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Structure and dynamics of ecological communities
No species exists in isolation, and interactions with other living entities dictate the short and long-term fate of mostly every organism on earth. I study ecological communities because I believe that the self-organization of ecological interactions generates communities that display intrinsic characteristics and emerging properties. It is mindblowing to realize how little we know about how general are the features we observe in some communities, in terms of their topology or their dynamics.
Multiple interactions networks
In particular, we know very little of the actual interactions that take place on any given ecological community. For my Ph.D. I studied how we study ecological communities, as interaction networks, when there are different types of ecological interactions going on. There are several nuances to the mathematical and structural representation of these kinds of communities, but in general, accounting for a broader view of ecological interactions (rather than, say, study single +/+ or +/- networks) brings novel insights and perspectives, a bit of fresh air if we do it right, into community ecology.
Keeping the above ideas in mind, the spatiotemporal dimensions of ecological interactions are also key for understanding biodiversity processes. A key challenge is to estimate how interactions vary across time and space, and link that variation in community structure to the observed persistence or extinction of populations at different scales. Some of the most developed theoretical frameworks in community ecology are focused on understanding the mechanisms behind species coexistence: why some species appear together and some do not? how can so many species coexist in a given space and time?
I combine some of these theoretical developments with a broader perspective on communities with multiple interaction types in space and time, in order to understand how biodiversity is maintained. For that, I am starting to work on how to estimate actual interaction estimates from empirical data, one of the big challenges in community ecology.