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Research Overview

Research in the lab centres on species interactions in an evolutionary and ecological context (Detailed Sections Below).

We address fundamental questions about how genetics, physiology, behaviour and life history influence interactions among organisms, the structure of their communities and their conservation. 

-- We work on food web biology and the theory of complexity and structure.  We connect foraging biology and species interactions to explore the dynamics of species, structure and function.

-- We work on predator-prey interactions and predator induced phenotypic plasticity.  We use Daphnia pulex, several rotifer species and several algae species and their morphological defences as a model organism.

-- We work on parrots, linking their demography to socioeconomic constraints and trade-offs that influence their management as endangered species.

-- We work on algae biotechnology, focusing on grazer induced defences and flocculation in algae

Funding sources include NERC, BBSRC, Microsoft Research, The British Ecological Society, The Royal Society, The EU Marie Curie Programme, The Nuffield Foundation, and The University of Sheffield.  We work with the World Parrot Trust and the Ara Project too.

Food Webs

We explore the role that foraging biology can play in predicting pattern and process in food webs. 

-- What determines the connectance (the number of interactions) and structure of a food web?

-- How does optimal foraging predict the dynamic consequences of species invasions and extinctions in a food web.

-- How does optimal foraging increase the robustness of food webs to extinction

-- Can we generalise about or predict the consequences of  multiple stressors impacting on whole communities?

Key Food Web Papers

Clegg, T., Ali, M. and Beckerman, A.P. 2018 The impact of intraspecific variation on food web structure.  Ecology (in review)

Thierry, A., O. L. Petchey, A. P. Beckerman, P. H. Warren, and R. J. Williams. (2011). The consequences of size dependent foraging for food web topology. Oikos 120:493-502.

Thierry, A., A. P. Beckerman, P. H. Warren, R. J. Williams, A. J. Cole, and O. L. Petchey. (2011). Adaptive foraging and the rewiring of size-structured food webs following extinctions. Basic and Applied Ecology 12:562-570.

Petchey, O. L., A. P. Beckerman, J. O. Riede, and P. H. Warren. (2008). Size, foraging, and food web structure. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 105:4191-4196.

Beckerman, A. P., O. L. Petchey, and P. J. Morin. (2010). Adaptive foragers and community ecology: linking individuals to communities and ecosystems. Functional Ecology 24:1-6.

Beckerman, A. P., O. L. Petchey, and P. H. Warren. (2006). Foraging biology predicts food web complexity. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 103:13745-13749.

Ecology, Evolution & Phenotypic Plasticity

We examine the genetic, genomic and endocrine basis of predator induced phenotypic plasticity.  

We work with water fleas (daphnia) and their predator induced defences.  This work extends from genetics and cell biology through physiology and hormones to ecology and evolution of traits.  We pioneer work on analysing the ecology and evolution of multivariate phenotypic plasticity.

We also work with algae defences.  Water fleas induced aggregation responses in algae.  The bio-engineering world calls this flocculation, which is an important part of harvesting algae.  We work on a sustainable, ecology inspired solutions to engineering problems, including mitigation of eutrophication and production of low and high value algae based products. 

Key Daphnia Papers

Reger, J. Lind, MI, Robinson*, M. Beckerman*, AP 2018 Predation drives local adaptation of phenotypic plasticity Nature Ecology & Evolutionvolume 2, 100–107 [*equal contribution]

Carter, MJ, Lind, MI, Hentley, W. Dennis, SR, Beckerman, AP 2017 Evolution of a predator-induced, non-linear reaction norm Proceedings of the Royal Society 284 20170859 DOI: 10.1098/rspb.2017.0859

Lind, M. I., K. Yarlett, J. Reger, M. J. Carter, and A. P. Beckerman. 2015. The alignment between phenotypic plasticity, the major axis of genetic variation and the response to selection. Proceedings of the Royal Society 282: 20151651.

Robinson, M. R., and A. P. Beckerman. 2013. Quantifying multivariate plasticity: genetic variation in resource acquisition drives plasticity in resource allocation to components of life history. Ecology Letters:281-290.

Dennis, S. D., G. A. LeBlanc, and A. P. Beckerman. 2014. Endocrine regulation of predator-induced phenotypic plasticity. Oecologia 176:625–635.

Key Algae Papers

Russo, D., Beckerman, A.P., Pandhal. J. 2017 Competitive growth experiments with a high-lipid Chlamydomonas reinhardtii mutant strain and its wild-type to predict industrial and ecological risks. AMB Express (Applied and Industrial Biotechnology) 7:10 DOI: 10.1186/s13568-016-0305-x

Roccuzzo, S., Beckerman, A.P. and Pandhal, J. 2016. The use of natural infochemicals for sustainable and efficient harvesting of microalgae for biotechnology: insights from a meta-analysis. Biotechnology Letters 38(12): 1983–1990 doi:  10.1007/s10529-016-2192-2

Russo, D. Beckerman, AP, Couto, N., Pandhal,J. 2016. A metaproteomic analysis of the response of a freshwater microbial community under nutrient enrichment. Frontiers in Microbiology 7 1172 (doi:  10.3389/fmicb.2016.01172)

Parrots and Conservation Biology

We have long term collaborations with the World Parrot Trust centred on biological and social science research into what makes parrot conservation work.  We work in Bonaire on Yellow Shouldered Amazons, in Costa Rica on McCaws and theoretically on the demography and economics of parrots.

Key Conservation Papers

Roberts M.H., Martin R.O., Beckerman A.P. & Williams S.R. 2014. Occupation rates of artificial and restored natural nest cavities by yellow-shouldered Amazons Amazona barbadensis on Bonaire, Caribbean Netherlands. Conservation Evidence, 11, 39-42. 

Beckerman, A. P., M. Boots, and K. J. Gaston. (2007). Urban bird declines and the fear of cats. Animal Conservation 10:320-325.

Graham, K., A. P. Beckerman, and S. Thirgood. (2005). Human-predator-prey conflicts: ecological correlates, prey losses and patterns of management. Biological Conservation 122:159-171.