Student’s curiosity produces ecological buzz

Grazing without fear of predators

As recreational fishing eliminated its predators, the Sesarma was able to eat its way unchecked through acres of Spartina grass in Cape Cod salt marshes, eating away the marshes from the inside. Credit: Tyler Coverdale

Tyler Coverdale’s newly published study in Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment on the collapse of salt marsh habitats along Cape Cod tells an intriguing, if unfortunate, tale of how three different human activities spanning 70 years finally added up to a problem that no one anticipated. The story of how he made the discovery — which is generating some buzz in ecology — while a Brown undergraduate is a tale of happier serendipities.