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Virginia Institute of Marine Science

Marine Biodiversity Lab

The Marine Biodiversity Lab at the College Of William & Mary's Virginia Institute of Marine Science is a group of people working under Emmett Duffy with broad interests in the ecology, evolution, diversity, and conservation of marine organisms and ecosystems. How do new species arise? What factors determine whether and which species end up living together? How do the number and types of species present influence how the ecosystem works, and the products and services it provides to us? And, finally, how can understanding of these complex interactions inform our ability to live sustainably on a finite planet?

We try to answer such questions by integrating approaches from experimental ecology, behavioral ecology, and population biology, with a good dose of taxonomy and systematics mixed in.  Most of our research focuses on how marine animals use resources and interact, and the consequences of those interactions for populations, communities, and ecosystems. The  two main research themes of recent research include (1) studies of how animal functional diversity influences community and ecosystem processes in seagrass beds of Chesapeake Bay, and (2) systematic, ecological, and behavioral studies of the evolutionary radiation of sponge-dwelling shrimp on Caribbean reefs.  We are also beginning to explore how wild algal communities might be used to clean up polluted waters and produce feedstock for sustainable biofuels.