Department Fish Ecology and Evolution

Theoretical evolutionary ecosystem ecology

This is a lab with the common thread of formalizing and testing models to advance ecology and evolution driven by the current massive amount of data collection and storage.
Research questions generally focus in the integration of highly heterogeneous data at different biological levels and spatial scales using mainly stochastic modelling.
One major focus of our current research is the development and test of ecological and evolutionary network models using fossil, historical and contemporary data.

The final dream is to unify the fascinating details of biological systems in a general and testable framework. Students interested in developing and testing theory should have a burning interest in the origin, evolution and coexistence of diversity in ecosystems.

Major themes

  • Food webs
  • Metacommunity dynamics
  • Speciation and adaptive radiation


finished projetcs

Food webs

A theory for next-generation food web data (SNSF project 31003A_144162)

The overarching goal of this project was to combine high-resolution individual-based data with novel stochastic theory to understand the role of migration dynamics and intraspecific trait variation in prey  selection on multi-trophic ecosystems. The project contained two periods. The first one joined empirical data and theory in static landscapes to connect patterns of intraspecific trait variation in prey selection to biodiversity patterns in multi-trophic ecosystems. The second one focused in developing theory in dynamic landscapes to connect the effect of habitat availability and changes in connectivity of the  landscape on biodiversity patterns. 
Contact persons: Melián, C.

  • Duration: 2013 - 2015
  • Funding: Biology and medicine, Swiss National Science Foundation
Melián, C. J.; Baldó, F.; Matthews, B.; Vilas, C.; González-Ortegón, E.; Drake, P.; Williams, R. J. (2014) Individual trait variation and diversity in food webs, In: Moya-Laraño, J.; Rowntree, J.; Woodward, G. (Eds.), Eco-evolutionary dynamics, 207-241, doi:10.1016/B978-0-12-801374-8.00006-2, Institutional Repository
Sanz-Aguilar, A.; Jovani, R.; Melián, C. J.; Pradel, R.; Tella, J. L. (2015) Multi-event capture–recapture analysis reveals individual foraging specialization in a generalist species, Ecology, 96(6), 1650-1660, doi:10.1890/14-0437.1, Institutional Repository
Melián, C. J.; Křivan, V.; Altermatt, F.; Starý, P.; Pellissier, L.; De Laender, F. (2015) Dispersal dynamics in food webs, American Naturalist, 185(2), 157-168, doi:10.1086/679505, Institutional Repository
Fronhofer, E. A.; Klecka, J.; Melián, C. J.; Altermatt, F. (2015) Condition-dependent movement and dispersal in experimental metacommunities, Ecology Letters, 18(9), 954-963, doi:10.1111/ele.12475, Institutional Repository

Submitted or in preparation

  • de Santana, C. N., Klecka, J., Palamara, G. M., and Melián, C. J. (2017). Metacommunities in dynamic landscapes.
  • de Santana, C. N., Kalinkat, G., Alexander, T., Vonlanthen, P., Brodersen, J., Seehausen, O., and Melián, C. J. (2017). Inferring biodiversity and diversification dynamics in dendritic networks with Approximate Bayesian Computation

Food webs in space: integrating metacommunity and food web research

Motivation: The goal of this project is to develop models of food web dynamics in heterogeneous landscapes and test their predictions with laboratory experiments using protist metacommunities. Jan Klecka was at EAWAG  for one year to develop this project.

Contact persons: Melián, C. J., Klecka, J., Krivan, V., and Altermatt, F.

  • Duration: 2013 - 2014
  • Funding: Sciex fellowship.

Metacommunity dynamics

Development of theoretical community models for biodiversity and species distributions: a generalized site-occupancy approach

This project aim to provide an analytical framework to combine speciation dynamics with species distributions

Duration and funding

Duration: 2013 - 2015
Basic Research Projects, Spanish Research Council (CSIC).