My research investigates the ecology and evolution of cooperation among species, or mutualism. Mutualisms are extremely common in nature; many plants, animals, and microbes depend on other species to get resources, defend themselves, find mates, or disperse. These interactions are a growing area of research in ecology and evolution. Molecular techniques are revealing the diversity and importance of many cryptic mutualists, especially fungi and bacteria, and more research is being done in the tropics, where for unknown reasons mutualisms are particularly widespread. The primary goal of my research is to improve our understanding of the ecological and evolutionary dynamics of mutualistic populations. My current work focuses on the following questions:
- What mechanisms promote mutualism and prevent cheating?
- How does partner diversity in mutualisms shape the ecological and evolutionary dynamics of populations?
- How do mutualisms vary over geographic landscapes?
- What are the community-level consequences of mutualisms?