The National Science Foundation’s Graduate Research fellowship Program has awarded Graduate Degree Program in Ecology (GDPE) Master’s student Michael Koontz with 3 years of funding while pursuing his degree. He is advised by Dr. Ruth Hufbauer.
What factors influence the ability of a population to persist in a novel habitat? Whether we’re trying to understand what makes an invasive species successful, reintroduce a rare species to its former range, or effectively release a biological control agent, understanding the fate of introduced populations is critically important. Also, because of its relevance to a broad array of stakeholders, this kind of research presents an excellent opportunity for ecological and evolutionary theory to unite with application and guide resource management practices.
Propagule pressure, comprising the number of individuals introduced to an area as well as the number of introduction events, emerges as a common predictor of successful introductions. But which component is more important? Theory suggests that the degree of variability in the environment might affect the answer to this question, but experimental work is needed to validate these claims.
Michael is using the Tribolium flour beetle as a model system to experimentally test the importance of multiple introductions on founding success in both stable and fluctuating environments. By understanding how multiple introductions and environmental variability play into the persistence and evolutionary trajectory of an introduced species, we will hopefully be able to make more informed decisions on the ground when our goal is population management.
For more information on this fellowship program visit NSF GRFP.