Modeling and Computation Seminar
Effects of Parasites on the Structure and Dynamics of Food Webs
The structure of food webs (who eats whom in an ecosystem) has been well studied over the last 30 years. More recently, computers have developed to the point that ecologists are now able to model the interactions of many different species with complicated systems of nonlinear differential equations. This body of work has established that consumer-resource body size ratios greater than one (big things eat smaller things) promote stability in these dynamical models. However, existing models primarily model classic trophic consumption. Parasite species (small things that eat bigger things) do not comfortably fit into the existing frameworks and many open questions remain about their structural roles in food webs, how to model them in existing dynamical framework, and how their inclusion impacts the stability of other taxa. This work is a step towards answering all three of these questions.