Plant animal interactions – genetic diagnostics of species interactions

Theme: Biodiversity & Ecology

Main Supervisor:

Elizabeth Clare

School of Biological and Chemical Sciences, QMUL

Project Description:

Plants use many animal vectors to move their progeny and rely on the availability of animal vectors for this service. Similarly animals require the fruit reward for sustenance and the availability of continuous resources. These interactions are considered mutualistic (where both players benefit). These relationships become disrupted when habitat is fragmented or disrupted by climatic, environmental or anthropogenic disturbance.

We are particularly interested in the use of genetic tools to study the process of animal plant interactions and the network of interactions between species (e.g. food webs). Our past and current work has concentrated on bats dispersing seeds in Brazil and Costa Rica. Students interested in this topic would be encouraged to consider bats, birds, small mammals or insects as the animal vectors and could develop projects in the tropics, the UK or between natural and agricultural habitats. We are interested in the following specific areas of research focus.
1) the effects of habitat fragmentation
2) the effect of phylogeny on species interactions
3) the effect of specialists and generalists in structuring interactions

There is considerably flexibility in how the project would be carried out and which habitat or systems the student can explore. I anticipate this would involve some field, lab and analytical work. How those three are balanced will be decided based on the interests of the student.

Policy Impact of Research:

This project examines the importance of birds and bats in the regeneration of forest patches and the conservation value of fragmented landscapes with key impacts on conservation policy, anthropogenic impacts and urbanisation.


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