Evolution of Complex Traits and Population Management in the Face of Rapid Evolution
Populations must adapt to changing environmental conditions to survive. This is particularly true in the anthropocene where populations are having to adapt rapidly to human impacts such as climate change and invasive species. One of the best examples of rapid adaptation in the evolution resistance to herbicides, pesticides and antibiotics. I am currently developing a model of herbicide resistance in black grass (Alopecurus myosuroides) to help understand how different genetic architectures interact with dispersal to shape the evolution of a complex trait. Resistance to herbicides, pesticides and antibiotics is also a serious practical issue. These chemicals are important tools in food production and human health. As populations of pest species and bacteria become resistant to them, these tools become less effective. I am apply optimization frameworks to models of herbicide resistance to find optimal population management strategies in the face of evolving resistance.
Collaborators: Dr Dylan Childs, Prof Rob Freckleton
In ecology it is common practice to study the dynamics of a few populations and extrapolate those findings to larger areas and other species. A recent analysis suggests that population performance can only be extrapolated over small areas. I am currently extending this work in two ways:
- For what questions is it safe to extrapolate population dynamics between populations and species.
- How to sample different populations to best capture the variation in life history strategies within and between species.
Can we Predict Invasion Lags
We are using models to explore how landscape level features, such as habitat heterogeneity, affect our ability to predict when invasion lags will occur and determine what mechanisms were driving that invasion lag.
Collaborator: Dr Joseph Bennett.
Bio-Economic Model of Rhino Harvest
Hunting of rhinos to illegally harvest their horn is a major threat to rhino populations. Current policy options to combat the escalation in rhino poaching focus on increasing efforts to catch poachers, and stiffer penalties for those caught poaching (including shoot on sight policies). However, these policies have not reduced poaching pressure to a sustainable level, largely because the price of horn is so high that people are willing to accept very high risks for the chance of obtaining it. I am developing a bio-economic model to test how the behavior of poachers, and interactions between poachers, can lessen or increase the impact that poaching has on rhino populations.
Collaborator: Dr Duan Biggs.
Invasive Species Management
Much of my research to date has focused on the management of invasive species, with particular attention to management of invasive plants at landscape scales. At landscape scales there is often more than one manager controlling the invasive population and one of the key factors determining invasion dynamics is where and when people decide to control (Coutts et al. 2013). There are two main research avenues from this work. The first is to find optimal weed control solutions in multi-manager systems. This is crucial in determining the benefit of collaboration because the counter-factual to collaboration is optimal weed control of multiple independent individuals. The second is the largely unaddressed question in invasive species management of how equitable management solutions (where everyone incurs roughly the same costs) compare to optimal solutions. If they are very different, then a trade-off will need to be made between equality and efficiency.
Strategic Behaviour of Conservation NGO’s
Conservation NGOs are responsible for a large fraction of conservation projects in the developing world. These NGOs rely on donors to fund these activities. There is the potential for NGOs to compete with each other for donations by positioning themselves to focus on different objectives such as ‘pure’ conservation objectives, or conservation through the provision of eco-system services. We are using game theory to see how this competition might lead to specialisation between NGOs.