S e e d s   t o   M o n k e y s   t o   B e e t l e s

While at Manu, Ellen encountered a professor and his students on a research trip from the University of Florida. They were doing interesting work, and both sides hit it off so well that Ellen is now working with that same group towards her Ph.D.

Ellen’s field is actually in zoology; specifically, she is interested in how the plants, monkeys and dung beetles together form a system for seed dispersal in the forest. Seed dispersal is important because it is the way plants produce offspring. Dispersal increases the survivability of plants. If many individuals of the same species are all in close proximity, it makes it easier for a single set of herbivores or fungi to wipe out an entire clan. When seeds are dispersed over a larger area, they grow in different parts of the forest, and some parts will have more favorable conditions like more light, or more water, or less competition.

Her earlier research during her Master’s program looked at monkeys as seed dispersers; monkeys are what are called primary seed dispersers, which means that they eat the fruit of the plants and then disperse the seeds through their dung. “I enjoyed my work with the monkeys, and I like the monkeys, but there is a lot of research going on in the field on monkeys as seed dispersers, and I wanted to do something different. While I was doing my work in Manu, I happened to read a paper on the role of dung beetles as seed dispersers, and I thought that this would be an interesting extension of my work. The role of the dung beetles was not understood at all, and so I knew that this was something I could contribute.”

Ellen’s Interview/Journals Seeds to Monkeys to Beetles    1     2     3     4