New doctor in the group: Alisa (Lisi) Álvarez successfully defended her thesis

Alisa (Lisi) Álvarez defended today her doctoral thesis, an ecological study of plant invasions in mountain ecosystems of Mendoza. Congratulations Lisi for an outstanding study with important practical implications!

Lisi’s thesis combines observational and experimental studies to assess the effect of two drivers of plant invasions in the mountain environments of our region: tourist trails and livestock. As a whole, her results indicate that mountain hiking trails and livestock may facilitate plant invasions in the region. This work represents a valuable contribution to the understanding of the ecological processes regulating the spread of non-native plants, and offer useful information for management actions.

One of the chapters of Lisi’s thesis is already published as a journal article in Biological Invasions. And stay tuned for more publications coming soon!

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End-of-year group gathering

As we try to do every December, yesterday we had our end-of-year get-together. We had a fun time in a pot luck dinner which included lots of home-made food, drinks, and even some dancing. A nice way to wrap up a great year doing science together.

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Congratulations Benjamin Schwarz for a successful Ph.D. defense!

Earlier this month, Benjamin Schwarz defended his Ph.D. thesis at the University of Freiburg, Germany. Benjamin’s thesis focused on the temporal dynamics of plant-pollinator networks, with a nice combination of literature synthesis and field observational and experimental work. He was mentored by Jochen Fründ, Carsten Dormann and myself.

In case you are curious, two of his thesis chapters are already published, one published in Oikos and another in Oecologia. Check them out!

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Yamila Leguizamón defended her thesis on the impacts of honeybees on native bee diversity

Yamila defended today her undergraduate (licenciatura) thesis at the Faculty of Exact and Natural Sciences of the National University of Cuyo. She studied the impacts of managed honeybees on the abundance, diversity and composition of native bees in Villavicencio Nature Reserve.

The thesis examiners agreed in that Yamila had conducted an interesting study that addressed questions relevant for understanding how apiculture may influence the native pollinators in natural ecosystems. Congratulations Yamila for the excellent work!

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Beca doctoral en ecología de abejas e interacciones planta-animal

See English version below

Tema: Estudiar los determinantes de la variación geográfica y temporal en las poblaciones de abejas solitarias nativas y las redes de interacciones ecológicas entre estas abejas, plantas y parasitoides en el Desierto del Monte de Argentina. Ver más detalles sobre el proyecto.

Tipo de Beca: Inicial (doctoral) del FONCYT (código de proyecto PICT-2018-1272).

Duración: 3 años, con posibilidad de solicitar dos años adicionales de beca doctoral tipo II del CONICET.

Directores: Diego Vázquez y Adriana Aranda Rickert

Lugar de trabajo: Instituto Argentino de Investigaciones de las Zonas Áridas (IADIZA), CCT CONICET Mendoza, Argentina.

Requisitos: Graduado/a reciente en Ciencias Biológicas o carreras afines, con buen desempeño académico. Conocimientos generales en ecología, botánica y entomología, familiaridad con herramientas estadísticas, preferentemente en el entorno R. Fluidez para expresarse en inglés, especialmente en forma escrita. Licencia para conducir, conocimiento de manejo de vehículos 4×4 y disponibilidad para viajar a las distintas localidades del proyecto.

Postulación: Enviar CV completo, breve carta de motivación explicando las razones para realizar un doctorado en ciencias y para trabajar en los temas del proyecto, y los nombres y direcciones de e-mail de dos o tres personas que puedan dar referencias sobre la/el candidata/o.

Fecha límite de postulación: 31 de julio de 2020.

Fecha de inicio de la beca: 1º de septiembre de 2020.

Contacto: Diego Vázquez (dvazquez_[arroba], Adriana Aranda Rickert (ardrickert_[arroba]

Opportunity for Ph.D. in bee population ecology and plant-animal interaction networks

Topic: Determinants of geographic and temporal variation in solitary bee populations and plant-bee-parasite networks in Argentina’s Monte desert. See more details on the project.

Funding type: Ph.D. fellowship (beca inicial) funded by FONCYT (project code PICT-2018-1272).

Duration of funding: 3 years, with the possibility of applying for another two years of CONICET funding to finish Ph.D.

Mentors: Diego Vázquez and Adriana Aranda Rickert

Host institution: Instituto Argentino de Investigaciones de las Zonas Áridas (IADIZA), CCT CONICET Mendoza, Argentina.

Qualifications: Graduate in biology or related disciplines. Background in ecology, botany and entomology, familiarity with statistical tools, especially in the R environment, ability to communicate in English, driver’s licence to drive vehicles in the field.

Application: Send CV, a brief letter expressing reasons to undertake a Ph.D. in ecology and to work in the project’s topics, and the names and e-mail addresses of two or three persons who can provide references.

Application deadline: July 31, 2020.

Fellowship start date: September 1, 2020.

Contact: Diego Vázquez (dvazquez_[at], Adriana Aranda Rickert (ardrickert_[at]

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Congratulations Micaela Santos for defending her Ph.D. thesis!

Micaela Santos successfully defended her Ph.D. thesis through videoconference. She studied the consequences of habitat loss and fragmentation on plant-insect herbivore-parasitoid food webs in a dryland landscape. Her research allows understanding how habitat connectivity and area influence interaction diversity and network structure and robustness in this system. This is also a pioneering study in terms the valuable natural history information is generated. Bravo Mica!

One of her thesis chapters has already been published in Ecology, and others will be forthcoming.

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María Pascual Tudanca defended her thesis on the impacts of honeybees on native plants

This morning María defended her undergraduate (licenciatura) thesis at the Faculty of Exact and Natural Sciences of the National University of Cuyo. María studied the impacts of managed honeybees on pollination and plant reproduction of two native shrubs, Larrea divaricata and Zuccagnia puctata, in Villavicencio Nature Reserve.

The thesis examiners agreed in that María had done a great job in this study, addressing questions that are relevant for understanding how apiculture may influence plant-pollinator interactions and the reproduction of native plants in natural ecosystems. ¡Congratulations María for the excellent work!

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Landscape connectivity explains interaction network patterns at multiple scales

Limit between a vineyard (left) and a remant of Monte desert natural vegetation (right) in Valle de Uco (Mendoza, Argentina).

Recently I published a paper assessing the extent to which fragment connectivity and area explain patterns in interaction structure among four herbivore insect guilds and their host plants. We studied natural communities in habitat fragments surrounded by vineyards in Valle de Uco (Mendoza) where we expected to see empoverished communities in small and isolated fragments. Our findings allowed us to understand a new dimension of fragment connectivity related to similarity in plant composition among fragments beyond their geographical distances. Furthermore, we found that size not always matters. Read the paper and find out why!     

This is the first paper of my doctoral thesis which was mentored by Diego and Luciano Cagnolo. But this paper would have never been possible without the collaboration of the other co-authors: Hugo Marrero (the fieldwork enthusiastic colleague that everyone wants to have) and Tomas Roslin (my host during a wonderful stay in Finland).

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Claudia Luna will be visiting us from La Serena

Claudia Luna Morales, a Ph.D. student from the University of La Serena, Chile, will be visiting us for a week to work on analyses of her thesis work. Claudia is studying the responses of plant-frugivore interaction networks to fragmentation in central Chile. ¡Bienvenida Claudia!

Claudia Luna Morales
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Annual group retreat in El Leoncito Astronomical Complex

Last week we had our annual group retreat, this time in El Leoncito Astronomical Complex, located in El Leoncito National Park, San Juan. The idea of the retreat is to mix academic activity with walks in natural areas and other fun activities. It is the fourth time we do this activity, and it was as successful as in previous years (see the accounts of previous retreats here, here and here).

Retreat participants in Pampa del Leoncito. From left to right: Eugenia Vázquez Novoa, Micaela Santos, Lisi Álvarez, María Pascual Tudanca, Nydia Vitale, Joana Haedo, Florencia Miguel, Hugo Marrero, Mariana Allasino, Virginia Chirilá and Diego Vázquez.

We were eleven participants this year: eight from our group in Mendoza plus Hugo and Joana from Bahía Blanca and Mariana from San Juan. Each of us had to give a 10-min talk about our research, with plenty of time for questions and discussion. We also did a hike to mount El Leoncito and to El Rincón fall, a night sky observation, played board games after dinner, and visited Pampa del Leoncito, a flat depression formed by sediments. The Astronomical Complex, run by CONICET, is a perfect setting for this kind of activities, as it combines impressive infrastructure for lodging and meal services plus a great natural setting away from the city noise.

The group during the night sky observation, with the Milky Way behind.
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