Supervisor: Virginie Millien
For my thesis, I am designing an integrative modeling framework to predict community assemblages of species that act as hosts of Lyme disease in North America. I use species distribution modeling (SDM) to project 11 host species across space and time. However, final ensemble models over-predict the distribution of certain species. Traditionally, these models fail to incorporate biotic drivers that influence species’ distributions, notably interspecific interactions. In my framework, I am working to account for biotic interactions indirectly by modeling communities in terms of community size structures, using species’ skull size data from museum collections. Certain metrics can be calculated from species’ size distributions to infer the influence of competition on community structure. These proxies will be used to constrain the community models, resulting in more accurate predictions of host distributions and quantification of human risk of Lyme disease within the modeled regions.