Date of Award:

12-2013

Document Type:

Dissertation

Degree Name:

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department:

Biology

Advisor/Chair:

Ethan P. White

Abstract

Understanding the mechanisms that structure biological systems is a primary goal of biology. My research shows that the biological structure is constrained in important ways by general variables such as the number of base pairs in a genome and the number of individuals and species in a community. I used a combination of macroecology, bioinformatics, statistics, mathematics, and advanced computing to pursue my research and published several peer-reviewed scientific manuscripts and open-source software as a result.
I was funded through a combination of fellowships and scholarships awarded by the Utah State University School of Graduate Studies, College of Science, and Department of Biology, as well as teaching assistantships awarded through the Department of Biology at Utah State University, and research assistantships funded through a CAREER grant from the U.S. National Science Foundation (DEB-0953694) awarded to my advisor, Dr. Ethan White. With the help of my advisor, I also obtained a computing grant from Amazon Web Services in the amount of $7,500. Altogether, funding for my research and education totaled approximately $123,500.

Using over 9000 communities of plants, animals, fungi, and microorganisms, I demonstrated that the forms of empirical species abundance distributions (SADs) are constrained by total abundance and species richness. Using over 300 microbial genomes, I demonstrate that nucleotide aggregation is constrained by genome length and differs between regions of coding and noncoding DNA. General state variables of genomes and ecological communities (i.e. genome length, total abundance and species richness) constrain simple structural properties of each system.

Included in

Biology Commons

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