Robert D. Holt is an ecologist particularly known for theoretical and conceptual contributions to population and community ecology, and for fostering the integration of ecology with evolutionary biology. His research examines how species interact, both directly and indirectly, in complex webs and he addresses the ecological and evolutionary consequences of such interactions, and how such interactions unfold across space, contributing for instance to geographical range limits. He was born and raised in Tennessee. He graduated from Princeton in 1973 with a degree in physics, but fortunately each semester took for fun an upper-level course in biology. This allowed him to pursue graduate studies in biology at Harvard, where he received his doctorate in 1979. He then moved to the University of Kansas, where he was on the faculty and a curator in the Museum of Natural History. In 2001 he shifted to the University of Florida to take the titles of Eminent Scholar and Arthur R. Marshal Jr. Chair in Ecological Studies. He is a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences as well as the National Academy of Sciences, and has been president of the American Society of Naturalists. He is a keen naturalist and has participated in expeditions to many remote corners of the globe.

Research Interests

Robert Holt's lab utilizes a variety of theoretical approaches, ranging from the use of relatively simple models to explore common but complex ecological phenomena, to detail-rich, spatially explicit individual-based models. The lab also takes empirical approaches to ecological questions, including the implementation and analysis of landscape experiments. Specific topics at present in the lab span a diverse array of themes in ecology and evolutionary biology. Ecological topics include: integrating community ecology perspectives into traditional arenas of evolutionary ecology (e.g., the evolution of aposematism and mimicry); indirect interactions in multispecies communities; exploring how resources and predation drive infectious disease dynamics and impacts in ecological communities; and, litter as a mechanism of interference competition and ecosystem engineering in plant communities. Evolutionary topics include analyses of genetic, phenotypic and ecological influences on evolutionary rescue (when natural selection permits a species to adapt to a novel environment, where otherwise it would go extinct) and niche conservatism (e.g., constraints on evolution at the edge of geographical ranges, and in sink habitats). Though his research is largely theoretical and conceptual, he has also engaged in field work, for instance setting up a large-scale experiment in Kansas on how habitat fragmentation modulates secondary succession (among the longest-running field experiments in ecology).

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Primary Section

Section 63: Environmental Sciences and Ecology

Secondary Section

Section 27: Evolutionary Biology