Stachowicz Lab University of California, Davis

Kristin Aquilino, PhD

Population Biology
University of California - Davis

Current position:
Postdoctoral Scholar
White Abalone Captive Breeding Program
Bodega Marine Laboratory

Research interests

Research examining the effects of and the mechanisms maintaining diversity has remained largely distinct; however, there is growing appreciation for the potential for interaction between unidirectional effects on communities. I am interested in examining the interactions between causes and consequences of biodiversity to generate a clearer picture of the relative importance of different factors influencing biodiversity and the degree to which feedbacks might exist.

The rocky intertidal zone along the California coast is an ideal system in which to conduct studies of biodiversity because it contains diverse assemblages of primary and secondary producers at a range of abundances. Furthermore, studies in the rocky intertidal have been a foundation of modern community ecology, and much of this work concerns the maintenance of species diversity.

Dissertation Projects

Applying Tanglefoot to exclude herbivores from patches within a monoculture of Pelvetiopsis limitata.

How do herbivores interact with existing algal diversity to affect algal recruitment and succession?

Many experimental studies have demonstrated that herbivores mediate the distribution and abundance of algae on emergent substrate in the rocky intertidal zone. These studies, however, typically examine effects of herbivores on cleared substrate without regard to the composition of the surrounding community. I am conducting a field experiment crossing monocultures and polycultures of four common high-intertidal algal species with two herbivore treatments (ambient and reduced abundances) to measure their effects on algal recruitment and succession.

How does algal diversity affect individual herbivore performance?

Using feeding trials, I am assessing (1) herbivore feeding preferences and rates of herbivory on different algal species when offered alone and in combination with other algae, and (2) how the composition and diversity of an algal diet affects the growth and fitness of individual herbivores. In preliminary trials, the turban snail Tegula funebralis consumed more algal biomass in the average polyculture than in the average monoculture. Greater herbivore consumption with higher algal diversity could be due to herbivore dietary requirements whereby herbivores vary their diets to avoid the build up of toxins, benefit from the nutritional differences among algae, or both.

Tegula funebralis feeding in an algal polyculture.

Porphyra perforata growing on mussels (left) and on bare rock (right).

How does nutrient regeneration by suspension feeding bivalves affect algal abundance and composition on emergent substrate in areas of high wave intensity?

Nitrogen regeneration by invertebrates can enhance seaweed growth at the local scale, but most evidence for local-scale facilitation of seaweeds via invertebrate-mediated nutrient loading comes from relatively isolated or low-flow environments such as tidepools. I tested the relative influence of consumption by mobile herbivores and nutrient regeneration by suspension feeding bivalves on algal abundance and composition on a wave-swept shore. I found that regenerated nutrients from mussels (Mytilus californianus) increased growth and abundance of the ephemeral algal species Porphyra perforata on emergent substrate even more than the direct reduction in herbivory.


Aquilino, K.M., Coulbourne, M.E., Stachowicz, J.J. 2012. Mixed species diets enhance the growth of two rocky intertidal herbivores. Marine Ecology Progress Series. 468:179-189. [-link-]

Aquilino, K.M., Stachowicz J.J. 2012. Seaweed richness and herbivory increase rate of community recovery from disturbance. Ecology. 93:879-890. [-link-]

Edwards, K.F., Aquilino, K.M., Best, R.B., Sellheim, K.L., Stachowicz, J.J. 2010. Prey diversity is associated with weaker consumer effects in a meta-analysis of benthic marine experiments. Ecology Letters. 13:194-201. [-pdf-] [-link-]

Aquilino, K.M., Bracken, M.E.S., Faubel, M.N., Stachowicz, J.J. 2009. Local-scale autochthonous nutrient inputs in an upwelling ecosystem facilitate seaweed growth on wave-exposed rocky shores. Limnology and Oceanography. 54:309-317. [-pdf-] [-link-]

Aquilino, K.M., Cardinale, B.J., Ives, A.R. 2005. Reciprocal effects of host plant and natural enemy diversity on herbivore suppression: an empirical study of a model tritrophic system. Oikos. 108:275-282. [-pdf-] [-link-]