Below, you will find a brief overview of my research. For more detailed information, press the FIND OUT MORE button to the right of each project description.
This project is an umbrella project for all the other research endeavors listed here. It was recently financed for two years by the H2020 Marie Curie Action. The main goals of this project are to develop an analytical framework which assesses how demography-biotic-interaction feedbacks mediate multi-species population responses to seasonality change; and apply the framework on empirical systems to synthesize novel information on the importance of the feedbacks.
The project stems from my research interest in how natural populations respond to changes in seasonal environmental patterns. Virtually all ecosystems are seasonal, and seasonality patterns are projected to change - but we lack an understanding of how such changes will affect populations. One example are arid ecosystems where rain is becoming increasingly scarce while temperatures are on the rise, with both environmental drivers showing highly seasonal patterns. Another example can be drawn from temperate, high-altitude systems, where changes in seasonal snowfall regimes may fundamentally affect hibernating species. Using the Kalahari meerkats (Suricata suricatta) and yellow-bellied marmots (Marmota flaviventris), I have been investigating the effects of seasonal changes in interactive environmental drivers on the structure and viability of natural populations. I have been particularly interested in compensatory effects (how bad conditions in one season may be compensated for in another season) and how density dependence and trait dynamics (body mass) mediate these effects.
This project started in July 2020 at Estación Biológica de Doñana. I will post regular updates on multiple channels. Please click below for more information.
I am participating in this SNF-funded project, where the aim is to develop a metapopulation model that incorporates four demographic aspects (density, environmental autocorrelation, and vital-rate reaction norms and covariation). This model will serve to investigate the implications of omitting one or more of these aspects for predicting the dynamics of spatially structured populations. We will test the model with long-term demographic and dispersal data from actively dispersing mammals, passively dispersing plants, and actively and passively dispersing laboratory invertebrates.
This project is led by the Population Ecology Group at the University of Zurich.
Environmental factors affecting natural populations are changing dramatically across the globe. These changes are often described as being directional (think of increases in temperature trends) or stochastic (think of the fluctuations around those trends). I am interested in another aspect of environmental change: the patterning of environmental states, or their temporal autocorrelation. Specifically, I want to know how individuals and populations will respond if a good year is followed by another good year - or, alternatively, a bad year. To answer this important question, I use cross-taxa comparisons of the sensitivity of demographic processes to changes in patterning. Such comparisons benefit global-change research significantly because a wide range of life histories can respond strongly to patterning
I am also leading a review on mammal responses to climate change
Together with the FEBIMED group of the University of Cadiz, I am managing the long-term demographic study of the dewy pine (Drosophyllum lusitanicum), a carnivorous plant endemic to heathlands of the Strait of Gibraltar and Portugal. Demographic censuses began with my PhD. I used data from annual population cencuses and experiments to investigate population dynamics of dewy pines incorporating key biological/ecological aspects of the species. Currently, we are examining the effects of life-history tradeoffs and individual heterogeneity on population dynamics in different habitat types characterized by various degrees of human-caused disturbances.
Thus far, we have collected demographic data on > 5,000 individuals from 12 populations in 8 years. The dewy pine is a wonderful study system, as resource acquisition does not require detailed knowledge of below-ground dynamics - this carnivorous species obtains most nutrients from insect prey.
Dewy pines are truly unique plants, but also work great as model organisms.
Environmental extremes are becoming more frequent. Some natural communities suffer (e.g. they lose biodiversity) under such increased episodes of extreme events while other do not (i.e., they are resilient). In collaboration with the CREAF, I am trying to understand the mechanisms that drive this resilience. In particular, I am interested in exploring how life-history characteristics of the species in a given community can mediate changes in community composition after extreme events. To understand these mechanisms, I integrate demographic analyses with community-level metrics. To be able to accomplish this integration better, I have initiated a long-term demographic monitoring project with two Mediterranean shrubland species in matorral communities affected by drought in the Spanish National Park Doñana.
I am collaborating with Prof Francisco Lloret on this project. He has collected the long-term data from a mattoral community in Doñana that experienced a drought in 2007 and has been recovering ever since.
The Ukrainian Carpathian Mountains are a highly biodiverse region and home to Europe’s last great wilderness areas and to the greatest remaining old-growth and virgin forests. Pristine habitats at higher elevations, including old-growth forests, are however experiencing increased levels of invasion by alien plant species established for over a century in the adjacent lowlands. Under climate change, flooding is projected to become more frequent in the Carpathians, while increasing pressures from forestry and tourism are altering habitats, including in protected areas. Funded by a BES Large Grant, I have jumpstarted a long-term monitoring project to understand what drives successful multiple invasion, in particular how demographic traits (dispersal, reproduction, growth), and interactions among invaders and native species may affect establishment of invaders under global change. This project is very fresh (staring September 2021), and I am currently building a companion website.