Dr. Crutsinger, Assistant Professor with the Department of Zoology, is a community ecologist and studies the links between hierarchies of biological diversity from genes to ecosystems. He finished his Bachelors in Science in 2003 in the redwoods of northern California at Humboldt State University. Afterwards, he pursed a PhD in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, finishing in 2009. He was then a postdoctoral fellow at the Miller Institute for Basic Research in Science at the University of California, Berkeley before joining the Zoology faculty at UBC in 2011.
Much of the conceptual basis of his work stems from hallmark studies on the importance of biodiversity for the functioning of ecosystems, as well as work in ecological genetics. His research program uses a combination of common garden experiments, broad-scale observational studies, null models, and molecular tools and spans a diverse array of organisms from plants to insects to microbes.
Primary Recipient Awards
Large mammalian herbivores are key players in driving ecosystems in East Africa. As a result, evaluating the ecological consequences of herbivores is critical for understanding the dynamics of contemporary grasslands, savannas, and woodlands where these fauna still occur. Moreover, given severe population declines and extirpation of local mammal populations(particularly elephants), as well as the hyper-abundance in others, the study of the community and ecosystem impacts of large mammals is key for making informed management decisions in protected areas and multiuse landscapes.
In collaboration with the Mpala researchers, Dr. Crutsinger will test a series of direct and indirect effects of excluding the herbivore community on the diversity and structure of the plant community, associated food webs of invertebrates, and ecosystem processes. This research will be conducted at the Mpala Research Centre, part of a private conservancy in Laikipia District in north central Kenya, just north of the equator. Twenty-two species of native large herbivores occur at Mpala. Elephants, zebra, impala, and dik-dik, collectively account for >75% of herbivore biomass. There is also diverse carnivore community, including leopards, hyenas, and wild dogs.
This work will lay the groundwork for long-term collaborations with an international contingent of academic researchers, students, and local field assistants in East Africa. Moreover, it will support an exciting new framework of engagement between UBC and Mpala Research Centre.