My main area of interest is food webs and other ecological networks. As maps of different kinds of interactions between species, these networks provide an excellent framework with which to understand communities. In addition to working with communities as a whole, a network framework also allows us to investigate the ways in which particular species fit into their communities. In other words, with ecological networks we can look at the forest and the trees.
I am particularly interested in fine-scale approaches that link the traits of species (or even interactions between species) with their roles in networks. In the past I have compared parasites to free-living species, tested the influence of predators and prey on island biogeography, and explored which traits affect the roles of species in marine food webs.
As well as the roles of species and interactions, I am interested in how network structure changes over space and time, and how these changes flow across ecosystem boundaries. In previous work I have examined gradients in network structure over latitude and environmental properties such as temperature. I am currently exploring how changes in nearshore marine environments affect terrestrial foodwebs. For more detail, see below.
Baltic shoreline food webs
The shoreline of the Baltic Sea provides an excellent natural laboratory to test how changes in the marine environment affect terrestrial species. Using wolf spiders (the top predator among shoreline arthropods) as a focal species, I am investigating how changes in the amount and type of resources provided by the marine environment affect the terrestrial food web.
Baltic Sea food webs
The Baltic Sea is ecologically and economically important to all of the countries that border it. The human uses for the Baltic impose a number of different pressures that threaten other species, the communities they make up, and the services we provide. I am involved in several projects aiming to better understand the structure of the Baltic marine food web. Research questions under this umbrella include how the Baltic food web varies spatially and with respect to environmental variables, and how the food web will mediate the effects of different threats on ecosystem services.
Traits, roles, and ecosystem services
There is a substantial literature surrounding the ways in which species' traits influence their interactions. For example, predators are generally larger than their prey and plants can only be pollinated by compatible animals. It is less well understood, however, how the effects of traits on these pairwise interactions scale up to shape species' roles within networks or their contributions to ecosystem services. I am involved in several projects tackling different ways in which traits, roles, and ecosystem services are interconnected. Some of these projects use the Baltic Sea as a case study, but this work touches on many different study systems.