Research and Awards
The Center for Conservation and Biodiversity has funds to aid graduate and undergraduate research and related educational opportunities in biodiversity and conservation biology. Graduate and undergraduate students enrolled full-time at the University are eligible for these awards.
Every year, the Center makes 2 or 3 awards of up to $750 for activities directly linked to student research and other educational experiences, e.g., travel to meetings and summer field sites, station fees, course and bench fees, visits to other institutions, internships (e.g., in EEB’s collections and greenhouses), and supplies.
The Center makes a separate $2000 award for one proposal with a primary focus on botany, and especially plant ecology. This award has been made possible by an endowed account established by A. I. and A. N. Silander.
Manette Sandor Under climate change many species ranges are expected to move either northward or up in elevation in response to changing temperature and precipitation. Ecologists have made specific predictions for how individual species will respond to climate change, but species interactions (such as pollination, predator-prey relationships, or fruit consumption) also affect responses, and these effects are not well known. It is also not known how climate change will affect whole communities of interacting species. Many shrubs in temperate ecosystems depend on animals that eat fruit to disperse their seeds, especially in fall and winter. The animals eat the fruit, move to another location, and defecate the seeds. This process is important for determining where species will be able to move.
With support from the Center for Conservation and Biodiversity, I will study the community of fleshy-fruiting shrubs and fruit-eating birds in the Sierra Nevada Mountains to develop a theoretical framework for incorporating species interactions into climate change projections for individual species. I will determine where species are currently located and with what other species they interact and then project where they will be in the future. Understanding what species are most at risk from climate change within a community will allow conservation practitioners to prioritize species for protection.
Ellen Woods Polygonum cespitosum (Persicaria longiseta) is an annual plant that was introduced to North America in the early 1900s from its native East/Southeast Asia. Incidence of P. cespitosum was predominantly limited to the moist, shaded forest understory in both its native and introduced ranges, but in the last 15 years, it has begun colonizing a wider range of habitat and has accordingly been recognized as invasive in New England. While P. cespitosum has been extensively studied in its introduced range, much less is known about its ecology in the native range.
With support from the Center for Conservation and Biodiversity, I will travel to East Asia to conduct fieldwork, which will primarily consist of visits to native populations of P. cespitosum to measure environmental site characteristics and collect seed for subsequent greenhouse experiments. I will ultimately compare the plants and environments of the native and introduced ranges to investigate mechanisms responsible for P. cespitosum’s recent invasion. More specifically, I am interested in understanding the relative roles that pre-adapted traits, genetic diversity, and adaptive evolution post-introduction may play. By studying biological invasion in this context, I will be able to not only identify the pathway by which an exotic species becomes invasive, but more broadly address how a species adapts to novel environments, a central topic in climate change ecology.