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Francis J. Burdon

Francis Burdon
I am a community ecologist working at the interface of multiple disciplines on environmental problems of societal relevance. My research interests focus on how human activities affect biodiversity and ecosystem functioning in streams and rivers.

Presentation

The world's ecosystems are facing unprecedented rates of change, and a strong contributor to this transformation is human population growth combined with a concomitant intensification in catchment landuses. Moreover, there is a growing awareness that extreme weather events, increased water temperatures, and altered flow regimes associated with climate change are interacting with these factors, thereby further contributing to the global biodiversity crisis. The effects of these perturbations manifest through the myriad of direct and indirect pathways shaping complex systems such as ecosystems, forcing ecologists involved in both basic and applied research to address the impacts of anthropogenic disturbances. 

I am a community ecologist interested in the response of biological systems to environmental change (e.g., disturbance and stress) across multiple levels of organisation. I am particularly interested in components of biodiversity (e.g., taxa richness, functional traits, and species interactions) and how these combine and evolve in ecological networks to influence emergent properties such as food-web structure and ecosystem functioning.

I work predominantly in stream and river ecosystems with invertebrate communities. Much of my research to date has involved drivers of global change (e.g., landuse intensification) and their influence on the intrinsic properties of stream ecosystems (i.e., structure and function). I firmly believe in using general ecological theory to help frame research questions, and developing these ideas to better inform management strategies.
My introduction to stream ecology had a strong emphasis on natural history and field biology, leading me to use an observational approach with environmental gradients to help demonstrate the influences of abiotic and biotic factors on biological systems. To better understand the processes underpinning such patterns, however, I believe in the use of experimentation at different scales (e.g., laboratory and field mesocosms, whole-ecosystem manipulations). Moreover, I am interested in developing computational approaches using theory to help validate empirical evidence collected from field observations and experiments.

​With this tripartite approach, I have five overlapping areas of ecology that I am interested in researching:

1. Community structure and function (e.g., determinants of biodiversity)
2. Food-web properties (e.g., food-chain length using stable isotopes)
3. Ecosystem functioning (e.g., detrital processing)
4. Allometric patterns and the role of body size
5. Cross-habitat interactions and the importance of resource subsidies

Teaching

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Research

CROSSLINK: Understanding cross-habitat linkages between blue and green infrastructure to optimize management of biodiversity, ecosystem services and multiple human uses

ECOIMPACT: An Eawag-wide interdisciplinary research effort aimed at understanding how synthetic chemical pollution discharged from wastewater treatment plants affect stream ecosystems with a focus on biodiversity and ecosystem functioning. 

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Supervision

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