Helmuth, Brian

My research explores the effects of climate and climate change on the physiology and ecology of marine organisms. Specifically, I use thermal engineering techniques, including a combination of field work, remote sensing and mathematical modeling, to explore the ways in which the environment determines the body temperatures of coastal marine animals such as mussels and seastars. Combined with energetics models, this approach provides a quantitative method of mapping patterns of growth, reproduction, and survival in economically and ecologically important coastal species. A major goal of this approach (funded by NASA and NSF) is to inform decision makers with scientifically accurate and useful forecasts. While much of my work has focused on North American rocky intertidal ecosystems, my lab also collaborates with researchers in:

Adelaide, Australia
Melbourne, Australia 
Hong Kong
South Africa
the U.K.

Our work has shown some surprising results, and has suggested that our expectations of where to look for the effects of climate change in nature can be more complex than previously anticipated. For example, our research has shown that along the Pacific coast of the U.S., animal temperatures at sites in Oregon and Washington can be as hot or hotter than sites much farther to the south in California, due to the complex interaction of climate and tides in the region. As a result, we should not necessarily expect to see mortality at the southern ends of species range boundaries, but also at these hot spots. This complexity suggests that unless we know where and when to look for impacts of climate change, many early impacts could go unnoticed.

My lab group regularly includes K-12 teachers in our research, and I am actively involved in the ongoing National Climate Assessment