ACER recently welcomed Dr. Kelly Boyle as a postdoctoral researcher with Dr. Sean Powers as part of the Oyster Reef group.

While working with ACER, Dr. Boyle will be investigating the resilience of oyster reefs in response to the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill which occurred in 2010. Along with continuing Dr. Powers’ survey of  oysters and reef associated species from Louisiana to the Florida panhandle, he will also lead the investigation on how oyster reef communities respond to exposure to oil, an oil dispersant and changes in salinity in a large mesocosm experiment at DISL.

Originally from Long Beach, California, Dr. Boyle received his BA from UC Berkeley, M.S from Cal State and PhD from the University of Hawaii at Monoa.

“My PhD research was on acoustic communication in butterflyfishes. This family of fishes is found on coral reefs world-wide, and my research examined the behavioral ecology of four species and the morphology of their vocal organs,” Dr Boyle explained.  “After my PhD in 2011, I worked as a postdoctoral researcher for two years at the University of Liège (Ulg), in Liège, Belgium. At Ulg, I studied behavior, morphology, and muscle histology of several sound producing catfish species from Africa and South America. I also studied electric communication in catfishes as part of this project.”

Dr. Boyle joins ACER after completing a postdoctoral researcher position at the Muséum National d’Histoire Naturelle (National Natural History Museum of France) in Paris. There he studied the morphology of piranhas and pacu fishes in relation to hearing, and differences in the feeding ecology of these species.

While much of his past research focused on bioacoustic of fishes - how some fish use sound for communication -  his research interests are in marine ecology, evolutionary morphology (comparative anatomy), behavioral ecology, and sensory biology of fishes.

“I find fish fascinating because they are so diverse (over 30,000 species), and live in environments that are so foreign to us. Most fish are not known to communicate with sound, but substantial minorities do vocalize and, as Karl von Frisch said (Nobel Prize co-winner in medicine): “There may be much to discover in the future about the language of fishes.””

A variety of sound producing fishes exist. These species have acquired different kinds of organs to produce these sounds, which may be important for attracting mates, indicating aggression, defending territories and nests, and for warning or startling predators.

Dr. Boyle explained, “scientists continue to reveal how important sound may be for many marine species. Further, there is increased awareness about the potential detrimental effects of growing levels of anthropogenic noise in marine and aquatic environments from boats, ships, and other activities that may adversely impact the well-being of these animals”.

With so many different species of fish, which does Dr. Boyle find the most fascinating?

“One group I find really interesting are soldierfishes. These fish are active at night (nocturnal) and have huge eyes for seeing in dim light. In addition, they are extremely vocal and have excellent hearing (for a fish),” Dr. Boyle said.

ACER is excited to have Dr. Boyle as part of their team, and he is looking forward to the work ahead.

“I am interested in working on oyster reef resilience because oyster reefs support a diverse community of organisms. In addition, oysters are important to the economy and culture of the Gulf coast. I have done work on coral reefs in the past, and I am eager to be working in a new marine and coastal environment.”

You can find out more about ACER and the work being done by Dr. Powers’ team at