My principle interest is in understanding the processes that govern patterns of biodiversity in the deep sea. In particular, I’m fascinated by how populations of deep-sea species are connected to each other and how processes over time can lead to divergence and eventually speciation. To this end, I work primarily with molecular genetic tools to understand patterns of population connectivity and demographics and to infer patterns of relatedness between species.
At present I am working with animals associated with deep-water coral ecosystems on sea mounts to understand the vertical and horizontal scales of population connectivity and gene flow. Additionally, I work on the biogeography of animal communities at deep-sea hydrothermal vents. That is to say, I’m interested in trying to understand why different parts of the worlds oceans harbour different hydrothermal vent communities – so-called biogeographic provinces.
In particular, I’m interested in how Yeti crabs, a family of chemosynthetically-associated squat lobster crustaceans, evolved over the last 40 million years, in order to understand the resilience of hydrothermal vent species to disturbance at various timescales. I’ve also recently studied the connectivity of species between hydrothermal vents in the Southern Ocean, which can be conceived of as biomass islands surrounded by the biomass ‘deserts’ of the deep sea.