Dear Students -
This week we'll be talking about one of my favorite topics in ecology - community ecology. Please watch this video and respond to the discussion topics below. While I am open to you working on just about anything for your independent research projects, I feel some of the most interesting questions have to do with community ecology - but I'm a little biased ;) We have data on multiple species co-occurring in the same habitat, where they are sharing/competing for space and resources. We also have data on multiple habitats where the numbers and kinds of species that co-occur vary. This is a great set-up to test, for example, how does the abundance or morphology of a species change in the presence or absence of a competitor? How does species richness vary with the abundance of resources? Which species tend to co-occur more frequently, and which tend not to co-occur? What do these patterns tell us about competition, co-evolution, and species interactions?
What defines an ecological community?
Give a few examples of communities.
What is the competitive exclusion principle?
What kinds of resources might be limiting, and which resources might not be limiting population size and competition?
What is an ecological niche?
What is the difference between a fundamental and a realized niche?
Describe MacArthur's research on warblers; what does MacArthur's work have to do with the theories of ecological communities?
What is character displacement?
Who are the Grants (Peter and Rosemary)? What are they famous for?
Describe the situation described for Darwin's finches - how did competition drive evolution?
What is mutualism?
What is commensalism?
How do these concepts relate to our studies of small mammals of Madagascar and bats of Belize? Please answer this question by coming up with a research question you might ask for your project about community ecology with our data. This should be something to do with how many species are in the communities, what traits they have, what resources they need, and how competition may relate to which species occur where.