Dispersal and metacommunity diversity. Many species live in patchy environments (metacommunities) such as ponds, islands or plants with clumped distributions. Dispersal between these habitat patches can strongly influence the coexistence of the species that inhabit them. I’m interested in the processes through which dispersal shapes diversity, the methods that we use to test this, and the role that local species interactions play in mediating the effect of dispersal. I’m exploring these ideas through several projects, including an opinion paper and empirical work in aspen and milkweed metacommunities. See Grainger et al. (2017) EcologyGrainger and Gilbert (2016) Oikos and Jones et al. (2015) Journal of Ecology

Looking for insects in a milkweed patch
Looking for insects in a milkweed patch (Koffler Scientific Reserve)
metacommunity 2
Aspen stands in Lac du Bois Provincial Park







Local and regional impacts of climate change. Although there is evidence that warming can alter both local species interactions (within habitat patches) and dispersal rates (between habitat patches), the combined impacts of warming on these two processes remains unknown. I’m using a field experiment with warmed milkweed metacommunities to determine how warming-induced changes in both local competitive interactions and dispersal scale up to affect metacommunity diversity. In another experiment, I warmed and manipulated the arrival time of competing aphid species that specialize on milkweed and found that warming can increase the importance of arrival order at local patches by changing the strength of plant-herbivore interactions. See Grainger and Gilbert (in press) Global Change Biology.

Growth chamber set-up
Warming aphids on milkweed plants in the growth chamber (U of T)
Field experiment with warmed metacommunities (Koffler Scientific Reserve)



Consequences of long-term nutrient enrichment. Eutrophication through increased nitrogen input is a major global driver of environmental change that has the potential to alter ecological communities worldwide. For my master’s research I worked with Roy Turkington at UBC using his long-term fertilizer plots in the Yukon to determine how increased nutrients alters understory plant communities. I looked at why some species are more successful than others under nutrient-enriched conditions, and how increased nitrogen changes the reproductive ecology of understory plants. See Grainger and Turkington (2013) PLoS ONE and Grainger and Turkington (2013) Plant Ecology

Fertilized plot overgrown with fireweed
Measuring plant traits in the Yukon
Measuring plant traits in the Yukon (Kluane Lake Research Station)