Beth Sheets

About

I'm a biologist in the Palumbi Lab at Hopkins Marine Station of Stanford University. My research uses genomics to study ecological and evolutionary questions in marine systems with a focus on applied conservation strategies.

Research

Population genomics of a strong cline in the Pacific rocky intertidal

Accurate gene flow requires cryptic species identification

Measuring gene flow can help us understand how connected populations are across space and time, and can be used to inform the design of protected areas of threatened species. However, if closely-related cryptic species go unrecognized and are merged together in population studies, any gene flow measurements and the conservation decisions they inform will be incorrect. We found that unrecognized cryptic species may be a common issue in studies of reef-building corals. Using many genetic markers, we identified eight closely-related species within the Acropora hyacinthus and A. cythrea species complexes and found that, for all eight species, reefs within archipelagos across the Pacific are highly connected. But when we merged species within our analyses as if we could not tell them apart, we found that genetic differentiation inflated between reefs to levels commonly reported in coral connectivity studies that did not account for cryptic species. Nearby reefs may be better able to seed individuals to one another after damaging storm or bleaching events than what has previously been reported.

Photos

Some of my favorite moments from the field:

Ofu, Manu'a, American Samoa

Can corals adapt to climate change?

Ihlabela, São Palo, Brazil

International collaborations to approach evolutionary questions

Bocas del Toro, Panama

Training in tropical taxonomy at the Smithsonian

My photo of Botrylloides nigrum from Bocas featured on the journal cover:

St. Eustatius, Netherlands Antilles

Sea turtle conservation in the Caribbean

Red Sea/Jordan & Israel

NSF-IRES Program: Population dynamics of anemones and their symbiotic fish in the Red Sea