Community ecology is a subdiscipline of ecology which quantifies natural patterns in the distribution, abundance, demography, and interactions between populations in space and time and seeks to explain the dominant processes generating those patterns. Of importance is understanding the mechanisms enabling species to coexist in communities, which influences patterns of dominance and diversity at many spatial and temporal scales.
Community ecology is at an important junction: There is increasing awareness that pattern and dynamics in local communities are influenced by ecological processes at larger scales. However, fundamental processes that link populations and communities in space and time, such as dispersal, and the influence of evolutionary history on community structure remain poorly understood. Concurrently, the significance of interspecific differences has been questioned, pointing to the need to quantify the mechanistic links between functional trait variation and its demographic, and, ultimately, community-level consequences. I address these emerging issues in theoretically-driven empirical studies that use a combination of methods, including quantitative natural history, analysis of functional trait variation, experiments, statistical and simulation models, and applied phylogenetics.
My research tests fundamental hypotheses explaining patterns of species diversity, abundance, and distribution in ecological communities. Although my research interests are broad and have included a variety of taxa, my primary foci have been on two dominant processes that interact in their effects on species diversity and distribution: the causes and consequences of seed dispersal and the functional basis of demographic trade-offs as determinants of tree community assembly in Amazonian and Bornean rain forests.
I approach research by developing models that predict aspects of population and community dynamics from functions that incorporate mechanistic explanations of biological processes. I parameterize these models using large, long-term demographic data sets and quantitative natural history data on species' functional traits. I complement these models with manipulative experiments and information on species' evolutionary relationships to understand the contemporary and historical processes that determine the ecological patterns that we observe.
If you are interested in studying ecology as a graduate or undergraduate student in my lab, please contact me and see the further information here.