Dr Alicia Montesinos is a post-doctoral researcher within the Biodiversa ‘QuerCom’ project (project ‘European Conservation for the 21st Century’). Alicia is based at the Centre for Ecology and Conservation in the University of Exeter.
In her own words:
I am mainly interested in understanding the assembly rules structuring natural communities and its implications in ecosystem functioning. I have explored the role of multi-guild biotic interactions (above and below ground) structuring plant communities combining different tools and approaches. I have used molecular techniques and traced stable isotopes in field experiments to elucidate the mechanisms underlying plant-plant interactions and I have applied analytical tools such as structural equation models, ecological network analyses and community phylogenetic structure metrics in order to approach my research questions.
During my PhD. I approached the effect of abiotic factors on the distribution of ecologically relevant plant traits using the plant model species Arabidopsis thaliana to study the process of life-cycle divergence of winter and spring annuals along a climatic gradient. The accomplishment of my project provided information about the distribution of natural genetic variation in natural environments along a climatic gradient, allowing linking molecular changes associated to specific traits with the environments in which those changes have occurred. In my first postdoctoral position I shift to study the role of biotic interactions in plant community assembly rules exploring the importance of plant-microorganism interactions as a mechanism underlying plant-plant facilitation and ultimately influencing plant community structure. I used complex network theory to test if plant-fungal mutualistic interactions present similar network characteristics than other mutualistic networks, and explored the phylogenetic patterns structuring biotic interactions and its effects on soil microbial productivity.
Nowadays I am starting a second postdoc in which I would explore the effects of climate change on plant community dynamics in the Iberian Peninsula. I will use plant co-occurrence data and Bayesian network inference to elucidate positive and negative plant-plant interactions across a climatic gradient at a regional scale. This will allow relating plant species ecological roles, such as nurses, facilitated, or competitors, with functional traits potentially defining these roles in the community and explore how both roles and traits shift across different climatic environments.
You can contact Alicia at: