Jackie White, Environment and Ecology
"Jackie has greatly increased our understanding of forest regeneration along the Roanoke River floodplain, and more generally along Coastal Plain rivers throughout the Southeast. Her work already has and will continue to significantly inform future river management decisions that will impact diverse stakeholders in the state," said advisor Robert Peet, Ph.D.
The Impact of the Altered Floodplain Hydrology on Tree Regeneration and Floodplain Forest Composition
The lower Roanoke River, located in northeastern North Carolina, is the most extensively forested river system remaining on the Atlantic Coastal Plain. The ecological integrity and diversity of these forests are threatened by upstream dams. Tree seedling abundance and diversity are likely to diminish as a consequence of long-duration flood events that result from current dam management.
Doctoral student Jackie White has conducted research to assess the impacts of current dam management on the forests of the lower Roanoke and to guide the team responsible for developing and implementing a management plan for the river that balances the stakeholders' varied interests and protects the integrity of the forest ecosystem. To study the relationship between flooding and tree regeneration, she monitored tree seedlings on the lower Roanoke River floodplain from 2007 to 2011 and re-sampled long-term vegetation plots established in 1994. She also monitored data flooding patterns at her vegetation plots using a series of water-monitoring wells.
Her findings indicate that tree seedling richness and abundance decrease with increasing flood duration. Long-duration mid-growing season flooding resulted in the lowest survivorship of tree seedlings. Jackie's results suggest that in order to maintain current levels of floodplain forest cover and diversity, the dams should be regulated to allow more frequent high-magnitude floods while minimizing long-duration growing-season flooding.
Andrea Anton Gamazo, Environment and Ecology
Ecology and Evolution of the Lionfish Invasion of the Caribbean
Lionfish have arrived off the North Carolina coast, where they have become one of the most abundant fish predators and a major conservation concern.
Previous terrestrial and freshwater studies have illustrated the devastating ecological effects that invasive predators can exert on naïve prey, including regional species extinction. Doctoral student Andrea Anton Gamazo performed extensive studies of the non-native lionfish's invasion of marine ecosystems. Her research discovered that numerous fish species do not identify the lionfish as a predator—the most dangerous form of prey naiveté because it prevents anti-predator responses.
The lionfish diet includes such species as grouper and snapper, important to the North Carolina coastal economy. The wide distribution of lionfish could have devastating consequences for local fisheries and the state's economy.
Andrea's research adds crucial knowledge to enhance management of this exotic predator in North Carolina.