Dissentangling patterns of community structure in stormwater ponds (Dissertation research)
For experimental tractability, I use a set small aquatic habitats that result from stormwater management in Central Illinois. My dissertation research couples multi-year field surveys with laboratory and field experiments to better understand the processes that govern community structuring in a micro-urban pond metacommunity. I seek to: 1) determine what environmental factors best explain patterns of community structure at multiple hierearchical levels (from microbes to predators) in stormwater ponds, 2) experimentally assess the importance of priority effects induced by zooplankton on mosquito oviposition behavior, and 3) quantify the direct and indirect effects of foodweb structure and water chemistry on mosquito larval abundance and adult production using structural equation statistical modeling.
Occupancy patterns in small networks
As a result of a long-term collaboration with SUNY-ESF, we have four years of species occurance and abundance data of aquatic invertebrates inhabiting a network of 39 constructed pools at Heiberg Forest (Tully, NY). We have created a stochastic model of colonizations-extinctions to study the spatio-temporal occupancy patterns of our focal species, Daphnia pulex. D. pulex are an excellent model for this study as they are obligate asexual, the clones selected are distinguishable with 6 microsatellite markers, they play a significant ecological role in the food-web dynamics of ponds, and we have found significant intra-specific variation in ecologically relevant traits. Results coming soon to a journal near you.
Mosquito microbiome foodweb assembly
Thanks to nuances in sequencing technology, we have recently discovered that mosquitoes harbor complex microbial communities in their gut which have the potential to drive several fitness-related traits. However, what ecological processes drive the colonization of the mosquito gut by these microbes in the first place?