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Contact Information:
Department of
Biological Sciences
120 Flagg Road,
University of Rhode Island
Kingston, RI 02881 - 0816.
Phone: (401) 874-2373.
Fax: (401) 874-2065.
Carol Thornber
Job Title: Associate Professor of Biological Sciences (Marine population and community ecology; algal ecology)
Address: CBLS 181,
Phone: (401) 874-4495
  • B.S. (Biology), 1995, Stanford University
  • Ph.D. (Biology), 2001, University of California, Santa Barbara
Research Interests

I am a marine community ecologist with a research focus on marine macroalgae, their importance in nearshore/coastal foodwebs, and the impacts of climate change on these systems. I work in a variety of marine systems, including salt marshes, estuaries, mudflats, and rocky shores, including intertidal and subtidal habitats. My research is interdisciplinary, experimental, and quantitative, and I collaborate with a variety of basic and applied biologists. I welcome students into my laboratory who are inquisitive, broadly trained, and eager to conduct fieldwork.

The largest project in my laboratory involves the causes and consequences of macroalgal bloom formation in coastal systems. My students and I are studying a variety of questions about bloom dynamics, including the impacts of anthropogenic nitrogen on bloom growth, the effects of herbivory and decay and decomposition on estuarine and salt marsh trophic dynamics, and the ecological interactions among bloom-forming species and genera, including Ulva and Gracilaria.

Additional research projects in my laboratory include (but are not limited to) investigating the interactions between invasive and native (macroalgal and invertebrate) species, studying the impacts of complex life cycles on algal population and community dynamics, and examining the relationships between the ecosystem engineer Spartina alterniflora and associated salt marsh algal ecads.

For my lab website, please visit:

  1. Rohr, N., Thornber, C.S., and Jones, E. Facilitation of epiphyte and herbivore recruitment in a marine subtidal system. 2011 Aquatic Ecology. 45:213-219. DOI 10.1007/210452-010-9347-3.
  2. Stolt, M., Bradley, M., Turenne, J., Payne, M., Scherer, E., Cicchetti, G., King, J., Schumchenia, E., Guarinello, M., Boothroyd, J., Oakley, B., Thornber, C., and August, P. Methods and protocols for mapping shallow subtidal benthic habitats. Journal of Coastal Research. doi: 10.2112/JCOASTRES-D-11-00002.1
  3. Jones, E. and Thornber, C. 2010. Effects of habitat-modifying invasive macroalgae on epiphytic algal communities. Marine Ecology Progress Series. 400:87-100.
  4. Guidone, M., Thornber, C.S., and Field, E. 2010. Snail grazing facilitates growth of a bloom forming alga. Marine Ecology Progress Series 420:83-89.
  5. Thornber, C.S., DiMilla, P., Nixon, S., and McKinney, R. 2008. Uptake of nitrogen from natural and anthropogenic sources in bloom-forming macroalgae. Marine Pollution Bulletin. 56: 261-269.
  6. Oczkowski, A., Nixon, S., Henry, K., DiMilla, P., Pilson, M., Granger, S., Buckley, B., Thornber, C., McKinney, R., and Chaves, J. 2008. On the distribution and trophic importance of anthropogenic nitrogen in Narragansett Bay. Estuaries and Coasts 31:53-69.
  7. Byrnes, J., Stachowicz, J.J., Hultgren, K.M., Hughes, A.R., Olyarnik, S.V., and Thornber, C.S. 2006. Predator diversity strengthens trophic cascades in kelp forests by modifying herbivore behavior. Ecology Letters. 9: 61-71.
  8. Harley, C., Hughes, A.R., Hultrgren, K., Miner, B.G., Sorte, C.J.B., Thornber, C.S., Rodriguez, L.F., Tomanek, L., and Williams, S.L. 2006. The impacts of climate change in coastal marine systems. Ecology Letters. 9:228-241.
  9. Thornber, C.S., Stachowicz, J., and Gaines, S. 2006. Grazing on different phases of an isomorphic alga: interactive effects life history phase and reproductive status on susceptibility to herbivory. Ecology. 87(9): 2255-2263.
  10. Thornber, C. S. 2006. Functional properties of the isomorphic biphasic algal life cycle. Integrative and Comparative Biology. 46(5):605-614.
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