Breea GovenarDr. Breea Govenar, Assistant Professor of Biology
Fogarty Life Science 252
Year began at RIC: 2010
Students working on project: Janis Hall, B.A., 2010; Biology M.S., May 2014Project: Effects of global change on marine benthic communities
Janis Hall and Dr. Breea Govenar in the laboratory
Dr. Govenar's research focuses on the causes and consequences of species diversity in marine benthic communities. Most of her Ph.D. and postdoctoral research was conducted at deep-sea hydrothermal vents, where the energy that supports the ecosystem is derived from chemical energy through chemosynthesis. She continues to study food web dynamics and energy transfer at hydrothermal vents and among other chemosynthesis-based ecosystems.
Much like deep-sea vents, coastal salt marshes are characterized by steep environmental gradients and chronic disturbance. Rhode Island has more coastline per unit area than any other state, and Narragansett Bay is one of the most important estuarine systems in the U.S. These factors provide invaluable opportunities to further examine the relationship between productivity, disturbance, and food web dynamics in an ecosystem affected by human activities. As Narragansett Bay is close to "home", more students, as well as the general public, can participate in and benefit from research efforts. With these opportunities in mind, Dr. Govenar has begun to establish a comparative research program at RIC that seeks to answer parallel questions at both vents and marshes for a more holistic understanding of how benthic communities respond to environmental changes, such as shifts in chemistry and pH.
In the summer of 2011, with support through an EPSCoR summer stipend, Dr. Govenar started to sample salt marshes to examine the variation in the species composition as a baseline for beginning a deeper investigation of the effects of climate change on the ecology and trophic relationships of the benthic macrofauna, including different species of snails, ribbed mussels, and fiddler crabs. In Fall 2011, Janis Hall (B.A. 2010) began her graduate studies with Dr. Govenar to research the effects of metal pollution and ocean acidification on the reproductive and larval biology of the ribbed mussels. Janis says that she has always loved ecology, and "getting out and seeing the interactions first hand is very exciting."