Date of Award

Spring 5-10-2019

Level of Access Assigned by Author

Open-Access Thesis

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Ecology and Environmental Sciences


Michael Kinnison

Second Committee Member

Eric Palkovacs

Third Committee Member

Hamish Greig

Additional Committee Members

Timothy Waring

Brian Olsen


Trophic interactions are an enduring framework for ecological thought. Broad and growing evidence for contemporary evolution has demonstrated that ecology and evolution dynamically interact on similar time scales. In this dissertation, I seek to understand how genetic and plastic trait change in human-influenced systems shape trophic dynamics, how such trait changes are constrained by inherent tradeoffs, and the broad implications of such trait change for ecological communities. I advance the premise that competition-defense tradeoffs are the essential mechanism behind many eco-evolutionary trophic dynamics that can reshape multi-trophic communities. In support of this view, I assess the presence of ecologically relevant genetic evolution along a competition-defense tradeoff in a model species. I also employ models and experiments to quantify how the particularly strong genetic and plastic trait changes in population phenotypes generated by humans can rearrange ecological communities by altering trophic interaction strengths.