Research Interests

I work a the intersection of Wildlife, Landscape, and Ecosystem Ecology. My research interests cover three main themes.

Ecology of Individuals

A snowshoe hare in Terra Nova National Partk. Photo courtesy of T. R. Heckford, CC BY-ND-NC 4.0.

Organisms are the starting point of my research. In particular, I am interested in the constant feedback and feedforward mechanisms they are involved in with each other and their environment. I began my career as a behavioural ecologist working on animal behavior, studying how species interactions modified their activities. Over the years, my interests grew, leading me to investigate what factors influence and constrain animal activities—from biochemistry to the laws of physics. As well, I developed an interest in how researchers and scientists describe and study the interactions among organisms and their environment. I have worked to develop new approaches to better integrate animal ecology in the larger picture of ecosystem functioning and dynamics, using tools that range from isotope analyses to remote sensing products.

Ecology of Ecosystems

Conceptual roadmap to study consumer effects on ecosystem dynamics.
From Ellis-Soto et al. (2021).

Organisms, of course, are not isolated from their enviroment, nor are they just receivers of environmental inputs. They actively influence the environment they live in, shaping it in myriad ways. Identity, condition, activity, density, and diversity of the organisms living in an environment are but a few of the biological factors that can change the non-living world—and in turn be changed by it. This theme made up a substantial portion of my doctoral research and is still a major component of my work. In particular, I am interested in the zoogeochemistry of organisms and how it influences ecosystem structure and functions.

Theoretical Ecology

Diagram of information flows, within and across ecosystems. From Little et al. (2022).

Empirical, field-based research sparked my passion for ecology. However, among fieldwork bouts, I developed an interest in ecological theory and its multiple facets. Theoretical work in ecology is helpful as working on a piece of paper or a computer screen provides something very hard to come by in the field: repeatability and control. I am interested in how mathematical models of ecosystem functioning account for animal activities. I am also working with several stellar researchers to introduce additional currencies in models of ecosystem functioning, to improve our ability to study and predict their dynamics.