I am interested in understanding biological systems and how envirnomental change affects them. I combine statistics, theoretical modeling and experimental studies to unravel the processes that regulate these systems.
I draw from behaviour, physiology, ecology and evolution and work with diverse organisms, including insects, birds, marine mammals and humans. I am particularly interested in the responses of groups or societies.
NETWORK MODEL OF HARBOUR SEAL MOVEMENTS IN SCOTLAND
Seals use important haul out sites along the coast to rest and to reproduce. Because seals use many haul out sites, disturbances at one site could impact seals typically associated with a far away site (e.g. conservation areas). Understanding the flow of seals among a network of haulout sites is therefore crucial for management efforts.
I use telemetry data on real movements of seals to build a network model. This model makes predictions about the distribution and flow of seals among a set of haul out sites. This model can then be used to predict how disturbances at one haul out site affects seals at other sites, and inform management decisions.
EFFICACY OF STERILE MALE RELEASES FOR THE CONTROL OF CODLING MOTHS UNDER CLIMATE CHANGE
Climate change can potentially modify the phenology of insects and arthropods because their metabolism is highly dependent on temperature. In the case of codling moths (pests in apple orchards) this can affect pest management practices. In the Okanagan valley (Canada), codling moths are being controlled using the Sterile Insect Technique (SIT): large numbers of sterilized moths are released during mating season to prevents wild moths from mating successfully.
I use a simulation model to understand how climate change will affect the phenology of the moths and how the efficacy of SIT will be affected. This project will also help to identify changes that can be done to improve management practices.
ECOSYSTEM RESPONSES TO PERTURBATIONS AT MULTIPLE SPATIAL SCALES
Understanding how perturbations such as changes in climate and extreme temperatures will impact food webs is crucial for our ability to conserve and manage ecosystems in the future. The fate of species of animals and plants within a food web is determined by interactions between species, such that the influence of the environment on food webs cannot be inferred from studies of single species.
In this project, I model the effects of temperature on the behaviour and physiology of insects, and cascading effects on species interactions. This model will generate predictions on food web properties such as stability under different climate scenarios.
ADAPTIVE HOST CHOICE IN APHID PARASITOIDS AND SCALING UP
Parasitoids are associated with a large number of insect species so that understanding their behaviour potentially benefits conservation and management efforts in most terrestrial ecosystems, including agricultural systems. Parasitoids generally develop within a single host that they consume and kill before emerging as adults. How adult females choose their hosts is a key question in understanding their impacts in food webs.
I used a series experiments on aphid parasitoids to understand how the cost of parasitism (handling cost), its relation with host defences, body size and temperature affect this decision. Further, a comparative analysis of aphid parasitoid communities suggests that size-dependent choice (observed within host species) does not scale up to host species choice. Rather, phylogeny (evolutionary history) may be the determinant of host species choice in communities.
PERSONALITY AND RISK-SENSITIVITY IN SOCIALLY FORAGING BIRDS
Research Assistant & M.Sc. projects
Knowing the processes that generate individual differences within groups is essential in understanding how groups respond to changes in their environment. This is especially true in groups that are engaged in frequency-dependent games, in which an individual’s payoff for a given strategy depends on the strategy of others.
I used lab experiments to investigate individual differences in foraging flocks of finches and their responses to changes in their environment. Results revealed long lasting differences among individuals (personalities) that were robust to changes in their environment (food distribution), but not to changes in the composition of group members. The earlier study also revealed that individuals adjust their strategy in response to their energy budget. Thus, group composition and differences in energy budget could are some factors that can cause individual differences within groups.