The Tewksbury Lab works a lot on the ecology, evolution, importance and conservation of plant-animal interactions. This work stretches from herbivory and seed predation to pollination and fruit-frugivore interactions. A large part of this research has focused on the adaptive significance of secondary metabolites in ripe fruit, and the ecological and evolutionary interplay between fruit and seed traits and microbial, invertebrate, and vertebrate consumers of the fruits. In this research, we have been using wild chiltepine peppers (Capsicum spp.) as model systems for this work in Bolivia, Arizona and Mexico. More info. A second major part of this research examines the impact of bird loss to tropical forests. Using inter-island experiments on Guam (which has lost vertually all of its birds due to the brown tree-snake) and three nearby islands with intact bird communities, we are examing the roles bird play as top-down controllers of insect herbivores and as seed dispersers for the majority of tropical tree species.
My lab has recently been working on a series of efforts to bring these first two interests together through an effort to understand the importance of landscape patterns (both human-caused and natural) on ecological processes such as seed dispersal and pollination. This work has led to the development of new tools to track rare dispersal events using stable isotopes, and the exploration of the importance of landscape context and interspecific plant neighborhoods on the dispersal and recruitment of seeds.