Jennifer  Howeth

Associate Professor


Education

  • Ph.D., Ecology, Evolution, and Behavior, University of Texas at Austin, 2008
  • Postdoctoral research: Yale University and the University of Notre Dame

Research Interests

My research laboratory integrates population, community, and ecosystem-level processes across scales to understand determinants of species diversity and ecosystem properties. Recently, the importance of space in mediating population connectivity and local species interactions has become increasingly recognized by ecologists, evolutionary biologists, and conservation biologists. This interest in spatial ecology has largely arisen from the urgent need to understand how fragmented landscapes alter dispersal and gene flow of threatened species, and how species invasions affect species richness and ecosystem functioning. Over the past decade, the metapopulation and metacommunity concepts have emerged as powerful frameworks in which to place population demography, species interactions, and ecosystem properties in a spatial framework. Currently, my research lab extends and tests these concepts to address species invasions and the role of succession. In our work, we employ experimental, observational, and synthetic approaches guided by ecological theory, with an emphasis on studies in aquatic ecosystems.

 

Research in my lab addresses both basic and applied ecology and currently follows two main themes:

 

Patterns and processes of biological invasions across scales

Our basic research synthesizes invasion biology and metacommunity ecology to address the interaction of local and landscape scale processes that underlie invasion success. This work employs mesocosm experiments (at the UA Indoor Mesocosm Facility and the UA Tanglewood Biological Station; https://tanglewood.ua.edu/) and observational studies of zooplankton and their predators. The associated applied research uses invasive species (fishes, mussels) to take a trait-based approach towards understanding invasion through the development of ecological risk assessments. This integrative science has applications to community ecology theory, management practices, and environmental policy.

 

Drivers of species and trait diversity in successional metacommunity mosaics

Although metacommunity theory can successfully predict empirical patterns of species diversity at multiple spatial scales, the role of succession in structuring species and trait diversity within metacommunities has largely been ignored. Our research incorporates succession into metacommunity ecology by addressing the relative importance of local and regional processes in shaping species richness, trait composition, and food webs in habitat mosaics undergoing patchy disturbance. Currently, we leverage replicated mosaics of beaver-constructed ponds of different ages and their associated pond and stream communities to explore drivers of diversity across spatial and temporal scales.

 

 

Howeth Lab Research Composite (clockwise from top left): A) Sampling for Daphnia lumholtzi in a quagga mussel invaded California reservoir; B) indoor mesocosm experiment at the UA Indoor Mesocosm Facility; C) outdoor mesocosm experiment at the UA Tanglewood Biological Station; and D) 60 year old beaver pond in the Talladega National Forest, Alabama.

Selected Publications

King, G. E. and J. G. Howeth. 2019. Propagule pressure and native community connectivity interact to influence invasion success in metacommunities. Oikos doi:10.1111/oik.06354

 

Howeth, J. G. 2017. Native species dispersal reduces community invasibility by increasing species richness and biotic resistance. Journal of Animal Ecology 86: 1380-1393.

 

Howeth, J. G., Gantz, C. A., Angermeier, P. L., Frimpong, E. A., Hoff, M., Keller, R. P., Mandrak, N. E., Marchetti, M. P., Olden, J. D., C. M. Romagosa, and D. M. Lodge. 2016. Predicting invasiveness of species in trade: climate match, trophic guild, and fecundity influence establishment and impact of non-native freshwater fishes. Diversity and Distributions 22: 148-160.

 

Howeth, J. G., Weis, J. J., Brodersen, J., Hatton, E. C. and D. M. Post. 2013. Intraspecific phenotypic variation in a fish predator affects multitrophic lake metacommunity structure.  Ecology and Evolution 3: 5031-5044.

 

Howeth, J. G. and M. A. Leibold.  2013. Predation inhibits the positive effect of dispersal on intraspecific and interspecific synchrony in pond metacommunities.  Ecology 94: 2220-2228.

 

Howeth, J. G. and M. A. Leibold. 2010. Species dispersal rates alter diversity and  ecosystem stability in pond metacommunities.  Ecology 91: 2727-2741.

 

Howeth, J. G. and M. A. Leibold. 2010. Prey dispersal rate affects prey species composition and trait diversity in response to multiple predators in metacommunities.  Journal of Animal Ecology 79: 1000-1011.

 

Howeth, J. G., Derry A. M. and A. M. Reitzel. 2010. Metacommunity biology as an eco-evolutionary framework for understanding exotic invasion in aquatic ecosystems. p. 93-109. In: P.F. Kemp [ed.], Eco-DAS VIII Symposium Proceedings, American Society of Limnology and Oceanography.

 

Howeth, J. G. and M. A. Leibold. 2008. Planktonic dispersal dampens temporal trophic cascades in pond metacommunities.  Ecology Letters 11: 245-257.

 

Howeth, J. G., McGaugh, S. E. and D. A. Hendrickson. 2008. Contrasting demographic and genetic estimates of dispersal in the endangered Coahuilan box turtle:  A  contemporary approach to conservation.  Molecular Ecology 17: 4209-4221.