Abbie Gail Jones, PhD Student
Abbie is a master’s student (co-supervised with Laura Pollock) working on species distribution models of European plant species. The aim of her thesis project will be to build integrative species distribution models (S2BaK) for the European Flora by combining presence-absence datasets with presence-only datasets. Abbie hopes to advance the field by using bias-adjustment kernels to correct for both taxonomical and spatial biases, and adjusting species distribution projections accordingly. Her work will provide a new perspective by establishing a vegetation biodiversity baseline for Europe, with optimized estimates of continent and countrywide α-diversity accounting for pervasive regional and taxonomical biases, thus increasing prediction ability for low-accessibility areas and for non-surveyed species. As additional biodiversity losses are expected throughout the European continent by 2030 due to climate change and intensifying development and agriculture, it is vital to develop an adequate estimate of continental plant distributions to pinpoint vulnerable areas for conservation. This biodiversity layer will be a key tool to address fundamental and applied ecological questions concerning European plant distributions on varying geographic scales and for estimating vulnerable areas to future biodiversity losses from anthropogenic activities.
Dat Nguyen, MSc Student
Species distribution models (SDMs) are widely used as predictive tools to forecast where biological invasions may occur or how climate change may affect species. However, recent publications have suggested that SDMs may fail when extrapolating to new environments, as ecological relationships may not hold. Many studies have differed in their use of methodology and have often been restricted to few species or taxonomic groups when examining SDM transferability, with equivocal results. The goal of my project is (1) to evaluate how much predictive power is lost when extrapolating SDMs to novel ranges and (2) to identify general predictors that might indicate when SDMs may succeed or fail. Biological invasions provide a convenient system to investigate model transferability, as species occur in disjoint distributions with often strongly differing environmental conditions, and are a common application of SDMs. I construct hundreds of SDMs fit to the native range of the species, and extrapolate these models to their invaded range while examining the loss in discriminatory power. I examine predictors of SDM loss, including factors relating to species traits, characteristics of their ranges and the models themselves. My project will provide a more general understanding of the reliability of SDMs with respect to changing conditions, and where they may fail, which will be important in the future development of predictive models in cases of global change.
Charlotte Steeves, PhD Student
My research is centered around the sublethal effects of chemical contamination in seabirds. Seabirds are one of the most highly impacted taxa to marine chemical pollution and are experiencing population decline on a global scale. The aim of my research is to model bioenergetic and toxicokinetic data in seabirds to better understand and predict patterns of exposure to certain hydrophobic pollutants. I am currently working to model bioenergetics data from a wide variety of sources for around 20 species of seabirds. This data will be used in tandem with ecotoxicology data to create a general seabird toxicant model, with the aim of expanding to other species beyond the scope of the data and to predict exposure patterns to some of the most prolific classes of marine contaminants.
Andrew Sellers, PhD Student
Temporal Fluxes in Nutrient Subsidy Supply: Effects of Seasonal Upwelling on Algal-Herbivore Interactions
Seemingly discrete ecosystems are often connected by spatial flows of materials and organisms that represent important resource subsidies for species in recipient systems, and may strongly influence community structure and trophic interactions. Early studies in tropical rocky intertidal habitats highlighted the role of top-down processes and local scale interactions in regulating community structure and dynamics, but ignored the potential influence of large scale oceanographic processes that deliver nutrient rich water to coastal ecosystems (i.e. marine upwelling). For my dissertation I will examine how nutrient subsidies from tropical upwelling events influence producer-herbivore interactions in rocky intertidal communities in the Pacific coast of Panama. The Pacific coast of Panama is divided into two broad regions: the upwelling Gulf of Panama in the east, and the non-upwelling Gulf of Chiriqui in the west. Such variation in exposure to seasonal upwelling events represents an ideal setting to examine how large scale oceanographic processes influence intertidal community structure and algal-herbivore interactions in the tropics. My research will shed new light on the processes that shape community structure and influence trophic interactions on tropical coasts.