I am an NERC funded student in the Grantham Institute at Imperial College London undertaking a PhD. The project focuses on developing mechanistic models of global biodiversity to both improve the relevance of prediction they can make and to further understand the processes that distribute biodiversity today. I am under the supervision of James Rosindell (Imperial Collegel London) and the co-supervision of Andy Purvis (Natural History Museum).
Mechanistic models of biodiversity can help elucidate the mechanisms underlying biodiversity loss detailed by phenomenological models as well as make predictions of future losses enacted by multiple drivers in concert. However due to the complexity of the natural world, mechanistic models are necessarily abstracted. The Madingley model is a state-of-the-art global model but heterotrophic life is abstracted to functional groups, limiting its utility to policy makers and biodiversity researchers alike. This project will nest neutral simulations within each of these 19 functional groups as an ‘ecological currency exchange’ to move from generic organisms to spatially explicit species. Using published estimates of global richness, we will parameterise the per lineage speciation rate of the neutral simulations. Varying the relationship of speciation with size, metabolism and diet will allow us to explore the processes that distribute biodiversity. The results will be validated against the unique PREDICTS database of biodiversity surveys, assessing the fit of both the derived species richness and their relative abundance in our simulations. Initially the work will concentrate on terrestrial endotherms (i.e. birds and mammals) with a view to applying the techniques developed to explore the even greater, and largely undocumented, diversity of terrestrial ectotherms.