Melisa Wong

Image Wong, Melisa
Research Scientist

Nearshore benthic ecology

Current research and/or projects

I study the ecosystem functioning of marine nearshore ecosystems, with an emphasis on structured habitats and macrobenthic invertebrate communities. Past research examined predator-prey dynamics, while more recent focus has been on seagrass (eelgrass) ecology, taxonomic and functional diversity of benthic communities, secondary production, and nearshore fish ecology.  I am particularly interested in elucidating how physical and biological conditions influence the functioning and resilience of benthic habitats and their associated faunal communities.  I use a combination of field studies, laboratory experiments, and statistical and dynamic modelling to address research questions and to better understand emergent ecosystem properties and species interactions. 

Research and/or project statements

Current research includes:

  • Seagrass ecology, including long-term population dynamics and monitoring, ecological status, resilience to environmental disturbance, mapping and species distribution models, and blue carbon potential;
  • Diversity of benthic communities, particularly linkages of taxonomic and functional diversity with ecosystem functioning,
  • Secondary production, its use as a metric of ecosystem functioning, the influence of environmental gradients, and cross-habitat comparisons,
  • Fish production potential derived from nearshore habitats, including a general model framework to predict production in data-poor situations, for use by DFO Fish and Fish Habitat Protection Program,
  • Metrics of ecological status for structured nearshore habitats, to inform conservation planning for nearshore ecosystems by DFO Oceans, and
  • Characterization of nearshore physical dynamics and linkages with seagrass production and resilience, to inform decision making by DFO Fish and Fish Habitat Protection Program.

Professional activities / interests

Associate editor for Estuaries and Coasts

NETForce (National Eelgrass TaskForce) lead

Scientific Advisor for Marine Plants for DFO Fisheries and Resources Management

Education and awards

BSc. Biology, Mount Allison University, 1999

Ph.D. Biology, University of New Brunswick, 2004

Key publications

Krumhansl KA, Dowd M, Wong MC (2021) Multiple metrics of temperature, light, and water motion drive gradients in eelgrass productivity and resilience.  Front Mar Sci 8:597707. 

Murphy G, Dunic J, Adamczyk EM, Bittick SJ, Côté I, Cristiani J, Geissinger EA, Gregory RS, Lotze H, O’Connor MI, Araújo C, Rubidge EM, Templeman ND, Wong MC (2021).  From coast to coast to coast: Ecology and management of seagrass ecosystems across Canada.  FACETS 6:139-179.

Wilson KL, Wong MC, Devred E (2020). Branching algorithm to identify bottom habitat in the optically complex coastal waters of Atlantic Canada using Sentinel-2 satellite imagery. Front Envir Sci 8:579856.

Wong MC, Vercaemer BM, Griffiths G (2020). Response and recovery of eelgrass (Zostera marina) to chronic and episodic light disturbance. Est Coasts 44: 312-324.

Krumhansl KA, Dowd M, Wong MC (2020). A characterization of the physical environment at eelgrass (Zostera marina) sites along the Atlantic coast of Nova Scotia. Canadian Technical Report of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences 3361: v+213p.

Wong MC, Griffiths G, Vercaemer B (2020). Seasonal response and recovery of eelgrass (Zostera marina) to short-term reductions in light availability. Est Coasts 43: 120-134.

Wong MC, Kay LM (2019).  Partial congruence in habitat patterns for taxonomic and functional diversity of fish assemblages in seagrass ecosystems.  Mar Biol 166: 4-46.

Murphy GE, Wong MC, Lotze HK (2019). A human impact metric for coastal ecosystems with application to seagrass beds in Atlantic Canada. FACETS 4: 210-237.

Nagel NC, Murphy G, Wong MC, Lotze HK (2018) Nitrogen loading rates for twenty-one seagrass inhabited bays in Nova Scotia, Canada.  Can Tech Rep Fish Aquat Sci 3260.

Wong MC (2018) Secondary production of macrobenthic communities in seagrass (Zostera marina, eelgrass) beds and bare soft-sediments across differing environmental conditions in Atlantic Canada.  Est Coasts 41: 536-548.

Wong MC, Dowd M (2016) A model framework to determine the production potential of fish derived from coastal habitats for use in habitat restoration. Est Coasts 6: 1785-1800.

Carman MR, Colarusso PD, Nelson EP, Grunden DW, Wong MC + 9 others (2016) Distribution and diversity of tunicates utilizing eelgrass as substrate in the western North Atlantic between 39° and 47° north latitude (New Jersey to Newfoundland). Mang Biol Inv 7: 51-57.

Wong MC, Dowd M (2015) Patterns in taxonomic and functional diversity of macrobenthic invertebrates across seagrass habitats:  a case study in Atlantic Canada.  Est Coasts 38: 2323-2336.

Wong MC, Dowd M (2014) Role of invasive green crabs in the food web of an intertidal sand flat determined from field observations and a dynamic simulation model.  Est Coasts 37: 1004-1016.

Wong MC, Bravo MA, Dowd M (2013) Ecological dynamics of Zostera marina (eelgrass) in three adjacent bays in Atlantic Canada.  Bot Mar 56: 413-424.

Wong MC (2013) Green crab (Carcinus maenas (Linnaeus, 1758)) foraging on soft-shell clams Mya arenaria Linnaeus, 1758) across seagrass complexity:  behavioural mechanisms and a new habitat complexity index.  J Exp Mar Biol Ecol 446: 139-150.

Miloslavich P, Cruz-Motta JJ, Klein E, Iken K, +16 others incl. Wong MC (2013) Large-scale spatial distribution patterns of gastropod assemblages in rocky shores.  PLoS ONE 8(8):  e71396.  Doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0071396.

Wong MC, d’Entremont J, Barbeau MA (2012) An approach for quantifying effects of multiple predators that forage on different time scales.  J Exp Mar Biol Ecol 420-421: 100-109.

Wong MC, Vercaemer B (2012) Effects of invasive colonial tunicates and a native sponge on the growth, survival, and light attenuation of eelgrass (Zostera marina).  Aquatic Invasions 7: 315-326.

Wong MC, Peterson CH, Piehler MF (2011) Evaluating estuarine habitats using secondary production as a proxy for food web support.  Mar Ecol Prog Ser 440: 11-25.

Pohle G, Iken K, Clarke KR, Trott T, Konar B, Cruz-Motta J, Wong M + 9 others (2011) Aspects of benthic decapod diversity and distribution from rocky nearshore habitat at geographically widely dispersed sites.  PLoS ONE 6(4):  e18606.doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0018606

Wong MC, Peterson CH, Kay J (2010) Prey size selection and bottom type influence multiple predator effects in a crab-bivalve system.  Mar Ecol Prog Ser 409: 143-156.

Iken K, Konar B, Benedetti-Cecchi L, Cruz-Motta J, Knowlton A, Pohle G, Mead A, Miloslavic P, Wong M + 9 others (2010) Large-scale spatial distribution patterns in echinoderms in nearshore rocky habitats.  PLoS ONE 5(11):  e13845.  doi:  10.1371/journal.pone.0013845

Konar B, Iken K, Cruz-Motta JJ, Benedetti-Cecchi L, Knowlton A, Pohle G, Miloslavich P, Edwards M, Trott T, Kimani E, Riosmena-Rodriguez R, Wong M + 5 others (2010) Current patterns of macroalgal diversity and biomass in northern hemisphere rocky shores.  PLoS ONE 5(10):  e13195 doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0013195

Benedett-Cecchi L, Iken K, Konar B, Cruz J, Knowlton A, Pohle G, Castelli A, Tamburello L, Mead A, Trott T, Miloslavich P, Wong M + 4 others (2010) Spatial relationships between polychaete assemblages and environmental variables over broad geographical scales.  PLoS ONE 5(9):  e12946. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0012946.

Wong MC, Barbeau MA (2006) Rock crab predation of juvenile sea scallops: the functional response and its implications for bottom culture.  Aquaculture International 14:355-376.

Wong MC, Barbeau MA, Dowd M, Richard KR (2006) Behavioural mechanisms underlying the observed functional response of a marine benthic invertebrate. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 317:75-86.

Wong MC, Wright LD, Barbeau MA (2006) Substrate preferences of juvenile sea scallops (Placopecten magellanicus), sea stars (Asterias vulgaris), and rock crabs (Cancer irroratus). J Shellfish Res 25:813-821.

Wong MC, Barbeau MA (2005) Prey selection and the functional response of sea stars (Asterias vulgaris Verrill) and rock crabs (Cancer irroratus Say) when preying on juvenile sea scallops (Placopecten magellanicus (Gmelin)) and blue mussels (Mytilus edulis Linnaeus).  J Exp Mar Biol Ecol 327:1-21.

Wong MC, Barbeau MA, Hennigar AW, Robinson SMC (2005) Protective refuges for seeded juvenile scallops (Placopecten magellanicus) from sea star (Asterias spp.) and crab (Cancer irroratus, Carcinus maenas) predation.  Can J Fish Aquat Sci 62:1766-1781.

Wong MC, Barbeau MA (2003) Effects of substrate on interactions between juvenile sea scallops (Placopecten magellanicus) and predatory sea stars (Asterias vulgaris) and rock crabs (Cancer irroratus).  J Exp Mar Biol Ecol 287:155-178.