M.Sc. Zoology, University of British Columbia, 2012, B.Sc. Biological Sciences, University of Calgary, 2008
For my masters work I investigated the processes that maintain biodiversity and the consequences of biodiversity for ecosystem function. In particular, I used a moss-microarthropod ecosystem to investigate how dispersal rate interacts with disturbance synchrony to influence biodiversity and community resilience. My experiment sought to test the 'spatial insurance' hypothesis, which predicts that asynchronous disturbance and intermediate dispersal rates maintain maximal levels of biodiversity, community biomass and stability. I found that habitat corridors facilitated rescue effects that enhanced community recovery following disturbance at the patch scale. However, these rescue effects did not enhance regional diversity because connectivity also enhanced competition and predation. The strength of local regeneration and the timing of disturbance and dispersal had a strong influence on community recovery. This work provided an important test of ecological theory and contributed knowledge useful in landscape management for ecosystem services and conservation. The full write up is available online: https://circle.ubc.ca/bitstream/handle/2429/42894/ubc_2012_fall_meldrum_gennifer.pdf?sequence=1
During my masters I also participated in two collaborative experiments. One of these projects was completed with Jiichiro Yoshimoto and Youhua Chen and investigated the effect of regional biodiversity and landscape connectivity on soil microarthropod community resilience to drought disturbance. The other project examined the effect of drought disturbance on microarthropod dispersal across a concrete matrix using a custom video tracking system developed by Luke Moloney. This video system was also used for an educational art installation 'Mitey Media' that was presented at the Beaty Biodiversity museum in March 2012 (see http://beatymuseum.ubc.ca/blog/reflection-mitey-media for more information).
Over the course of these experiments, numeorus mite and collembola morphospecies were found that were not represented in the lab collection. Consequently, a major undertaking during my degree was to add the new species to the web database (http://www.zoology.ubc.ca/~srivast/mites/index.html). With the help of four undergraduate assistants I also refined the webpage to make identification by non-mite specialists faster and more accurate.