Dr. Bernhardt's research draws on ecosystem and human nutrition science to link living systems change to human well-being. She is among the first to use this lens to examine the wide-reaching implications of biodiversity loss, with a focus on aquatic ecosystems. Dr. Bernhardt's unique interdisciplinary approach and fascinating research findings will be of great interest to the Bren community.
—Julia Lawson, PhD Candidate, Bren School
Biodiversity and ecosystems sustain human well-being. Global change is threatening the benefits that natural systems provide to people, fundamentally altering our ability to secure a sustainable and equitable future for humanity. The challenge for ecological science is clear: we need to understand ongoing environmental changes in mechanistic ways and at multiple scales that matter for ecosystems and people. In this talk, I will present recent work that addresses this challenge by linking physiological processes to higher order ecological processes governing the dynamics of populations and ecosystems, and the benefits to human well-being they provide. I will demonstrate how understanding living systems in terms of the core chemical and physical processes that sustain life (i.e. metabolism) has created inroads to predicting biological responses to environmental change. I will also present new work that bridges the gap between biodiversity science and human health in the context of seafood, by extending statistical and theoretical approaches from ecosystem science to human nutrition science. This work that has shown that biodiversity (species diversity and ecological functional diversity) directly enhances nutritional benefits at global and local scales, with the potential to combat the problem of micronutrient deficiencies in coastal communities.
I am an ecologist, and my research aims to advance our fundamental understanding of the drivers of biodiversity change and the consequences of these changes for human well-being. My research advances a solution to this research challenge by studying the processes that unite all of life on Earth—the metabolic processes by which living systems uptake, store and convert energy, matter and information from their environments to grow and persist. I combine theory, experiments and synthesis to study how living systems change as the environment changes, and what these changes mean for human well-being.