Alex Brito

I am originally from Delavan, WI, but I moved to Madison in high school and have remained here ever since. I received my undergraduate degree from here at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where I majored in Zoology and Environmental Studies.
Since graduating in May of 2011, I have worked in Phil Townsend’s lab assisting him and his graduate students with various fieldwork alex_fishand data analyses. In the spring of 2013 I began work on my master’s degree under Phil’s supervision, where I am exploring insect community compositions and how they influence (and are influenced by) forest ecosystem functioning in aspen stands. I hope to one day move out West to work in a national or state park doing research, community outreach, and/or tourism. My hobbies and interests outside of school include music, fishing, playing tennis, disc golfing, morel hunting, and skiing.

In my research, I am measuring insect species composition and exploring ways that insect communities affect ecosystem processes in aspen-dominated forests in northern Wisconsin and the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. As the most diverse taxon of any animal, insects strongly influence the structure, function, and sustainability of terrestrial ecosystems. As the major consumers in temperate forests, insects directly and indirectly alter energy flow, nutrient cycling, carbon sequestration, and stand succession. Although multiple factors determine insect distribution, abundance, and diversity, three primary drivers of insect population dynamics in forests are (1) the abiotic controls of climate (e.g., temperature), (2) the bottom-up effects of plant quality (e.g., foliar nitrogen and secondary chemicals), and (3) the top-down effects of predation and parasitism. My goal is to use in situ measurements along with remotely-sensed imagery to better understand the mechanisms that drive insect population dynamics and to explore how insect populations may influence forest ecosystem functioning.

 

Projects:

Remote Sensing and Insects, Northwoods