Faculty & Researchers
FMAP Project: Global Analysis of Coral Reef Diversity
Mora, C et al. 2009. Management Effectiveness of the World's Marine Fisheries. PLoS Biology SIO 209: Methods for analyzing large data sets
My research is aimed to improve our understanding of processes that generate, maintain and affect biodiversity and upon that knowledge design and evaluate strategies for the protection of biodiversity (see diagram below). The rational is that achieving effective protection of biodiversity requires basic knowledge on 1) how human activities affect biodiversity and 2) how biodiversity is regulated and maintained over time. The former piece of knowledge provides the arguments to control certain threats whereas the later helps to prioritize limited conservation resources on key locations. In addition, my research also focuses on the assessment of strategies that are already in place for the conservation of biodiversity. It is always my interest to address those issues at the widest spatial scales possible.
Causality of threats.
Many marine and terrestrial species are in the slippery slope to extinction due to human related threats such as overexploitation, habitat loss and climate change. Unfortunately, there is significant uncertainty on the actual causality of these threats, which in turn has generated strong controversies but more importantly has precluded the development of earnest mitigation policies. This part of my research uses experimental approaches to evaluate the effects and mechanisms by which human-related threats lead to population declines and threat species with extinction.
Causes of biodiversity.
Describing and explaining spatial patterns in species richness are longstanding goals in ecology. Interest in these goals has gained momentum due to escalating anthropogenic impacts, and the need to prioritize limited conservation resources on key areas and hotspots of extinction-prone species. This part of my research uses meta-analysis approaches to describe patterns and test the causality of potential hypotheses. I use a wide variety of spatial statistics, Geographical Information Systems and Visual Basic programming to construct accurate patterns and develop rigorous tests of mechanistic hypotheses.
Development of conservation strategies and assessment of their effectiveness. Conservations strategies should be preceded by rigorous basic science if such strategies are expected to be effective. Unfortunately, such basic science is being developed at the same time that biodiversity is being loss. This has prompted the creation of regulations with rational but poor scientific sustentation. As a result, the success of such regulations is an open question. This part of my research aims to evaluate the effectiveness of strategies that are in place for the protection of biodiversity. I use meta-analysis approaches and scientific surveys to evaluate the effectiveness of existing strategies in terms of compliance, enforcement and biological response.
Mora C (2008) A clear human footprint in the coral reefs of the Caribbean. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London B. 275, 767-773. Highlighted in Discovery Channel.
Mora C, Tittensor D, Myers RA (2008) The completeness of taxonomic inventories for describing the global diversity and distribution of marine fishes. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London B. 275, 149-155.
Lubchenco J, Gaines S, Warner R, Palumbi S, Airame S….Mora C…(2007) The science of marine reserves booklet second edition. Pisco, California.
Mora C, Metzker R, Rollo A, Myers RA (2007) Experimental simulations about the effects of habitat fragmentation and overexploitation on populations facing environmental warming. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London B. 274, 1023-1028. A "Must read" article according to Faculty of 1000
Mora C, Andréfouët S, Kranenburg S, Rollo A, Costello M, Veron J, Gaston KJ, Myers RA (2006) How protected are coral reefs? Science 314, 757-760
Mora C, Andréfouët S, Costello M, Kranenburg S, Rollo A, Veron J, Gaston KJ, Myers RA (2006) Coral reefs and the global network of Marine Protected Areas. Science 312, 1750-1751. Comments in the same issue of Science by Hendriks et al and in the November issue of Popular Science
Mora C, Maya MF (2006) Effect of the rate of temperature increase of the dynamic method on the heat tolerance of fishes. Journal of Thermal Biology 31, 337-341
Mora C, Robertson D (2005) Causes of latitudinal gradients in species richness: a test with fishes of the Tropical Eastern Pacific. Ecology 86, 1771-1792
Hogan D, Mora C. (2005) Experimental assessment of the importance of swimming and drifting to the displacement of reef fish larvae. Marine Biology 147, 1213-1220
Mora C, Robertson D (2005) Factors shaping the ranges size frequency distribution of fishes in the Tropical Eastern Pacific. Journal of Biogeography 32, 277-286
Ospina AF, Mora C (2004) Effect of body size on the thermal tolerance of reef fishes. Environmental Biology of Fishes 70, 339-343
Mora C, Chittaro P, Sale PF, Kritzer J, Ludsin S (2003) Patterns and processes in reef fish diversity. Nature 421, 933-936. Comments in the same issue of Nature by Kevin Gaston
Mora C, Sale PF (2002) Are populations of coral reef fishes open or closed? Trends in Ecology and Evolution 17, 422-428. In a year-by-year basis, this paper was ranked by ISI as one of the 20 most cited papers in coral reef ecology
Mora C, Ospina AF (2002) Experimental effects of cold, La Nina temperatures in the survival of reef fishes from Gorgona Island (eastern Pacific Ocean). Marine Biology 141, 789-793
Mora C, Zapata F (2002) Effects of a predatory fish on the abundance and body size of early post-settled reef fishes from Gorgona Island (Eastern Pacific). Proceedings of the 9th international Coral Reef Symposium, Bali, Indonesia. 1, 475-480
Mora C, Ospina F. (2001) Thermal tolerance and potential impact of sea warming on reef fishes from Gorgona island (eastern Pacific Ocean). Marine Biology 139, 765-769
Mora C, Francisco V, Zapata F. (2001) Dispersal of juvenile and adult reef fishes associated with floating objects and their recruitment into Gorgona Island reefs. Bulletin of Marine Science 68, 557-561
Mora C. (2001) Dispersal of reef fishes by rafting. Reef Encounter 29, 16-17
Mora C, Jimenez J, Zapata F (2000) Pontinus clemensi (Pisces: Scorpaenidae) at Malpelo island, Colombia. New specimen and geographic range extension. Bulletin of Marine and Coastal research 29, 85-88
SIO209: Course Description
Simple methods for analyzing large data sets and answering global scale questions
The Internet, through different venues, has made possible collecting and/or accessing huge amounts of data over large geographical scales. These data, which in most cases can be downloaded with the click of a mouse, have allowed in-depth analysis of the mechanisms through which humans are causing the decline of the world's biodiversity and assess patterns and mechanisms over scales never possible before. Although these amazing sources of data are extending the frontiers of ecology they demand new analytical skills from ecologists. At a first glance these skills may appear to be restricted to computer geeks given that they require understanding of different programs associated with database management, data queries, geographical information system, programming and statistics. When faced with the challenge, however, you will realize that most of these tools are actually very SIMPLE. This course is intended to describe such tools. The course will be divided in two parts. The first one will describe tools from programs like Microsoft Access, Excel, Visual Basic, Statistica and ARCgis, which will provide the necessary skills to analyze large databases. In the second section, we will tackle one or two research questions (depending on the number of students) in which we will apply the learned tools or new ones if required. This second section will include reading and discussion of relevant literature (to outline the scope of the problem and data needs), search and analysis of the relevant data and writing of a report. I will encourage tackling a novel question so that the report of this second section has the potential to be of quality worth publishing in a peer-review journal.