I am generally interested in ecological research questions that integrate across scales and disciplines. This has led me to explore community ecology through the framework of ecological stoichiometry. Ecological stoichiometry describes the balance of energy and nutrients between organisms and their environment.
I principally investigate these topics in freshwater aquatic communities, particularly communities that include odonates (dragonflies and damselflies). Odonates are generalist predators that interact with many species in their environment. In addition, the complex life history of these insects allows them to connect aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems. Environmental conditions for the aquatic larvae can influence the ecological role of terrestrial adult odonates, and vice versa.
How do environmental conditions experienced in early life history stages affect success in later stages?
Many organisms have complex life histories with discrete stages (e.g., larva, adult), and the habitat and diet of these stages can be drastically different. For many aquatic insects, like odonates, larval stages live and grow in the water. After metamorphosis, adult aquatic insects live and reproduce in terrestrial ecosystems. Thus, aquatic environmental conditions that affect larvae can carry-over to affect terrestrial adults.
I recently explored how light and nutrient levels experienced by larval damselflies affected the body composition of adults. Larvae reared in high light cattle tanks developed into adults with higher carbon to nitrogen levels. Many of other patterns in body composition differed between males and females. For example, male damselflies had higher carbon to phosphorus ratios when reared in high light, but this pattern was not observed in females. Sex-specific differences in body stoichiometry have been understudied, despite the potential implications for population dynamics and ecosystem function.
Follow-up research questions:
- Are these sex-specific differences in stoichiometry found in other taxa? If so, do life history traits like male territoriality correlate with patterns in stoichiometry?
- How do other larval environmental conditions (e.g., predation risk) affect the body composition of adult damselflies?
- Does the body composition of adult damselflies change as they reach maturity? If so, can this differ with conditions like diet and temperature?
- How does adult body composition affect reproductive success?