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Population and Community Ecology

Population and community ecology seeks to understand the complex dynamics and spatial patterning of populations and of entire assemblages of multiple species across diverse environments and regions. Approaches include theoretical explorations along with experimental and observational studies at scales from laboratory flasks to entire regions of the globe.
Italics = secondary appointment in EEB, can serve as graduate co-chair only

Jake Allgeier

Jake Allgeier’s goal as an ecologist is to apply ecological theory to help solve real-world conservation issues. Specifically, he seeks to identify the mechanisms by which behavioral, population, and community dynamics mediate nutrient and energy pathways. The objective is to improve our ability to predict ecological outcomes and enhance conservation efficacy such as the sustainability of ecosystem services (e.g., fisheries). Much of this research takes place in tropical coastal ecosystems (mangroves, seagrass beds and coral reefs) where he studies gradients created by anthropogenic impacts to test theory directly within the context of environmental change and biodiversity loss.

Regina Baucom

Regina Baucom’s research broadly revolves around the central question “Why and how do some organisms persist and adapt to inhospitable environments?” She works on this topic utilizing species from the morning glory genus, many of which are agricultural weeds. There are three main projects underway in Baucom’s lab: the evolutionary genomics of plant defense and plant weediness, the influence of the mating system on the evolution of herbicide resistance, and the role of the plant metagenome on adaptation.

Robyn Burnham

Robyn Burnham studies the high diversity tropical forests of Ecuador, Peru and Brazil, identifying the dominant species in liana communities across the Amazon Basin, and determines the traits that predispose climbing species to proliferate under forest alterations.

Aimée Classen 

Aimée Classen's lab is a diverse and international group who focus on how global changes impact terrestrial ecosystems at local and global scales. Recently, they’ve focused on three general areas: (1) Understanding and modeling connections among soil organisms, herbivores, plants and ecosystem function (2) Understanding how shifting above- and below-ground biodiversity and global change alters the composition and function of ecosystems and (3) Exploring how scale and location influence ecological patterns and processes. They work across scales from the micro (soil food webs) to the macro (regional carbon fluxes) as well as across diverse terrestrial ecosystems (forests, meadows, bogs, tropics, boreal, temperate). We use a combination of observations, experiments and models to answer ecological questions.

Vincent Denef

Vincent Denef uses metagenomic and metaproteomic approaches to gather an improved understanding of microbial population dynamics and community functioning within ecosystem context. He is particularly interested in the connection between genomic variation and altered ecological behavior, and how short- and long-term environmental change can drive both. While he has been studying these concepts in systems ranging from abandoned mines to the human gastrointestinal tract, he is currently focusing on freshwater systems such as the Laurentian Great Lakes.

Thomas Duda

Thomas Duda investigates the processes associated with ecological diversification. This work includes field and laboratory studies that involve analyses of feeding ecology, phylogenetics and phylogeography, and molecular investigations of the evolution of venoms of members of the predatory, marine gastropod genus Conus.

Meghan Duffy

Meghan Duffy's research focuses on the ecology and evolution of host-parasite interactions. She is especially interested in the intersection of ecology and evolutionary biology, including how rapid evolution affects ecological host-parasite dynamics, and how ecological context influences host-parasite evolution. Her research uses a combination of observational studies of natural populations and communities, manipulative experiments in the lab and field, and mathematical models.

Melissa Duhaime  

Melissa Duhaime focuses on marine microbiology, spanning two themes: (i) ocean plastic-microbe associations and (ii) marine virus (meta)genomics. For the first, she investigates the role of microbes in the fate of marine plastics, and the role of plastics in marine microbial community structure and function in natural (N. Pacific Gyre, North Sea) and engineered (Biosphere2 Ocean) systems. For the second, she uses genomic tools to investigate evolution and ecology of ocean viruses (phages) and their microbial hosts, with particular interest in the role of nutrient limitation on infection dynamics and virus-host evolution.

Paul Dunlap

Paul Dunlap's research investigates the inception and development of species-specific symbioses between light-emitting bacteria and teleost fish. Laboratory studies examine symbiont-host interactions from the bacterial genetic, physiological, and genomic perspectives, field work addresses the behavioral ecology of the fish and population ecology of the bacteria, and mariculture studies focus on the developmental and reproductive biology of the fish.

Deborah Goldberg

Deborah Goldberg's research focuses on the mechanisms and consequences of community dynamics, including mechanisms of invasion and coexistence, plant-soil feedbacks, ecology of clonal plants, community and ecosystem response to climate change, and ecology of the human microbiome.

Inés Ibáñez (can serve as graduate co-chair only)

Inés Ibáñez's research interests are in plant community ecology, climate change and invasive species.

Aaron King

Aaron King's research focuses primarily on the ecology and evolution of infectious disease. His research also includes modeling specific systems, analyzing models and data using sophisticated mathematical, computational and statistical tools, and developing general methods to advance theoretical ecology and evolutionary biology.

Hernán López-Fernández

Hernán López-Fernández studies the evolution of freshwater fishes with emphasis on South and Central America, which house the most diverse freshwater fish fauna on earth. The lab often uses the family Cichlidae as a model because it is an iconic subject of study in vertebrate adaptive evolution and the third most diverse family of Neotropical fishes. Research in the lab combines fieldwork, molecular phylogenetics/phylogenomics and comparative methods to integrate ecology, functional morphology, life histories and geography into macroevolutionary analyses of freshwater fish diversification.

L. Lacey Knowles

Lacey Knowles' research interests are in speciation, phylogeography and evolutionary radiations.

Andrew Marshall

Andy Marshall’s research primarily investigates the ecology, evolution, and conservation of vertebrates and their rainforest habitats. His study subjects are chiefly large vertebrates and tropical forests in Indonesia; the majority of his empirical work is based on data collected at his long-term research site, the Cabang Panti Research Station in Gunung Palung National Park, West Kalimantan. Current projects include: 1) identifying drivers of long-term population dynamics and distribution shifts in tropical vertebrates, 2) mechanisms promoting coexistence in mega-diverse communities, 3) population and community ecology of five sympatric cat species and their prey (using an extensive camera trapping network), and 4) Invasion of Indonesian forests by the invasive Neotropical plant Bellucia pentamera.


Annette Ostling

Annette Ostling's research explores niche versus neutral structure in population and communities, linking functional trait diversity with coexistence mechanisms, especially in forests. She also studies the robustness of coexistence and limits to similarity, the role of competitive interactions in range shifts under climate change, macroecological patterns and the influence of spatial structure on the evolution of species interactions and communities. Her interests also include the impacts of spatial structure on the evolution of pathogen transmission and virulence.

Daniel L. Rabosky

Daniel Rabosky studies macroevolution, speciation, and evolutionary community ecology. He is especially interested in how ecological factors influence the processes of speciation, extinction, and trait evolution through time and space. His research includes field-based studies of ecological diversification in Australian reptiles, molecular phylogenetics, and mathematical and computer modeling of evolutionary dynamics in a broad range of taxonomic groups.

Nate Sanders

Nate Sanders' research is at the interface of community ecology, ecosystem ecology and macroecology, with a focus on how global change drivers and interspecific interactions influence the causes and consequences of biodiversity loss. My research program takes advantage of environmental gradients and experimental manipulations arranged at multiple sites with the aim of forecasting the effects of environmental change on biodiversity. They do experiments on ants, plant-insect interactions, montane plant communities, and a whole variety of other taxa.

María Natalia Umaña

Natalia Umaña's research is motivated by the central question of "how species coexist by using a limited handful of common resources?" She uses empirical data combined with the trait-based approach to uncover the underlying mechanisms maintaining diversity and structuring natural tree communities. Most of her research takes place in tropical regions, in forests of Puerto Rico, Colombia and China, but she is also starting new projects in Michigan.

Fernanda Valdovinos

Fernanda Valdovinos studies the mechanisms behind the structure, dynamics, and function of complex ecological networks, at ecological and evolutionary scales; including their resilience to biodiversity loss, biological invasions, climate change, and exploitation by humans. Her research focuses on pollination networks, food webs and fisheries. She mainly uses mathematical models and computational tools to conduct her research, but she also conducts field work to understand and predict the structure and function of pollination networks.

John Vandermeer

John Vandermeer's lab engages in two related classes of research – the structure and function of tropical agroecosystems and the ecological theory of complex systems as applied to agroecosystems generally. Work in tropical agroecosystems is mainly concerned with organic coffee production, focusing on a model system of pest control in a large production facility in southern Mexico. Theoretical work focuses on spatial self-organization and its consequences for the structure of ecological networks.

Donald Zak (can serve as graduate co-chair only)

Donald Zak's work draws on ecology, microbiology, and biochemistry and is focused at several scales of understanding, ranging from the molecular to the ecosystem scale. Current research centers on understanding the link between plant and microbial activity within terrestrial ecosystems, and the influence climate change may have on these dynamics. Teaching includes courses in soil ecology and ecosystem ecology.

Luis Zaman

Luis Zaman’s research takes a deeply interdisciplinary approach to understanding why evolution appears so relentless and creative. His lab uses experimental evolution of two very different model systems: 1) populations of self-replicating computer programs or digital organisms, and 2) microbial communities consisting of bacteria and bacteriophage (viruses that infect bacteria). The common thread running through his broad research interests is understanding the evolution of diversity, complexity, and evolvability, and how the interplay between ecology and (co)evolution drives these phenomena.