Research: Human-dominated Ecosystems

Human influences on the evolution of maize

As a domesticated plant, maize has adapted to conditions in an environment shaped by humans. Thanks to its agricultural importance and longstanding genetic model, there is a wealth of data on both genotype and phenotype that can be used to understand how this adaptation occurred and is still occurring.

Restoration under rapid environmental change

The urbanized San Francisco Bay, one of the most important coastal estuaries in the U.S., lies at the intersection of efforts to manage and restore critical habitats that support numerous threatened species. Experimental plots in San Francisco Bay have been established to study restoration of two important foundation species: the seagrass Zostera marina and the native Olympia oyster Ostrea lurida.

Urban birds as biomonitors of neurobehavioral disorders

Human-induced rapid environmental change has created a global pandemic of neurobehavioral disorders, with industrial compounds and pesticides as a root cause. Urban-dwelling birds have the potential to serve as powerful biomonitors that reveal the impact of environmental change due to the presence of factors that may pose both public and wildlife health concerns. REU students will seek to understand how human-induced pollution affects rock dove (Columba livia) neurobiology and reproductive endocrinology.

Bird communication and traffic noise

Communication plays a central role in the lives of animals, allowing them to defend territories, find mates, and coordinate with offspring and group members. To be effective, animal signals must be detectable in the acoustic, visual, vibratory, and chemical environment in which they are used. Signals may lose their efficacy if the environment changes rapidly due to industrial and urban developments, which may favor plastic responses by individual animals or rapid evolutionary change.

Human influences on bee pollinators

Bee pollinators are critically important for agricultural and natural ecosystems. Together, wild and managed bee species contribute to the pollination of 80 crops with an estimated annual value of >$200 billion globally, >$29 billion for US agriculture, and >$9 billion for California.

Ecological interactions in managed systems

Anthropogenic effects, notably, habitat conversion from natural to managed systems, can alter interactions between plants, insects, and microbial communities; but these effects on such complex systems are poorly understood. Bacteria and yeast that live in floral nectar affect pollinator visitation and influence floral characteristics.