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Kari Segraves

Department of Biology
Syracuse University

Untangling the entangled bank: direct and indirect effects of antagonism on mutualism

Monday, October 25, 2010
Lecture Hall 2, 5:00 PM

Abstract

Mutualisms are interspecific interactions where both species benefit from participating in the association, and are thought to be important in the promotion and maintenance of biodiversity.  Although we are now learning a lot about the evolutionary ecology of mutualism, much of our knowledge is based on pairwise interactions between mutualists. For instance, many studies assume that the traits involved in a mutualism are shaped by the mutualist species alone, yet we know that mutualisms do not occur in isolation of other species in the community.  For each pairwise mutualism, there is a web of interacting species that either directly or indirectly affects one or both members of the mutualism.   Using the yucca-yucca moth mutualism as an example, I will present evidence that suggests the local community plays a role in constraining the evolution of mutualistic traits

Biography

Understanding biodiversity requires not only identifying the number of species on earth, but also elucidating how interactions between species govern the dynamics of natural communities and ecosystems.  Species interactions have long been recognized as critical elements of the promotion and maintenance of biodiversity especially for two of the most species-rich groups of organisms: plants and insects.  Consequently, studies of the interactions between plants and insects are pivotal in revealing the underlying mechanisms that have created the vast majority of the biodiversity on Earth.  Broadly, my research examines how interactions between plants and insects have caused speciation.  Specifically, I am interested in how mutualism and coevolution can facilitate diversification.  These research interests require me to use a variety of study systems and a broad combination of approaches such as controlled greenhouse experiments, experiments in natural populations, and molecular techniques.

I conducted my masters research in John Thompson’s lab at Washington State University studying the effects of plant polyploidy on species interactions.  I then moved to Vanderbilt University for my Ph.D. where I worked with Olle Pellmyr on the evolution of cheating in mutualisms.  In 2003 I received an NSF postdoctoral fellowship in interdisciplinary informatics, and spent two years working with Jack Sullivan at the University of Idaho before beginning a faculty position at Syracuse University in 2005.

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