Chris is a senior research biologist and leader of the Life History and Recruitment Team. An ecological generalist by trade, much of his research effort is directed towards a better understanding of phenotypic, life-history, and ecological variation in the early life-stage of fish. He and his team take a three-pronged research approach with specifics depending on the current knowledge about the focal topic and taxon:
- The patterns of variation are summarized from his lab’s experimental work, augmented by field, retrospective, and comparative studies when appropriate;
- The sources of variation are identified and quantified in a statistically rigorous way by controlling environmental drivers (e.g., temperature, CO2, dissolved oxygen, nutrition, and contaminants) and parental contributions in an experimental laboratory setting;
- The consequences of variation are evaluated with experimental studies of relative fitness as a function of environmentally induced individual variability, from field evidence of selective mortality, or by using appropriate modeling frameworks.
Most of these studies use the embryos, larvae, and young juveniles as subjects because of the magnitude and potentially high selective mortality during these critical life-stages. His NOAA laboratory facilities have the capacity for maintaining and spawning adult fish, and culturing eggs, larvae, and juveniles in numbers suitable for experimental designs that are appropriate for addressing these research questions.
Recently, and in the context of environmental drivers of biological plasticity, Chris and his group are applying experimental methodologies to characterize the responses and adaptive potential of an array of finfish including flatfish, codfish, sturgeons, and various forage fish species that are key to the health of local and regional ecosystems. Of special interest are the effects of changing ocean climate and acidification on the size, condition, and viability of young fish, how these effects propagate through important ecological processes leading to population recruitment, and the potential of these species to adapt to current and future conditions.
Chris also has a strong commitment to students, having mentored over 100 high school, university, and graduate students and founded the Sandy Hook Internship Program (SHIP).