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Tania Kim

Visiting Assistant Professor, Ecology


  2. Phone: (610) 328-8047

Research Interests

I am a broadly trained plant-insect ecologist with a particular interest in understanding how environmental variability influences species interactions and biodiversity. I study how plant-insect interactions vary with spatial scale (from local neighborhoods to continent-wide scales) and how this variation influences plant and insect biodiversity and ecological functions. It is well-known that environmental heterogeneity can influence the magnitude and form of plant-insect interactions, yet less is known about how this variation scales up to influence entire communities. Insects and plants are ideal systems for tackling the difficult issues of variation and scaling because they are amenable to experimentation and much is known about them. I use quantitative approaches (e.g., GIS, model fitting, simulations) to link empirically- and analytically-(e.g., stable isotope and DNA sequencing) derived data with ecological theory. I use this basic knowledge about environmental heterogeneity to better manage plants and insects for conservation and sustainable agriculture, and to understand and predict how anthropogenic disturbances such as land-use and climate change might influence biodiversity patterns and the provisioning of ecosystem services at broad spatial scales.

1. Plant-insect interactions across spatial scales

Environmental variability can affect the strength of plant-insect interactions yet it is unclear how these patterns should change with spatial scale.  I have worked on several NSF and DOE funded projects examining how environmental variability influences plant-insect interactions at different spatial scales.  At very small spatial scales (< 2 m2), I found that environmental variability due to plant neighborhood composition influenced damage to plants (Kim and Underwood 2015). The mechanisms by which neighborhood composition influences damage was through variability in herbivore growth, host-plant selection, and feeding behavior (Kim 2017). At medium spatial scales (i.e., landscape scale), I also found that environmental variability due landscape composition influenced the strength of tri-trophic interactions between plants, insect herbivores, and arthropod predators (Liere, Kim, et al. 2014) by affecting the regional species pool of arthropods and prey-tracking ability of predators for prey.  Finally, at very large spatial scales (i.e., continent scale), I found that environmental variability due to location along a latitudinal gradient influenced plant damage and resistance which were likely driven by differences in herbivore community structure, range, and distribution (Kim, 2014). Altogether these studies suggest that environmental factors affecting insect feeding behavior and their distribution can influence the strength of plant-insect interactions across multiple scales.  Understanding how the strength of plant-insect interactions varies across spatial gradients has implications for predicting how disturbances such as land-use change or climate change might impact plant communities through their effects on insect herbivores (Kim et al. 2013).

2. Disturbance effects on biodiversity

Natural and anthropogenic disturbances can influence biodiversity and ecosystem function. Because disturbances can occur at both localized and landscape scales, it is unclear whether these disturbances can have additive or multiplicative effects for plant and insect communities. In partnership with USFWS, DNR, and MSU, I examined how annual harvesting of perennial grasslands (a localized disturbance) affected predatory arthropod communities and the ecological functions they perform (natural biological control). I also examined whether land-use change (a landscape-scale disturbance) could accentuate or mitigate the potentially negative effects of disturbance for arthropod communities. I found that annual harvesting of perennial grasslands and land-use change had variable effects on the abundances of different functional groups (Kim et al. 2017), alpha and beta diversity (Kim et al. in revision), and predator diet breadth (Kim et al. in prep).  Despite these changes in predator community structure and feeding behavior, there were no harvest effects on pest suppression services suggesting compensation in pest suppression function by unaffected arthropod groups.  These results suggest that disturbances occurring at different spatial scales (localized versus landscape scales) can interact with one another to have unpredictable, non-additive effects on arthropod biodiversity and ecosystem function.

Personal Interests Running, hiking, gardening, cooking, quilting, and hanging out with my family.

Publications (peer reviewed, *undergraduate author)

Kim, T. N. 2017. Neighborhood composition influences damage to plants and four mechanisms of associational resistance and susceptibility. PlosOne 12(5): e0176499.

Kim, T. N. Fox, A. F., Wills, B. D., Meehan, T. M, Landis, D. A., and C. Gratton. 2017. Harvesting of potential biofuel grasslands has weak effects on natural enemy diversity and biocontrol services. Journal of Applied Ecology. DOI: 10.1111/1365-2664.12901

Fox, Aaron F., T. N. Kim, C. A. Bahlai, J. M. Woltz, C. Gratton, and D. A. Landis. 2016. Cover crops have neutral effects on predator communities and biological control services in annual cellulosic bioenergy cropping systems. Agriculture, Ecosystems & Environment, 232: 101–109.

*Wenninger, A., T. N. Kim, B. J. Spiesman, and C. Gratton. 2016. Testing resource-concentration and dilution effects on pollinators and seed-predators. Insects 7(2), 23; doi:10.3390/insects7020023

Kim, T. N., B. J. Spiesman, A. L. Buchanan, A. Hakes, S. L. Halpern, B. D. Inouye, A. L. Kilanowski, N. Kortessis, D. W. McNutt, A. C. Merwin, and N. Underwood.  2015. Selective removal of insect herbivores influences an old-field plant community. Plant Ecology 216: 1029-1045.

Gratton, C, M. Casler, R. Groves, and T. N. Kim. 2015. Insecticide applications have minor effects on switchgrass biomass yield. Agronomy Journal doi:10.2134/agronj15.0066.

Kim, T. N. and N. Underwood 2015. Plant neighborhood effects on herbivory: Damage is both density and frequency dependent. Ecology. 96:1431–1437.

Liere, H, T. N. Kim, B. P. Werling,T. D. Meehan, D. A. Landis, C. Gratton 2015. Trophic cascades in agricultural landscapes: indirect effects of landscape composition on crop yield. Ecological Applications. 25:652–661.

Skevas, T., S.M. Swinton, T.D. Meehan, T. N. Kim, C. Gratton  and A. Egbendewe-Mondzozo 2014. Integrating agricultural pest biocontrol into forecasts of energy biomass production. Ecological Economics. 106:195–203 

Kim, T. N. 2014. Plant damage and herbivore performance change with latitude for two old-field plant species, but rarely as predicted. Oikos 123: 886-896.

Kim, T, N., Underwood, N., and B. D. Inouye 2013.  Insect herbivores change the outcome of plant competition through effects on inter- and intraspecific processes. Ecology 94: 1753-1763.

Kim, T. N., and R. D. Holt.  2012. The direct and indirect effects of fire on the assembly of insect herbivore communities: examples from the Florida scrub habitat. Oecologia.  168:997-1012.

Publications (non-peer reviewed)

Dixon, K., Brown, G., Underwood, N., Winn, A., Moscarella, R., Garcia, B., Kim, T., McNutt, D., Strimaitis, A., Pearson, V., and A. Landry. 2015. BSC 2011L Investigations in Biology; Biological Science II Laboratory Manual. Department of Biological Science, Florida State University. Hayden-McNeil Publishing, Plymouth MI.

Diffendorfer, J. E., T. N. Kim, and B. J. Spiesman 2003.  Small Mammal Monitoring and Inventory at Chino Hills State Park.  California State Parks.  Lake Perris, California.

Manuscripts in review or revision (peer reviewed, *undergraduate author)

Kim, T. N., *Bartel, S., Wills, B. D., Landis, D. A., and C. Gratton. Harvesting differentially affects alpha and beta diversity of ant communities in prairie grasslands. In revision at Diversity and Distributions.

Karp, D. S, Chaplin-Kramer, R, Meehan, T.D. Martin, E. A., DeClerck, F., Grab, H. Gratton, C., Hunt, L., Larsen, A., Martinez-Salinas, A. O’Rourke, M., Rusch, A., Poveda, K., Zhang, W., Ives, A., Jonsson, M., Rosenheim, J. A., Schellhorn, N., Tscharntke, T., Wratten, S. D., [+35 authors including Kim, T.N.]. A framework for predicting pest abundance and biological control across agricultural landscapes. In review at Nature Sustainability.

Wills, B.D. Kim, T.N. Fox, A. F., Gratton, C. and D. A. Landis. Ant suppression reduces biological control potential in grasslands. In review at Agriculture, Ecosystems, and Environment