Understanding Species Invasion

October 05, 2022

Baton Rouge, LA - Dr. Daijiang Li, Assistant Professor in Biological Sciences, has received an NSF grant to study biological invasions across spatial scales. 
Dr. Li is an ecologist with interests in understanding the effects of global environmental change on biodiversity, phenology (e.g., flowering time), and species interactions. To achieve this goal, his research combines fieldwork, statistical models, and data science approaches to answer important ecological questions. 
Non-native species invasions are causing worldwide ecosystem degradation and economic loss, with average global economic costsSpecies Invasion map  exceeding 27 billion dollars per year over the past five decades. More urgently, both the number of non-native species and their impacts are projected to increase over the coming decades. For example, approximately an additional 1,500 non-native species are likely to establish in North America by 2050. Furthermore, the economic costs of biological invasions are predicted to increase threefold per decade. 
One main reason is that we still do not have a holistic and predictive understanding of species invasion across scales. Dr. Li’s research will attempt to change that. Using extensive datasets collected by the National Ecological Observatory Network (NEON) this project will compile an open-access, cross-scale database of species invasion. To date, NEON has over 81 sites across the United States, meaning Dr. Li will be able track data (and what drives species invasion) across the US, not just in Baton Rouge. 
Model results will be disseminated by building an online interactive application that can dynamically present and forecast risks of invaders. This application will be updated automatically with new data to provide real-time management recommendations. 
“The datasets we are going to use are already collected by the NSF-funded NEON. Therefore, this grant will mostly be used to support personnel. This grant will allow us to hire a postdoc researcher to work on understanding drivers of species invasions across the United States. We also will hire two REU undergraduate students (1 student for 2 summers) to conduct their own research on similar topics.” 
The goal of this project is to determine patterns of invasive species and predict what species are likely to invade specific areas at a certain time.  
This is Dr. Li’s first NSF grant. He is excited to be able to fund research that he has been interested in for years.  
Additional Links:  
Understanding biological invasions across spatial scales using Phylogenetic Generalized Linear Mixed Models    
National Ecological Observatory Network (NEON)
Li Lab