Borer-Seabloom Lab

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  • Empirical and theoretical studies of community ecology and trophic interactions
  • Community-level studies of conservation, restoration, and invasion ecology


  • The Nutrient Network (NutNet): a global research cooperative

Global environmental impacts require global-scale research efforts. The Nutrient Network is a globally-distributed, massively collaborative, experiment replicated at more than 91 sites in 19 countries on 6 continents to investigate the impacts of some of the most globally-pervasive impacts of humans on biological systems: eutrophication of earth’s ecosystems, biological invasions, and species extinctions. Specifically, the Nutrient Network has been using an unprecedented replicated experiment to understand the role of anthropogenic nutrient addition (nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, and other micronutrients) and loss of large herbivores on important issues including invasive species, global biodiversity, ecosystem functioning, and disease (Firn et al. 2010Adler et al. 2011Stokstad 2011). While the current investigations are globally critical, perhaps the most important contribution of the network is experimental infrastructure that is allowing us to generate informed predictions about the responses of ecological systems to these current human impacts.

  • The Community Ecology of Disease

Disease ecology has grown rapidly as a field, but only recently have models and studies expanded to address the full community context of host-pathogen interactions. Nonetheless, most hosts are limited by multiple resources and are affected by multiple pathogens, while most pathogens are host-generalists. Only a few researchers currently are addressing the complex interactions among abiotic resources, host communities, and pathogen communities. In part, this is because many human and animal disease systems are experimentally intractable for logistical and ethical reasons (see Borer et al. 2011). In collaboration with researchers at other Universities (Andy DobsonKevin Gross,Charles Mitchell, and Sunny Power), we are using a complex, experimentally tractable, host-pathogen community to investigate a wide range of basic and applied questions about the community ecology of disease (Borer et al. 2007;Borer et al. 2009Seabloom et al. 2009Borer et al. 2010Seabloom et al. 2010). Our study system is a suite of aphid-vectored RNA viruses that comprise one of the most commercially important and widespread plant pathogen groups (barley and cereal yellow dwarf viruses).

  • Communities and stoichiometry

Fossil fuel combustion, agricultural runoff, and eradication of predators affect all ecological systems. Although our empirical research is in terrestrial systems, much of the work quantifies the impacts of altered nutrient availability (i.e. bottom-up effects) and consumers (i.e. top-down effects) among ecosystems, including lakes, grasslands, and kelp forests, by compiling and analyzing data from published ecological studies. We are involved in a variety of collaborative projects employing cross-system meta-analysis and development of general theory to examine the independent and interacting effects of these global changes in predator numbers and nutrient supply rates on community composition, interactions among species, and energy flow.

  • REU 2018 applicants needed!  Click here for more details.

  • Eric and Elizabeth travel to South Africa
    • In October 2016, Eric and Elizabeth went to the International Long Term Ecological Research (ILTER) Network meeting in Kruger Park, South Africa.  Each gave well-attended talks and co-led two workshops on multi-site replicated experimental work.  The workshops stimulated some exciting discussion about ways to do experiments spanning the countries and sites involved in the ILTER.  Because of the enthusiasm at the meeting, the ILTER organizing committee is currently discussing whether participation in NutNet will become a new ILTER initiative.