Investigating the biogeography and spatial structure in the
distribution of marine organisms with emphasis on range-edge dynamics
Marine Ecologist | Postdoctoral Research Fellow | Rhodes University
I want to understand how processes occurring at multiple scales ranging from microhabitats to biogeographic regions drive ecological patterns, such as distribution and abundance of organisms. On the rocky shore, these processes are predominantly scale-dependent (e.g., adult behaviours, larval dispersal). However, our narrow understanding and general assumptions of these scale-dependent processes substantially affect how studies are designed and how results are interpreted because patterns at a particular scale may appear stochastic when observed at another scale.
I am a marine ecologist with interests in biodiversity and biogeography of marine invertebrates, structure and maintenance of benthic populations, and science-based management of biological invasions. I received my BSc degree from the University of British Columbia in 2008. There, I worked as a research assistant under the guidance of Professor Kai Chan (Institute for Resources, Environment and Sustainability) and Dr Deng Palomares (Institute for the Oceans and Fisheries). After graduation, I worked at various NGOs prior to pursuing a master's degree.
During my MSc studies, I studied under the supervision of Research Professor Don Deibel (Ocean Sciences Centre) and Dr Cynthia McKenzie (Fisheries and Oceans Canada) and received my degree from Memorial University of Newfoundland in 2012 (Ma 2012). My master's research was focused on the ecology and management of invasive ascidians, which included guidelines on best practices to eradicate invasive ascidians (Deibel et al. 2014), species richness and zoogeography of native and exotic ascidians (Ma et al 2011, Ma et al. 2017a), and population dynamics of an invasive ascidian in a subarctic harbour (Ma et al. 2017b).
In 2012, I was part of a trans-institutional field sampling team under the supervision of Dr Chris McKindsey (Université du Québec à Rimouski) and Dr Claudio DiBacco (Fisheries and Oceans Canada). Thereafter, I pursued a doctoral research program starting in 2013 under the supervision of Professor Ladd Johnson and Dr Chris McKindsey and, eventually, received my PhD degree from Université Laval in 2020 (Ma 2020). In brief, my doctoral research examined the effect of spatial and temporal scales on the detection of rare species and benthic recruitment dynamics (Ma et al. 2020a, Ma et al. 2022). This body of work has useful implications for management by providing a science-based framework to develop strategies to detect alien species as early as possible.
In addition to assisting projects as part of the trans-institutional sampling team and my doctoral studies, I was also involved with the surveillance of marine invasive species in collaboration with international and national partners, which resulted in the discovery of many new records (Moore et al. 2014, Ma et al. 2016, Ma et al. 2018, Ma et al. 2019, Ma et al. 2020b) and in the understanding of large-scale biogeographical patterns of invasive ascidians (Carman et al. 2019). After my PhD studies, I took on a postdoctoral research fellowship to work with Distinguished Professor Christopher McQuaid and, later, Professor William Froneman at Rhodes University, where I have been investigating historical and contemporary range expansions in marine species (Ma et al. 2020c, Ma et al. 2020d, Ma et al. 2021a) and biogeographic drivers of distribution and abundance of intertidal invertebrates (e.g., barnacles, mussels, sea urchins) across different spatial scales in southern Africa (Ma et al. 2021b, Ma et al. 2021c).
Over the years, I have been involved in outreach activities and public engagements with stakeholders throughout the Canadian Maritimes and in the Canadian Arctic, which include giving seminars to audiences outside off academia. Also, I was a student member of the organizing committees of the 44th Benthic Ecology Meeting (BEM 2015) and the 4th World Conference on Marine Biodiversity (WCMB 2018). Presently, I serve as an Associate Editor for the editorial boards of Aquatic Invasions (AI), BioInvasions Records (BIR), and Management of Biological Invasions (MBI).