Phylogenetic Ecology—PhyloEcology—represents the interface between ecology and evolutionary biology, making use of the information contained within phylogenetic trees to provide a bridge between them. The integration of phylogenetic approaches in ecology has been transformative, and has given rise to new sub-disciplines in biodiversity science, invasion biology, climate change biology, emerging infectious disease research and community ecology. Our lab addresses questions related to the distribution of biodiversity and the challenges posed to its conservation through recent changes to the environment.
The Davies lab is looking to recruit PhD students interested in the following topics:
1. Is competition stronger in the tropics? Development of phylogenetic methods for detecting evidence of competition (see: Davies et al. Ecol. Lett. 2007 and Davies et al. Ecology 2012 for some background) and testing the ‘competition is stronger in the tropics’ hypothesis. This will require simulations (in R), species distribution modelling and analysis of empirical data of mammals in conservation areas.
2. Emerging pests and infectious disease of plants. Using new databases on plant pests and historical collections data from herbaria to reconstruct the invasion and spread of plant pests and pathogens in North America. The goal is to develop a model that describes the host range of plant pests, and make predictions of range expansion and potential future host shifts. Opportunities exist to collect additional data on current pathogen and pest occurrence in the field and to develop molecular sequencing protocols to screen for plant pathogens in historical and contemporary collections.
Interested applicants should be comfortable in R (or another coding language) and have strong analytical skills. A background in eco-phylogenetic methods, community ecology or disease ecology and familiarity with GIS and molecular methods would be advantageous.
Please see the following links which provide additional application details and funding opportunities:
Email me if you are interested.
The Microbiome of Waterholes: DNA Barcoding across the Kingdoms of Life
Biological monitoring is an essential part of conservation. Monitoring is often undertaken in response to threats of emerging diseases and invasive species. In the African savanna shared waterholes are a vital resource for many animals, but they can also be a source of infection. In this exciting new project we look to explore the potential of environmental DNA (eDNA) for rapidly describing biological communities associated with shared water resources in the Kruger National Park, South Africa. Our study will provide proof of concept that eDNA from the different kingdoms of life can be extracted from water and used to characterize the network of associations among species.
Recent advances in genomic technologies have allowed for in-depth exploration of ecological communities, and the ability to detect organisms from environmental samples with great sensitivity. Sequencing of eDNA is already beginning to be used in surveillance of human pathogens and metagenomic tools may provide a valuable aid for conservation management and the assessment of ecosystem health. Generating networks of genomic associations among microbes and vertebrates might allow us to detect previously unrecognized carriers of disease, characterize important mutualists present in healthy systems, and identify potential threats to ecosystem health before they arise.
This work is being led by Max Farrell.