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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Agustín Vitali is visiting from Bariloche

Agustín Vitali, a Ph.D. from INIBIOMA (CONICET-Comahue National University), Bariloche, is visiting us for three weeks to work on a thesis chapter/paper about the impact of introduced ungulates on plant-animal mutualisms. Welcome Agustín!

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Successful fellowship applications for three current and future lab members

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María Pascual Tudanca

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Virginia Chirilá

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Florencia Miguel

We have recently heard excellent news regarding applications for research fellowships. María Pascual Tudanca was awarded a CIN fellowship from the National Interuniversity Council of Argentina to conduct research with our group to finish her undergraduate studies at the National University of Cuyo. María is studying the impact of managed honeybee colonies on the pollination and reproduction of native plant species in Villavicencio Nature Reserve. In turn, Virginia Chirilá was awarded a CONICET doctoral fellowship to work on the role of pollinators as providers of pollination services in agro-ecosystems in the Andes of northwestern Argentina. Finally, Florencia Miguel was awarded a CONICET post-doctoral fellowship to study network motifs (frequent interaction modes) in mutualistic and antagonistic ecological networks and their temporal dynamics. Congratulations María, Virginia and Florencia!

 

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Benjamin Schwarz is visiting from Freiburg

benjamin_schwarz_origBenjamin Schwarz, a doctoral student from the University of Freiburg, will be working with us until March 2019. During his Ph.D. research he is stuying the daily and seasonal dynamics of ecological interaction networks under the mentorship of Jochen Fründ, Carsten Dormann and myself. During his stay in Mendoza he will be conducting a study of the effects of exotic plant species on the temporal dynamics of plant-pollinator interactions. Welcome Benjamin!

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Mica is in Helsinki for a stay with Tomas Roslin’s group

micaelaMicaela Santos is in Finland to spend four months with Tomas Roslin and his group at the University of Helsinki. She will be collaborating with Tomas in the analysis of her doctoral thesis data on plant-insect herbivore-parasitoid food webs in a fragmented landscape. Mica’s stay was made possible through an EDUFI Fellowship from the Finnish government, plus additional travel funds from our PICT grant from FONCYT-ANPCYT and the continued support of CONICET through a Ph.D. fellowship. Have a nice, productive stay in Finland, Mica!

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Oportunidades para estudiantes de grado para 2018-2019

Estamos buscando estudiantes de grado altamente motivados para realizar investigación en ecología y en condiciones de empezar con su tesina. También hay posibilidades de realizar voluntariados de investigación (cortos y no rentados) para participar de los proyectos del laboratorio. Los interesados deben contactarse con Diego Vázquez (dvazquez [arroba] mendoza-conicet.gob.ar). Los posibles temas de investigación incluyen los siguientes:

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Trampas-nido utilizadas para estudiar las abejas solitarias en Villavicencio.

  1. Ecología de abejas solitarias. Se trata de un estudio a largo plazo que los integrantes del laboratorio están realizando desde 2006 en la Reserva Natural Villavicencio para estudiar la demografía y la dinámica poblacional de varias especies de abejas solitarias que nidifican en orificios de la madera y su relación con sus recursos florales y el clima. El trabajo de tesina consistirá en el estudio de las poblaciones de abejas y sus recursos florales durante la primavera-verano de 2018-2019 y la comparación de tendencias en la demografía (fecundidad, abundancia, tasa de crecimiento poblacional) con las de años anteriores.
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    El abejorro Bombus opiphex visitando una flor del atamisque, Capparis atamisquea.

    Impacto de las abejas melíferas sobre las interacciones planta-polinizador. Se trata de un proyecto para evaluar el impacto de las colmenas de la abeja de la miel (Apis mellifera) sobre las interacciones planta-polinizador en la Reserva Privada Villavicencio. Desde la administración de la reserva se está evaluando introducir colmenas de A. mellifera para la producción de miel, pero se desconoce el impacto que esta actividad está teniendo sobre los ecosistemas naturales en esta región. Responder esta pregunta es importante para generar recomendaciones de manejo concretas sobre la carga máxima de colmenas recomendable para minimizar el impacto sobre los ecosistemas naturales. El trabajo de tesina consistirá en evaluar el impacto de A. mellifera sobre los polinizadores nativos.

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    Una de las parcelas que estamos utilizando en la Reserva Bosques de Telteca para estudiar la dinámica ecológica posdisturbio.

    Dinámica ecológica posdisturbio en un bosque árido. Estamos realizando un estudio de largo plazo para evaluar la dinámica de un ecosistema árido a la exclusión del ganado. El estudio está siendo realizado en la Reserva Natural Bosques de Telteca, en el NE de la Provincia de Mendoza. Estamos instalando clausuras para excluir experimentalmente al ganado, lo que nos permitirá estudiar la respuesta de este ecosistema a la interrupción de este disturbio. La oportunidad para la tesina es para estudiar cómo influye la intensidad ganadera sobre la composición y diversidad de insectos del suelo y polinizadores.

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    Sector de la Quebrada de Horcones, Parque Provincial Aconcagua, invadido por la planta exótica Convolvulus arvensis.

    Invasiones de plantas y estructura de redes de interacción planta-polinizador. Durante el verano 2018-2019 realizaremos un estudio para evaluar el impacto de plantas exóticas sobre la estructura de la red de interacciones planta-polinizador en la Quebrada de Horcones del Parque Provincial Aconcagua. Estamos buscando un estudiante de biología avanzado que pueda asistir en las tareas de campo.

Además de estos temas, hay oportunidades para colaborar y eventualmente realizar tesinas en otros temas desarrollados por los integrantes del laboratorio. Las puertas del laborarotorio están abiertas para que nos visiten y así conocer lo que hacemos y conversar sobre oportunidades para realizar investigación.

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Edgar Chávez González is visiting our lab

edgar_chavez-gonzalezThis week we received the visit of Edgar Chávez González, master’s student at the Institute of Ecology in Xalapa, México. He will be with us until early August, collaborating with Diego in the study of the temporal dynamics of plant-hummingbird networks.

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Third annual group retreat

Recently we had our third annual group retreat, following the success of the retreats in previous years (see here and here). This year, each participant had to give a talk on our research, with no visual aids (no PowerPoint) and targeted to the general public. It was a fun exercise, as it forced us to focus on the essentials and forget about the bells and whistles of electronic media. We also had discussions on how to make our research more relevant for society, an introduction to the world of drones (led by Nati Schroeder) and of course a walk to the nearby Mendoza river. All in the great setting in the mountains of Colonia Suiza in Mendoza. A great experience we’ll surely repeat in future years.

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The retreat’s participants viewed from Nati’s drone. Clockwise from the top: Natalia Schroeder, Hugo Marrero, Nydia Vitale, Micaela Santos, Jimena Dorado, Diego Vázquez, Laura Dällenbach.

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Listening to Mica’s talk on fragmentation and food web structure.

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