Kenneth H. Dunton
Professor, Department of Marine Science
Aquatic Plant Ecology/Coastal Ecosystem Processes
Benthic marine vegetation of subtropical and polar regions, including the biology of high latitude kelps and the ecology of subtropical seagrass and estuarine marsh communities; structure and function of estuarine and coastal food webs; biogeochemical cycling of carbon and nitrogen in aquatic plant communities; application of stable isotopes as tracers of anthropogenic-N in coastal systems; ecosystem response to climate change.
Funded projects include, in the Arctic, (1) an NSF funded study that examines the linkages between watersheds in the eastern Alaskan Beaufort Sea to specifically answer the question: are terrestrial subsides of carbon from run-off and erosion incorporated into arctic estuarine food webs (see press release Texas Science, Caller Times and South Jetty) (2) a newly funded 5 yr. renewal (see press release) to a 4 year research project that describes the benthic community structure and trophic energetics of the Chukchi Sea ecosystem (see: COMIDA CAB) (3) ecological charecterization of the linked barrier island - lagoon ecosystem of the eastern Beaufort Sea (Arctic Natural Wildlife Refuge; ANWR); and (4) the effect of offshore oil exploration and development activities on benthic marine algae and coastal food webs. In the Gulf of Mexico, the incorporation of nitrogen from coastal watersheds into the food webs of seagrass and coral reef communities. In Texas, (1) the development of models to predict seagrass productivity and plant carbon balance as a function of the in situ light environment, (2) experimental evaluation of water quality indicators to assess seagrass ecological status, and (3) the effect of freshwater inflows on the production ecology of a subtropical estuarine marsh based on measurements of insitu photosynthesis and respiration of emergent vascular plants. Work on the role of marine macrophytes in aquatic food webs using stable carbon and nitrogen isotopes also continues, and is currently focused on coral reef and estuarine systems in the Gulf of Mexico.
Dunton, K.H., S.V. Schonberg, and D.W. Funk. 2009. Interannual and Spatial Variability in Light Attenuation: Evidence from Three Decades of Growth in the Arctic Kelp, Laminaria solidungula. In: Smithsonian at the Poles: Contributions to International Polar Year Smithsonian Institute, Washington D.C., 3-4 May, 2007. Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institute Scholarly Press.
Dunton, K.H., T. Weingartner and E.C. Carmack. 2006. The nearshore western Beaufort Sea ecosystem: circulation and importance of terrestrial carbon in arctic coastal food webs. Progress in Oceanography 71: 362-378.
Dunton, K.H. 2001. δ15N and δ13C measurement of Antarctic peninsula fauna: trophic relationships and assimilation of benthic seaweeds. American Zoologist 41:99-112.
Dunton, K.H., B. Hardegree, and T.E. Whitledge. 2001. Response of estuarine marsh vegetation to inter-annual variations in precipitation. Estuaries 24(6A):851-861.
Lee, K.-S. and K.H. Dunton. 1999. Inorganic nitrogen acquisition in the seagrass Thalassia testudinum (turtle grass): development of whole-plant nitrogen budget. Limnology and Oceanography 44(5): 1204-1215.