Anna and Hugo
Anna and Hugo

We’re happy to introduce our newest additions to our editorial board, Anna Doty and Hugo Saiz. This enthusiastic pair will join the crew to lead our blog FunctionalEcologists.com. Anna Doty is an animal physiologist exploring animal responses to human disturbance, and will start in the fall as an Assistant Professor at California State University, Bakersfield. Hugo Saiz is based at the University of Bern, Switzerland, and is a plant community ecologist studying the drivers and outcomes behind plants biotic interactions.

El panel editorial de Functional Ecology se renueva con la incorporación de dos nuevos editores responsables del blog de la revista, FunctionalEcologists.com: Anna Doty y Hugo Saiz. Anna es profesora ayudante en California State University (Bakersfield) y su investigación se centra en el estudio de la fisiología de los murciélagos y su aplicación para la conservación de estos animales. Su último proyecto trata de desarrollar nuevas técnicas para la detección temprana de infecciones fúngicas en las colonias de murciélagos insectívoros. Hugo Saiz es investigador postdoctoral en la Universidad de Berna y estudia las causas y consecuencias que las interacciones bióticas tienen sobre las comunidades vegetales. Actualmente está ampliando su visión de las comunidades ecológicas, incluyendo interacciones entre las especies vegetales y otros taxones. Ambos están muy entusiasmados con este nuevo reto y esperan poder crear una plataforma que sea de interés y utilidad para ecólogos en cualquier etapa de la carrera investigadora. Cualquier duda o sugerencia que tengáis sobre el blog, estarán encantados de responderos a través de sus correos electrónicos (annacdoty@gmail.com y saizhugo@gmail.com). 

Anna Doty (right) in the lab.
Anna Doty (right) in the lab.

Anna Doty, starting as Assistant Professor of Animal Physiology in Fall 2019, California State University, Bakersfield.

Why I’m interested in being a blog editor for Functional Ecology

I am primarily interested in scientific communication and accessibility, particularly for undergraduate/graduate students and early career researchers. I understand that finding your scientific “niche” can be daunting, and garnering the support and confidence to publish new research even more so! I hope to promote FunctionalEcologists as a sounding board for new and aspiring scientists to draw inspiration from recently accepted papers in Functional Ecology, hindsight discussions, and from more personal anecdotal information from our interviews. Ultimately, I would like to foster confidence in researchers to do great science and publish their important findings, while concurrently providing accessible scientific summaries and explanations of research and spotlights on ecology and ecologists.

Research interests and current work

I have a keen interest in unravelling the complex set of evolutionary adaptations animals employ to cope with environmental constraints, both in controlled settings and in the wild. Investigating how animals manage these constraints physiologically is important in understanding how and why some animals are able to occupy habitats with extreme climates or lack of resources. In particular, I am interested in investigating how animals respond physiologically to the direct or indirect consequences of disturbance, such as thermoregulatory and behavioral responses to fire. I employ integrative experimental and comparative methods because these techniques lend themselves well to theoretical ecology and physiology and also to the development of applied research and conservation. My postdoctoral research, a cooperative research agreement with Arkansas State University and the U.S. Forest Service, focused on the development of novel tools for non-invasive early detection and treatment of White-nose syndrome, a deadly fungal disease affecting insectivorous bats. We have applied the use of an electric nose (e-nose), typically used for the assessment of disease in a medical setting, as a proxy for creating a library of disease biomarkers collected from volatile organic compounds in wildlife.

Recommended readings

I enjoyed reading the paper “Landscape structure and ecology influence the spread of a bat fungal disease” by Lilley et al. (2018). This is a well-thought paper which uses already-published data to create a model explaining the relative effects of landscape clustering, environmental conditions in hibernacula, and microbial competition on the spread of white-nose syndrome. Investigating factors that lead to the spread of the fungus is imperative for potential management of the disease.

I was also intrigued and impressed by the ingenuity presented by authors Hayes et al. (2018) in their paper “Mass-independent maximal metabolic rate predicts geographic range size of placental mammals.” There has been a recent push to create species distribution models accounting for various physiological traits of species, as the ability for animals to occupy a wide range of habitats is highly dependent on their physiological capabilities and processes. The authors in this paper used maximal metabolic rate (MMR) as a predictor for geographic distribution of mammals, as the upper limits of activity may influence their ability to migrate and disperse.

Lastly, I recommend reading “Anticipating fire-mediated impacts of climate change using a demographic framework” by Davis et al. (2018). Wildfires are becoming more severe, frequent, longer-lasting, and reaching greater extents. In this paper, the authors use a demographic framework to understand how factors associated with climate change and fires will affect recruitment of woody vegetation following fire and the likelihood of vegetation shifts. Notably, I recommend this paper as a teaching tool for those wishing to explain to students how vegetation is affected by fire and how both climate change and increasing fires are likely to favor fire- and drought- adapted species.

Hugo Saiz
Hugo Saiz

Hugo Saiz, postdoctoral researcher at Institute of Plant Sciences, University of Bern.

Why I’m interested in being a blog editor for Functional Ecology

Traditionally, research papers have been the “way to go” for scientists to communicate their findings. However, these papers only show a limited part of what working in sciences means, and are mostly intended for readers with a scientific background. This limits the communication between scientists and citizens, a particularly daunting problem for ecology as society environmental concern increases every year. FunctionalEcologists is the perfect platform to present the other side of ecology, showing the history behind research work, highlighting ecological relevant findings and giving the opportunity to ecologists in any career stage to tell what they love about ecology.

Research interests and current work

My research focuses on understanding the role that biotic interactions play in plant communities. Biotic interactions are key drivers structuring ecological communities, and considering all potential interactions allows an accurate picture of what is going on. Particularly, I am interested in developing methods to characterize biotic interactions in plant communities, and unraveling the connection between interactions, environmental drivers and ecosystem functioning. Currently, I want to expand my perspective to include biotic interactions established between plants and other taxa (e.g. pollinators, herbivores, pathogens). Within the University of Bern, I will use Biodiversity Exploratories unique dataset to test the effect of human induced disturbance on biotic interactions, and its potential cascading effect on ecosystem functioning through modifications on biodiversity.

Recommended readings

Among Functional Ecology papers, one that really hit me is ‘Linking individual responses to biotic interactions with community structure: a trait-based framework’ by Gross and colleagues (2009). This study showed me a creative way to combine different types of information to respond community level questions, and introduced me to the world of functional traits. More recently, I have also learnt a lot from ‘Coexistence theory as a tool to understand biological invasions in species interaction networks: Implications for the study of novel ecosystems’, the Perspective paper from Oscar Godoy (2019). This paper is not only a perfect introduction to coexistence theory for any ecologist, but is also an inspiring read to show how a broad knowledge of ecology can help overcome environmental problems. Definitely a must-read!

If you have recently published in Functional Ecology and would like to be featured in a blog article on FunctionalEcologists.com, or have a suggestion for a topic that could be interesting for our readers, please contact Dr. Anna Doty (annacdoty@gmail.com) or Dr. Hugo Saiz (saizhugo@gmail.com). Hugo and Anna aim to support the blog by listening and responding to the interests and needs of their readers, and thus welcome all communication. We look forward to hearing from you!

References

Davis, T.D., Higuera, P.E., and Sala, A. (2018). Anticipating fire-mediated impacts of climate change using a demographic framework. Functional Ecology 32, 1729-1745.

Godoy, O. (2019). Coexistence theory as a tool to understand biological invasions in species interaction networks: Implications for the study of novel ecosystems. Functional Ecology.

Gross, N., Kunstler, G., Liancourt, P., De Bello, F., Suding, K. N., and Lavorel, S. (2009). Linking individual response to biotic interactions with community structure: a trait‐based framework. Functional Ecology 23(6), 1167-1178.

Hayes, J.P., Feldman, C.R., and Araújo, M.B. (2018). Mass-independent maximal metabolic rate predicts geographic range size of placental mammals. Functional Ecology 32, 1194-1202.

Lilley, T.M., Anttila, J., and Ruokolainen, L. (2019) Landscape structure and ecology influence the spread of a bat fungal disease. Functional Ecology 32, 2483-2496.