I am beyond thrilled to finally share the news that I have been awarded an ERC Starting grant for studying how plant-pollinator interaction networks and floral traits change along elevational gradients across the tropics. The goal of my project MountBuzz is to test whether there are genrealizable patterns of pollinator turnovers and mating strategies across tropical mountain systems, and whether lineages repeatedly evolved floral phenotypes that are particularly “fit” (in terms of reproductive success) under differing abiotic (climatic) and biotic (other co-flowering plants and their pollinators) conditions.
My project MountBuzz will feature the plant family Melastomataceae as model system, with a main focus on the more than 5000 species in the family which are buzz-pollinated by bees. At the higehst elevations, we will also encounter Melastomataceae species which have shifted to vertebrate pollinators or generalist pollination systems. We will work along four elevational gradients (Borneo, Brazil, Costa Rica, Madagascar) in diverse teams including researchers from across the world, with particular emphasis on including local students at each gradient. In the second phase of the project, we will link the extensive field data on plant-polliantor interactions and reproductive strategies to machine-learning based predictive modelling and comparative phylogenetic analyses to explore whether the patterns we detect at each gradient are generalizable, and whether we find consistent evolutionary pathways across the family driven by the interplay of abiotic and biotic contexts.
Read more about the project here. The project will officially start on October 1st 2024, and I will be looking for two PhD students and local students interested in joining our project for fieldwork in early 2024! 🙂 Feel free to reach out if you want to get involved!