Dr Farnon Ellwood

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  • Qualifications:PhD(Cantab), FRGS, FRSB, PGCert HE
  • Position:Associate Professor of Conservation Science
  • Department:HAS - Applied Sciences
  • Telephone:+4411732 83543
  • Email:Farnon.Ellwood@uwe.ac.uk

About me

My overall aim is to understand how the evolutionary relationships of tropical arthropods affect their ecological interactions, between each other, and with the environment. Much of my work focuses on the inhabitants of bird’s nest ferns (the tropical epiphyte, Asplenium nidus). With friends, colleagues, my PhD students and a team of international collaborators, we are developing this plant into a general ecosystem model for answering community ecology's intricate and yet increasingly urgent questions. If this appeals to you then please do get in touch because I am always happy to speak to prospective PhD students and postdocs.

Selected publications:

  • Wang, X., Ellwood, M.D.F., Ai, D., Zhang, R. and Wang, G. (2017) Species abundance distributions as a proxy for the niche-neutrality continuum. Journal of Plant Ecology 1-8.
  • Ellwood, M.D.F., Blu​thgen, N., Fayle, T.M., Foster, W.A. & Menzel, F. (2016) Competition can lead to unexpected patterns in tropical ant communities. Acta Oecologica 75: 24-30.
  • Ellwood, M.D.F., Northfield, R.G.W., Mejia-Chang, M. and Griffiths, H. (2011) On the vapour trail of an atmospheric imprint in insects. Biology Letters 7: 601-604.
  • Ellwood, M.D.F., Manica, A. and Foster, W.A. (2009) Stochastic and deterministic processes jointly structure tropical arthropod communities. Ecology Letters 12: 277-284.
  • Ellwood, M.D.F. and Foster, W.A. (2004) Doubling the estimate of invertebrate biomass in a rainforest canopy. Nature 429: 549-551.​​

Area of expertise

Please refer to my group's webpage ellwoodlab.com for more details of my research, latest news, and a gallery showing who we are and what we do. A few of our questions are:

What is the relationship between biodiversity and ecosystem function?

In collaboration with the Eden Project in Cornwall, we are using bird's nest ferns as natural microcosms to test the relationship between invertebrate biodiversity and nutrient cycling in the suspended soils of rainforest canopies. This project encompasses Julian Donald's PhD research. After his first year in Eden, Julian will be conducting fieldwork at Danum Valley Field Centre in the rainforest of Borneo.

Can we measure the propensity of individuals to disperse?

Using the dispersal patterns of beetles among large (ca 200kg) ferns, Robin Hankin, Ted Harding and myself have developed a novel statistical measure for the 'propensity to disperse'. Using Bayesian inference, this statistic can be used to test for dispersal limitation, the cornerstone of Stephen Hubbell's unified neutral theory of biodiversity.

What is a species?

I am attempting to find specific traits which can align the ecology and evolutionary history of tropical insects. This is in collaboration with Joe Hoffman, Darren Mann and the International Barcode of Life project. Essentially, we are testing for signs of ecological equivalence versus niche partitioning at different levels of species relatedness. This work, which brings together phylogenetics, population dynamics and physiology, is possible only because of a previous collaboration with Howard Griffiths, in which we found a way of quantifying the abiotic niches of insects (Ellwood et al. 2011 Biology Letters above).


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