José Carlos Hernández
The biology and population ecology of sea urchins, especially the key habitat-modifying species that generate widespread collapses of macroalgae beds to undesirable sea urchin-dominated barren grounds, are central to my interests. I have explored a variety of topics on the biological aspects of these invertebrates throughout their life cycle, such as larvae development, settlement, reproduction, growth and mortality. At the community level, I have investigated the establishment and stability of alternative ecosystem states and the positive feedback mechanisms that result in the resilience of each state, such as overfishing or the spread of diseases.
I have a special interest in the study of human-derived stressors(overfishing/climate change) and natural perturbations that can erode the resilience of desirable macroalgal beds while strengthening the resilience of urchin barrens. Thus, these stressors exacerbate the risks, spatial extents and irreversibility of unwanted regime shifts in marine ecosystems. For this research topic, I have worked in different MPAs that were used as large-scale human exclusion ecosystem experiments to test the responses of communities to human activities (mainly harvesting).
Lately, I have deviate my attention to ocean acidification (OA) studiesto determine whether marine calcifying organism will survive in the future ocean. From early life stages to adults, I have performed several lab experiments to understand direct and indirect effect of OA. Very recently, we have discovered a volcanic natural CO2 seeps area that can be used as a natural experiment to test the adaptation of the marine species to OA. This discovery has given me the opportunity to open my research scope to new and interesting evolutionary questions.
Therefore, my three main research lines are:
- Early life ecology and populations
- Natural perturbations and community dynamics
- Anthropogenic disturbances and marine conservation