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Research Fellows Directory

Sofia Gripenberg

Dr Sofia Gripenberg

Research Fellow


University of Oxford

Research summary

I am interested in interactions between species, both from ecological and evolutionary perspectives. Much of my current research deals with interactions between plants and plant-eating insects in tropical forests with a special focus on insects that attack and kill seeds and young seedlings. It has been suggested that these insects may contribute to maintaining the spectacular plant diversity we see in many tropical forests. A key aim of my current work is to assess the potential for host-specific insect ‘seed predators’ (insects feeding on and killing developing seeds in the canopy) to contribute to high levels of plant diversity by suppressing the reproductive output of locally abundant tree species (thereby preventing those species from increasing in abundance at the cost of rarer plant species). My work also addresses the possibility that the reproductive dynamics of plant species that are attacked by the same species of insect may be linked via the shared enemy, leading to certain plant species influencing the distribution of others. Although tropical insects are one of the most species-rich groups of organisms on Earth, their functions in the tropical forest ecosystem are largely unknown. Through the research conducted as part of my fellowship, I hope to contribute to filling this knowledge gap and make us better prepared to predict the consequences of environmental changes that may disrupt the interactions between plants and enemies.

Grants awarded

Plant-eating insects and the structure of tropical plant communities

Scheme: University Research Fellowship

Dates: Jan 2014 - Dec 2019

Value: £480,079.81