I am a graduate student carrying out research in the Aquatic
Microbiology group at IBED. Broad research interests comprise
theoretical ecology, evolution and population dynamics.
An overview of my project may be found in the subsidiary page, Research at IBED, and details lacking therein can be obtained on demand while unavailablein this website.
Briefly, ecological stoichiometry and adaptive dynamics will provide the general framework to my doctoral studies. Results shall be applied to plankton communities in an effort to gain further insight about their biodiversity.
Modelling ocean plankton ecosystems using ecological stoichiometry and adaptive dynamics
Ecological stoichiometry is the study of the nutrient
balance among organisms and inorganic nutrient pools. It is
therefore a qualitative measure common to both organisms and
their environment, and its importance is key to linkthese two
ecological entities at multiple scales. There is mounting
evidence for the genetic determination of cellular elemental
composition, as well as for its implications in the physiology
and growth of organisms. Such properties ultimately affect
species interactions within an ecosystem, and shape community
structure, stability and dynamics. Moreover, stoichiometry may
be regarded as a variable quantitative trait; a component of
fitness wherefrom diverse phenotypes arise and differentially
adapt to selective environmental pressures.
Adaptive dynamics is an approach to long-term, frequency- and density-dependent selection derived from evolutionary game theory and quantitative genetics. Unlike standard quantitative genetics models, adaptive dynamics has a strong ecological focus and assumptions thereof result in simpler, more tractable mathematical systems. The rationale of adaptive dynamics relies on the interplay between mutation and selection, and inquires about the invasibility of rare mutants arising in resident populations. Of particular interest are evolutionarily singular equilibria, which may allow for stable polymorphisms through evolutionary branching.
The merger of ecological stoichiometry and adaptive dynamics in simple plankton community models is a novel contribution to advance the understanding of ocean ecosystems, namely regarding their high biodiversity. First, stoichiometry will be explicitly implemented in models based on resource competition theory, and ecological conditions will be assessed for species coexistence. Second, rapid evolution shall be addressed in diverse phytoplankton populations facing stoichiometric trade-offs between competitive ability and grazing susceptibility. Third, the adaptive dynamics framework will be applied to account for sympatric speciation following invasion of monomorphic algae populations. Fourth, adaptive radiation will be tested as a mechanism for specialization and consequent relaxation of competition for nutrients, thereby promoting mutualism among specialists.
This research project is supervised by Prof. Jef Huisman at the University of Amsterdam (UvA), and Prof. Hein de Baar at the University of Groningen (RUG).
October 2006-December 2009
Doctoral grant awarded by the Portuguese Science and Technology Foundation (FCT)