A comparative population ecologist joins the Department of Zoology and Pembroke College

Demography is the study of populations’ structure and the dynamics of individual contributions to a population. It is a powerful discipline to explore the drivers of species’ extinctions, invasions, and many other current global challenges. My research explores the universal rules (and exceptions) that allow species to persist under variable environments.

I’ve been with the Department of Zoology as a NERC Independent Research Fellow since May 2017. I’m delighted to have recently accepted an Associate Professorship in Ecology at the Department of Zoology and a Tutorial Fellowship at Pembroke College, starting September 2018.

Born and raised in Southern Spain, I cultivated a fascination for arid ecosystems from an early age. I have been, and remain, puzzled by how life not just persists but often thrives under harsh conditions. Understanding the key strategies that allow for its persistence is particularly important in the light of climate change.

One of my main research interests lies in the search for ecological and evolutionary generalities in life history strategy amongst plants and animals. During my postdoctoral research at the Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research, I co-developed the COMPADRE Plant Matrix Database and the COMADRE Animal Matrix Database. These repositories are open-access databases (www.compadre-db.org) that contain high-resolution demographic, biogeographic, ecological and phylogenetic information for hundreds of organisms around the globe.

The SalGo Team is currently focused on further examining the mechanisms that result in diversification of life history strategies, and identifying the life history strategies that are most/least resilient to environmental change. Through examining population ecology with COMPADRE and COMADRE, we have pointed out some strong taxonomic and biogeographic sampling biases. To that end, the SalGo Team examines ‘odd’ life histories such as plants that behave like animals (carnivorous or parasitic plants), animals that demographically behave like plants (corals, sponges), or organisms that display extreme investments in reproduction (orchids), or longevity (albatross).

I am very excited to continue my association with the University of Oxford through this new position. My time here thus far has been most intellectually rewarding, and I am looking forward building further interdisciplinary collaborations across Zoology, Plant Sciences, Geography, the Institute for Population Ageing, and the Oxford Big Data Institute, among others.