Professor & Director, SEOE
School of the Earth, Ocean & Environment
We focus on evolutionary, functional and behavioral ecology, with applications to conservation and environmental issues. The major question is how environmental change and variation affect life history traits, population structure and dynamics, and species interactions over ecological and evolutionary time. Environments vary on multiple spatial and temporal scales. Additionally, both the abiotic and biotic components of the environment may vary, for example in cases of species' invasions.
We use Lepidoptera as a test system to examine these questions. Currently, I and my students are pursuing projects within three broad areas:
1. The physiological, ecological and evolutionary dynamics of resource allocation.
Allocation of resources is the crucial step connecting foraging and life history traits such as reproduction, survival, storage and growth. As an additional complication in Lepidoptera, females use male nuptial gifts (spermatophores) for maintenance and egg production, linking the allocation budgets of the two sexes. Changes in resource allocation in response to environmental variation thus affect the expression and evolution of life history strategies and mating systems. These in turn determine population dynamics and limits to a species’ range through effects on individual fitness. We are currently examining responses to adult and larval nutrient stress, and flight stress, both in the lab and the field.
Boggs, C.L. and Niitepold, K. 2014. Insights from stable isotope tracers on reproductive allocation under stress. Integrative and Comparative Biology 54:880-889.
Boggs, C.L. and Inouye, D.W. 2012. A single climate driver has direct and indirect effects on population dynamics. Ecology Letters 15:502-508.
Boggs, C.L. 2009. Understanding insect life histories and senescence through a resource allocation lens. Functional Ecology 23:27-37.
2 Invasion dynamics.
Our focus is on the ecological and evolutionary response of native species to introduced species. Non-native species invading a local community can intrude into coevolved interactions among native species, sometimes disrupting those relationships. We are using the native butterfly/ non-native host system of Pieris macdunnoughii / Thlaspi arvense to explore the ecological and evolutionary impacts of such events. Female P. macdunnoughii recognize T. arvense as a potential larval host and oviposit on it; however, resulting early instar larvae cannot develop on the plant, as the plant is apparently distasteful. Both European and North American T. arvense are readily eaten by European P. napi (Boggs & Wiklund, mss). Oviposition preference is affected by both environmental and sex-linked genetic factors (Boggs et al., mss). No detectable genetic variation for larval survival is present, although hybridization studies with European P. napi indicate that the trait is under autosomal genetic control (Boggs & Wiklund, mss). We are currently examining the role of patch size and distribution on the evo-ecological dynamics of this system and the apparent barriers to oviposition discrimination agains T. arvense.
Nakajima, M., Boggs, C.L., Bailey, S.-A., Reithel, J. & Paape, T. 2013. Fitness costs of butterfly oviposition on a lethal non-native plant in a mixed native and non-native plant community. Oecologia 172-823-832.
3. Ecology, evolution and genomics of small populations.
We are using an introduced butterfly population of Euphydryas gillettii in Colorado to address various questions in ecology and evolution. The population stayed at low numbers for over twenty-five generations after translocation, then underwent a population explosion followed by changes in population size of orders of magnitude from year to year. Additionally, the population has been completely isolated since its introduction, constituting a "Drosophila bottle population genetics experiment" in the wild. We recently discovered a discrete second population. We are currently working to understand the drivers of the population dynamics, and to answer the question of how much genetic variation is maintained by balancing selection in the wild.
McCoy, R.C., Garud, N.R., Kelley, J.L., Boggs, C.L. & Petrov, D.A. 2013. Genomic inference accurately predicts the timing and severity of a recent bottleneck in a non-model insect population. Molecular Ecology doi: 10.1111/mec.12591
Morris, W.F. et al. 2008. Longevity can buffer plant and animal populations against changing climatic uncertainty. Ecology 89:19-25.
Boggs, C.L., Holdren, C.E., Kulahci, I.G., Bonebrake, T., Inouye, B., Fay, J.P., McMillan, A., Williams, E.H. & Ehrlich, P.R. 2006. Delayed population explosion of an introduced butterfly. J. of Animal Ecology 75:466-475.