Doctoral Dissertations

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Ecology and Evolutionary Biology

Major Professor

Nathan J. Sanders

Committee Members

Dr Daniel Simberloff, Dr James Fordyce, Dr Jennifer Schweitzer, Dr Michael McKinney


Understanding what drives variation in species diversity in space and time and limits coexistence in local communities is a main focus of community ecology and biogeography. My doctoral work aims to document patterns of ant diversity and explore the possible ecological mechanisms leading to these patterns. Elucidating the processes by which communities assemble and species coexist might help explain spatial variation in species diversity. Using a combination of manipulative experiments, broad-scale surveys, behavioral assays and phylogenetic analyses, I examine which ecological processes account for the number of species coexisting in ant communities. Ants are found in most terrestrial habitats, where they are abundant, diverse and easy to sample (Agosti et al. 2000). Hölldobler and Wilson (1990) noted that competition was the hallmark of ant ecology, and we know that ant diversity varies along environmental gradients (Kusnezov 1957). Thus ants are an ideal taxon to examine the factors shaping the structure of ecological communities and how the determinants of community structure vary in space.


Here is the final version. JP Lessard

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