Photo by Christien Ziegler
Mike in his favorite habitat:
the litter of Barro Colorado Island, Panama.
In honor of the 50th anniversary of Robert MacArthur's "warbler paper", download an original, high-resolution artwork, by Deborah Kaspari.
Post-Docs: Join a vibrant lab in a growing program in Geographical Ecology.
Graduate students: We welcome folks who want to ask big questions by studying small critters. We currently have NSF and DOE funding to support exceptional graduate students.
Undergraduates: The AntLab has a long history of recruiting promising undergrads who work with us at international field sites and go on to earn Ph. D.s and Medical degrees.
Contact Mike at mkaspari dot ou dot edu
Welcome to the AntLab's home page
Folks in my lab generally have two research foci: the biogeogeography of soil food webs, and using ants as model organisms to ask a variety of questions in evolutionary and ecosystem ecology.
Biogoegraphy of Brown Food Web (BFWs)
Most of the plant production in the world's forests falls uneaten to the forest floor, where it feeds the microbes and invertebrates of the brown food web.The BFW is home to 60% of terrestrial biodiversity, and along with plant production, regulates the carbon cycle and hence the world's climate. But unlike photosynthesis, which is reasonably well understood, the decomposition side of things better resembles a "rugby scrum", with millions of individuals and thousands of species in a m square all competing, eating, cooperating, and cheating each other. Every part and process of the BFW—decomposition rates, nutrient availability, biomass and abundance--varies 10 to 100-fold at grains of 1 square meter, so there is a lot to explain. We use a variety of theory--metabolic, trophic, stoichiometric, and aggregative--to search for general mechanisms underlying global ecological patterns. Our goal is to generate better tools for conservation of brown food webs, and prediction of future climate.
Ants as Model Organisms.
We focus on the behavior, function, diversity, and biogeography of soil arthropods with a particular fondness for ants. Ants have all the features an ecologist would wish in a model taxon: they are common and important, they are taxonomically and ecologically diverse, and nests generally stay put so we can watch them. Recent work has focused on the evolution of functional traits, their role in organizing communities, and the importance of alates to the life history of an ant colony.
See our Research Pages for more details.