Participant Costs for EAGER: Integrating host-associated microbes into trait-based community ecology frameworks

Project: Research project

Project Details


It has long been recognized that the functional traits represented by members of an ecologi-cal community are critical for understanding and predicting community responses to environmental change. One of the main challenges of trait-based approaches is identifying meaningful, measura-ble traits that can be reliably linked to organism performance in a given environment, and ultimate-ly population and community dynamics. Therefore, many trait-based ecological studies target a sin-gle sub-community of organisms occupying a similar trophic level or functional niche to generate important baseline data describing these relationships. However, since ecological communities are composed of multiple, interacting sub-communities of organisms, more complex data that include multiple sub-communities are necessary to fully understand community-level dynamics. Addition-ally, despite their strong impacts on host phenotypes, host-associated microbial communities have been mostly excluded from the trait-based ecology literature. Nevertheless, these communities are influenced by host environments and may also dictate host responses to environmental gradients. Therefore, they are likely to be important contributors to macro-ecological community dynamics. This study aims to integrate host-associated microbial communites into multi-level trait-based frameworks of community ecology. Specifically, I aim to understand how environmental variation shapes gut microbial community (GMC) dynamics in herbivorous mammals via effects on diet, and subsequently, how the population dynamics of herbivorous animals are influenced by dif-ferences in the GMC across an environmental gradient. My central hypothesis is that GMCs are an important component of ecological communities that both respond to and contribute to broader host macro-community dynamics.
Effective start/end date8/1/207/31/23


  • National Science Foundation (DEB‐1938302-001)


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