Human population has exponentially grown ever since the Last Glacial Maximum. This event has had tragic impacts in modern ecosystems, transformed the landscape and affected ecological interactions at all levels. Thus, pre-human habitat preferences may inform of the environmental conditions that can maximize a species’ fitness. My goal is to advance conservation biology using ecological models that incorporate both modern and recent-past ecosystems.
Most conservation initiatives only consider present-day ecological interactions and niche preferences. However, humans have dramatically altered modern ecosystems, changing the ways species interact with the landscape.
I am interested in understanding whether human mediated landscape transformation has excluded mammal species from their former habitats. Additionally, I work to understand the biotic (e.g. competition) and abiotic (e.g. geographic barriers) interactions that prevent species from living in their fundamental niche*. I use field and modeled data that integrate biogeography and niche theory.
Geographic and temporal factors such as resource availability can dramatically change habitat and dietary choice even within a single individual. While phenotypic plasticity may allow species to move to niches that are outside of their preferred range, doing so might dramatically reduce their fitness and ultimately lead to extinctions.
My goal is to study phenotypic plasticity and fitness within a species or clade’s fundamental niche to understand the environmental conditions they are best adapted to. My research has the potential to maximize conservation efforts by protecting both threatened species and their preferred habitat.
*Fundamental niche: The total range of environmental conditions that a species could theoretically tolerate.