Marine protected areas (MPAs) are an increasingly popular strategy for protecting marine biodiversity, but a widespread lack of personnel and funds are preventing MPAs from reaching their full potential.
Climate refuges and resilience
Increasing the resilience of global ecosystems to climate change is a crucial challenge. I am interested in portfolio approaches to conservation and examine how climate refuges - areas of unique oceanography that might escape the worst impacts of climate change - can be use in conservation and management.
Popular article for Save Our Seas Magazine "Adapting to Change"
Webster MS, Colton MA, Darling ES, Armstrong J, Pinsky ML, Knowlton N and DE Schindler. 2017. Who Should Pick the Winners of Climate Change? Trends in Ecology and Evolution 32: 167-173.
Darling ES. 2014. Conserve climate refugia. In “A to-do list for the world’s parks”. Nature 515: 28-30.
Côté IM and ES Darling. 2010. Rethinking Ecosystem Resilience in the Face of Climate Change. PLOS Biology 8: e1000438.
Coral traits and life histories
Scleractinian corals are a diverse and threatened group of species that provide critical habitat and architecture on tropical reefs. I am using trait-based approaches to classify the life-history strategies of reef corals in order to evaluate theories of community ecology and predict the impact of environmental and anthropogenic stressors on coral reefs, and how coral traits relate to reef fish assemblages. I am also a Managing Editor of the online and open-source Coral Traits Database. R code for the original life histories classifications can be found here on GitHub.
Darling ES, Graham NAJ, Januchowski-Hartley FA, Nash KL, Pratchett MS and SK Wilson. 2017. Relationships between structural complexity, coral traits and reef fish assemblages. Coral Reefs, in press.
Madin JS, Hoogenboom M, Connolly S, Darling ES, Falster D, Huang D, Keith S, Mizerek T, Pandolfi JM, Putnam H, Baird AH. 2016. A trait-based approach to advance coral reef science. Trends in Ecology and Evolution 31: 419-428.
Madin JS, Anderson K, Andreason M, Bridge T, Cairns S, Connolly S, Darling ES, Diaz M, Falster D, et al., and A Baird. 2016. The Coral Trait Database, a curated database of trait information for coral species from the global oceans.
Scientific Data 3: 160017.
Darling ES, TR McClanahan and IM Côté. 2013. Life histories predict coral community disassembly under multiple stressors. Global Change Biology 19: 1930-1940.
Darling ES, Alvarez-Filip L, Oliver TA, McClanahan TR and IM Côté. 2012. Evaluating life-history strategies of reef corals from species traits. Ecology Letters 15: 1378-1386. *Selected by the Faculty of 1000
Synergies and multiple stressors
The human footprint on global ecosystems is increasing as a consequence of climate change, overexploitation, habitat loss, pollution, and invasive species. However, these stressors rarely occur in isolation, raising concerns about the ability of ecosystems to absorb multiple, simultaneous disturbances. My research investigates how different stressors interact and what this means for ecosystems in the real world, like coral reefs.
Côté IM, Darling ES and C Brown. 2016. Interactions among ecosystem stressors and their importance in conservation. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences 283: 20152592.
McClanahan TR, Graham NAJ and ES Darling. 2014. Coral reefs in a crystal ball: predicting the future from the vulnerability of corals and reef fishes to multiple stressors. Current Opinion in Sustainability and Environmental Science 7: 50-64.
Darling ES, McClanahan TR and IM Côté. 2010. Combined effects of two stressors on Kenyan coral reefs are additive or antagonistic, not synergistic. Conservation Letters 3: 122-130.
Darling ES and IM Côté. 2008. Quantifying the evidence for ecological synergies. Ecology Letters 11: 1278-1286. **Highly cited article: 380 citations in August 2017.
Coral Reef Fisheries
Coral reefs support fisheries that provide food security and livelihoods for half a billion people worldwide. Like many marine resources, coral reefs are under pressure from growing human populations in tropical countries with the potential to undermine fisheries productivity, biodiversity, and sustainability and lead to desperate resource users and destructive fishing methods.
Darling ES. 2014. Assessing the effect of marine reserves on increase household food security in Kenyan fishing communities. In press, PLOS ONE 9: e113614.
Cinner JE, Huchery C, Darling ES, Humphries AT, Graham NAJ, Hicks CC, Marshall N and TR McClanahan. 2013. Evaluating social and ecological vulnerability of coral reef fisheries to climate change. PLOS ONE 8: e74321.
McClanahan TR, Hicks CC and ES Darling. 2008. Fishing pressure, productivity and competition for resources: Malthusian overexploitation and efforts to overcome it on Kenyan coral reefs. Ecological Applications 18: 1516-1529.
Scientists and social media
I have also investigated how scientists use social media for networking, communication and research impact. Every scientist can be a great communicator, and social media can be a valuable set of tools when used purposefully.
Darling ES, D Shiffman, Côté IM and J Drew. 2013. The role of Twitter in the lifecycle of a scientific publication. Ideas in Ecology and Evolution 6: 32-43.
Parsons ECM, Shiffman DS, Darling ES, Spillman N and AJ Wright. 2014. Editorial: How Twitter literacy can benefit conservation scientists. Conservation Biology 28: 299-301.
Darling ES and JR Rummer. 2015. Strategically Using Social Media. In Success Strategies from Women in Science (eds. P Pritchard and C Grant). In press, Elsevier, Inc.