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Dr Elizabeth Clare

Location: Room 5.03, Fogg Building
Phone: +44 (0)20 7882 5687
  • Foodweb interactions between trophic levels

How do communities partition the available resources and does this vary between feeding guilds? Does predation, parasitism or mutualism lead to fundamentally different types of trophic interaction even when the same individual carries out these roles? The evolution of trophic interactions has many repercussions for conservation and ecosystem processes. We use a variety of techniques to track food webs in both tropical and temperate systems and to investigate ecosystem functioning and evolution. Using next-generation sequencing technologies for extracting DNA in dietary analyses and environmental sequencing We have constructed and compared food webs among frugivores, insectivores, parasites and pollinators in both temperate and tropical environments and even past ecosystems using a combination of approaches. My research group looks at the integration of food web structure with behavioral analyses and intrinsic and extrinsic factors that influence niche dynamics and food web structure.

  • Environmental influences on trophic interactions and competition

How do environmental conditions and landscapes effect network structures? do pollutants at the bottom of the food chain affect the diet of top predators and the dependent food web? How does competition for resources influence co-existence and resource flexibility? How does habitat loss and climate change affect food web structure? We have developed an environmental genomics approach to identify trophic interactions based on eDNA. In particular, we have applied this to insectivorous bats that forage over aquatic systems in agricultural and non-agricultural land, food webs in fragmenting habitats, niches and webs in deserts, tropical forests and in wet and dry seasons. Using prey species and particularly “environmental indicators” we have reconstructed the habitat exploited by predators. We have been able to classify several Canadian systems into still vs. moving water systems or based on habitat quality as measured using environmental indicators, particularly in aquatic systems. In collaboration we are now applying this to study community level interactions between competitive species in the Caribbean, Texas, Costa Rica, Brazil and Borneo.

  • Large-scale biodiversity assessments

Can we establish large-scale bio-monitoring projects facilitated by genomics techniques? How do we continuously monitor biodiversity accurately in an automated fashion? Over the last year we have established the first “Biodiversity Project’ in my lab. Seven undergraduate students undertook a genomic/metabarocde survey of the insect diversity in Kew Gardens (Central London). Over a period from July to November they collected insects weekly in malaise traps and have been subsequently analyzing these samples using genomics techniques. This pilot study is designed to look at insect phenology and biodiversity in a heavily urban environment but also the reliability of the method as a tool in large-scale bio-monitoring.

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