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Student Information

Updated 2015-10-06

Student Information
Information for students interested in Graduate work in the Menge and Lubchenco laboratory at OSU.

LAB OVERVIEW: Bruce Menge is the Wayne and Gladys Valley Professor of Marine Biology and Distinguished Professor of Integrative Biology at Oregon State University. He maintains a large and very active research group, including 5 to 7 graduate students. Jane Lubchenco returned to OSU from a four-year stint as Administrator of NOAA in 2013 and is the University Distinguished Professor of Marine Science. This webpage will serve to tell you something about Bruce’s research and that of his students, the success his graduates have enjoyed, and the Department's admission policies and procedures. See Jane’s separate webpage for details on her program.

RESEARCH: Bruce’s research aims at understanding community and ecosystem dynamics, using comparative-experimental approaches in testing models of community regulation with a major focus on the impacts of climate change. An overarching theme is meta-ecosystem dynamics, defined as the study of sets of ecosystems connected by spatial flows of energy, materials and organisms across ecosystem boundaries in a changing world. A new and important focus is on the ecological impacts of ocean acidification, with laboratory and field studies of OA impacts within the context of the PISCO consortium.  Embedded within and extending beyond the focus on OA are ongoing interests in top-down bottom-up control of communities, linkages between adjacent ecosystems, food web dynamics, context-dependency of community and ecosystem dynamics, stability and resilience of ecosystems, supply-side ecology, ecological role of larval transport, and how these are influenced by climate change. Units of study range from the local, population and community scale, to large, regional, inter-hemispheric and global scales. Current research focuses mostly on the California Current Large Marine Ecosystem, but with collaborators, we also do research in the Humboldt Current LME, the New Zealand Shelf LME, and the Northeast US Continental Shelf LME (i.e., New England). Studies are strongly collaborative, with expertise within a larger circle of colleagues ranging from the molecular to ecosystem levels. The lab focuses on basic research that produces understanding relevant to human issues.

COLLABORATIONS: Our research currently occurs in the context of the PISCO consortium, and in collaborations with colleagues involved in ocean acidification and biogeographic community ecology in the southern hemisphere.

PISCO (Partnership for Interdisciplinary Studies of Coastal Oceans, a Large-Scale, Long-Term Ecological Consortium (see is focused on the dynamics of the California Current Large Marine Ecosystem, specifically in the area from the intertidal to 10-20 km offshore, an area oceanographers term the inner and middle shelves. Research involves studies in rocky intertidal and the adjacent pelagic environment from the surf zone to a depth of approximately 30 to 50 m, with the goal of understanding benthic-pelagic coupling in, and connectedness among rocky intertidal and subtidal communities. PISCO is funded by the David and Lucile Packard Foundation supplemented by grants from other foundations, NSF, NOAA and Sea Grant. The consortium is led by ten scientists, three at OSU (Bruce, Francis Chan, and Jack Barth of the College of Oceanic and Atmospheric Sciences), two at Stanford University's Hopkins Marine Station, three at the University of California at Santa Barbara, and two at the University of California at Santa Cruz. Some specific components of the projects are listed below. PISCO offers opportunities for graduate students and postdocs to carry out research that extends beyond the geographic and disciplinary constraints that often limit such research to more local scales and to more disciplinary approaches.

OCEAN ACIDIFICATION: Two previous collaborations helped initiate our focus on ocean acidification, which continues through graduate student, postdoctoral, and research faculty research. These groups included PIs from PISCO, MBARI, UC Davis/Bodega Marine Lab (OMEGAS; Ocean Margin Ecosystem Group for Acidification Studies), and OSU and Sonoma State University (ACIDIC; Algal Communities In Distress: Impacts and Consequences). Both OMEGAS and ACIDIC were supported by NSF from 2010 to 2014. Our goal in OMEGAS was to investigate acclimation and adaptation of sea urchins and mussels to a mosaic of ocean acidification along the CCLME, and in ACIDIC, was to investigate responses of calcifying algae and associated macrophytes to OA in the northern CCLME. OMEGAS established the first large-scale network of sensors to document patterns of OA in the inner shelf region of the California Current upwelling ecosystem. In both cases, research remains underway to address these critical problems. Investigation of the recent SEA STAR WASTING epidemic is a new focus of the lab, with relevance to our OA research, and will be described below.

SSIMBIO (Systems Science in Marine Biology): This is a recently formed collaboration consisting of 9 faculty housed in Integrative Biology and Microbiology. The goal is to understand biological systems from the molecule to the ecosystem, with an initial focus on the evolutionary biology and ecology of sea anemone symbioses along the US west coast. As the group expands its activities, we expect to broaden our organismal focus to include other important marine species.


1. Meta-ecosystem Dynamics in Nearshore Ecosystems - What are the relative impacts of local-scale, meso-scale and larger-scale processes in structuring the California Current Large Marine Ecosystem and LMEs in general? We study the influence of upwelling, phytoplankton productivity, particulates and organic matter, recruitment, larval abundance, biotic interactions, shore topography and environmental stress on rocky intertidal and subtidal community structure and organization. Besides Bruce, Francis and Jack, PISCO PIs include Mark Carr and Pete Raimondi (UCSC): Mark Denny and Steve Palumbi (Hopkins); and Libe Washburn, Carol Blanchette, and Jenn Caselle (UCSB). Collaborators include ecologists (Sally Hacker, Sarah Dudas of University of Vancouver Island, Nanaimo, BC; Gil Rilov of Israel Institute of Limnology and Oceanography, Haifa, Israel; Karina Nielsen of Romberg Tiburon Center for the Environment; Eric Sanford of UC Davis; Matt Bracken of UC Irvine, and Tarik Gouhier of Northeastern University); physical biologists (Brian Helmuth of Northeastern University), and molecular eco-physiologists (Sean Place of Sonoma State University, Gretchen Hofmann, UCSB).

2. Marine Community Biodiversity - What shapes the patterns of rocky intertidal biodiversity? We study patterns of distribution, abundance and diversity in rocky intertidal communities across several spatial scales, ranging from the traditional scales of m2 to much larger than traditional scales ranging to 1000s of km. Studies involve mapping, monitoring, remote sensing, field experimentation, and modelling. Collaborators include Gil Rilov (Israel Institute of Limnology and Oceanography), David Schiel (University of Canterbury, New Zealand), Carol Blanchette (UCSB), Sergio Navarrete and Evie Wieters (Univ. Catolica, Santiago, Chile), and Tarik Gouhier (Northeastern University).

3. Stability and Resilience of Coastal Ecosystems.  How will coastal ecosystems be changed as the climate gradually warms?  This focus has three components and overlaps in concept and research activity with projects 1 and 2 above.  Two projects focus on impacts of Ocean Acidification.  The first is the OMEGAS project, and the second project examines the impact of OA and other environmental stressors on coralline algae, a key facilitator of kelp recruitment, across the Oregon and northern California coasts.  The third project (the “LTREB project”) builds on long-term PISCO datasets on recruitment, phytoplankton, species interactions, and community structure, to examine how climate-related change is altering rocky intertidal communities along the Oregon coast. 

4. Suborganismal Mechanisms - How important are sublethal effects of environmental stress and subtle effects of varying food availability on growth, survival and abundance of marine intertidal organisms? In particular, what are the impacts of hypoxia and ocean acidification on marine benthic populations and their larvae? These studies are aimed at understanding the molecular, biochemical and physiological mechanisms that underlie the responses of marine organisms to climate change. We collaborate with Drs. Gretchen Hofmann and Sean Place on this work.

5. Marine Conservation Ecology –What is the anthropogenic impact on coastal ecosystems? How can one manage for resilience in coupled human-natural systems? What is the role of networks of marine reserves and how should they be designed? How will coastal ecological communities respond to the loss of the keystone predator Pisaster ochraceus? Will this species be able to recover from the devastation wrought by disease? These are some of the conservation-related questions being addressed within our group. In addition to many of the above colleagues, other collaborators on these topics include Karen McLeod of OSU COMPASS. Many of these activities offer students possible ways to learn about and participate in ways of connecting scientific understanding to the larger public and policy worlds.

LAB DETAILS: As of fall term 2015, I advise or co-advise 6 graduate students (sole advisor for five, and co-advisor of one with Sally Hacker). I encourage independence in my students, including the design and execution of their own research projects. I do not assign research topics. My students have worked on a wide variety of subjects and have had impressive success on the job market. Besides those listed below, recent graduates or postdocs have secured positions at Northeastern University (Tarik Gouhier), Cal State at Long Beach (Jennifer Burnaford), Romberg Tiburon Center for the Environment (Karina Nielsen), Portland State University (Elise Granek), University of San Francisco in Quito, Ecuador (Luis Vinueza), Alaska Fish and Game Department (Chris Krenz), the Natural Capital Project (Anne Guerry), NOAA/OSTP (Laura Petes), Dafne Eerkes-Medrano (Marine Scotland Science), Joe Tyburczy (California Sea Grant), Margot Hessing-Lewis (Hakai Beach Institute), and Sarah Close (NOAA).

Recently completed theses by my graduate students include: Margot Hessing-Lewis’ (Sally Hacker and Bruce) study of the factors causing variation in eelgrass abundance among Pacific Northwest estuaries; Davon Callander’s (David Schiel and Bruce) study of genomic responses to climate change and environmental stress in mussels; Alison Iles’ research on the mechanistic basis for variation in species interaction strength in intertidal food webs; Sarah Close’s investigation of the impacts of oceanographic variation in nutrients on dominant macrophyte taxa in the northern CCLME; and Jeremy Rose’s investigation of the impact of ocean acidification on intertidal diversity and mussel growth along the US west coast. Thesis projects underway include Liz Cerny-Chipman’s studies of the whelk-mussel interaction, and how this varies with OA, temperature, and sea star loss; Chenchen Shen’s investigations of the role of turf-forming macroalgae and oceanographic conditions in maintaining meso-faunal species diversity; Allison Barner’s (co-advised with Sally Hacker) research on climate change impacts and the likely creation of “no-analog” ecological communities; Jenna Sullivan’s study of the ecological role of the small six-armed sea star Leptasterias hexactis in the context of sea star wasting disease; Alissa Rickborn’s investigation of the responses of colonial invertebrates to climate change; and Barbara Spiecker’s focus on impacts of bottom-up inputs on diversity of US west coast intertidal communities.  I typically admit one or two students to our group each academic year.

Our group also includes several other scientists, including an assistant professor/senior research faculty, Francis Chan, who investigates the biochemical and ecological patterns and impacts of ocean acidification and hypoxia, and postdoctoral fellow Sarah Gravem, who is working on the ecological impacts of sea star wasting. The group is rounded out by a laboratory manager (Jerod Sapp), the PISCO Associate Executive Director (Kristen Milligan), program staff (Cindy Kent, Kathleen Norris), research technicians (Jonathan Robinson, Brittany Poirson, and Tully Rohrer), a computer/data specialist (Michael Frenock), and varying numbers of undergraduate honors college students and research interns.

For lab research needing running seawater, most of our students use OSU's marine lab, the Hatfield Marine Science Center at Newport, OR, about one hour from Corvallis, and occasionally the University of Oregon’s Institute of Marine Biology in Charleston, Oregon. We have access to laboratory space at HMSC when needed, and easy access to the diverse and largely unspoiled rocky shores of the stunning Oregon coast. The recent designation of five marine reserves along the Oregon coast opens the way to more research focused on the design and effectiveness of marine reserves.

INTEGRATIVE BIOLOGY DEPARTMENT: The former Zoology Department, renamed to Integrative Biology (IB) Department in January 2014, restricts its graduate student body to the number that can be supported on Teaching Assistantships, Research Assistantships, and Graduate Fellowships. IB presently has about 70 graduate students whose interests range from molecular genetics to cell and developmental biology to physiology to behavioral, population and community ecology. OSU IB is particularly strong in ecology, conservation biology, behavior, evolutionary biology, and marine biology, with about 2/3 of a total of 21 tenure-track faculty having affinities in these areas. Major organismal strengths include herpetology (including Steve Arnold, Andrew Blaustein, and Bob Mason), insect evolutionary biology and ecology (David Maddison, Dave Lytle, Chris Marshall) and marine biology (besides Bruce and Jane, Sally Hacker, Virginia Weis, Su Sponaugle, Sarah Henkel, Mark Novak, Eli Meyer, and Felipe Barreto). Ecology and conservation biology are represented by Blaustein, Lubchenco, Menge, Hacker, Novak, Sponaugle, Henkel [salt marsh, sand dune and rocky intertidal community ecology, conservation ecology], Lytle [stream ecology, evolutionary biology], Rebecca Terry [paleo-ecology, ecology of mammals], Anna Jolles [disease ecology], Patrick DeLeenheer [mathematical biology, control theory], and Ben Dalziel [disease epidemiology, quantitative ecology]. These individuals give us expertise in a wide range of levels of organization (behavior to ecosystems), habitats (aquatic, marine, terrestrial), and approach (field, lab, empirical, modeling, experimental). In addition to the members of the IB Department, numerous faculty in other departments and colleges (including Oceanography, Statistics, Fisheries and Wildlife, Forestry, and Microbiology) are ecologists, evolutionary biologists, and environmental scientists and provide valuable resources and stimulation for Zoology graduate students in ecology.

GRADUATE STUDENTS: My graduate students are a close-knit group and interact regularly both professionally and socially among themselves and with other lab members. Students have found the facilities and intellectual climate of Oregon State University, the Integrative Biology Department, Hatfield Marine Science Center on the Oregon coast, the College of Earth, Oceanic and Atmospheric Sciences (CEOAS), and my laboratory to be exceptionally favorable to the growth and development of their expertise as scientists. In turn, I consider the graduate program to be an integral and necessary part of my continued professional and personal growth. I expect and encourage considerable independence in each individual's research activities. Students are supported during their graduate careers by a combination of TA's, RA's and Fellowships. Several of our present group of students have (or had) fellowships, and sources of support include(d) NSF, NSERC, EPA, Fulbright, and NERR.  Additional support comes from RAships on grants and TAships.  I have produced 35 Ph.D.s and 10 Masters degrees (many co-advised with Jane Lubchenco and Sally Hacker). Many of these have obtained positions and/or postdocs at research universities, including Princeton, Brown, Stanford, Columbia, UC Davis, Syracuse, Auckland (New Zealand), UC at Santa Barbara, Catolica Universidad de Chile, Arizona State, Ohio State, Portland State, Florida State, Northeastern and San Francisco in Quito. Others have obtained positions at four-year undergraduate colleges, including Stetson College, College of the Virgin Islands, Cal State at Sonoma, Cal State at San Francisco, and Cal State at Long Beach. Yet others are in the private sector (e.g., one created and led her own environmental consulting company, Sustainable Ecosystems Institute; another was with OCEANA, a third is with the Natural Capital Project), and three are with government agencies (NOAA and Sea Grant). 
If you think you would be a strong applicant, I encourage you to apply. You should be aware that our graduate program is highly rated and very competitive. Preference is given to individuals who apply to our Ph.D. program and to students who have substantial research experience. Interviews by Skype are welcome, and if follow-up interviews by the lab group seem appropriate, I will encourage a visit. I also urge you to investigate and apply for such scholarships and fellowships as may be available, such as NSF, EPA STAR, NSERC or Fulbright Pre-doctoral Fellowships. Please write to me if you have additional questions.

Best regards,

Bruce Menge

Wayne and Gladys Valley Professor of Marine Biology and OSU Distinguished Professor of Zoology