Post Doc Jonathan Shik received a ERC Starting Grant
Jonathan (Jon) Shik received a prestigious ERC Starting Grant from the European Research Council (ERC). He is a community ecologist exploring how physiological traits govern the performance and coexistence of species in diverse habitats, and against a backdrop of climate change.
Jon’s ERC Starting Grant will provide nearly EUR 1.5 million (ca. Dkr 11 million) over five years (2018-2023) to fund the project ELEVATE, which will be implemented in the Centre for Social Evolution at the Department of Biology. ELEVATE will focus on the remarkable lineage of leafcutter ants (genus Atta) that harvest fresh vegetation and use it as compost to produce domesticated fungal crops in huge underground nests that feed massive superorganismal colonies with millions of workers.
While human agricultural systems are imperiled by climate change, leafcutter ants have managed to grow a single cultivar lineage from Texas to Argentina, thriving across extreme rainfall and temperature gradients and across diverse climates over millions of years. Jon and his research team will combine field experiments in Panamanian rainforests with integrative laboratory studies of cultivar gene expression to resolve the eco-physiological mechanisms that govern the resilience of industrial-scale fungus farming in ants within diverse tropical insect communities.