Megsie Siple

I received my Masters with the Donahue Lab in 2012 studying the food web dynamics and the community-wide effects of alien species. I received my  B.A. in Biological Sciences from The University of Chicago in 2007, and before coming to HIMB, I worked on a collaborative project between the Field Museum and Northwestern University for two years. I studied the optical properties of coral skeletons and how these properties may contribute to coral bleaching by light stress. I spent the summer of 2009 studying phycology in Friday Harbor, WA. My past research interests led me to my graduate research project, an examination of the food web of He’eia fishpond and how it is affected by the presence of the invasive alga Gracilaria salicornia.

My study site was Loko I’a O He’eia, He'eia Fish Pond, Kane'ohe Bayan 88-acre native Hawai’ian fishpond located in Kane’ohe Bay. The pond is an estuarine enclosure fed by He’eia stream on one side. Ocean water seeps in through cracks in the sea walls, which are made of permeable volcanic rock and coral. It hosts a number of native and invasive fish and invertebrate species, some of which are traditionally used for aquaculture. The stewards of He’eia fishpond, Paepae O He’eia, are restoring the pond so that the community can use it to raise fish stocks, particularly ama’ama (Mugil cephalus) and moi (Polydactylus sexfilis). However, the pond has undergone significant changes since it was used for aquaculture, including invasion by non-native mangroves, increased runoff from upstream development, and the invasion of gorilla ogo, or Gracilaria salicornia, a tough and largely unpalatable red alga. These changes to the pond environment have changed its community composition, and are likely to have corresponding effects on the diets of  resident species. Some of these changes exert spatial effects (algae and mangroves, for instance, grow patchily in and around the pond) and others are expected to have a strong seasonal effect (runoff increases during the stormy winter months, affecting salinity and nutrient input).

I was awarded an NSF Graduate Research Fellowship to study the spatial and temporal foodweb dynamics in the pond. This project was part of a larger collaborative fishpond study with the Thomas Lab, the Glazer Lab, and the Ruttenberg Lab. You can read more about my project and this exciting study site in my blog, Fishpond Fever.

I’m currently pursuing a PhD in the School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences at the University of Washington, where I study the population structure and dynamics of forage fish. My doctoral research is on mechanisms that enhance stability in forage fish populations, and how these translate into benefits for predators.


1.  Siple, MC & Donahue, MJ, 2013. Invasive mangrove removal and recovery: Food web effects across a chronosequence. Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology 448: 128-135.

2. Marcelino LA, Westneat M, Stoyneva V, Henss JM, Rogers J, Radosevich A, Turzhitsky V, Siple, MC, Fang A, Swain A, Fung J, & V Backman, 2013. Modulation of Light-Enhancement to Symbiotic Algae by Light-Scattering in Corals and Evolutionary Trends in Bleaching. PLOS ONE.