Biology Education

Department of Biology | Lund University

Do co-flowering plants interact through shared pollinators?

Research group: Evolutionary Ecology of Plant-Insect Interactions

Subject field: Community ecology, Evolutionary ecology

Supervisor: Dr. Øystein H. Opedal, Associate Senior Lecturer, Biodiversity Unit

Level: MSc

Duration: Preferably 60 credits, 45 and 30 credits also possible

Starting date: As soon as possible, latest May 2020 (fieldwork spring-summer 2020)

Qualifications: A genuine interest in the evolutionary ecology of plant-animal interactions. Willingness to work for several weeks to months in the field.

Summary: This project will focus on interactions among coflowering plants that share pollinators, which may range from competitive to facilitative. We will set up a network of plots in the field, and the student will collect data on pollinator visitation, floral traits, and seed set. Data analyses in R will involve state-of-the-art methods in community ecology. The student will have the chance to learn field and analytical methods for studying plant-pollinator interactions.

Project description: Variation in pollinator visitation can directly affect plant fitness, and access to pollination services can be seen as a limiting resource for animal-pollinated plants. Understanding the role of pollinators in community assembly and species coexistence is key to predicting the consequences of ongoing changes in biotic communities, including the impact of species invasions and declines in pollinator populations. In this project, we will study interactions among coflowering plants that share pollinators. Coflowering plants that are attractive to pollinators may have negative effects on their neighbours by drawing away pollinators, but high diversity of flowering plants may also increase the overall visitation rate to all species (facilitation). To study these processes, we will set up a network of plots containing several coflowering species. We will monitor pollinator visitation to each species in each plot, measure floral traits involved in pollinator attraction (e.g. plant size, corolla diameter, nectar volume), and record seed set of focal individuals. The student will therefore have the possibility to learn relevant methods for studying plant-pollinator interactions in the field. We will analyse these data using state-of-the-art statistical approaches, and the student(s) will also acquire analytical skills. Field work will take place in southern Sweden, likely on Öland.

Contact: Dr. Øystein Opedal, Ecology Building, room 320 (3rd floor).

February 5, 2020

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