Skip to main content


IGERT trainee receives "Best Dissertation" award


Population Biology graduate student Jonah Piovia-Scott was selected for the 2011 UC Davis Merton Love Award for the Outstanding Dissertation in Ecology & Evolution. He will be giving the June 2nd seminar in the Ecology & Evolution seminar series on “The effects of seaweed subsidy on a terrestrial food web”.

Piovia Scott, a trainee in the NSF-funded Biological Invasions IGERT program, investigated species interactions, in particular the roles of disturbance, trait variation, and resource subsidies, using Bahamian ant-plant mutualisms as his model system. He found that predicting the impacts of large-scale environmental changes on simple food webs may not be straightforward. Piovia-Scott and colleagues Thomas Schoener and David Spiller added seaweed to a series of small islands in the Bahamas (to mimic deposition caused by hurricanes, overfishing, and eutrophication) and examined the impact on plants, the insects that feed on them, and the ants and lizards that prey upon the insects. Their work showed that environmental changes can restructure food web interactions in a way not predicted by studies of single-species responses or pairwise interactions. They conclude that to inform management and conservation decisions, it may be necessary to conduct experiments on a spatial scale large enough to capture community-wide dynamics. Their work appeared in the 28 January 2011 issue of Science.

Address Goals

Piovia-Scott’s research contributes to the basic science of community ecology and may inform management decisions about biological conservation. In addition, because global climate change impacts the temperature of ocean water and thus the frequency and intensity of hurricanes in the Caribbean, it also has implications for predicting the impacts of global climate change on island communities.

As a trainee in the Biological Invasions IGERT, Piovia-Scott worked with other students in his cohort to study invasive species in the horticulture and the aquarium industries (Burt et al. 2007, Biological Invasions; Chang et al. 2007, Biological Invasions). He also worked with staff from the California Department of Fish and Game to examine the spread and control of a fungal pathogen of amphibians in the mountains of northwest California.