Alan Hastings & Brett A. Melbourne
QEIB: Stochastic Spatial Spread: Models and Experiments
National Science Foundation, Division of Environmental Biology
$291,893 September 2005 - July 2009
How fast a species expands its range depends on characteristics of the species and on random variation in time and space. This is a difficult problem to study in nature, because of the large time and space scales that may be involved, and the lack of repeatability. Thus, the problem will be studied in the laboratory using the flour beetle, Tribolium castaneum, using many replicates of artificial landscapes and varying demographic parameters under controlled conditions in an incubator. The experimental work will be coordinated with the development of mathematical models that incorporate variability. The models will allow extension to other systems and the development of general principles.
The problem of spatial spread is of both great scientific and practical importance. The spread of invasive species is one of the most important and costly environmental issues facing the United States. Yet, there have been essentially no detailed repeated experiments on how predictable spread is, and on how demographic parameters affect spread. Also, as the current problem illustrates, progress in many ecological problems depends on the joint application of experimental and mathematical methods, so the training received by undergraduates during the course of this work will have very significant long term impacts.