The Dirzo Lab
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Research in the Dirzo Lab

Plant-Animal interactions
We work on the demographic impact and evolutionary ecology of plant-animal interactions.  We are examining questions such as:  





What are the costs and benefits of hosting defensive ants (biotic defense) in a Neotropical tree species?

What are the differences in chemical and physical defenses between evergreen and deciduous tree species in a seasonally dry tropical forest in Mexico?  How do these differences affect insect herbivory?

Palms How does disturbance by invasive species alter seabird -driven nutrients cycles?  How do such changes feedback to support further invasion?
Seed Ecology
Our studies on seed dispersal and predation explore how fruit and seed characteristics, such as morphological and nutritional traits, influence seed dispersal, predation, and viability after predation in both tropical and temperate systems. Questions we are exploring include:



How do fruit and seed characteristics affect vertebrate consumer preference, dispersal of seeds, and seedling distribution?

"How does the extinction of the majority of large frugivores on the island of Mauritius affect the ecosystem-level seed dispersal network there? Can we use a combination of theoretical and applied approaches to resurrect lost ecosystem functions?"


How does seed dispersal mode affect spatial distribution and demography of plants?

How do rodents, invertebrates and pathogens impact seed survival?  How are these impact mediated by seed size?

How are seed dispersal and predation are altered by defaunation?



Mammal community ecology
We have conducted a long-term survey of the mammals occurring at the Jasper Ridge Biological Preserve at Stanford.   Aspects of the survey include:


Use of photo-traps and physical trapping to study patterns of temporal and spatial variation of mammal abundance and activity. Evaluation of several techniques to estimate species abundance

  Optimization of camera-trapping methods

Plant community ecology
We are interested in aspects of plant community ecology ranging from the importance of genetic diversity to changes at the landscape scale. 

clover Variation within species for ecologically-meaningful traits is both affected by and affects other species in a community. We use natural and experimental plant communities to examine the effects of intraspecific diversity on population and community ecology.


Mammal exclosure experiments in the tropical forests of Montes Azules, Mexico, Palmyra Atoll in the Central Pacific, and in collaboration with Walter Carson at Barro Colorado Island, Panama explore the impacts that the mammalian fauna ecological processes such as seed predation, seed dispersal and herbivory.  We use this information to understand the impacts of defaunation and species introductions on tropical forest regeneration and diversity.

In collaboration with the Asner Lab, we are using high-resolution airborne waveform LiDAR to understand how rainforest architectural and biological diversity interact to determine C dynamics and how these interactions may be affected by climatic change.
  We are using remote sensing and GIS techniques in an ongoing project monitoring deforestation and land use change near the Los Tuxtlas Biological Preserve from 197_ to present.
  Opportunities for undergraduates coming soon!