Community ecology in a dynamic world
Natural communities are enormously diverse and dynamic. This makes it exceedingly difficult to understand how they work, but this is what ecologists do. My work is motivated by the use of mathematical tools to disentangle the complex interplay of mechanisms generating these patterns. Even in empirical studies, a mathematical formalization of population and community processes provides a unifying conceptual foundation that can provide clear direction for tests and broaden the implications of results. Here, I summarize my research, which uses plant communities to explore and test ideas related specifically to the role of species interactions in diversity maintenance. In particular, I seek to understand how species differences in their responses to the environment and competition jointly structure diverse communities, and how local-scale coexistence mechanisms translate into broader-scale patterns.
How do regional differences in environmental conditions drive geographic patterns in species diversity?
How can our current knowledge about species’ responses to the environment and competition inform forecasts of future biodiversity patterns?
Eco Info: Food web ecology in a dynamic world
In my current work in the O’Connor lab, I am developing a new theoretical framework to understand how impacts of climate change on individual species can cascade through food webs via species interactions. A primary goal of this theory is to unite our understanding of population dynamics and energetics into one framework to jointly consider their importance for species persistence. I draw on theoretical developments across disciplines as diverse as physics, chemistry, and computation that use statistical (information) entropy as a basis to model complex dynamical systems. This is a work in progress but I’ve already produced a ton of raw code on github. Also, some preliminary visualizations of the dynamics information processing properties of simulated food webs are available here! Check back soon for updates on this (overambitious?) project!