How does biology (morphology, physiology, and life history) determine an organism’s response to environmental change? I combine theory, field and lab work, and ecoinformatics and approaches from functional ecology, biogeography, and population and community ecology to address this question. The research centers on ectothermic organisms- primarily lizards, butterflies, and grasshoppers.
Mechanistic models of species’ ranges in changing environments
One focus is developing mechanistic models of species distributions that scale from individual traits to energetics and ultimately population and community dynamics. The models are well poised to address challenges for statistical models such as novel environments, individualistic range shifts influenced by morphology and physiology, geographic trait variation and evolution, and biotic constraints. I have developed and tested the models for Anolis lizards abundance along elevation gradients in the Caribbean as well as ranges for North American lizards and those predicted to follow climate change (figure: Sceloporus undulatus). I use field and lab work documenting ecology and physiology to parameterize and test the models. Ongoing research aims to extend mechanistic distribution models across taxonomy and geography to address the following questions:
Energetic and ecological constraints on abundance and diversity
Additional research applies ecoinformatic analyses to addresses energetic and ecological constraints on global patterns of vertebrate ectotherm abundance, richness, and species turnover (figure: island and mainland lizard densities). Comparing these constraints with those of vertebrate endotherms addresses the ecology of ectothermy.