Research and Professional Interests
My research (conducted with Dr. Christopher Koenig1) has centered on the ecology and behavior of groupers (family Epinephilidae), species that, while similar in many ways, have quite different traits that affect their ability to survive. Of particular note are the species that form large spawning aggregations on specific sites and times of the year, making them susceptible to rapid overexploitation, species like Gag Mycteroperca microlepis and Atlantic Goliath Grouper Epinepehelus itajara -- the largest grouper in the world. Goliath Grouper and Red Grouper Epinephelus morio to a greater extent share the characteristic of manipulating habitat to enhance its architectural complexity and thus the biological diversity of the habitats in which they live, acting as ecosystem engineers. https://marinelab.fsu.edu/labs/coleman/research/grouper-ecology/
My long-standing interest in conservation of these fishes led me to question how (or whether) ecologically relevant information informed management and policy. In this work, I have been fortunate enough to serve on a number of committees and councils whose charges involve conservation of marine resources, including the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council, The National Marine Fisheries Service Ecosystem Management Advisory Panel, The Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council's Ecosystem Advisory Panel, The Tortugas 2000 Marine Reserve Working Group, the Marine Protected Areas Federal Advisory Committee, and the National Research Council. What I have found is a rapidly changing arena in which the best available science is trumped by sometimes uninformed opinion, leading to further declines in species whose populations might otherwise have been on the rise.
More recently, I have focused on Goliath Grouper, a species threatened with decline caused by exploitation, habitat loss, and susceptibility to pollution despite 30 some odd years of protection in US and Brazilian waters. I currently serve on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) as a member of the Species Survival Commission (SSC) Groupers & Wrasses Specialist Group (https://www.iucn.org/ssc-groups/fishes/groupers-wrasses), wherein I am leading a global reassessment of the conservation standing of this species, with my former student, Christopher Malinowski (now Research Director of Ocean First Institute in the Florida Keys).
1See our publications on these topics.
Ph.D., Florida State University (1991)
MSc, College of Charleston (1981)
BSc, College of Charleston (1976)
Research Areas & Interests
Marine Ecology, Marine Policy, Community Engagement