Species Distribution The main question in my group is: how to calculate the distribution of a species and what factors determine it. We do this by a variety of methods that include niche modeling, remote sensing, and population ecology modeling.

Understanding areas of distribution

Areas of distribution are the results of several processes like dispersal, phyisiological tolerances, interactions with other species, habitat preferences, and evolution. Our approach is based on a mechanistic understanding of these processes: how they are likely to affect the presence of a species in some place, and how they change.

Above I stated a set of mathematical equations that capture parts of this. There are equations for every species and for every cell in a grid, and there are three terms, the first, the intrinsic growth rate is dominated by climate. The second represents the interactions and the density-dependent intraspecific competition, and the third the movements among cells in the grid.

See Soberón, J. Niche and area of distribution modeling: a population ecology perspective. Ecography 33, 159-167 (2010). Read more...

Integrating Distributions and Morphology

In collaboration with my former Posdoctoral associate, David Martinez, we have been investigating the relationship between different "dimensions of biodiversity" and how to integrate them in a coherent view. This is also the subject of the ARBOR NSF grant. Below there is an image of the environmental and morphological occupied space of three species of Neotoma rats.  The environmental "niche" appears more conserved than the morphological niche.

See Soberón, J., and D. Martínez-Gordillo. 2012. Occupation of environmental and morphological space: climatic niche and skull shape in Neotoma woodrats. Evolutionary Ecology Research 14:503-517

Use of niche models in invasive species risk assessment

In the book Ecological Niches and Geographic Distributions (Peterson et al, 2011, Princeton University Press) we develop this theme, showing how extremely useful niche modelling can be to transfer predictions in space.

My group has studied invasions by insects, mostly (the Cactus moth and the Ambrosia bark beetle) but we participate in the policy decisions on invasive species mostly advisong the Government of Mexico.