Trophic meta-community

The theory of island biogeography (TIB) is arguably the closest we have to an ecological law. Its simplicity is part of its elegancy, but it comes at a cost to accuracy. The TIB is essentially a neutral model where the chance of any species to reach a patch is a probabilistic function of patch size and isolation distance. As such, the TIB ignores any constraints that species interactions might impose on colonization such as the fact that a predator cannot establish to a patch without its prey present. Because of its purely stochastic nature, the TIB is also inadequate to predict turnover in species composition on fragmented patches because all species are considered equivalent. In the lab we try to understand how trophic interactions constraint spatial dynamics of certain trophic groups, in turn, influencing the structure and functioning of local communities.

Experimental meta-ecosystems

The meta-ecosystem concept postulates that flows of energy (biotic and abiotic) among ecosystems have important reciprocal effects on the community structure and ecosystem processes of all connected ecosystems. A meta-ecosystem perspective provides a clear mechanistic link among spatial dynamics, biodiversity and ecosystem function that is fundamental to our understanding of how perturbations might affect ecosystem processes over an entire landscape. The concept, however, has remained until recently only theoretical. Our work aims at developing experimental tests of the theory, especially some of the key concepts such as spatial cascade, bi-directional flows and spatial feedbacks between connected communities.

Landscape perspective on ecosystem functioning

Meta-ecosystem dynamics can couple the functioning of ecosystems over large spatial extent. Thus, although cross-ecosystem subsidies are generally very local in their direct effects, indirect effects can potentially lead to cascading effects in space. The magnitude of spatial cascades should be controlled by the movement of subsidized organisms acting as consumers (trophic meta-community dynamics), through the passive movement of altered nutrient or detritus from a subsidized location (classic meta-ecosystem theory) and finally via direct landscape constraints on cross-ecosystem subsidy and their zone of influence. A better understanding of the cause and consequences of spatial cascade is essential to scaling up local-scale ecosystem functioning to a regional level. In the lab, we develop experimental and observational approaches to understand how perturbations can spread through the landscape. This includes research on i) how varying biotic interactions in the recipient or donor ecosystem might constraint the quality/quantity of resource flows and the response of recipient communities to those resource flows (spatial cascades modulated by biotic interactions), ii) landscape configuration and how it constraints spatial cascades, iii) quantifying natural variations in cross-ecosystem subsidy across time and space - done at our beautiful university research station, iv) quantifying and predicting the distribution of stoichiometric elements in the landscape to, in turn, predict trophic structure and ecosystem functioning across the landscape (in collaboration with Shawn Leroux).

Bridging fundamental to applied science

Ecology has changed considerably over the past decades with the emergence of new methodological tools and significant conceptual advancements, but efforts to link those new developments to conservation sciences is often lacking thus breaking an important feedback loop between fundamental and applied sciences. Although research in the lab is mostly fundamental in nature, I believe it is important to make explicit the significance of new findings for conservation sciences. Those contributions often take the form of a conceptual, commentary or review paper written as a group effort, but also sometime working groups, which allow for a more direct discussion.


Current lab members


Eric Harvey

Lab PI

Featured publications

see all publications

Proceedings of the Royal Society B., 2018

Nature Communications, 2018

Trends in Ecology and Evolution, 2017

Ecology and Evolution, 2017

Journal of Applied Ecology, 2017

Join us

Prospective students

Please read the points below carefully. If you are still interested you can send a letter of intent and resume to

  • If you are interested in joining the lab, I would recommend that you first take a look at the research and publication sections. Publications with a “* Top pick!” tag are most representative of the work that we do in the lab. That being said, I am always happy to explore new directions of inquiry!

  • Graduate studies are truly challenging. This does not mean that it cannot be fun or enjoyable, but rather that to succeed it requires first and foremost a strong interest in what you are doing. For that reason, it is important for me to take the time to discuss with you about your interests and whether my lab can offer what you are looking for. No diploma is worth being miserable for several years!

  • Curiosity, for me, is more important than grades. Thus, if you are truly interested do not hesitate to contact me.

  • I will help you to develop your scientific skills as best I can. I do not know everything though (that is why we do research!); the exchange of knowledge is bi-directional here, and often you will need to dig to find the answers you are looking for. My duty is to provide you with the tools and opportunities for you to succeed. My goal is that at the end of your project you are better than me on your thesis subject.

  • I value a good work-life balance. I also value personal as much as professional developement. Graduate studies are a lot more than just a job or something leading to a job. The goal here is not to reach the finish line but more to discover yourself, your own interests and how you want to contribute to a better society along the way.

Current opportunities


We currently have funded opportunities!

PhD position (co-supervision with Beatrix Beisner at Université du Québec à Montréal)

If you are interested in cross-ecosystem subsidy dynamics and spatial variations in biodiversity and ecosystem functionning please see the offer here

l’offre est aussi disponible en version française ici

MSc position

The lab is looking to hire 1 master student to start somewhere between the Fall 2019 and Winter 2020 (but flexible). You can see the offer here


If you have your own funding, or are interested in applying for external funding, please get in touch!

The main source of external fundings in Quebec are: