Catherine M. Matassa

Ph.D. Candidate  


Website & CV

Research Interests

I am broadly interested in the ways that the behavior of individuals can scale up to influence the structure and dynamics of ecological communities.

My dissertation research examines trophic interactions within the rocky shore communities of New England.  I use a combination of laboratory and field experiments to test the effects of predation risk on species interactions, trophic transfer efficiency, and other properties of food webs.  For example, when exposed to cues signaling predation risk from the green crab (Carcinus maenas), dogwhelks (Nucella lapillus) spend more time hiding in cracks and crevices, and less time foraging on mussels (Mytilus edulis) and barnacles (Semibalanus balanoides).  As a result, green crabs, by scaring dogwhelks, have positive indirect effects on the abundance of mussels and barnacles (a trophic cascade).  My experiments demonstrate that the fear of predators can give rise to “trait-mediated” indirect effects that can be stronger than the “density-mediated” indirect effects caused by predators consuming prey.

See my website for more information and pictures from the field!


Carcinus_maenasCarcinus maenas


Matassa, C.M. and G.C. Trussell. 2011. Landscape of fear influences the relative importance of consumptive and nonconsumptive predator effects. Ecology 92: 2258-2266.

Trussell, G.C., C.M. Matassa, B. Luttbeg. 2011. The effects of variable predation risk on foraging and growth: Less risk is not necessarily better. Ecology 92:1799-1806.

Matassa, C.M. 2010. Purple sea urchins Strongylocentrotus purpuratus reduce grazing rates in response to risk cues from the spiny lobster Panulirus interruptus. Marine Ecology Progress Series 400:283-288.

Trussell, G. C., P. J. Ewanchuk, and C. M. Matassa. 2008. Resource identity modifies the influence of predation risk on ecosystem function. Ecology 89:2798-2807.

Trussell, G. C., P. J. Ewanchuk, and C. M. Matassa. 2006. Habitat effects on the relative importance of trait- and density-mediated indirect interactions. Ecology Letters 9:1245-1252.

Trussell, G. C., P. J. Ewanchuk, and C. M. Matassa. 2006. The fear of being eaten reduces energy transfer in a simple food chain. Ecology 87:2979-2984.

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