Ecological interactions at the intersection of spatial ecology, global change, and behavioral ecology.

Carson Keller (PhD Student)

I am broadly interested in understanding the mechanisms driving predator-prey relationships and the contexts in which they alter antipredator defenses, population dynamics, and trophic interactions. In particular, I’m interested in the non-consumptive effects of fear. Predators can alter prey populations through direct consumption, however, it has been demonstrated that fear may have the potential to have even greater impacts on prey populations. My past research examined how woodrats cope with acute and chronic perceived predation risk through changes in foraging behavior and stress physiology. Understanding the mechanisms altering predator-prey relationships may allow for a better understanding of eco-evolutionary dynamics and the ecosystem-wide impacts these changes can induce.

As part my graduate work within the Orrock lab, I am looking to explore how different types of invasive species alter small mammal risk mitigating behaviors, trophic interactions, and community structure. Invasive species have been demonstrated to dramatically alter ecosystems and trophic interactions through the displacement of native species and creation of novel habitat. Investigating the behavioral and trophic consequences of these changes on small mammals may help us to understand the full impact that invasions have on ecosystems. If small mammals respond with predictable suites of behaviors across different types of biological invasions, it may help us to better determine how ecosystems and the organisms within them may respond to future invasions.

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