Spring 2012

Invited Speaker Home  •  Seminar Home

Thursday, 3 May

Mary Power
Graduate Invited Speaker

Professor Dept of Integrative Biology, University of California, Berkeley

Floods, droughts, and river food webs: algal-mediated connections of rivers, oceans, and uplands


Food web interactions change down drainage networks, and over time as rivers experience discharge fluctuations. Spatial changes in environmental controls of organisms and food webs (e.g. radiation and disturbance regimes) change in a partially predictable fashion down river networks.   In sunlit rivers, algal production fuels webs that link bacteria, algae, aquatic invertebrates, and vertebrates, and the birds, lizards, spiders, and bats that feed on algal export and insect emergence.

These interactions link rivers, watersheds, and nearshore ocean ecosystems in surprising ways.  Mapping and explaining changes in environmental controls over key food web interactions is a necessary step towards predicting how river ecosystems will respond to future changes in climate, land use, or biota.


Dr. Mary E. Power is a Professor in the Department of Integrative Biology at University of California, Berkeley; Faculty Manager at Angelo Coast Range Reserve; and Director of the California Biodiversity Center, Berkeley Organized Research Unit.

Dr. Power’s work addresses three main questions: how do organisms respond to variation in the availability of their food, what factors constrain their responses, and how do their responses (or lack thereof) affect the ecosystems that they live in?

She has focused on food webs in northern California rivers and their watersheds since 1987, when she began her work at University of California, Berkeley. In particular, she studies how species attributes influence their effects in food webs, and how species interactions change under different environmental regimes. Current research topics include:

Much of her experimental work takes place in the South Fork Eel River and its tributaries, within the Angelo Coast Range Reserve in Mendocino County, CA. As Director of the California Biodiversity Center, she also works to foster collaborations between the Berkeley Natural History Museums, Berkeley's Natural History Field Stations, and other partners studying changes in California's biological diversity, past, present, and future. She focuses on uniting scientists familiar with museum-based, historical approaches and earth scientists using field observations and experiments to investigate contemporary processes.

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