Professor Kim Cuddington carries out research in theoretical and population ecology. Her mathematical models have been used to predict how and when species become invasive as well as describe the role species play as ecosystem engineers.
Her research on the population dynamics of carp, a potentially devastating invasive fish poised to enter the Great Lakes, has grabbed international media attention. Her work also includes studies on the Emerald Ash Borer and the aquatic plant Spartina alterniflora, which alters tidal inundation in coastal regions where it grows.
- Theoretical and Population Ecology
- Environmental Biology
- Mathematical Modeling in Biology
Many important ecological relationships are non-trophic. For example, beavers build dams that determine the hydrology, species composition, and productivity of entire regions. However, almost all ecological theory regarding species interactions and population regulation ignores relations that occur via an abiotic medium. She is engaged in developing and parameterizing models of “ecosystem engineers” in an effort to establish the importance of this pervasive phenomena.
The prediction of which species will become invasive, and which will which will go extinct is hampered by the failure to recognize the importance the variation of environmental conditions and ecosystem engineering. Positive autocorrelation in factors such as temperature might lead to “runs” of good or bad conditions that determine establishment probabilities and spread rates. Moreover, some species may modify environmental conditions such that their success in increased. For example, the aquatic plant Spartina alterniflora alters current flow, sedimentation rates, and ultimately the tidal inudation height of those coastal regions where it occurs. She develops predictive tools of these phenemona and test them using laboratory populations, and field data.
Spatial structure in the environment, like the branching morphology of plants, may alter movement, predation, reproductive rates and ultimately, the dynamics, of predator-prey populations. The fundamental mechanism which causes these alterations appears to be the anomalously slow rates of displacement of randomly moving individuals in spatially complex environments. She's testing whether this "diffusion-limitation" mechanism occurs in a well-controlled, yet realistic experimental system with biological control implications (peas-aphids-insect predators). The work suggests that Prof. Cuddington and her group can design plants that optimise the ability of beneficial predators to control pests.
Philosophy of ecology
Professor Cuddington is interested in the role of metaphor and mathematics in shaping ideas about ecology. She also explores how theories change in the discipline, and what parsimony might mean in the context of ecological theory.
Professor Cuddington teaches both undergraduate and graduate courses. Course offerings have included
- BIOL 364 Mathematical Modeling in Biology
- BIOL 457 Analysis of Communities
- BIOL 458 Quantitative Ecology
- BIOL 499 Senior Honours Project
- BIOL 652 Advanced Ecology
- BIOL 690 Scientific Communication
Please see Dr. Kim Cuddington's Google Scholar profile for a current list of her peer-reviewed articles.
Awards and Distinctions
- 2002 Centre for Population Biology Postdoctoral Associate, UCDavis
- 2001 NSERC Postdoctoral Fellowship
- 1997 IODE War Memorial Fellowship
- 1994 NSERC Post-graduate Scholarship B
- 1991 NSERC Post-graduate Scholarship A
Professional Associations and Service
- Journal Editorship
- Associate Editor, Theoretical Ecology
- Associate Editor, Journal of Animal Ecology
- Professional Associations
- Society for Mathematical Biology
- International Society for the History, Philosophy and Social Science of Biology
- Ecological Society of America
The following news stories have featured Professor Cuddingtons's research:
- September 7, 2015 "Landmarking" study looks at where cool carp go to get hot dates - 90.5 WKAR Michigan
- September 28, 2013 Asian carp establishment in the Great Lakes Quirks and Quarks - CBC
- September 16, 2013 Asian carps establishment in the Great Lakes The Morning Show - CBC Kitchener
2001 MA Philosophy, University of Guelph
1999 PhD Zoology, University of Guelph
1993 MSc Biology, University of Calgary
1991 BSc Biology, University of Guelph