We are interested in understanding how the interplay among local species interactions, chronic stress, and disturbance shape the diversity, composition, and resilience of ecological communities, particularly in the context of rapid anthropogenic change.
Research theme I: How do anthropogenic changes influence the dynamics and community-wide consequences of species interactions?
Ecological communities are comprised of species that are interconnected through simultaneous interspecific interactions. How are the dynamics of these interspecific interactions affected by perturbations from anthropogenic changes to ecosystems? What are the cascading, community-wide consequences of these modifications for the dynamics of species interactions? How do the traits of interspecific interactions (e.g. specialized vs. generalized) and/or the participating species (e.g. diet breadth or size) influence these responses? To what extent can we predict the influences of anthropogenic changes on species interactions and their community-wide effects over time? These are the kinds of questions that motivate research in the Savage lab under this broad theme.
Research theme II: Cities as urban habitat mosaics: How does diversity vary across different habitats in cities and what are the cascading consequences of this variability on ecosystem services & processes?
Home to more than half of the world’s human population, cities are becoming increasingly common and widespread. It is, therefore, surprising that we know very little about the ecology and evolution of non-human city dwellers. If we are to maximize the benefits of diverse ecosystems while meeting the needs of a growing human population, a key step will be to understand the ecology and evolution of urban ecosystems – including human and non-human city inhabitants. Contrary to popular depictions, cities are not monolithic deserts of concrete populated only by buildings and automobiles. Instead, they are complex mosaics of many different kinds of habitats. A first step toward understanding the ecology and evolution of urban ecosystems is to assess and experimentally evaluate patterns of local diversity, the interaction between community composition and ecosystem processes & services, and the rate of rapid evolution across these different urban habitats. Our research under this broad theme is focused on meeting these goals while advancing basic ecological understanding of dynamic urban ecosystems.