Rob Pringle, Assistant Professor
I have always been fascinated by the ways in which species interactions “cascade” through food webs and other ecological networks, often with surprising outcomes. Research in my lab focuses on three main problems. The first is trying to understand the ways in which large mammalian herbivores directly and indirectly shape the ecosystems they inhabit: how do they affect plants and other animals, and what can this tell us about the likely impacts of past and future extinctions? A related focus is on how top predators structure communities by altering the abundance and behavior of their prey. Finally, I am interested in the spatial organization of these ecosystems–specifically, how regular patterns created by “ecosystem engineers” like termites influence the behavior of individuals, populations, and entire ecosystems. I blog very occasionally (e.g., here and here).
Google Scholar profile / ResearchGate profile / Twitter @rob_pringle [Curriculum Vitae (PDF)]
My research combines manipulative field experiments with molecular tools to uncover general evolutionary and ecological processes that are rare or difficult to observe. Much of my recent work uses new methods for DNA-based dietary analyses to learn what species eat and resolve food webs around the world. As a NatureNet Fellow with Princeton University and The Nature Conservancy, I hope to use these approaches to improve strategies for addressing human-wildlife conflict and climate change mitigation. In 2017, I will join the faculty at Brown University as Assistant Professor in the Department of Ecology & Evolutionary Biology and as a Fellow in the Institute at Brown for Environment & Society. [Website]
Jessica Castillo Vardaro
My research interests are in conservation genetics, particularly in investigating how the landscape influences connectivity and genetic structure within and among populations. I am conducting a multi-species population genetics study within the Mpala Research Center, Kenya to understand how the spatial organization of termite mounds influences the population genetic structure of organisms with varied life histories within this community. For my PhD at Oregon State University, I studied American pikas within 12 national parks and wildlife refuges across much of the western United States. [Curriculum Vitae (PDF)]
My research interests lie in the exciting world of species interactions: how they evolve, how they work, and how systems of interacting species may show novel emergent properties. My research in the Pringle and Tarnita labs explores how termite mounds in African savannas generate spatial patterns that propagate throughout the ecosystem. I am currently using molecular methods to assess spatial variation in soil microbial communities, and using manipulative experiments to connect these data to the termites via environmental variables such as nitrogen and water. My PhD work focused on ant-associated microbial and arthropod communities on the Acacia drepanolobium ant-plants that grow in these savannas. [Website] [Curriculum Vitae (PDF)]
I am interested by community/disturbance ecology issues in a conservation and ecosystem management perspective. My researches integrate the latest developments in molecular ecology, especially environmental DNA (eDNA) approaches (i.e. DNA from soil, sediment, faeces…), into more classical field ecology studies to disentangle and understand ecological processes at work. This combination provides new insights to investigate mechanisms structuring communities, to test new ecological hypotheses and to understand responses of communities and ecosystems faced to human-induced changes. I completed my PhD at University Grenoble Alpes (France) where my works focused on the implementation of eDNA metabarcoding approaches to investigate ecological ramifications of anthropogenic disturbances on past and present biodiversity.
My dissertation research is regarding war-driven mammal declines in African savanna, and the community-level impacts of these declines. I do field work in Mozambique’s Gorongosa National Park, and employ GIS, remote sensing, and meta-analysis over larger spatial scales. I also maintain research on fire impacts in seasonal wetland food webs at Archbold Biological Station in central Florida. Previously, I earned a MSc as a Fulbright scholar studying amphibian disease and conservation at James Cook University in Australia. [Website] [Curriculum Vitae (PDF)]
I’m interested in community ecology and its application to conservation, especially in African savanna systems. In Gorongosa National Park, Mozambique, civil war caused the catastrophic decline of large mammal populations. There, I’m investigating how ecosystems reassemble after a collapse, particularly the role of large mammals in shaping vegetation communities. During my undergraduate work, I studied baboon behavior in Tanzania and South Africa, and graduated with a BSc in Conservation and Resource Studies from UC Berkeley in 2010. Afterward, I assisted on a meerkat behavior study in South Africa and investigated the role of hippos in a river ecosystem at Mpala Research Center in Kenya. [Website] [Curriculum Vitae (PDF)]
My research interests revolve around the direct and indirect effects of large mammalian herbivores on plant diversity and defense investment in African savannas. I’m particularly interested in the underappreciated positive effects that herbivores can have on plant diversity and productivity, as well as the complex interactions between herbivory and abiotic conditions that shape patterns of plant defense. Prior to joining the Pringle Lab I studied the effects of human impacts, particularly overfishing, on New England salt marshes. [Website] [Curriculum Vitae (PDF)]
I am interested in species interactions, particularly plant-animal interactions, and how these interactions inform conservation. Much of my previous experience has been in grasslands; after graduating from Cornell University in 2012, I spent a year in Indonesia on a Fulbright scholarship researching the impacts of grazing on a grassland in Java. Since then, I have had the opportunity to apply ecological principles to improve forage quality on pastures in New England. As an undergrad, I studied the natural history of a poorly known bird species in India. [Curriculum Vitae (PDF)]
Broadly, I am interested in the way in which species interact and how, as a collective, those species and their interactions form ecological communities. I am particularly interested in two areas; i) how the niche concept informs species coexistence, and ii) the way in which ecological networks that include multiple types of species interactions can be used to better understand ecological community dynamics. I graduated with a B.Sc. in Biological Sciences from the University of Canterbury in 2015 where my research focussed on the role that a species’ evolutionary history plays in structuring its interactions with other species.
My research interests span multiply disciplines. Prior to joining the Pringle lab I was involved in a wide variety of genomic, molecular biological and immunological projects. In addition, while I have studied a vast range of model organisms primarily within lab settings, I have also had several opportunities for field research as well. This varied background has prepared me for my current project metabarcoding large and small mammal samples for diet analysis. I eagerly look forward to many new projects and opportunities.
LAB ALUMNI & ALUMNAE
Former post-doc Ryan Long (2013-2014) is now an Assistant Professor at the University of Idaho! We continue to collaborate on a study of how self-organized spatial patterning affects the behavior and energetics of several antelope species in Gorongosa National Park, Mozambique. [Website]
Former lab manager Patty Chen (2013-2015) has moved on to post-baccalaureate studies at Columbia University and is conducting clinical research at New York-Presbyterian Hospital. We miss her!