Predicting Food Webs and Species Abundance Using Mating and Foraging Behavior

Principal Investigator(s): 

Foodweb Organisms within a community interact in an astounding variety of ways. Consider, for example, a plant species you might see while walking in a field. That plant likely has a number of plant-eating species (herbivores) that eat it, a number of insect species that pollinate it, and perhaps some bird or mammal species that help disperse its seeds.

Next consider that there may be fifty different plant species in that field, each with a potentially different suit of herbivores, pollinators, and seed dispersers. Understanding all of there interactions is a complex task!

Using models of interacting individuals and species, Dr. Melián's research seeks to understand whether mating and foraging behavior can provide insight into how these interactions affect the composition, abundance and diversity of ecological communities.

This work will provide a context for fundamental ecological questions, such as which forces govern the abundance and network patterns of ecological communities. Moreover, because humans are rapidly altering the nature and context of species abundance and ecological interactions, Dr. Melián's work may provide the insight necessary to reduce the staggering losses of biodiversity in contemporary ecosystems.

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