UIC | Ecology & Evolution | Howe Lab

Contact Information

University of Illinois Chicago
Biological Sciences (M/C 066)
845 W. Taylor Street Chicago,
IL 60607-7060 USA
Office phone: (312) 996-1820
email: cguzma8@uic.edu
      Artibeus jamaicensis

     Photo by Matt Greczek
  Graduate Student

Biological Sciences Dept.
Ecology & Evolution
B.S. Biology, UIC
M.S. Program UIC (in progress)
Advisor: Henry Howe (UIC)

Research Interest

Worldwide land conversion and habitat loss associated with anthropogenic use has become a major threat to many terrestrial ecosystems.  Tropical ecosystems, such as the Neotropics, which contain more tropical forests than any other ecozone, are being deforested at alarming rates.  Consequently, large continuous tracks of forests have been converted into remnant fragments surrounded principally by cropland or pastures.  Moreover, these tropical biomes house large proportions of the world’s species, a phenomenon not seen elsewhere.  Hypothetically, if all tropical forests were cut down and destroyed tomorrow the world would have lost approximately sixty percent of all current living species.   

In order to understand and potentially enhance the processes conducing biodiversity and ecological complexity in disturbed tropical landscapes it is necessary to identify the mechanisms underlying regeneration.  Seed dispersal agents offer the opportunity to explore some of the landscape features characteristic of degraded and fragmented forest habitats.  Knowing that the processes of establishment and recruitment precede via the dispersion of a seed template, we can hone into varied precursors or limitations of forest regeneration by defining them in seed dispersal agents. Regeneration prompted by extensive anthropogenic disturbance in a fragmented forest landscape however, may itself be inhibited by the dwarfed movement of seed dispersers across isolated forest fragments. Still, frugivorous such as bats in flight and nocturnal lifestyle dominant in most tropical landscapes may bypass this obstruction. 

In Neotropical regions, bats in the order Chiroptera constitute approximately 40-50% of all the mammalian species making them the second largest mammalian order in central and South America.  This high species richness makes Neotropical bats an especially ecologically diverse group that occupies various trophic levels, including carnivores, insectivores, frugivores, nectarivores, piscivores and sanguinivores.  The sheer abundance and richness of bat numbers and species warrants the considerable influence these mammals can have on the ‘rates of immobilization of nutrients and energy’ in tropical ecosystems.  Furthermore, it’s reasonable that as important pollinators and seed dispersers for a broad range of plant species bats function as the primary agents for a number of plants dynamically contributing to the regeneration and succession of tropical plant systems.

Objectives for my research include:

1.      How do fruit bats contribute to regeneration of a fragmented tropical landscape?

2.      Can seed dispersal by fruit bat assemblages be facilitated by introducing artificial roosts in a disturbed tropical landscape?

Research Experience

- Oak Population Genetics (Canyon oak, Island oak, Valley oak)

- Neotropical bat census and identification