Cooke Lab

Karen Murchie

M.Sc. Fish Ecology, University of Waterloo (2002)
B.Sc. Honours Biology, University of Waterloo (2000)

Understanding the movement of energy through ecosystems is fundamental to ecology, yet little is known about this topic on the marine tropical flats habitats. Globally, bonefish (Albula spp.) are common inhabitants of shallow tropical marine environments, occupying key nearshore habitats including mangrove creeks, shallow sand and seagrass flats, as well as deep water habitats with patch reefs and larger reef tracks. In these systems, bonefish represent the primary benthivore, moving into shallow flats to feed on invertebrates and small fish near coastal mangroves during high tide, and then moving into deeper water to presumably digest and defecate at low tide. Because of their predictable movements and benthic lifestyle, it is hypothesized that bonefish may play a key role in the movement of nutrients and energy through flats ecosystems. Efforts to ascribe energy movements on flats to large invertebrates have been unsuccessful beyond individual habitats, suggesting that larger scale relationships between fish and their predators and prey may be important in structuring flats ecosystems. However, there have been few attempts to link fish behaviour and bioenergetics with ecosystem processes. The objective of my research is to determine whether bonefish are indeed a vector for the transport of energy through tropical flats habitats and nearshore patch reefs. Specifically, I will test the hypothesis that bonefish are a keystone species in tropical marine systems. To meet this objective, I will combine empirical organismal and community level observations and manipulative experiments that bring together leading techniques in stable isotopes and biotelemetry, as well as intensive modeling. Although bonefish will be considered as the focal species in the research, investigations into the role of other flats inhabitants will also be examined. Field research will occur on the flats of Eleuthera, Bahamas and in the wetlab at the Cape Eleuthera Institute (CEI).


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Murchie 2009. Stalking the flats in the name of science. Fisheries 34:38

Murchie et al. 2009. Strategies for the capture and transport of bonefish, Albula vulpes, from tidal creeks to a marine research laboratory for long-term holding. Aquaculture Research 40:1538-1550

Cooke et al. 2008. Effects of capture techniques on the physiological condition of bonefish (Albula vulpes) evaluated using field physiology diagnostic tools. Journal of Fish Biology 73:1351-1375

Murchie et al. 2008. Fish response to fluctuating flow in regulated rivers: research methods, effects and opportunities. River Research and Management 24:197-217

Suski et al. 2007. Physiological disturbance and recovery dynamics of bone fish, a tropical marine fish, in response to variable exercise and exposure to air. Comparative Biochemistry and Physiology (A) 148: 664-673

Murchie & Smokorowski . 2004. Relative Activity of Brook Trout and Walleyes in Response to Flow in a Regulated River. North American Journal of Fisheries Management24:1050-1057

Murchie et al. 2004. Effects of Radio-transmitter Antenna Length on Swimming Performance of Juvenile Rainbow Trout. Ecology of Freshwater Fish 13:312-316

Murchie & Power. 2004. Growth- and Feeding- Related Isotopic Dilution and Enrichment Patterns in Young-of-the-Year Yellow Perch. Freshwater Biology 49:41-54


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