Faculty Profile: Mark Bertness, Ph. D., University of Maryland

Mark Bertness
Mark Bertness, Ph. D., University of Maryland
Robert P. Brown Professor of Biology
Ecology & Evolutionary Biology
Work: +1 401-863-2280
My research is focused on understanding the organization and dynamics of natural communities. I use manipulative field experiments in marine shoreline communities to examine how patterns in natural communities are generated and maintained. I also have a long-standing interest in elucidating the role played by positive interactions in natural community organization and incorporating positive interactions into the mindset of community ecologists.

Biography

I am an experimental marine community ecologist interested in the ecology and conservation biology of shoreline systems, particularly salt marshes and rocky shores. My current work is focused on reevaluating the role of top down forces in regulating the primary production of salt marsh systems, elucidating the importance of ecosystem engineers and positive interactions in shoreline systems and critically examining the prevalence of alternative community stable states in marine ecosystems. My students and I work on salt marsh and rocky intertidal systems on the east coast of North and South America and on salt marshes in Chile. A large part of our work in South America is focused on empowering South American graduate students.

Institutions

BU

Research Description

My research is focused on understanding the organization and dynamics of natural communities. I use manipulative field experiments in marine shoreline communities to examine how patterns in natural communities are generated and maintained. I also have a long-standing interest in elucidating the role played by positive interactions in natural community organization and incorporating positive interactions into the mindset of community ecologists. Most of my work is with plant and animal communities in New England, particularly those in salt marsh and rocky intertidal habitats, but I am also interested in the biogeography of marine communities and tropical ecosystems. My students and I are currently testing the generality of our New England work on shoreline communities in Argentina and Chile with South American graduate student collaborators. My book Atlantic Shorelines (Princeton Press, 2006) discusses my interests and approach to studying marine intertidal communities.

Grants and Awards

1998 Walter W. Annenburg University Professor
1999 Elizabeth Leduc Prize for Distinguished Teaching in the Life Sciences
2000 Robert P. Brown Professor of Biology
2003 Eminent Ecologist, University of California, Davis
2003 Distinguished Wetland Ecologist Lecture, Duke University
2004 Visiting Chair in Ecology, University of Groningen, Holland
2004 Distinguished Ecologist Lecture, Mt. Holyoke College
2009 AAAS Fellow

Affiliations

Ecological Society of America
American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS)
Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom

Funded Research

CURRENT GRANTS

"Experimental studies of drought effects of New England salt marsh services", National Estuarine Research Reserve Graduate Fellowship support for Kristy Kroecker (7/2006-6/2008)

"Top-Down Control of Southwestern Atlantic Salt Marsh Plant Communities", with Brian Silliman, University of Florida, NSF Ecology Program (8/2006-7/2009)

"How does shoreline development impact the services provided by New England salt marshes", Rhode Island Sea Grant (6/2006-5/2008)

"Top-down control of Primary Production in Georgia Salt marshes" with Brian Silliman, NSF Ecology Program (7/2000-6/2006)

"Do Alternate Stable Community States Exist in the Gulf of Maine Rocky Intertidal Zone?", NSF Biological Oceanography (7/2001-6/2007)

"A Graduate Training Exchange Between Brown and Argentina", Mellon Foundation (7/2001-12/2007)

"Understanding the potential for top-down control in Southeastern salt marshes", with Brian Silliman, Georgia Sea Grant (6/2004-5/2006)

"Elucidating the ecology of tidal estuary plant communities for their conservation and management", with Caitlin Mullan Crain, Rhode Island Sea Grant (6/2004-5/2006)

COMPLETED GRANTS

"The role of Geukensia demissa in the productivity and stability of New England salt marshes", NSF (1982-1985)

"Animal-sediment interactions and the productivity and structure of salt marsh communities", NSF (1984-1986)

"The role of Geukensia demissa in the productivity and stability of New England salt marshes: supplement", NSF (1985)

"Structure and dynamics of a New England salt marsh plant community", NSF (1985-1988)

"Plant-Animal interactions in Mangrove plant communities", with A. M. Ellison, Center for Field Research (1987)

"Patch dynamics of a New England marsh plant community", NSF (1989-1992)

"Causes and consequences of variable recruitment in acorn barnacles", with S. Gaines and R. Geyer (WHOI), NSF (1990-1994)

"Recruitment variation in economically important species", with S.D. Gaines, Rhode Island Sea Grant (1991)

"Coastal ecosystems", with S.D. Gaines, Mellon Foundation (1992-1995)

"The role of facilitative processes in marsh plant communities", NSF (1993-1996)

"Linkages between oceanographic and benthic population processes", NSF (1994-1997)

"The evolutionary and ecological significance of natural disturbance in a New England salt marsh", with Steven Brewer, NSF (1994)

"The dynamics of marine ecosystems", with J. Witman, Mellon Foundation (1995-2000)

"The molecular genetics of the common acorn barnacle", with D. Rand, NSF (1995-1999)

"Climate-driven process and pattern in western Atlantic salt marsh plant communities", with S. Pennings (University of Georgia), DOE (1995-1999)

"The role of nutrient limitation in the zonation and structure of New England salt marsh plant communities", with S. Brewer (University of Mississippi), NSF (1996-1999)

"Towards a unified understanding of the invasion of Phragmites australis into New England salt marshes", with Todd Minchinton, Rhode Island Sea Grant (1997-2000)

"The ecology of New England cobble beach plant communities", National Estuarine Research Reserve Graduate Fellowship support for John Bruno (1997-2000)

"Patch persistence and seedling dynamics in a southern Maine marsh", National Estuarine Research Reserve Graduate Fellowship support for Pat Ewanchuk (1998-2001)

"Distribution and abundance of forbs across a salt marsh landscape: Relative effects of seed supply, physiological stress and species interactions", NSF dissertation improvement grant for Tatyana Rand (1998-2001)

"Keystone facilitation by cordgrass on cobble beach plant communities", NSF dissertation improvement grant for John Bruno (1998-2000)

"The biogeography and consequences of positive interactions in New England rocky intertidal communities", NSF Biological Oceanography (1998-2001)

"The ecology of the pulmanate snail Melampus in New England salt marsh plant communities", National Estuarine Research Reserve Graduate Fellowship support for Brian Silliman (2000-2003)

"Contrasting the marine communities of North and South America", with Jon Witman, Mellon Foundation (7/2000-6/2003)

"A long-term monitoring program for Narragansett Bay salt marshes", Rhode Island Sea Grant (7/2000-6/2003)

"Understanding how salt marsh plant communities are influenced by estuarine salinity gradients", National Estuarine Research Reserve Graduate Fellowship support for Caitlin Mullan (7/2000-6/2004)

Teaching Experience

Bio 19: Freshman Seminar in Tropical Biology, fall semester 2004, 2005 responsible for all lectures, laboratories and field trips, ~10 students

Bio 41: Invertebrate Zoology, fall semesters 1980 to present, responsible for all lectures and laboratories, 35-40 students/year

Bio 144: Marine Ecology, spring semesters in even numbered years, 15 students/year

Bio 195: Independent Study. I typically have 2-4 undergraduates doing independent projects in my lab at any given time

Bio 294: Graduate Seminar. I teach this course ~ every 3 or 4 years, 12 student/year

Bio 295: Graduate Student Tropical Field Course. I teach this course every 2-3 years, 12-15 students/year

ES 150: Human Impacts on Ecosystem Services. With Osvaldo Sala. Spring Semester. 20-30 students/year. Course showcasing Brown and Marine Biological Laboratory research on Human impacts on natural systems

Undergraduate Honors Theses – on average 2-3/year

I typically have 5-10 advises/year

In addition to my teaching at Brown, over the past 6 years (1999-) with support from the Mellon Foundation I have been the primary advisor to 4 Argentinean graduate students and on the thesis committee of 3 others.

Also, as part of my duties as visiting chair in Ecology at the University of Groningen, Holland I serve as an advisor to a half dozen Dutch doctoral students

Many undergraduate researchers from my laboratory have gone on to highly successful careers in ecology and evolutionary biology including:

Cliff Cunningham, currently professor at Duke University
Edwin Grosholz, currently associate professor at UC Davis
Steve Pennings, currently associate professor at University of Houston
Laura Gough, currently associate professor at U West Texas
Elizabeth Farnsworth, currently Bullard Fellow, Harvard
Chris Harley, currently assistant professor at U British Columbia
Eric Sanford, currently assistant professor at UC Davis
Kelly Benoit Bird, currently assistant professor, Oregon State University
Eric Berlow, currently research assistant professor, UC Berkeley
Jonathan Levine, currently assistant professor, UC Santa Barbara

Graduate Students: 15 total
A. M. Ellison, Ph.D., 1986 – currently Professor Harvard University
F. M. Thomas, M.S., 1987 – currently Professor University of South Florida
D. Hirata, M.S., 1990 – currently stockbroker and magician
S. W. Shumway, Ph.D., 1991 – currently Professor Wheaton College
P. Halpin, Ph.D., 1994 – currently Research Professor, UC Santa Barbara
S. Hacker Ph.D., 1996 – currently Associate Professor Oregon State University
M. Baker M.S., 1996 – currently high school biology teacher
G. Leonard, Ph.D. 1998 – currently research scientist Monterey Bay Aquarium
T. Rand, Ph.D., 2000 – currently Postdoctoral Researcher, University of Dresden
P. Ewanchuk, Ph.D. 2002 - currently assistant professor Providence College
J. Bruno, Ph.D., 2000 – currently assistant professor, UNC, Chapel Hill
B. Silliman Ph.D. 2004 - currently assistant professor, University of Florida
C. Crain Ph.D. 2006 – current Postdoctoral Researcher, Brown University
K. Bromberg (current)
K. Kroeker (current)


Post-doctoral Associates: 11 total

Phil Yund, 1987-88 – currently director, University of New England Marine Research Lab
Rick Wahle 1990 – currently senior staff scientist Bigelow Marine Lab
Steve Brewer 1993-95 – currently professor, University of Mississippi, Oxford
Todd Minchinton 1996-98 – currently assistant professor, University of Adelaide
Geoff Trussell 1998- 2001 – currently assistant professor, Northeastern University
Alejandro Bortolus 2001-2003 – currently research scientist, University of Central Patagonia
Cesar Costa 2001- 2002 – currently professor, University of Rio Grande, Brazil
Eric Sanford 2002- 2004 - currently assistant professor, UC Davis
Johan Van de Koppel 2003-2004 – currently research scientist Netherlands Institute of Marine Ecology, Zeeland
Andrew Irving, Erica Garcia (current)

Selected Publications

  • Altieri, A, B.R. Silliman, and M. D. Bertness. 2006. Whole community facilitation of a rocky intertidal invertebrate assemblage by cobble beach cordgrass. American Naturalist, in press (2006)
  • Van Wessenbrek, B., A. Altieri, C. Crain and M.D. Bertness. 2006. Landscape spatial scale patterns in the organization of halophytic plant communities in Narragansett Bay Ecology, in review (2006)
  • Minchinton, T.E., J.C. Simpson, and M.D. Bertness. 2006 Mechanisms of exclusion of native coastal marsh plants by an invasive grass. Journal of Ecology 94: 342-354. (2006)
  • Crain, C.M. and M.D. Bertness. 2006. Incorporating ecosystem engineering into conservation and restoration biology. BioScience 56 (2006)
  • Bertness, M.D. B. R. Silliman, M. C. Bazterrica, M. V. Reyna, F. Hildago and C. M. Crain. 2006. The Community Structure of Western Atlantic Patagonian Rocky Shores. Ecological Monographs. In press (2006)
  • Van De Koppel, B.R. Silliman, A. Altieri and M.D. Bertness. 2005. Scale dependent interactions lead to the spatial patterning of cobble beach assemblages. Ecological Letters 9: 45-50. (2005)
  • Silliman, B.R., J. Van de Koppel. M.D. Bertness, L. Stanton, and I. Mendelssohn. 2005. Drought and herbivory lead to catastrophic salt marsh collapse. Science 310:1803-1805. (2005)
  • Silliman, B.R., M.D. Bertness, C. Mullan, G. Trussell, and P. Ewanchuk. 2005. Mechanisms of consumer control in Gulf of Maine rocky intertidal communities. Oecologia in review (2005)
  • Wolters, M., J.P Bakker, M.D. Bertness, R.L. Jefferies, and I. Moller.2005. Forum: Salt-marsh erosion and restoration in south-east England: squeezing the evidence requires realignment. Invited commentary. Journal of Applied Ecology 42: 844-851. (2005)
  • Crain, C.M. and M.D. Bertness. 2005. Community impacts of a tussock forming sedge: Is ecosystem engineering important in benign habitats. Ecology 86: 2695-2704. (2005)
  • Fogel, B*, C. M. Crain, and M. D. Bertness. 2004. Community Level Engineering Effects of Triglochin maritima (seaside arrowgrass) in a Northern New England Salt Marsh. Journal of Ecology 92: 589-597. (2004)
  • Crain, C. M., B.R. Silliman, S. L. Bertness, and M.D. Bertness. 2004. Mechanisms of the spatial segregation of plants across estuarine salinity gradients. Ecology 85: 2539-2549. (2004)
  • Silliman, B. R. and M. D. Bertness. 2004. Shoreline Development Drives the Invasion of Phragmites australis and the Loss of New England Salt Marsh Plant Diversity. Conservation Biology 18: 1424- 1434. (2004)
  • Bertness, MD, BR Silliman and R. Jefferies. 2004. Salt marshes under siege. American Scientist 92:54-61. (2004)
  • Ewanchuk, P. J., and M. D. Bertness.2004. Maintenance of high diversity pans in Northern New England salt marshes. Ecology 85: 1568-1574. (2004)
  • Ewanchuk, P. J., and M. D. Bertness.2004.Structure and Organization of a northern New England salt marsh plant community. J. Ecology 92:72-85. (2004)
  • Bertness, M.D., G. Trussell, P. Ewanchuk and B.R. Silliman. 2004. Do alternate community stable states exist on rocky shores in the Gulf of Maine? A reply. Ecology 85: 1165-1167. (2004)
  • Bertness, M.D., Trussell, G.C., Ewanchuk, P.J., Silliman, B.R. and Mullan, C. 2004. Consumer Controlled Alternate Community States on Gulf of Maine Rocky Shores. (2004)
  • Trussell, G.C., P.J. Ewanchuk, B.R. Silliman, and M.D. Bertness. 2004. Indirect effects mediate consumer control of New England tide pool communities. Oecologia 139: 427-432. (2004)
  • Pennings, S.C., M. Bestor-Grant* and M. D. Bertness. 2004. Plant zonation in low-latitude salt marshes: disentangling the roles of flooding, salinity and competition. Journal of Ecology 93:159-167 (2004)
  • Trussell, G.C., P.J. Ewanchuk, and M.D. Bertness. 2003. Trait-mediated effects in rocky intertidal food chains: predator risk cues alter prey feeding rates. Ecology 84: 629-640. (2003)
  • Ewanchuk, P. J. and M. D. Bertness.2003. Recovery of a northern Nre England salt marsh plant community from winter icing. Oecologia 136:616-626 (2003)
  • Pennings, S. C., E. Selig*, L. Houser*, and M. D. Bertness. 2003. Geographic variation in positive and negative interactions among marsh plants. Ecology 84:1527-1538. (2003)
  • Bruno, J., J.J. Stackowitz, and M. D. Bertness. 2003. Including positive interactions in ecological theory. Trends in Ecology and Evolution 18: 119-125 (2003)
  • Minchinton, Todd E., Bertness, Mark D. 2003: Disturbance-mediated competition and the spread of Phragmites australis in a coastal marsh. Ecological Applications: Vol. 13, No. 5, pp. 1400–1416. (2003)
  • Bertness, M.D., P. Ewanchuk, and B.R. Silliman. 2002. Anthropogenic modification of New England salt marsh landscapes. Proceedings of the National Academy of Science 99 (3): 1395-1398. (2002)
  • Trussell, G.C., P.J. Ewanchuk, and M.D. Bertness. 2002. Field evidence of trait-mediated indirect interactions in a rocky intertidal food web. Ecological Letters 5: 1-5. (2002)