Texas A&M University - Corpus Christi: Marine Biology Program
COASTAL ECOLOGY & GENETICS LAB
Estuaries and barrier islands are beautiful, dynamic, and complex ecosystems. Understanding the driving forces and interplay among species is a fundamental goal of our lab. We use a combination of experimental and observational approaches. We apply advanced multivariate statistical analyses such as Structural Equation Modeling to explore hypotheses. Learn more about our research and areas of study below.
We are broadly interested in assessing plant and animal populations and assemblages in intertidal and shallow subtidal systems and the effects of changing climate on these systems. Projects are primarily in Texas and Florida, and we have close ties with mangrove researchers in China. Genetic evaluations of mangrove connectivity and diversity has spanned the Caribbean and links also to west Africa. Some example programs are illustrated below. PROSPECTIVE STUDENTS, please consider the Texas A&M - Corpus Christi Marine Biology MS or PhD programs; or the Biology MS program; or the Fisheries & Mariculture MS program.
Tropical mangroves are colonizing temperate salt marshes as the rate and intensity of winter freezes declines with global climate change. We are assessing the facilitative and competitive interactions among these plant species
Oyster Ecology & Restoration
We study oyster colonization and the rate of sedimentation (assessed here using a shallow SET or Sediment Elevation Table)
April 12, 2025
With work previously done by a former lab member, we have developed a powerful tool for use in the identification and characterization of the processes in our model system. A major advantage of this development is its improved sensitivity, which allows it to detect subtle dynamic property changes in response to our experimentation.
Mangrove - Oyster Foundation Species
We are studying the effects of a primary foundation species (red mangroves) on a secondary foundation species (oysters and other encrusting organisms on prop roots). Some of this work in by FAU graduate students Jessene Aquino-Thomas and Krystyna Powell.
Marsh-Mangrove Diversity Greenhouse Experiment
In association with former PhD student Glenn Coldren, we study the interactions between marsh plants and mangrove seedlings along a temperature gradient
Hermit Crab, Gastropod, and Oyster Interactions
April 12, 2025
We still have only a very limited understanding of most aspects about our planet. Answering questions about this is essential for understanding the mechanistic role it plays on other scientific processes, and for developing tools to further explore this research avenue with more sensitive measurements and improved data collection.
Assessing subsidence and erosion in coastal wetlands
April 12, 2020
We have a grant from the Texas General Land Office to install Sediment Elevation Tables and Marker Horizons (SET) all along the Texas coastal zone. This example is from The Nature Conservancy's Coen Preserve.
Mangrove - marsh & nutrients
Field experiment on the effects of nutrients on mangrove growth, reproduction, and recruitment. Also, we are studying the extent and rate of replacement of salt marsh by mangroves in Corpus Christi Bay
Want to learn more about our research projects?
The research Dream Team: studying red mangrove northern limits in the St. Augustine, FL area
Dr. Ed Proffitt
Professor in the Department of Life Sciences. Marsh & mangrove population and community ecology. Invertebrate ecology. Interactions among ecological "foundation species." Application of multivariate analyses to ecological questions.
Dr. Donna Devlin
Mangrove genetic connectivity and diversity. Parasitism and herbivory by herbivores on mangroves. Restoration ecology.
Dr. Carolyn Weaver
Former post-doctoral Researcher
Carolyn started an exciting new job as an Assistant Professor at Millersville University in August 2020. While she was in our lab, she was engaged in several projects most notably assessing the effects of Winter Storm Inga (Jan. 2017) hard freezes on mangrove populations in Texas.
Masters Student (graduated summer 2018)
Mikaela studied marsh - mangrove interactions in the Laguna Madre and Oso Bay sites. She's now working in natural resource conservation for the state of Hawaii.
Check out the MARB program for application details
MS and PhD degree programs
We have students in the Marine Biology (MARB, see link), Fisheries & Mariculture (FAMA), and biology (BIOL) graduate programs. Visit TAMUCC Department of Life Sciences for more details.
Simen is studying the estuarine fish Fundulus and its use of marsh vs mangrove sites.
Sophia graduated with her MS this past summer and began a new job in July 2020 working at Florida International University focusing on the Everglades. At TAMUCC, her thesis focused on the effects of freezing temperatures, maternal tree fertilization, and seedling soil fertilization on mangrove recruitment
Jake is working on the SET Project, and is studying mangrove traits that may support their expanding populations in Texas
Ryan (L) is working on the SET project and his thesis research will focus on the spread of the noxious invasive plant, Brazilian Pepper (Schinus terebenthifolius) in the Coastal Bend
RECENT PUBLICATIONS (* STUDENT OR FORMER STUDENT)
NOXIOUS CYANOBACTERIA & SEAGRASS INTERACTIONS
Tiling, K.A.* and C.E. Proffitt. 2017. Effects of Lyngbya majuscula blooms on the seagrass Halodule wrightii and resident invertebrates. Harmful Algae. 62:104-112.
GENETIC CONNECTIVITY AND DIVERSITY OF RED MANGROVE POPULATIONS
Kennedy, J.P*., M. Pil, C.E. Proffitt, W. A. Boeger, A. M. Stanford and D. J. Devlin. 2016. Postglacial expansion of the red mangrove, Rhizophora mangle L., in the Caribbean Sea and Florida. American Journal of Botany. http: //www.amjbot.org/cgi/doi/10.3732/ajb.1500183 (on-line advance publication)
HURRICANE DAMAGE IN MANGROVES MAGNIFIED BY NUTRIENT ENRICHMENT
Feller, I.C., E.M. Dangremond, D.J. Devlin, C.E. Lovelock, C.E. Proffitt, and W. Rodriguez. 2015. Nutrient enrichment intensifies hurricane damage and prolongs recovery in mangrove ecosystems in the Indian River Lagoon. Ecology 96: 2960-2972.
GENOTYPE & GENOTYPE X ENVIRONMENT INTERACTIONS
Travis, S.E. and C.E. Proffitt. 2016. Genotypic interactions limit growth and stimulate flowering in a salt marsh foundation plant species. Perspectives in Plant Ecology, Evolution and Systematics 18:33-44.
Mozdzer, T., J. Caplan, R. Hager, C.E. Proffitt, and L. Myerson. Accepted 6/13/2016, in press. Contrasting trait responses to latitudinal climate variation in two lineages of an invasive grass. Biological Invasions. DOI 10.1007/s10530-106-1218-y
Proffitt, C.E. and S.E. Travis. 2010. Red Mangrove Seedling Survival, Growth, and Reproduction: Effects of Environment and Maternal Genotype. Estuaries and Coasts. 33(4):890-901.
Salewski, E.* and C.E. Proffitt. 2016. Separate and Combined Effects of Estuarine Stress Gradients and Disturbance on Oyster Population Development on Restored Reefs. Estuaries and Coasts 39: 510-528.
Aqunio-Thomas, J.* and C.E. Proffitt. 2014. Oysters (Crassostrea virginica) on Red Mangrove (Rhizophora mangle) Prop Roots: Interactions among Foundation Species. Marine Ecology Progress Series 503: 177-194.
SOFT BOTTOM BENTHOS: MYTH OF INDICATOR SPRECIES
Zettler, M.L., C.E. Proffitt, P. Magni, G.V. Hoey, M. Frazier, A. Darr, H. Reiss, S. Degraer, G. Martin, D. Tagliapietra, T. Ysebaert, C. Greathead. 2013. On the myths of indicator species. PLoS ONE 8(10): e78219. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0078219. (An Benthic Ecology Working Group of ICES publication)
SALT MARSH - MANGROVE REGIME SHIFTS
Guo, H., C. Weaver, S.Charles, A. Whitt, S. Dastidar, P. D'Odorico, J.D. Fuentes, J.S. Kominoski, A.R. Armitage, and S.C. Pennings. 2016. Coastal regime shifts: Rapid responses of coastal wetlands to changes in mangrove cover. Ecology 98: 762-772
MANGROVE COLD TOLERANCE AND COLONIZATION WITH GLOBAL WARMING
Coldren, G.A.* and C.E. Proffitt. 2017. Mangrove seedling freeze tolerance depends on salt marsh presence, species, salinity, and age. Hydrobiologia. 803:159-171. DOI 10.1007/s10750-017-3175-6.
LARGE SPATIAL AND LONG TEMPORAL SCALE ANALYSES USING STRUCTURAL EQUATION MODELING
Proffitt C.E. 2017 . Phytoplankton biomass in a Subtropical Estuary: Drivers, blooms, and ecological functions assessed over space and time using Structural Equation Modeling. Marine Ecology Progress Series. 569: 55-74.
SOIL CARBON: MANGROVES IN CHINA
Xiong, YanMei, B. Liao, E. Proffitt, W. Guan, X. Liu and Y. Sun. 2018. Patterns of soil carbon in mangroves are primarily controlled by soil properties: a landscape-scale study. Science of the Total Environment. 619-620:1226-1235. DOI: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2017.11.187.
HURRICANE RESEARCH FRAMEWORK
Hogan, J., R. Feagin, G. Starr, M. Ross, T. Lin, C. O’Connell, B. Stauffer, K. Robinson, M. Chapela, J. Xue, B. Reese, S. Geist, E. Whitman, S. Douglas, V. Congdon, J. Reustle, R. Smith, D. Lagomasino, B. Strickland, S. Wilson, C.E. Proffitt, J.D. Hogan, B. Branoff, A. Armitage, S. Rush. Accepted, in press. A research framework to investigate ecosystem responses to tropical cyclones. Bioscience 70: 477–489.
MANGROVE BOOK CHAPTER
Proffitt, C.E. and D.J. Devlin. Accepted, in press. Mangroves colonizing salt marshes. Chapter 18, In, Laguna Madre of Texas and Tamaulipas. W. Tunnel, J. Judd, and K. Withers (eds.). Texas A&M Univ. Press.
About the Coastal Ecology & Genetics Lab
Texas State Aquarium: Animal Care and Operations
This summer session course is designed to give undergraduate and masters students a broad introduction to the operations, animal care and wellness, water quality, health, and safety at a large aquarium. Class is team-taught on site at TSA (Texas State Aquarium), the fifth largest in the U.S. and the largest in Texas.
Marine Botany & Ecology of Marine Plants
This is a "stacked" undergraduate and graduate course covering all aspects of marine plants. However, the greatest focus is on the study of intertidal higher plants and learning field techniques and how to design proper field experiments.
This course introduces undergraduate biology majors to the proper design and analysis of research projects. Also, how to read the biological literature and understand the statistical analyses presented therein. Students also learn the basics of conducting various statistical tests in R and graphing/presenting results.
Experimental Design & Analysis
This is a graduate level class designed to provide students with some advanced training in a variety of statistical methodologies such as quantile regression, non-linear modeling, model selection and multi-model inference, path analysis, and structural equation modeling with latent variables. Students learn the basics of the analyses, and how to read scientific literature that uses them.