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Michael M Fuller

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forest photo
copepod
Red-legged frog. Photo by Mark Jennings.

Populations are the building blocks of communities. While I'm primarily interested in communities, population studies are inevitably an important component of my research. Projects include documenting the origin and distribution of leopard frogs in California and modeling the spread of invasive species based on latitude-driven climate gradients. (Population ecology page in preparation)

My principle interest is in the causes of variation in the properties of species communities. For example, while quantifying the population fluctuations of aquatic invertebrates, my colleagues and I found that key parameters of neutral models are strongly dependent upon predator-prey interactions. Ecologists disagree over whether Darwinian forces or random processes drive spatial and temporal changes in species abundance and patterns of coexistence. For example, Hubbell's neutral theory favors the latter. Ecologists have yet to find an unambiguous test for identifying the key or dominant process of community patterns. Much of my research involves experimenting with alternative methods, such as graph theory, that differentiate the "signal" of a process by linking structure to assembly dynamics.