Catherine Pfister

Research Summary
My research in ecology has focused on the dynamics of species in marine systems and the role they play at ecosystems scales. Two recurring themes in my research are the implications of species interactions for community and ecosystem dynamics, and the contribution of climate change to species dynamics. My interests can be broadly grouped into four areas: (1) the interplay between species and productivity in coastal marine ecosystems, (2) the implications of ocean acidification in coastal marine ecosystems, (3) identifying the causes and consequences of variability in marine populations and (4) understanding the relative impacts of genetic and demographic factors to extinction risk. I train PhD students who are interested in testing ecological and evolutionary concepts and pursuing new discoveries in marine ecosystems. Students in my lab have used a diversity of methods in their work, including mathematical models, genetics and -omics, biogeochemistry, and microscopy. There is a diverse group of faculty across multiple departments whose work is related to the ecology of the oceans, and the Marine Biological Laboratory at Woods Hole is our affiliate.
marine ecology, global change, ocean acidification, species interactions, microbial ecology
  • University of Washington, Seattle, PhD Zoology 07/1993
  • University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, MS Marine Sciences 06/1987
  • University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana, BS Biology 05/1984
Biosciences Graduate Program Association
Awards & Honors
  • 1993 - 1995 Miller Postdoctoral Fellow University of California at Berkeley
  • 2018 - Frances Straus Mentorship Award University of Chicago
  1. The Diversity and Functional Capacity of Microbes Associated with Coastal Macrophytes. mSystems. 2022 Oct 26; 7(5):e0059222. View in: PubMed

  2. The evolutionary past and the uncertain future of foundational species. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2022 08 16; 119(33):e2211134119. View in: PubMed

  3. Functional Insights into the Kelp Microbiome from Metagenome-Assembled Genomes. mSystems. 2022 Jun 28; 7(3):e0142221. View in: PubMed

  4. Spatial organization of the kelp microbiome at micron scales. Microbiome. 2022 03 24; 10(1):52. View in: PubMed

  5. Conceptual Exchanges for Understanding Free-Living and Host-Associated Microbiomes. mSystems. 2022 Feb 22; 7(1):e0137421. View in: PubMed

  6. Differential impacts of alternate primary producers on carbon cycling. Ecology. 2021 09; 102(9):e03455. View in: PubMed

  7. Magnitude and Predictability of pH Fluctuations Shape Plastic Responses to Ocean Acidification. Am Nat. 2021 04; 197(4):486-501. View in: PubMed

  8. Oxygen metabolism shapes microbial settlement on photosynthetic kelp blades compared to artificial kelp substrates. Environ Microbiol Rep. 2021 04; 13(2):176-184. View in: PubMed

  9. The dynamics and stoichiometry of dissolved organic carbon release by kelp. Ecology. 2021 02; 102(2):e03221. View in: PubMed

  10. Standing genetic variation fuels rapid adaptation to ocean acidification. Nat Commun. 2019 12 20; 10(1):5821. View in: PubMed

  11. The emergence of microbiome centres. Nat Microbiol. 2020 01; 5(1):2-3. View in: PubMed

  12. Early succession on slag compared to urban soil: A slower recovery. PLoS One. 2019; 14(12):e0224214. View in: PubMed

  13. Kelp beds and their local effects on seawater chemistry, productivity, and microbial communities. Ecology. 2019 10; 100(10):e02798. View in: PubMed

  14. Successional Dynamics and Seascape-Level Patterns of Microbial Communities on the Canopy-Forming Kelps Nereocystis luetkeana and Macrocystis pyrifera. Front Microbiol. 2019; 10:346. View in: PubMed

  15. Chemical Defense Against Different Marine Herbivores: Are Amphipods Insect Equivalents? Ecology. 1987 Dec; 68(6):1567-1580. View in: PubMed

  16. A mineralogical record of ocean change: Decadal and centennial patterns in the California mussel. Glob Chang Biol. 2018 06; 24(6):2554-2562. View in: PubMed

  17. Climate drivers and animal host use determine kelp performance over decadal scales in the kelp Pleurophycus gardneri (Laminariales, Phaeophyceae). J Phycol. 2018 02; 54(1):1-11. View in: PubMed

  18. Associational plant refuges: convergent patterns in marine and terrestrial communities result from differing mechanisms. Oecologia. 1988 Oct; 77(1):118-129. View in: PubMed

  19. Extinction, colonization, and species occupancy in tidepool fishes. Oecologia. 1998 Mar; 114(1):118-126. View in: PubMed

  20. In Memoriam: Robert Treat Paine III (1933-2016), An Outsized American Naturalist. Am Nat. 2017 Jan; 189(1):xi-xv. View in: PubMed

  21. Identifying the plant-associated microbiome across aquatic and terrestrial environments: the effects of amplification method on taxa discovery. Mol Ecol Resour. 2017 Sep; 17(5):931-942. View in: PubMed

  22. A universal test for gravitational decoherence. Nat Commun. 2016 10 03; 7:13022. View in: PubMed

  23. Functional Traits for Carbon Access in Macrophytes. PLoS One. 2016; 11(7):e0159062. View in: PubMed

  24. Historical baselines and the future of shell calcification for a foundation species in a changing ocean. Proc Biol Sci. 2016 06 15; 283(1832). View in: PubMed

  25. Ocean acidification affects competition for space: projections of community structure using cellular automata. Proc Biol Sci. 2016 Mar 16; 283(1826):20152561. View in: PubMed

  26. Processes affecting extinction risk in the laboratory and in nature. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2015 Nov 03; 112(44):E5903. View in: PubMed

  27. The role of macrobiota in structuring microbial communities along rocky shores. PeerJ. 2014; 2:e631. View in: PubMed

  28. Detecting the unexpected: a research framework for ocean acidification. Environ Sci Technol. 2014 Sep 02; 48(17):9982-94. View in: PubMed

  29. Historical comparisons reveal altered competitive interactions in a guild of crustose coralline algae. Ecol Lett. 2014 Apr; 17(4):475-83. View in: PubMed

  30. Experimental separation of genetic and demographic factors on extinction risk in wild populations. Ecology. 2013 Oct; 94(10):2117-23. View in: PubMed

  31. Carbon system measurements and potential climatic drivers at a site of rapidly declining ocean pH. PLoS One. 2012; 7(12):e53396. View in: PubMed

  32. Rapid environmental change over the past decade revealed by isotopic analysis of the California mussel in the northeast Pacific. PLoS One. 2011; 6(10):e25766. View in: PubMed

  33. The mixed mating system of the sea palm kelp Postelsia palmaeformis: few costs to selfing. Proc Biol Sci. 2011 May 07; 278(1710):1347-55. View in: PubMed

  34. Metagenomic profiling of a microbial assemblage associated with the California mussel: a node in networks of carbon and nitrogen cycling. PLoS One. 2010 May 06; 5(5):e10518. View in: PubMed

  35. Relative effects of maternal and juvenile food availability for a marine snail. Ecology. 2009 Nov; 90(11):3119-25. View in: PubMed

  36. Dynamic patterns and ecological impacts of declining ocean pH in a high-resolution multi-year dataset. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2008 Dec 02; 105(48):18848-53. View in: PubMed

  37. Longevity can buffer plant and animal populations against changing climatic variability. Ecology. 2008 Jan; 89(1):19-25. View in: PubMed

  38. Intertidal invertebrates locally enhance primary production. Ecology. 2007 Jul; 88(7):1647-53. View in: PubMed

  39. Concordance between short-term experiments and long-term censuses in tide pool fishes. Ecology. 2006 Nov; 87(11):2905-14. View in: PubMed

  40. Sensitivity of the population growth rate to demographic variability within and between phases of the disturbance cycle. Ecol Lett. 2006 Dec; 9(12):1331-41. View in: PubMed

  41. The effect of size-dependent growth and environmental factors on animal size variability. Theor Popul Biol. 2007 Feb; 71(1):80-94. View in: PubMed

  42. Experimental and model analyses of the effects of competition on individual size variation in wood frog (Rana sylvatica) tadpoles. J Anim Ecol. 2006 Jul; 75(4):990-9. View in: PubMed

  43. Effects of productivity, consumers, competitors, and El Ni?o events on food chain patterns in a rocky intertidal community. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1996 Nov 26; 93(24):13855-8. View in: PubMed

  44. Patterns of variance in stage-structured populations: evolutionary predictions and ecological implications. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1998 Jan 06; 95(1):213-8. View in: PubMed