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Multivariate investigations in ecology: The search for significance

Thursday, July 14, 2016 - 11:00
Tse-Lynn Loh, Marine Biologist, Ph.D. (2012), University of North Carolina Wilmington
Seminar
Room 4192, Earth Sciences Building (2207 Main Mall)

Speaker's Page:  Tse-Lynn Loh, Marine Biologist, Ph.D. (2012), University of North Carolina Wilmington

Ecosystems are composed of multiple layers of interactions within and among biotic communities and their environments, leading to multivariate ecological studies. One of the fundamental questions in ecology is why biodiversity arose, and how it is maintained. Namely, why are species in a particular location, why and how do these species persist, and how do these species affect one another? My area of interest lies in trophic interactions, such as predator-prey dynamics, considering the flow of energy among various organisms as one of the main drivers of ecosystem function. Identifying the “true” ecological factors from a suite of possibilities is challenging, thus the tendency to rely on tests that produce a measure of statistical significance. As examples, I will draw on my research experiences with examining sponge composition on Caribbean coral reefs, and the spatial distribution of exploited seahorse populations in Southeast Asia. Because statistical significance does not always denote a significant ecological effect, I combined statistical outcomes with probable or confirmed mechanistic pathways. This allows for a fuller understanding of my study systems, a useful and necessary step for real-world applications, such as ecosystem-based fisheries management.