The Committee on Evolutionary Biology (CEB) is a unique interdepartmental and inter-institutional graduate student training program dedicated to the study of Evolutionary Biology. Faculty and students in the program are engaged in interdisciplinary studies at time scales that range from single generations to the entire history of life and at organizational scales from the molecular to the global.
My research interests center on two main questions: How are species organized into communities, and how do communities recover from disturbance? Understanding the ecological, environmental and evolutionary processes that organize species into distinct communities and ecosystems is of growing importance, particularly in the face of increasing human-induced environmental disturbance. Communities experience many forms of disturbance, including abiotic (non-living) disturbances such as temperature and mechanical forces (environment) and biotic disturbance from organisms such as consumers eating community members (herbivory). I am exploring community responses to disturbances in intertidal seaweed communities on Tatoosh Island, WA in the Northeast Pacific Ocean to understand how communities are assembled in nature, and how they are maintained in the face of disturbance. The intertidal zone is a natural laboratory, where the tidal cycle creates strong temperature, desiccation, herbivore and wave force gradients over a scale of only meters. For example, the higher up in the intertidal, the more extreme the temperature changes and the harder it is for seaweed species to survive,Read More about Courtney Stepien or visit the Spotlight Archive.