School of Biological Sciences

Prof Phil Lester

Insect Ecology
School of Biological Sciences

Phone: 04 463 5096
Location: Room 516A, New Kirk Building, Kelburn Pde, Kelburn Campus

Prof Phil Lester

Research Projects

I have several research themes with an overall research focus in community ecology. I examine how species co-exist and co-occur, and the influence of invasive species on co-existence patterns and communities.

A key topic is how subordinate species manage to co-occur with dominant taxa. I integrate a range of techniques including advanced statistical procedures, isotopes and molecular genetic analyses. The primary group of organisms I work with are ants, but I supervise students in an array of different study systems including communities of deep sea fish.

Key themes or areas of focus for my research are:

(1) How native ants coexist with invasive wasps in beach forests. This research is funded by an RSNZ Marsden Fund Grant.

(2) A second major research direction investigates how genetic diversity influencing invasion success in ant populations, involving a collaborating with Australian CSIRO scientists. This work is jointly funded by Australian organizations and NZ. It's an exciting project because we are using next generation genetic sequencing technology to look specifically at genes likely to be under natural selection in biological invasions.

(3) A third project theme examines how competition can structure communities. Examples of this work include the publications in Oecologia and BMC Ecology cited below.

Visit the Invasive Species web page.

Selected Publications

Roura-Pascual N, Huia C, Ikeda T, Leday G, Richardson DM, Carpintero S, Espadaler X, Gómez C, Guénard B, Hartley S, Krushelnycky P, Lester PJ,  McGeoch MA, Menke SB, Pedersen JS, Pitt JPW, Reyes J, Sanders NJ,  Suarez AV, Touyama Y, Ward D, Ward PS & Worner SP. 2011. Relative roles of climatic suitability and anthropogenic influence in determining the pattern of spread in a global invader. PNAS 108: 220–225.

Lester PJ, Stringer LD & Haywood J. 2010. The role of resource dispersion in promoting the co-occurrence of dominant and subordinate ant species. Oikos 119: 659–668.

Hartley S, Krushelnycky PD & Lester PJ. 2010. Integrating physiology, population dynamics and climate to make multi-scale predictions for the spread of an invasive insect: the Argentine ant at Haleakala National Park, Hawaii. Ecography 33: 83–94.

Lester PJ, Abbott KL, Sarty M & Burns KC. 2009. Competitive assembly of South Pacific invasive ant communities. BMC Ecology  9: 3.

Sagata K & Lester PJ. 2009. Behavioural plasticity associated with propagule size, resources, and the invasion success of the Argentine ant Linepithema humile. Journal of Applied Ecology 46: 19–27.  

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