Tom Wright

Tom Wright


In 2022 I graduated from the University of Plymouth with a BSc in Marine Biology and Coastal Ecology. As someone interested in community ecology, I seek to understand what factors influence the structure of ecological assemblages and employ the use of models to predict changes in their structure under our changing climate. Modelling ecological connectivity (the movement of taxa between patches of habitat) in the world’s oceans has recently become of interest to me, as this can offer insight into the processes through which marine ecological communities develop and change. This interconnectedness is scarcely investigated in the marine environment but serves as an important source of resilience for marine communities through processes such as post-disturbance recolonisation and genetic connectivity!

My undergraduate dissertation, entitled “Comparative Ecophysiology of Oniscus asellus Linnaeus within a Mosaic Hybrid Zone (Crustacea, Isopoda, Oniscidea)” explored the differing habitat associations, behavioural, and physiological traits of a hybridising species of Woodlouse in south Devon. It was a great experience and opened my eyes to the potential importance of hybridisation in maintaining invertebrate biodiversity.

PhD title: "Reconfiguring seascapes in the Anthropocene: Assessing how connectivity pathways maintain biodiversity”

The project focuses on the use of biophysical transport models to quantify marine connectivity, by simulating the dispersal of planktonic organisms in real-time across networks of known habitat. By combining a suite of biological and hydrological data, biophysical transport models can be used to characterise the strength of ecological connection between patches of habitat in the sea, and to test hypotheses about connectivity following changing circumstances, e.g., through the loss of habitat patches (network analysis). These models can be used in a variety of contexts: to study many species in many systems; and ultimately allow us to better relate connectivity to biodiversity. I hope that the outputs generated by these tools will make a convincing case for the implementation of networks of marine protected areas in our oceans, and will offer insight into the often-elusive mechanisms through which assemblages of species grow and develop.