Sara “River” Dixon

PhD Student (starting August 2018) (with Dr. Craig McClain, LUMCON)

B.S. Marine Science, Univ. of South Carolina (2017)

My passion for marine science is driven by the interdisciplinary nature of the field; I have always been captured by all the hard sciences, and marine science has been an avenue that doesn’t require me to necessarily pick just one.  As an undergraduate at the University of South Carolina, I gained valuable experience in answering ecological questions.  My undergraduate research mostly centered on estuarine benthic communities.  I worked on two independent projects and collaborated on two others.  I had the opportunity to participate in an REU, many summers of field work, and an oceanographic cruise.  These experiences gave me valuable lessons in answering ecological questions and working in science, and helped me to craft the kinds of questions I focus on in graduate school.

Energy is the basis of all life, and the driver of ecological processes and evolutionary changes through space and time. I am broadly interested in understanding how energy availability and environmental gradients influence variability in species richness and composition. This research is especially important given global climate change and the resultant threats of habitat loss or degradation and increasing energetic constraints. By its very nature, the deep sea embodies an excellent study environment for this research because of the natural energy constraints found there in the extreme cold and darkness.  Specifically, I use deep-sea wood fall and benthic sediment communities to address linkage between energy content and biodiversity. Through this work we can better understand the effects of climate change on responses and resiliency of marine diversity and energetics.