A key conundrum in ecological network science is how networks balance efficient functioning with the redundancy needed for stability. In collaboration with Fernanda Valdovinos (U. Michigan) and Phillip Staniczenko (SESYNC), we are investigating how qualitative network topology (presence or absence of links) interacts with quantitative network structure (interaction intensity) to achieve this balancing act. Our ongoing work integrates mathematical modeling (led by post-doc Alva Curtsdotter) and field work at the Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory (involving graduate students Xingwen Loy and Connor Morozumi).
Effects of accelerated snowmelt on pollination network structure and functioning
How environmental changes will affect ecological network structure and functioning is a key question in the Anthropocene. Led by graduate students Xingwen Loy and Connor Morozumi, we are investigating the effects of accelerated snowmelt—a key predicted effect of global climate change in montane systems—on pollination network structure and plant reproductive functioning, based at the Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory. Climate change is particularly expected to lead to mismatches in the timing (phenology) of plants and pollinators, but whether and how these changes will affect structure and function of ecological systems is unknown. We are conducting this work with mathematical modeling and manipulative snowmelt experiments, using black shade cloth to speed up snowmelt in multiple replicate plots. Pilot work in spring / summer 2017 at RMBL showed proof-of-concept for our experimental approach.