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The University of Massachusetts Amherst

Articles by Staudinger, Morelli Make "Most Cited" Lists

Thursday, May 12, 2022
Acadia National Park, Maine - Credit: Kristi Rugg, NPS

Wiley Publishing has recognized NE CASC researchers Toni Lyn Morelli and Michelle Staudinger for authoring three studies that rank among the ten most highly cited articles published in their respective journals between January 1, 2020 and December 31, 2021. 

Staudinger, the NE CASC Science Coordinator, earned a spot on the most cited list for her March 2020 Fish and Fisheries article, “The role of sand lances (Ammodytes sp.) in the Northwest Atlantic Ecosystem: A synthesis of current knowledge with implications for conservation and management.” The first comprehensive assessment of the sand lance in the Northwest Atlantic (NWA), this work investigates the sand lance’s ecology, population dynamics, and vulnerability to current and future stressors. Known as a “quintessential forage fish” that serves as a food source for marine mammals, seabirds and larger fish, the sand lance plays a significant role in sustaining the NWA’s dynamic ecosystem.  Despite its ecological importance, however, sand lances are unmanaged fish and thus are not routinely monitored by scientists.  This paper, the product of a collaboration among 24 researchers, begins to address the gap in knowledge about sand lances while also serving as a call for additional study of this vitally important fish.  

Morelli, Research Ecologist for NE CASC, landed two articles on most highly cited lists in separate journals. The first, “Multi-Species Occupancy Models: Review, Roadmap, and Recommendations,” was published by Ecography in February 2020. In this article, Morelli and her coauthors discuss how newer technologies such as drones and trail cameras have revolutionized wildlife monitoring, particularly by facilitating multi-species community studies. While these advances have great potential to inform conservation planning, Morelli’s research suggests that their reliability may be undermined by methodological flaws or misapplication of analytical tools. Consequently, it suggests a series of guidelines to navigate these difficulties. 

Morelli’s second entry on the list, “Climate Change Refugia: Biodiversity in the Slow Lane,” was published by Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment in May 2020. This paper provides what Morelli sees as an “opportunity for hope” amid the turbulence of climate change through the concept of climate change refugia. Because refugia are areas buffered from climate change, they can, as Morelli notes, offer short-term protection for native species in addition to sustaining biodiversity and ensuring ecosystem function in the long term. In effect, these spaces serve as  “slow lanes” embedded within faster climatic changes occurring in a broader landscape or region. These slow lanes allow species, communities, and ecosystems to persist in spite of climate change by dampening the pace of that change, thereby "buying" additional time for them. For Morelli, climate change refugia conservation is thus a key strategy for ensuring successful adaptation to the impacts of climate change.