Research Interests

The Buckley lab combines modelling, field and lab collection of ecological and physiological data, and ecoinformatics to examine how biology (morphology, physiology, and life history) determines an organism’s response to environmental change. While we continue to work on reptiles and amphibians, several recently launched projects focus on montane butterflies and grasshoppers in Colorado as they offer excellent historical records.

One focus is developing mechanistic models of species distributions that scale from individual foraging energetics to population and community dynamics. Ongoing research aims to extend the models to consider the range implications of geographic trait variation, evolution, and biotic constraints. We are testing the models by hindcasting past distribution and abundance changes. Field and lab work to document ecology and physiology is employed to parameterize and test the models.

Additional research uses ecoinformatic analyses to generalize understanding of how physiology constrains broad-scale patterns of abundance, diversity, and species turnover. We are examining the broad-scale implications of differences in physiology between ectotherms and endotherms.

Research projects

Incorporating biotic constraints in mechanistic range models

Mechanistic range models enable incorporating biotic constraints on species ranges such as trait evolution, species interactions, and dispersal limitations. Much of this work started in a joint NCEAS and NESCent working group (PIs: M. Angilletta, L. Buckley, R. Holt, and J. Tewsbury) that is bringing together ecologists, evolutionary biologists, phylogeographers, and physiologists to extend mechanistic range models to include these biotic constraints. We have been comparing the performance of correlative and mechanistic range models; examining how life history influences range shifts; developing a framework for understanding how species interactions will influence responses to climate change; comparing northern and southern constraints on species’ ranges; and modeling the evolution of thermal performance curves along environmental gradients.

Range implications of physiological variation in fence lizards (Sceloporus undulatus)

We (with Mike Angilletta, Arizona State, and Tim Keitt, UT Austin) are examining thermal tolerances and metabolic and assimilation rates across the life stages of S. undulatus populations distributed across the US to understand how local adaptation shapes the current range structure and potential future responses to climate change. (Funded by NSF Macrosystems and DOE NICCR)

Phenotype-based ecological forecasting for Colias butterflies

coliasWe (with Joel Kingsolver and graduate students Heidi MacLean and Jessica Higgins, UNC) are using historic data on species’ traits from museum specimens (0-100ya) and performance from lab and field studies (30-50ya) to assess phenotypic shifts for Rocky Mountain Colias and their influence on responses to recent climate changes. These studies will inform models for forecasting the demographic implications of phenotypic evolution in responses to climate change. (Funded by NSF DEB)

Ecological forecasting for grasshopper communities

We (with Kingsolver and Cesar Nufio, CU Boulder) are working on a complementary resurvey project examining shifts in traits, phenology, abundance, and performance of grasshoppers along a Rocky Mountain elevation gradient (since initial surveys and specimen collection from 1930-1960) in response to recent climate change. The project will enable ecological forecasting in a community context. More details from CU Boulder.

Broad-scale implications of physiology

Another area of research examines how the evolution of physiological traits constrains broad-scale patterns of abundance, diversity, and species turnover. Past research (with Walter Jetz, Yale) examined environmental and historical constraints on global patterns of amphibian richness, ecological and energetic constraints on reptile abundance, and lizard community structure. We have also investigated the link between environmental and species’ turnover for birds and amphibians. Recent research (with Jonathan Davies, McGill) takes advantage of the complete phylogeny and distribution maps for mammals to address how the conservation of their environmental niches influences diversity patterns.