Biodiversity research focuses on the diversity of native species and their genes in both terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems. Biodiversity often declines under pressures of urbanization, agricultural expansion, climate change, and pollution. Invasive species are non-native and they often compete for resources with native species or may be vectors of animal and plant diseases and pathogens. Research includes theoretical considerations of how assemblages of genes and species develop spatially in landscapes and in aquatic ecosystems, as well as practical methods for conserving or restoring habitats of native species and controlling the spread of invasive species. Modern genomics offers new methods of studying the diversity of genes within populations of organisms, including microbes, plants, and animals and how spatial and temporal trends in genetic diversity affect ecosystems.
UMCES scientists have studied human-induced changes in natural ecosystems that have caused unprecedented declines in species and genetic diversity, leading to declines in ecosystem health and resilience to environmental fluctuations. As habitats are being restored, scientists are studying how well biodiversity rebounds. UMCES maintains a unique testing barge that evaluates new technologies focused on reducing the likelihood of introducing invasive aquatic species through ballast water release.