We explore how and why ecological communities vary from place to place, and use ants and other soil critters as model organisms in evolutionary ecology. In the essay “Systematics Ascending”, E. O. Wilson contrasted two ways of doing science based on…


Folks in our lab know their organisms, know their theory, and combine field and lab studies to answer questions that obsess us. We work all over the world, but have a real fondness for tropical rainforests and grasslands. We have…


Most of the world’s greatest challenges are ecological. We are all students in this rapidly changing world and depend upon everyone’s creativity and hard work to find solutions.  We learn by combining intense exposure to data and concepts, regular practice of new skills, and making time for quietude…


Introducing “Ecology Stories”

Wisdom begins with the proper naming of things. In this episode of Ecology Stories—written as a resource for science classes—@damotmot and I present an illustrated intro to taxonomy.

A chaos of surfaces: part 2

The litter biologist, on her hands and knees in the tropical litter, dips low and smells the moist spicy funk of good rot*.  She sees a mosaic of five or six species of leaves, some rounded, some crenulated, in shades…

A chaos of surfaces: part 1

We humans are blessed with huge brains. Those brains are plugged into a handful of sensor arrays–ears, noses, and eyes–which stream gigabytes of information. All of this exists in a platform about (in my case) five and half feet off…

Potassium as a game-changer in prairie food webs

This study suggests why the K and Na in urine may reveal a plant’s hidden super-power in its battle against herbivores.

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All that is green is not nutritious or, The importance of peeing earnestly

The quality of urine is not strain’d
It droppeth as the gentle rain from bison on the lawn beneath.

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Bite by bite: why North American herbivores confront such a variable diet

As you travel across North America, grasslands are everywhere, from roadside strips to boundless open prairie. It is easy think of acres of grass and forbs (flowering herbs) as just mouthfuls of forage for local herbivores. Give me a moment…

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