2017 Second Century Stewardship Fellow Alessio Mortelliti, University of Maine assistant professor of wildlife habitat conservation, has been awarded an $875,000 National Science Foundation CAREER Award to study the ecosystem consequences of small animal personalities.
According to Mortelliti, most classical ecological models consider all members of a population to be more or less identical. However, each individual is unique and has its own personality, and previous work by Mortelliti and his graduate students has shown, as an example, that each individual can have a differential impact on the ecosystem. He plans to focus instead on the specific traits of individuals rather than using average values for a whole species, and find out how those traits and their expressions influence population trends and ecosystem processes like forest regeneration.
Mortelliti will investigate how individual variation in personality of small mammals affects population, community and ecosystem dynamics. This individual variation also could impact the response of populations and communities to land use and climate change.
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