Associate Scientist, CCSD
• Determinants of abundance and distribution of organism
• Abundance and diversity at various spatial scales
Web Page: MBG
Understanding patterns of spatial variation in the number of species co-occurring within broad geographic areas is a major issue in ecology and biogeography, with practical implications for the identification of priority areas for the conservation of biodiversity. These patterns are relatively well documented for several taxa (e.g., birds, mammals), but poorly described for Neotropical plants due to extremely uneven spatial distribution of botanical collection effort. Previous efforts to describe broad-scale spatial patterns of plant richness across the Neotropics have accounted for spatial variation in botanical collection effort using an approach called "rarefaction" (Jiménez et al. 2009. Ecography 32:433-448). Rarefaction is unlikely to account for all error due to spatial variation in collection effort, but it is thought to provide reasonable results (Engemann et al. 2015. Ecology and Evolution 5: 807-820). Nonetheless, little is known about the performance of rarefaction in this context. In this project we will use computer simulation experiments based on models of botanical collection effort and discovery (Sheth et al. 2008. Conservation Biology 22: 200-211; Sheth et al. 2012. Global Ecology and Biogeography 21: 732-742), along with the Tropicos database, to examine the performance of rarefaction as an approach to account for variable botanical collection effort when estimating spatial patterns of Neotropical plant richness. The student participating in this project would use the R environment (http://www.r-project.org/) to implement the computer simulations and perform statistical analyses. No previous experience with statistics or the R environment is needed; but if the student is not familiar with the R language or basic statistics, strong interest in learning a computer language and statistical tests is necessary.