My research interests are focused on the ecological and evolutionary processes that drive spatial patterns of biological diversity. I am interested in a broad range of research questions aimed at understanding the basis of relationships between species across linked trophic levels. My ultimate goal is to conduct research that translates to applicable knowledge for conserving biodiversity in coupled human-natural systems. My research training and expertise includes landscape ecology, landscape genetics, phylogenetics, and bioinformatics.
Generating useful heuristics for conservation management requires integration of complex environmental and demographic parameters across multiple trophic levels and spatial scales. My research to date has focused on specialist insects in simple plant-herbivore-parasitoid communties as exemplars for investigating the impacts of urban and agricultural land use on trophic interactions, community assembly processes, and gene flow. My results have shown that urban landcover is associated with weakened trophic interactions, altered community assembly regimes, and restricted gene flow relative to that observed in regional agricultural landcover. Comparisons between closely related plant-herbivore-parasitoid communities reveal important differences in community assembly regimes related to spatiotemporal patterns of population stability and persistence. These differences underline the importance of integrating life history and demographic traits in a spatially explicit framework for understanding metacommunity dynamics in human-altered landscapes.
Nelson AE. 2015. Phylogeography and landscape genetics. In Richardson, D., Liu, W., and Pratt, G. (eds.) The Wiley-AAG International Encyclopedia of Geography: People, the Earth, Environment, and Technology, in press.
Nelson AE, Forbes AA. 2014. Urban land use decouples plant-herbivore-parasitoid interactions at multiple spatial scales. PLoS ONE. 9(7):e102127.
Forbes AA, Satar S, Hamerlinck G, Nelson AE, Smith JJ. 2012. DNA Barcodes and targeted sampling methods identify a new species and cryptic patterns of host specialization among North American Coptera (Hymenoptera: Diapriidae). Ann Entomol Soc Am. 105:608-612.
Nelson AE, Neiman M. 2011. Persistent copulation in asexual female Potamopyrgus antipodarum: evidence for male control with size-based preferences. Int J Evol Biol e439046.