Trait variation within a species 

Trait variation ultimately arises from genetic variation, environmentally induced plasticity, and their interaction. My work continues to explore the sources and consequences of variation in traits in marine plants across species, populations, and individuals. Important contributions in this area have included: a taxonomic revision of giant kelp based on experiments exploring plasticity in traits previously thought to be critical in systematics; an empirical assessment of light-induced physiological vs. morphological plasticity in a tropical seagrass; and the first statistical estimates of differences in mechanical traits among individuals and their fitness consequences. In a recent Ideas & Perspectives paper in the Journal of Phycology, I reviewed these sources of variation, assessed critical gaps in the contemporary literature, called atteention to ecological and economic benefits of addressing those gaps, and outlined a framework to move the field in a direction that remedies those knowledge gaps.

Example publications:

Demes, KW & JN Pruitt. 2019. Seaweed individuality and why we need to care. Journal of Phycology 55(2): 247-256. [link]

Schubert, N† & K Demes†. 2017. Phenotypic plasticity in the marine angiosperm Halophila decipiens Ostenf. (Hydrocharitaceae, Streptophyta). Marine Ecology Progress Series 575: 81-93. [link]

Demes, KW, CDG Harley, JN Pruitt, & E Carrington.  2013. Survival of the weakest: Increased frond mechanical strength in a wave-swept kelp inhibits self-pruning increasing mortality. Functional Ecology 27: 439-445. [link]

Demes, KW, MH Graham & TS Suskiewicz. 2009. Phenotypic plasticity reconciles incongruous molecular and morphological taxonomies: the giant kelp, Macrocystis (Laminariales, Phaeophyceae), is a monospecific genus. Journal of Phycology 45(6): 1266-1269. [link]

Nuancing ecology for better models 

The inherent complexity of​ ecosystems can be a double-edged sword for ecologists. On the one hand, there will always be jobs for ecologists because we will never be able to fully understand the natural world. On the other hand, our work can only benefit conservation and management activities if we are able to produce models that can somewhat reasonably predict ecological outcomes under varying scenarios. By integrating, multiple ecological principles when evaluating potential scenarios (e.g., predator depletion/recovery, climate change), we can better inform management activities. 

Example publications:

Burt, J*, T Tinker, D Okamoto, KW Demes, K Holmes, A Salomon. 2018. Sudden collapse of a mesopredator reveals its complementary role in mediating rocky reef regime shifts. Proc. R. Soc. B 285: 20180553. [link]

Stevenson C*, KW Demes & AK Salomon. 2016. Accounting for size‐specific predation improves our ability to predict the strength of a trophic cascade. Ecology and Evolution 6(4):1041-1053. [link]

Green, S, KW Demes, M Arbeider*, WJ Palen, AK Salomon, TD Sisk, M Webster*, ME Ryan. 2016. Oil sands and the marine environment: Current knowledge and future challenges. Frontiers in Ecology and Environment 15(2): 74-83. [link]

Chang, S, J Stone, K Demes, M Piscitelli. 2014. Consequences of oil spills: a framework for scenario planning. Ecology and Society 19(2): 26. [link]

Harley, CDG, K Anderson, KW Demes, JP Jorve, RL Kordas, T Coyle, and M Graham. 2012. Effects of climate change on seaweed communities. Journal of Phycology 48:1064-1078. [link]