Insects are the dominant terrestrial lifeform. In addition to being fascinating in their own right, insects provide model systems to allow us to ask questions about the structure of ecological communities, and how these communities are affected by changes in the abiotic and biotic environment around them.
Our group uses insects to study two key and related questions. Both emphasise the structure of the assemblage of insect predators and parasitoids attacking species of interest.
- How does urbanisation affect the interactions between predators and prey? Does urbanisation affect the diversity of enemies and the timing of their recruitment? Is it urbanisation itself or the loss of other species through the simplification of the urban ecosystem which matters most? Can we positively influence the structure of plant-pollinator foodwebs in suburban settings?
- How do hidden interactions affect predator-prey and host-parasitoid interactions? How does variation in host plant quality, the presence of fungal phytopathogens or heritable variation in defence (itself mediated by endosymbiotic bacteris in some species) affect the success or failure of attack?
These questions have applied implications for insect pest management and insect conservation biology, but both are of broader interest as we seek to understand both the ecological patterns we see around us and the fundamental processes that cause them.