Expertise & Resources Overview

Biogeography and Vegetation Ecology
Contaminant Analysis
Landscape Ecology
Land-Use Change
Payment for Ecosystem Services
Population and Conservation Genetics
Population Dynamics
Spatial Decision Support
Watershed Processes and Wetland Health
Biogeography and Vegetation Ecology
Modern vegetation ecology lends particular insight to the distribution of native and invasive species and their relative resilience to repeated fire and mechanical disturbance. Work within the IEMM focuses especially on Mediterranean-type ecosystems that are common in Southern California, with special emphasis on spatial and temporal patterns of species diversity, community composition, post-disturbance resilience, influence of exotic species and habitat preference of species. IEMM affiliated scientists work particularly closely with Marine Corps Air Station, Miramar to provide management insights for environmental managers.
white seabirds flying over coastline
two beetles climbing narrow plant stems
person measuring a bird's wing
cluster of purple flowers
man in distance walking across a green field
five shorebirds standing in water
woman walking across brown and green hillside
Contaminant Analysis
Persistent organic pollutants (POPs) such as PCBs, PBDEs, and DDT occur throughout California's waterways and are known causes of reproductive and physiological impairments in wildlife. Emerging research addresses the bioaccumulative implications of nontargeted compounds (natural, emerging, and/or unregulated), yet little is known about their presence and persistence in coastal species. In partnership with SDSU's Graduate School of Public Health, we use novel instrumentation to analyze nontargeted contaminants with targeted POPs in seabird, sea turtle, and marine mammal tissues from coastal California. This two-part method is crucial for rigorous and efficient biological and environmental monitoring; it identifies a wide range of both known and previously unknown persistent and bioaccumulative chemicals, and comprehensively assesses true toxin burdens to wildlife.
Landscape Ecology
IEMM uses a broad array of theoretical, modeling and observation based techniques to innovate concepts, methods and applications in environmental and natural resource conservation and policy-making. For example, complexity theory and its applications in human-environment interactions; the methodology of quantitative modeling in land-use/cover, wildlife habitat and biodiversity dynamics; and the study of population and development, and their environmental effects in relation to human health, natural disasters, and biodiversity dynamics.
Land-Use Change
Regardless of your political stance on anthropogenic climate change, the combination of land use and climatic shifts alter the viable uses of different regions – and that impacts how people live. Land-use change analysis can impact global decisions based on large-scale effects like ice-cap coverage and the varying areas of fertility or desertification in the Middle-East, meso-scale impacts like border security, and even micro effects like the implementation of business incentive zones.
Payment for Ecosystem Services
Twenty-four specific ecosystem services were identified and assessed by the Millenium Ecosystem Assessment, a 2005 UN-sponsored report that looked at the state of the world’s ecosystems. Of particular interest to the IEMM are the ecological, socio-economic and policy impacts of PES programs. Highlighted ecosystem services such as climate change mitigation, watershed services and biodiversity conservation are all critical policy issues in Southern California and nationwide.
Population and Conservation Genetics
Evolution, molecular ecology and conservation genetics can be studied using microsatellites, ISSRS, mtDNA and nDNA genotyping and sequencing. Each project focuses on interpreting patterns of genetic variation to 1) determine the relationships among different evolutionary lineages, 2) estimate historical and contemporary connectivity among populations, and 3) make management and conservation recommendations. Research projects include the development of software for population genetic analysis; conservation status of evolutionary hotspots in Southern California; and investigations of dispersal and colonization patterns.
Population Dynamics
Behavioral attributes of organisms can shape fine-scale population structure in the context of anthropogenic habitat change. One IEMM approach is to consider questions of fundamental and applied importance in a broad sense, and then refine the questions based on field experience and observations of natural systems. This approach requires intensive field work to avoid reinforcing preconceived notions through controlled laboratory experiments, but also takes advantage of the controlled laboratory setting to perform experiments that are logistically difficult to do in the field. Cautiously interpreted laboratory experiments bolstered by lots of field observations keep applicable hypotheses in context.
Spatial Decision Support
Quantitative techniques can be applied to support decision making in broadly understood resource management situations dealing with spatial allocation of both human and natural resources involving geographic data. IEMM research applies multiple criteria evaluation techniques and their integration with Geographic Information Systems (GIS) to generate meaningful recommendations and support. Optimization methods useful for spatial decision support include linear programming and multiple objective optimization. The IEMM approach further recognizes that spatially-informed decisions are also fundamentally collaborative in nature and strives to provide the most meaningful evaluation to all stakeholders.
Watershed Processes and Wetland Health
Humans and ecosystems depend on and affect watershed processes that move water, sediment, and chemicals through a landscape. Watershed analysis describes and quantifies connections between natural landscape properties, human activities, and ecosystem services related to soil, water resources, and aquatic ecosystems. Watershed analysis focuses on understanding the main processes that control water quantity, water quality, sediment transport, and aquatic habitat. A particular focus is the effects of urbanization and fire on watershed processes in semi-arid climates.