Tracey T. Sutton, Ph.D.
"Every time we think we understand the [deep ocean] ecosystem and the organisms, they manage to produce a new rabbit out of the oceanic hat, so that we are required to readjust our previous perspective." - Peter Herring
My research focuses on the quantitative ecology and structure of marine ecosystems. I am interested in the biotic (e.g., trophic interactions, resource partitioning) and abiotic (environmental) processes that shape marine community structure, and how these phenomena vary over space and time. I apply a combination of organismal and theoretical biology to further our ecosystem-based understanding of marine communities.
My research activities have included studies in the Arctic Ocean, North Atlantic Ocean (Mid-Atlantic Ridge, Bear Seamount), Sargasso Sea/Gulf Stream, South Atlantic (African Deep), Southern Ocean (Weddell and Ross Seas), and the Gulf of Mexico, the latter site being the primary focus of my current research. In these locations I have investigated the quantitive ecology and community structure of the fauna, primarily those residing deep in the water column. As a follow-on study to the Census of Marine Life project MAR-ECO, I am developing a pelagic food-web model of the North Atlantic from Iceland to the Azores. I currently lead NOAA's Offshore Nekton Sampling and Analysis Program in the Gulf, a study designed to inform conservation and management of the deep Gulf. Additionally, I am leading an international effort to produce a global biogeographical classification of the deep-pelagic World Ocean. Lastly, I have recently completed a synthesis paper entitled "The vertical ecology of the pelagic ocean: classical patterns and new perspectives," published in the Journal of Fish Biology as an invited keynote lecture at the Fisheries Society of the British Isles Deep-Sea Fish Biology Symposium. My future endeavors will include multimode exploration of poorly known marine habitats, as well as studies of connectivity between coastal and oceanic ecosystems.