Department of Ecology, Evolution, & Organismal Biology

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Main Research Areas

        Food Webs &                             Hypergraph Ecology

        Mutualism &                             Game Theory

        Plant Competition &                 Plant-Soil Feedbacks


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Main Research Areas: 

Food Webs & Hypergraph Ecology:

I'm interested in indirect effects in food webs, and especially in cases where two
or more species interact in their effects on a third.  The most common causes of
such effects that I consider are adaptive behaviors, whereby a species may
respond to a change in the densities of one or more of its prey and/or predators
in a way that alters its interactions with other species.  

Lately I've been especially interested in the ways in which indirect effects
associated with specific interactions (such as various mutualisms and foraging
or defensive behaviors) are structured, and what consequences that structure
has for the larger system.  I'm using hypergraphs to model and analyze the
structure of ecological networks in which interactions can involve more than
two species.  For example, an interaction in which a forager consumes less of
its prey due to fear of a predator can be represented as a hyperedge between
all three species (the predator, the forager, and the prey).  This allows
quantitative analyses of network structure to consider the non-pairwise nature
of many important classes of ecological interactions, including
behaviorally-mediated indirect effects.     

Mutualism & Game Theory:

I'm very interested in mutualism in general.  I've created models which explore the
implications of interactive effects of multiple mutualistic partners, as well as the
implications of control and bargaining roles in mutualisms.  This work often utilizes
game theory, an area of mathematics focused on scenarios in which one organism's
optimal strategy (often meaning the trait which is most advantageous) depends on
what other organisms' strategies are.  Such scenarios frequently lead to ecological
and/or evolutionary outcomes that can at first be surprising or counterintuitive.  
Currently, I'm quite interested in the different ways in which mutualistic benefits
may be structured, and the implications of such differences for short- and
long-term dynamics in small and large communities.  

Plant Competition & Plant-Soil Feedbacks:

I've also modeled resource competition in plants.  Specifically, I've explored how
differences between plants in the spatial scales at which they forage for nutrients
might  affect competitive outcomes, and how this may depend on nutrient recycling.  
Some of my theoretical work on mutualism is also based on feedbacks between
plants and soil microorganisms such as symbiotic mycorrhizal fungi.  I'm currently
working with collaborators in Kansas on theoretical models which will complement
their large field experiments looking at how various sources of  heterogeneity
(including some that result from plant-soil feedbacks) interactively affect plant
competition and community structure.       

     photo credits: ant - Steve Jurveston, aphid - Guido Gerding, beetle - Scott Bauer,
     ectomycorrhizae - Randy Molina, pines - Jsanchezd, nitrate & ammonia - Benjah-bmm27

last updated
Sept 10th, 2016


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