Brent Hughes

Contact Information
Long Marine Lab
100 Shaffer Rd.
Santa Cruz, CA 95060

My Personal Website


  • Ph.D. Candidate, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, in progress, University of California Santa Cruz
  • M.S. Marine Science, 2007, Moss Landing Marine Laboratories/Cal State East Bay
  • B.A. Biology, 2001, Truman State University
    Hughes CV


For my doctoral research at UCSC I am investigating the effects of anthropogenic nutrient inputs on coastal ecosystems; including diversity, trophic food webs, and ecosystem function. Currently, this work focuses on estuaries on the central and northern California coast with an emphasis on Elkhorn Slough, an estuary with some of the highest reported nutrient inputs in the world, as well as moderate to hypereutrophication. This anthropogenic disturbance allows me to test hypotheses related to functioning and resilience in seagrass and fish communities. I am combining analyses of long-term ecological and physical data sets with laboratory and field experiments to tease out the important biological and physical drivers of estuarine ecosystems. The results from these studies are informing coastal resource managers (National Estuarine Research Reserve, Central Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board) on the consequences of nutrient loading in coastal environments.

For my masters thesis at Moss Landing Marine Labs, I studied the effects of the large intertidal kelp Egregia menziesii on benthic community dynamics and diversity. This study demonstrated that Egregia and morphologically similar brown algal species can have both negative and positive effects on community diversity depending on variation in density and local environmental conditions. Egregia has the opposite effect on community diversity than what has been previously reported for foundation species because it negatively affects biodiversity in stressful environments, but has a positive effect in less stressful environments.


Hughes, B.B., R. Eby, E. Van Dyke, M.T. Tinker, C.I. Marks, K.S. Johnson, K. Wasson. 2013. Recovery of a top predator mediates negative eutrophic effects on seagrass. In press. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA. (pdf 1 mb)

National Geographic
LA Times
UCSC Press Release
Science Daily
Santa Cruz Sentinel

Southern California Public Radio

Hughes, B.B., J.C. Haskins, K. Wasson, and E. Watson. 2011. Identifying factors that influence expression of eutrophication in a central California estuary. Marine Ecology Progress Series. 439:31-43. (pdf 1.2 mb)

Santa Cruz Sentinel
UCSC Press Release

Hughes, B.B. 2010. Variable effects of a kelp foundation species on rocky intertidal diversity and species interactions in central California. Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology 393 :90-99. (pdf 705 kb)

Hernandez-Carmona, G., B. Hughes, and M.H. Graham. 2006. Reproductive longevity of drifting kelp Macrocystis pyrifera (Phaeophyceae) in Monterey Bay, USA. Journal of Phycology 42 :1199-1207. (pdf 270 kb)

Publications in review or in prep:

Hughes, B.B., M. Fountain, A. Carlisle, M. Gleason, M. Levey. 2013. Predicting climate change effects on hypoxia and fish at the land-sea interface. In prep. Target journal: Ecological Applications.

Heim, W.H., M. Stephenson, B.B. Hughes, A. Newman, M. Marvin-DiPasquale, J.M. Holloway, K.H. Coale. 2013. Spatial distribution of solid phase total mercury in Yolo Bypass, CA. USA: implications for land use management of mercury contaminated floodplains. In review. Science of the Total Environment.

Overstrom-Coleman, M., B.B. Hughes, S.D. Connell, and M.H. Graham. 2013. Habitat associations in tropical kelp systems: comparisons to temperate paradigms. In review. Marine Ecology Progress Series.


Hughes, B.B. 2007. Effects of Egregia menziesii on intertidal benthic assemblages. MS Thesis. California State University East Bay, Hayward. 124 pages. (pdf 4 mb)

Technical Reports:

Hughes, B., M. Fountain, A. Carlisle, M. Levey, M. Gleason. 2012. The impacts of nutrient loading and environemental conditions on the fish assemblage and available nursery habitat in Elkhorn Slough. The Nature Conservancy.

Hughes, B., J. Haskins, and K. Wasson. 2010. Assesment of the effects of nutrient loading in estuarine wetlands of the Elkhorn Slough watershed: a regional eutrophication report card. Elkhorn Slough Technical Report Series 2010:1. (pdf 4.5 mb)

Hughes, B. 2009. Synthesis for management of eutrophication issues in Elkhorn Slough. Elkhorn Slough Technical Report Series 2009:1. (pdf 4 mb)