Colleen Webb

Last name: 
GBC Committee Role: 

RESEARCH INTERESTS: Theoretical evolutionary ecology, trait-based approaches, disease ecology, species interactions, resilience, coevolution, quantitative genetics, nonlinear dynamics, spatial models. EDUCATION Ph.D. in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology with Statistics minor (equivalent to M.S.), “A Classification of Darwinian Extinction,” Cornell University, Ithaca, NY, Alexey Kondrashov, Advisor, 2001. M.S. in Biology, University of Oregon, Eugene, OR, 1994. B.S. in Applied Mathematics (application in Chemistry), University of Chicago, Chicago, IL, 1993. PROFESSIONAL EXPERIENCE Associate Professor, Department of Biology (joint appointment in Mathematics), Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO, 2009 - present. Assistant Professor, Department of Biology (joint appointment in Mathematics), Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO, 2003-2009. Member, Graduate Degree Program in Ecology, Colorado State University, 2012-2014. Sabbatical Fellow, The German Center for Integrative Biodiversity Research, Leipzig, Germany 2013-2014 Sabbatical Visitor, Max Plank Institute for Biogeochemistry, Jena, Germany 2013-2014 External Professor, The Santa Fe Institute, Santa Fe, NM, 2004 - 2010. Guest Researcher, Center for Disease Control, Fort Collins, CO, 2008-2011. Faculty Member, Graduate Degree Program in Ecology, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO, 2003 – present Affiliate Faculty Member, Biomedical Engineering Program, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO, 2004 – present Postdoctoral Research Associate, “Robustness in Ecosystems,” Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Princeton University, Princeton, NJ (with Simon Levin) and The Santa Fe Institute, Santa Fe, NM, 2001 - 2003. Assistant Editor, University of Chicago Math Education Program (secondary school textbooks), Chicago, IL, 1993.

Associate Professor
Research Interests (General): 
Research Interests (Specific): 
In the Webb lab, we study how the interplay between ecological and evolutionary mechanisms affects the dynamics and persistence of ecological systems. One facet of this research addresses the evolution of ecological interactions. Because ecological and evolutionary processes are stereotypically viewed as acting on different time scales, they are often studied in isolation from one another. However, these processes interact, and our research focuses on the mechanisms and implications of evolution in traits that structure ecological interactions. A second facet of our research addresses how the evolution of ecological interactions scales up to affect higher levels of organization. Natural selection acts primarily at the level of the individual, but when such selection impacts ecological interactions, it can indirectly affect higher organizational levels such as interacting species, ecological communities or ecosystems. Many of our projects incorporate the effects of anthropogenic change in complex ecological systems with implications for concomitant impacts on human society. In pursuing this broad research program, we work on projects that are united conceptually by the interplay between ecological and evolutionary dynamics and the scaling of individual traits to higher levels of ecological organization. Check out our research projects for more details, but examples of general questions we are currently addressing include: What do trait-based approaches tell us about community and ecosystem level response to environmental change? What mechanisms affect the dynamics of disease prevalence in highly virulent diseases? How does the spatial distribution of organisms impact their response to disturbances? Our work is driven by the biological question, but we use a variety of quantitative techniques (i.e., dynamical systems, simulation, Bayesian hierarchical modeling, applied statistics) and have the flexibility to develop data-driven, quantitative approaches customized to the biological problem.
Research Projects: 
Project Title: 
U.S. Animal Movement and Disease Outbreak Simulation
Project Location: 
United States
Project Location Details: 
Many US states
Study Species: 
Cattle, swine
Project Citations: 

Buhnerkempe MG, Tildesley MJ, Lindström T, Grear DA, Portacci K, et al. (2014) The Impact of Movements and Animal Density on Continental Scale Cattle Disease Outbreaks in the United States. PLoS ONE 9(3): e91724. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0091724.

Grear, D.A., Kaneene, J.B., Averill, J.J., Webb, C.T. 2014. Local cattle movments in response to ongoing bovine tuberculosis zonation and regulations in Michigan, USA. Preventative Veterinary Medicine. 114(3-4):201-12. doi: 10.1016/j.prevetmed.2014.03.008.

Tsao, K., Robbe-Austerman, S., Miller, R.S., Portacci, K., Grear, D.A., Webb, C. 2014. Sources of bovine tuberculosis in the United States. Infection, Genetics and Evolution. 28C:137-143. doi: 10.1016/j.meegid.2014.09.025.

*Buhnerkempe, M.G., Grear, D.A., Portacci, K., Miller, R.S., Lombard, J., Webb, C.T. 2013. A national-scale picture of U.S. cattle movements obtained from Interstate Certificate of Veterinary Inspection data. Prev. Vet. Med.112: 318-329.

Lindstrom, T., Grear, D.A., Buhnerkempe, M., Webb, C.T., Miller, R.S., Portacci, K., Wennergren, U. 2013. A Bayesian approach for modeling cattle movements in the United States: scaling up a partially observed network. PLoS ONE. DOI: 10.1731/journal.pone.0053432.

Project Description: 
Little detail is known about how cattle move across the US, making prediction of disease spread in the US domestic animal herd difficult. We are developing a database of cattle movement for the US and are using this to generate a network model of disease spread in US cattle based on movement data.
Project Title: 
Traits-based approaches for community and ecosystem ecology
Project Citations: 

Lewis, D.L., Breck, S.W., Wilson, K.W. and Webb, C.T. 2014. Modeling black bear population dynamics in a human-dominated stochastic environment. Ecological Modelling. 294: 51–58. DOI: 10.1016/j.ecolmodel.2014.08.021.

Restif O, Hayman DTS, Pulliam JRC, Plowright RK, George DB, Luis AD, Bowen RA, Fooks AR, O’Shea TJ, Wood JLN, Webb CT. 2012. Model-guided fieldwork: practical guidelines for multi-disciplinary research on wildlife ecological and epidemiological dynamics. Ecology Letters 15: 1083-1094.

Webb, C.T., Hoeting, J.A., Ames, G.M., Pyne, M.I., Poff, N.L. 2010. A structured and dynamic framework to advance traits-based theory and prediction in ecology. Ecology Letters 13: 267-283.

Project Description: 
Global change is intensifying efforts to predict how species composition will respond to environmental change and modify ecosystem function. Trait-based approaches are receiving considerable attention as they potentially provide badly needed improvements in prediction for community composition and ecosystem function. However, realization of this potential requires statistical and modeling tools that are in their infancy. We worked with colleagues to describe how the conceptual foundation of traits-based approaches in ecology can be used to develop and critically evaluate appropriate methods for analyzing trait data.