A.B. Harvard University 2004 and Ph.D. Stanford University 2011
The dynamics of interactions between species depend on environmental and historical context. I am interested in understanding how and why the costs and benefits of mutually beneficial interactions between species vary with context and what the consequences of this variation are for ecosystems and coevolutionary processes.
Symbiotic ant-plant mutualisms, in which plants provide cavities and food for nesting ants and ants defend plants against herbivores, are wonderful systems for investigating variation in costs and benefits of mutualism. Much of my work in this area has focused on a specialized, symbiotic mutualism among the Neotropical tree Cordia alliodora, Azteca ants, and phloem-feeding scale insects. This system is widely distributed across tropical Latin America and is particularly common in seasonally dry tropical forests in Western Mexico and Central America. I have studied the effects of scale insects, ontogeny, geography, and population history on the interaction, and I am now working on the role of nutrient exchange among partners in generating variation in interaction outcomes, and on the consequences of such variation for the surrounding community.
Macroecology - (EEB 401/NRE 501) - 3 credits - Monday/Wedesday 2:30 - 4 p.m.
Prerequisites: Intro Biology, Ecology, Intro Statistics
Course description: What are the global patterns in ecology, what fundamental processes generate these patterns, and can we use macroecological pattern and process to design effective conservation
strategies? In this course, we will explicitly consider the "big picture" in ecology by examining proposed ecological patterns at large spatial scales and across taxonomic groups. We will then consider the processes that drive these large-scale patterns and the current methodological approaches used to study them. Finally, we will examine whether we can effectively apply our understanding of macroecology to conservation design and utilize GIS-based methods to put these concepts into practice. An emphasis will be placed on the process of ecological research through the discussion of primary literature and critical examination of proposed patterns and the hypotheses proposed to explain them.