Ocean Ecology & Marine Food Webs
Ecosystems of the oceans are distinctly different from terrestrial ecosystems in that are tightly coupled to the physics and chemistry of the ocean and can show dramatic change on the timescales of hours. Understanding the structure and dynamics of marine food webs, and the associated interactions that structure them (from microbes to phytoplankton to zooplankton to whales), is a multifaceted and challenging task, occupying the research focus for many Rutgers faculty. Ecological study of estuaries and oceans is an integrative science that not only considers the organisms inhabiting these complex environments but also the physical, chemical, and biological factors affecting their structural and functional relationships. Biotic and abiotic components are interactive and must be considered when assessing ecosystem processes and condition. As such, ocean ecology focuses on populations and communities of organisms, their habitats, and the environmental conditions influencing the abundance, distribution, and diversity of these organisms. Anthropogenic activities may also have a significant effect on the stability and viability of the biotic communities and their habitats. Ongoing research efforts by Rutgers scientists span open ocean environments, hydrothermal vents, the deep sea, sea-ice communities, fisheries, and coastal estuaries and diverse aspects of larval and plankton ecology, including development, behavior, dispersal and settlement, and responses and adaptation to environmental change.