Generally, I am interested in the interplay between the ecological forces that generate dynamic patterns of species co-occurrence and abundance over multiple spatiotemporal scales.
Specifically, my research focuses on the importance of positive species interactions to the structure and dynamics of ecological communities. I am also interested in the community-wide consequences of these interactions under varying levels of anthropogenic disturbance. To examine these dynamics, I employ primarily field-based manipulations of positive associations between ants and carbohydrate-excreting plants and insects.
In these facultative associations, ants protect their partners from co-occurring species in exchange for nectar (plants) or honeydew (insects). Because interactions with other species are fundamental to the functioning of these associations, they are likely to have strong community-level influences. Please follow the links to the below to learn about my previous research projects and future objectives.
Broadly, my long-term future research goals are to continue examining the community-wide influences of positive species interactions in the context of anthropogenic and natural disturbances, spanning a greater diversity of interactions and disturbances across multiple spatiotemporal scales.
I hope to use these investigations to develop a predictive framework about the ways that positive associations can influence community-wide dynamics, the ecosystem-level consequences of these effects, the biological traits that mediate these effects, and the interplay between natural and anthropogenic disturbances and positive species interactions at the community level.
My oral presentation, ‘Urban ants across the Manhattan habitat mosaic: Community structure, nutritional ecology, and speciation of highly urbanized ants’ was awarded best oral presentation in Neuroethology, Ecology and Evolution at the 2012 meeting of the North American Chapter of the International Society for the Study of Social Insects (NAS-IUSSI)!
I just posted the first in a series of blogs on studying ants in Manhattan-check it out at: http://www.yourwildlife.org/2012/09/adventures-in-urban-myrmecology-top-5-challenges-of-studying-ants-in-the-big-apple/!!
Our Manhattan Ants Project got some press! Last summer, an undergraduate in the Dunn lab, Britné Hackett, found a new ant in Manhattan! Read the New York Post article here: http://www.nypost.com/p/news/local/manhattan/new_breed_of_ruffi_ant_found_in_mCjDJ7RIj79B0UEUtMRElM#.UENIo_bb5ks
Savage, A. M., and K. D. Whitney. 2011. Trait-mediated indirect interactions in invasions: unique behavioral responses of an invasive ant to plant nectar. Ecosphere 2(9):106. pdf
Savage, A.M., S.D. Johnson,*, K.D. Whitney, and J.A. Rudgers. 2011. Do invasive ants respond more strongly to carbohydrate availability than co-occurring non-invasive ants? A test along an active Anoplolepis gracilipes invasion front. Austral Ecology. pdf
Rudgers, J. A., A. M. Savage, and M. Rua. 2010. Geographic variation in a facultative mutualism alters local arthropod composition and diversity. Oecologia. 163: 985-996. pdf
Savage, A.M, J. A. Rudgers, and K. D. Whitney. 2009. Elevated dominance of extrafloral nectary-bearing plants is associated with increased abundances of an invasive ant and reduced native ant richness. Diversity and Distributions 15: 751-761. pdf
Johnson, S. D.*, K. C. Horn*, A. M. Savage, S. Windhager, M. T. Simmons, and J. A. Rudgers. 2008. Timing of prescribed burns affects abundance and composition of arthropods in the Texas Hill Country. Southwestern Naturalist 53: 137-145. pdf
Savage, A. M., and M. A. Peterson. 2007. Mutualism in a community context: the positive feedback between an ant-aphid mutualism and a gall making fly. Oecologia 151: 280-291 pdf
Publications in preparation & under review:
Savage, A. M., K. D. Whitney, & J. A. Rudgers. In preparation. Can novel mutualisms with native species modify the community-wide consequences of ant invasions? A test using the Anoplolepis gracilipes invasion of the Samoan Archipelago.
* Undergraduate advisee
North Carolina State University
Department of Biology