The McCluney Lab focuses on effects of environmental variation (natural or anthropogenic) on animal ecology. We integrate physiological and ecological approaches to understand the dynamics of populations, communities, and ecosystems, with a focus on aquatic, riparian, and terrestrial and urban environments across the US. Our work investigates basic ecological questions that have importance for achieving sustainable environmental management in a changing world.

Our key research areas include:

1. Ecological Implications of Animal Water Balance (Water Webs)

What drives trophic interactions and food web dynamics? Energy is often assumed to be the most important ecological currency underlying these relationships. However, we have shown that spiders and crickets will “drink” their food under dry conditions, consuming large amounts in order to meet water requirements rather than energy or nutrients. These water-related changes in trophic interactions can drive trophic cascades. More generally, we are developing a framework for understanding the direct and indirect effects of animal water balance (sources and losses) on trophic interactions and food webs (which we have termed “water webs“). More recently we have been considering this topic simultaneously with interacting factors such as energy balance and demand for specific macronutrients.

2. Water Quantity and Quality Effects on Aquatic-Terrestrial Linkages

How do environmental changes in one ecosystem spill over into adjacent ecosystems? Several decades of work have explored these varied connections, but many unexplored questions remain. In particular, research on effects of changes in water quantity and quality have only recently been explored. We have shown strong effects of river drying on streamside animals and complex effects of trace chemicals (e.g. caffeine) on stream biofilms and emergent insects. Additionally, we are exploring how agricultural ditch management influences both aquatic and terrestrial processes in ways that may alter nutrient cycling and biocontrol. Combined with work focusing on tracing nutrient sources using isotopes, we are helping to understand and reduce nutrient fluxes from farms, to watersheds, to lakes. At the lakeshore, we are investigating the effects of cyanobacterial algal blooms on shore food webs.

3. Urbanization and Climate Change

How does rapid global change influence ecological communities and food webs? We focus on two related types of global change: urbanization and climate change. People are increasingly moving to cities and altering those environments. Cities in mesic regions become warmer and drier in ways that can mimic the projected effects of climate change. On the other hand, parts of cities in xeric regions can become wetter and sometimes cooler. We are studying how alteration of environmental factors in cities influences animal ecology in ways that may indicate potential effects of climate change. For instance, we have shown that urban arthropod water content varies within and between cities and seasonally, influenced by temperature and soil moisture and that this variation in water content alters communities. Recent work on urban bees has documented the relative susceptibility of different bee taxa to desiccation vs overheating associated with urban warming. In general, our research aims to inform management decisions in cities that could maximize ecosystem services and minimize disservices in the places where most people now live. This research focal area is strongly linked with our research on water webs (see #1 above).

4. Understanding Ecological Fluctuations at Multiple Scales

What controls fluctuations in ecological systems across spatial scales? This is a fundamental question in ecology with important consequences for species conservation, pest management, and the delivery of ecosystem services. We are investigating the network of mechanisms controlling ecological fluctuations across spatial scales, study systems, and levels of organization.

MS and PhD student positions are available!

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McCluney Lab
Kevin McCluney
Bowling Green State University

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