Most of the classical work that formed the foundations of population and community ecology were based on antagonistic species interactions, such as competition and predation. However, over the past ~30 years, a flurry of research has demonstrated that beneficial species interactions can rival-and even exceed- the influences of these antagonistic interactions for the ecology of ecological populations.
We are particularly interested in understanding the cascading consequences of these positive species interactions for entire ecological communities and their ecosystem functions & services across varying levels of anthropogenic disturbance. To examine these dynamics, we employ primarily field-based manipulations of positive associations between ants and carbohydrate-excreting plants and insects.
In these facultative associations, ants protect their partners from co-occurring species in exchange for nectar (plants) or honeydew (insects). Because interactions with other species are fundamental to the functioning of these associations, they are likely to have strong community-level influences.
Savage Lab Projects: Positive feedbacks between an ant-aphid mutualism and a gall making fly; Invasive ants on a sugar high: Consequences and mechanisms of the yellow crazy ant (Anoplolepis gracilipes) invasion of the Samoan Archipeligo.