7th grade life science through the NSF GK-12 Program. The program presents a great opportunity for graduate students to get real-world teaching experience, to present their research to a wider audience, and to inspire the next generation of scientists. I sought this program out because I knew that I want to teach in addition to conducting research. I find teaching at the middle school level both challenging and rewarding, and I know that this opportunity will continue to influence the way I teach for the rest of my life.