Celina Baines

MSc Student (2012-2014)
Research Interests  My work focuses on the dispersal of individuals between patches of suitable habitat. Specifically, I use field experiments to study the movement of aquatic insects among ponds. My past work has investigated the factors that affect dispersal rates. One such factor is predation risk. Many studies have identified predation risk as a force driving dispersal in various systems. In a recent experiment I performed on backswimmers (an aquatic insect), I found that the risk of predation affected dispersal out of artificial ponds, but that this factor interacts with another factor that naturally varies among ponds: backswimmer density. This suggests that we cannot understand the influence predation risk has on dispersal without considering the effect of prey density. In addition to investigating the proximate causes of dispersal, I intend to also investigate the ultimate causes – why have organisms evolved and maintained the ability to disperse between habitat patches? There is a fitness trade-off  associated with dispersal. Individuals must choose between remaining in a stressful pond, and emigrating on the chance of finding a new, more suitable pond. This trade-off may depend on well-studied factors such as predation risk, but also on factors such as individual genotype and condition. Furthermore, if dispersers differ from non-dispersers in genotype and condition, this may have repercussions on metacommunity characteristics like persistence and community assembly. I intend to investigate these questions for my Master’s thesis.