I’m a quantitative ecologist using data science, modeling, and synthetic approaches to solve interdisciplinary environmental problems, particularly in the sea. Ultimately, I aim to improve how humans understand, manage, and use nature. Most of my research investigates marine biogeographic patterns and ecological processes, how human influences are reshaping them, and how well their dynamics can be predicted with models. I am an Assistant Professor in the Department of Ocean Sciences at the University of California, Santa Cruz. Prospective lab members can learn more about opportunities here.
Although research is my focus, I am continually striving to translate science into action. As a postdoc, I collaborated with managers and fishers through the Mid-Atlantic Fisheries Management Council. Before starting my PhD, I worked for two years at the Environmental Defense Fund as a High Meadows Fellow. I’ve also served on CESAB and SNAPP working groups, aimed at synthesizing ecological information to advance biodiversity conservation and human well-being. I am always open to collaboration, particularly via partnerships that emphasize sustaining nature and people.
I’m committed to science communication and open science. I am on the Board of Directors of the Society for Open, Reliable, and Transparent Ecology and Evolutionary Biology. All of the code for my published research, as well as numerous coding tutorials I developed, can be viewed on GitHub. I’ve also spoken to broad audiences of R users about ecology and environmental science. Links to watch those presentations and some other recorded talks can be found on this site.
When I’m not at my desk, I can usually be found at the farmer’s market or doing community service. I’ve previously volunteered in mentoring at-risk youth in Trenton, NJ, street medicine for the homeless and uninsured, mountain rescue, emergency medical services, and outdoor education for people of all abilities, to name a few.
PhD, Environmental Science and Management, 2020
University of California Santa Barbara
BA, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, 2012
I study ecological processes and biogeographical patterns, in the context of human impacts. While I focus on oceans, I often test concepts developed on land in marine systems; I believe that working across realms is crucial for understanding the universality of ecological theories and conservation approaches. The core themes of my research program are described below.
Species around the globe are shifting their ranges in response to climate change, reshuffling ecosystems and challenging paradigms of natural management. Yet species’ range shifts are highly variable, perhaps because many ecological and environmental processes besides climate also influence species distributions. Without understanding these other processes and how they interact with one another and with climate, it’s difficult to predict range shifts and make management recommendations. My goal is to advance our mechanistic understanding of processes that govern species distributions in the Anthropocene, and consequently, our ability to forecast those distributions. Some specific past, present, and future research topics in this vein include:
Modeling future species distributions with sufficient accuracy and precision to inform management decisions remains a core challenge of climate change biogeography. To assess the utility of incorporating ecological and demographic mechanisms, I’ve developed a spatially explicit population dynamic model to forecast short-term range shifts in marine species using a hierarchical Bayesian framework. My future research will build biogeographical forecasts for marine species in the California Current, leveraging historical climate variability and oceanographic data products to generate management-relevant predictions.
We now know that climate change may transform ecosystems through not only the “press” of gradual warming, but also the “pulse” of extreme events like heatwaves. I am currently working to understand the effect of marine heatwaves on the biomass and community composition of temperate demersal marine fishes. Next, I plan to explore the mechanisms driving ecological responses to marine heatwaves to understand why some heatwaves are much more damaging than others.
While my research program centers on climate change, I recognize that sustainable oceans require managing other human impacts, including runoff and fishing. Runoff – the direct influx of sediments, nutrients, and other forms of pollution carried to coastal oceans from rivers – directly threatens sensitive habitats that are crucial to biodiversity conservation, like coral reefs and seagrass beds. I have participated in numerous collaborations that worked to provide operational tools for land-sea management, particularly in data-limited settings.
Fishing has the potential to provide protein with a low greenhouse gas footprint to billions of people, and to support livelihoods in countless coastal communities. Unfortunately, most fisheries in the world are associated with problematic social or ecological outcomes – or both. I engage with fisheries both through primary research and through collaboration and outreach with stakeholders. Several of my ongoing projects will provide NOAA with operational tools for climate-ready fisheries management.
Thank you for your interest in joining the lab! UCSC is on the cutting edge of environmental and marine research. Strong support exists for interdisciplinary work and partnerships, via the Institute for Marine Sciences, NOAA’s Southwest Fishery Science Center, and more. I encourage prospective graduate students to explore the Ocean Sciences prospective student page, including the program prerequisites listed here.
The Fredston Lab is a computational group that develops and tests hypotheses about fundamental dynamics of marine ecosystems using theoretical models and Bayesian and frequentist statistics. Successful Fredston Lab members are likely to have experience and/or substantial interest in these methods. In other words, there is a lot of math, probability, and code involved, and most people in the group will not be collecting primary (field or lab) data. That said, I am open to a broad array of approaches to answering these questions, and committed to training early career researchers in quantitative methods.
I am always open to co-developing proposals for fellowships and other externally funded positions, and I expect PhD students in the lab to apply to national fellowships for which they are eligible. Many lists exist of national fellowships; you may find some relevant graduate fellowships on this University of Miami page, some postdoc fellowships on this University of Minnesota page, and both on Dr. Jurgens’ page. Johns Hopkins University also maintains lists of graduate and postdoctoral fellowships for all research fields. I may also have additional funding for students and postdocs to join the lab. Prospective lab members should email me directly. I encourage you to include the following in your email:
A short summary (one paragraph or less) of your background and career goals.
A short summary (one paragraph or less) of why you want to come to UCSC, and to my lab specifically.
A short summary (one paragraph or less) of a project you are interested in working on. (This is not binding in any way, but will give me a sense of what you are excited about and how you think. You can alternatively send a research proposal you’ve written, like an NSF GRFP application.)
Your current CV and (for prospective undergrad or grad students) unofficial transcripts.
I aim to respond to every email from a prospective lab member. However, I receive a ton of email every day, and occasionally I miss things. If you don’t get a response (or out-of-office reply) from me within a week or two, please feel free to email again.