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I am a marine ecologist studying the drivers and patterns of long-term change in coastal ecosystems. My research has largely focused on drivers and patterns of long-term change in coastal ecosystems. My expertise centers on climate-driven changes to kelp forests, including shifts to alternate ecosystems such as turf reefs and sea urchin barrens, and expansion along arctic coasts. I am also interested in the production and export of kelp detritus, and the role this blue carbon plays in the broader carbon cycle. My recent work has focused on restoration approaches in kelp forests through the new Green Gravel tool. My research also tackles interdisciplinary questions such as links between social and ecological systems during regime shifts, and ethical questions associated with emerging use of genetic restoration techniques. 

Research projects

Research Projects

2019 - 2022

DECRA. Regime shifts from kelp forest to turfs: drivers, resilience and future.

This project is a Discovery Early Career Research Award funded by the Australian Research Council. Globally, marine ecosystems are increasingly pushed beyond critical thresholds of collapse, creating an urgent need to understand the drivers of sudden shifts in marine habitats and develop effective strategies to curb their loss. This DECRA will apply a comparative experimental and analytical approach to quantify linkages among multiple stressors driving kelp forest loss and expansion across three continents. Field and laboratory experiments will be used to develop and test ‘green gravel’, a novel restoration tool that aims to overcome reinforcing feedbacks (lack spores and hard substrate) preventing recovery of kelp forests. Findings will help identify solutions to address loss of kelp forests in Australia and globally.

Role: Chief Investigator

2019 - 2022

Turf Wars: fighting the new battle facing blue forests. 

This ARC Discovery project is led by Professor Thomas Wernberg with Dr. Melinda Coleman. Habitat loss is a leading threat to goods and services from the oceans. Globally, kelp forests are collapsing and being replaced by persistent unwanted algal ‘turfs’. Our understanding of this habitat shift is rudimentary, and solutions to mitigate the impacts virtually non-existent. This project will use ecological models and field experiments to uncover drivers and critical thresholds for turf expansion. Through stress experiments andgenomic analyses, it aims to discover resilient kelps that promote forest persistence under stress. By expanding our understanding of critical habitat transitions, and exploring new solutions, this project aims to enhance our capacity to respond to the ongoing degradation of Australia’s Great Southern Reef.

Role: Project Investigator, Chief Investigator: Prof. Thomas Wernberg

2019 - 2023

BlueConnect: Blue growth opportunities in changing kelp forests

This SANOCEAN project aims to create valuable training opportunities and research collaborations between South Africa and Norway that center around knowledge-based management of kelp forest resources under changing ocean conditions. This project will measure the ecosystem services provided by kelp forests in South Africa and Norway, and build capacity for coastal research, sustainable development and management of these resources through high-level post graduate training, collaborative research, as well as scientific knowledge transfer. This will better enable communities to anticipate and prepare for future changes and possibly even benefit from these expanding ecosystems.

Role: Project Leader

2019 - 2023

ArcticKelp: Fate of kelp forests in a rapidly changing Arctic

Kelp forests have been recorded throughout the Canadian Arctic, yet we know little of these habitats, and their fate in this era of rapid change represents a critical gap in our knowledge of Arctic coastal ecosystems. Research to date suggest that a warmer Arctic with less sea ice may increase the extent of kelp by providing extended periods of light and warmer waters for growth. However, melting sea ice and permafrost may offset this benefit by freshening and increasing water color and turbidity in coastal areas. This ArcticNet project will combine coastal surveys, scientific dive experiments, laboratory tests, community meetings, remote sensing, research cruises, and modelling approaches to map kelp forests in the Arctic, assess their importance for coastal ecosystems and coastal societies, and predict climate-driven impacts on them. Knowledge on Arctic kelp forests may help northern communities and societies anticipate and prepare for changes in the coastal zone and possibly even benefit from these new ecosystems.

Role: Project Manager. PI: Prof. Philippe Archambault

2017 - 2019

SUKER. Broad-scale ‘litter bag’ experiment in SUGAR kelp forests.

The aim of SUKER is to discover how residence time and turnover of blue carbon varies on regional scales. Funded by the Norwegian Blue Forest Network. This is a collaboration among 12 kelp forest research groups in the northern hemisphere. 

Role: Project Leader

2016 - 2018

KELPEX: Kelp export: fuel for adjacent communities in changing arctic ecosystems

The overall goal of KELPEX is to quantify kelp production and export and assess its role in shaping the structure and functioning of communities adjacent to kelp forests, both shallow and deep, in arctic Norway. In this project we quantified experimentally kelp production and export and the effect kelp detritus in shallow-water and deep-sea communities. 

Role: KELPEX Postdoc



2020 - present

The University of Western Australia

School of Biological Sciences and Oceans Institute. DECRA Fellow. 

2018 - present

Institute of Marine Research, Norway

Marine Benthic Communities Group. Researcher.


Laval University

Faculté de sciences et genie. NSERC Postdoctoral Researcher.

2016 - 2018

Norwegian Institute for Water Research

Marine Section. Postdoctoral researcher on the KELPEX projects.

2010 - 2016

Dalhousie University

Biology Department. PhD supervised by Prof. Scheibling, with the Benthic Ecology Lab




Fredriksen S, Filbee-Dexter K, Norderhaug KM, Steen H, Bodvin T, Coleman MA, Moy F, Wernberg T. 2020. Green gravel: a novel restoration tool to combat kelp forests decline. Scientific Reports. SREP-19-11773B 

Filbee-Dexter K, Pedersen MF, Fredriksen S, Norderhaug KM, Rinde E, Kristiansen T, Albretsen J, Wernberg T. 2020. Carbon export is facilitated by sea urchins transforming kelp detritus. Oecologia. 192:213-225. [pdf]

Pedersen MF, Filbee-Dexter K, Norderhaug KM, Fredriksen S, Frisk NL, Fagerli CW, Wernberg T. 2019. Detrital carbon production and export in high latitude kelp forests.  Oecologia. 192:213-225 

Vilas D, Coll M, Pedersen T, Corrales X, Filbee-Dexter K, Pedersen MF, Norderhaug KM, Fredriksen S, Wernberg T, Ramírez-Llodra E. 2020. Kelp-carbon uptake by Arctic deep-sea food webs plays a noticeable role in maintaining ecosystem structural and functional traits. Journal of Marine Systems 203:103268.

Filbee-Dexter K, Smajdor A. 2019. Ethics of assisted evolution in marine conservation. Frontiers in Marine Science. 6:20. 

Wernberg T, Filbee-Dexter K. 2019. Missing the marine forests for the trees. Marine Ecology Progress Series. 8: 17180. 

Wernberg T, Filbee-Dexter K. 2019. Grazers extend blue carbon transfer by slowing sinking speeds of kelp detritus. Scientific Reports. 8: 17180. 

Filbee-Dexter K, et al. (2019) Arctic kelp forests: resilience and future. Global Planetary Change 172:1-14. 

Francis FT, Filbee-Dexter K, Yan HF, Côté IM (2019). Invertebrate herbivores: Overlooked allies in the recovery of degraded coral reefs? Global Ecology and Conservation. e00593.

Wallen KE, Filbee-Dexter K, Pittman JB, et al. (2019) Integrating team science into interdisciplinary graduate education: an exploration of the SESYNC Graduate Pursuit. Journal of Environmental Studies and Sciences. 9: 218–233.

Christie H, Gundersen H, Rinde E, Filbee‐Dexter K, Norderhaug KM, Pedersen T, Bekkby T, Gitmark JK, Fagerli CW (2019) Can multitrophic interactions and ocean warming influence large‐scale kelp recovery? Ecology and Evolution 9: 2847-2862.

Filbee-Dexter K, Wernberg T (2018) Rise of turfs: a new battle front of globally declining kelp forests. BioScience. 68: 64–76. [ESI Highly-Cited paper (top 1%)]

Filbee-Dexter K, Wernberg T, Norderhaug KM, Ramirez-Llodra E, Pedersen MF (2018). Movement of pulsed resource subsidies from kelp forests to deep fjords. Oecologia. 187: 291-304 

Filbee-Dexter K, Symons C, Jones K, Haig H, Pittman J, Alexander S, Burke M (2018) Quantifying ecological and social drivers of ecological surprise. Journal of Applied Ecology. 55: 2135-2146 [Selected for post in J Appl Ecology Blog]

Scheibling RE, Patriquin D, Filbee-Dexter K (2018) Distribution and abundance of the invasive seagrass Halophila stipulacea and associated benthic macrofauna in Carriacou, Grenadines, Eastern Caribbean. Aquatic Biology.

Filbee-Dexter K, Pittman J, Haig HA, Alexander SM, Symons CC, Burke M (2017) Ecological surprise: concept, synthesis, and social dimensions. Ecosphere. 8: e02005. 

Filbee-Dexter K, Scheibling RE (2017). The present is the key to the past: linking regime shifts in kelp beds to the current distribution of deep-living sea urchins. Ecology. 98: 253-264. 

Filbee-Dexter K, Scheibling RE (2016). Spatial patterns and predictors of drift algal subsidy in deep subtidal environments. Estuaries and Coasts. 39: 1724-1734.


Filbee-Dexter K, Feehan CJ, and Scheibling RE (2016). Large-scale degradation of a kelp ecosystem in an ocean warming hotspot. Marine Ecology Progress Series. 543: 141-152.

Filbee-Dexter K, RE Scheibling (2014) Sea urchin barrens as alternative stable states of collapsed kelp ecosystems. Marine Ecology Progress Series 495: 1–25 [FEATURE ARTICLE, ESI Highly-Cited paper (top 1%)*]

Filbee-Dexter K, Scheibling RE (2014) Detrital kelp subsidy supports high reproductive output of deep-living sea urchins in a sedimentary basin. Aquatic Biology. 23: 71-86.

Francis FT-Y, Filbee-Dexter K, Scheibling RE (2014) Aggregations of stalked tunicates Boltenia ovifera form biogenic habitat in the rocky subtidal zone in Nova Scotia. Marine Biology 161: 1375–1385

Filbee-Dexter K, Scheibling RE (2012). Hurricane-mediated defoliation of kelp beds and pulsed delivery of kelp detritus to offshore sedimentary habitats. Marine Ecology Progress Series. 455: 51-64.




Wernberg T, Krumhansl, K, Filbee-Dexter K, and Pedersen, M. (2019) Status and trends for the world’s kelp forests. In: World Seas: An Environmental Evaluation, Vol III, 2e. Ed. C. Sheppard. Elsevier.



Filbee-Dexter K. 2016. Distribution and abundance of benthic habitats within the Sambro Ledges Ecologically and Biologically Significant Area. Can. Tech. Rep. Fish. Aquat. Sci. 3190: vi+ 26p.



Filbee-Dexter K. 2019. Underwater Arctic forests are expanding with rapid warming. The Conversation Canada.


Wernberg T, Filbee-Dexter K. 2018. Opinion: Part of our ocean is dying. The Washington Post. 23/10/2018


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