Brad Lister

Lecturer, Biological Sciences

My recent research has focused on the impact of climate warming in the Luquillo rainforest in Puerto Rico and the Chamela-Cuixmala tropical dry forest in Mexico. Over the past 30-40 years, mean maximum temperatures have risen by 2.2 degrees C in the Luquillo forest and 2.4 degrees C in the Chamela forest. In theory, tropical insects should be especially sensitive to climate warming and these increases should have caused major declines in resident insects. In 2011 and 2012, I returned to my Luquillo study area and, using the same techniques I employed in 1975 and 1976, found a catastrophic collapse in insect populations with total biomass plummeting by 98%. In 2014 in the Chamela forest, my colleague Andres Garcia and I repeated insect samples we had taken in 1986 and 1987. Again we found major declines with biomass plummeting some 85%. Given these substantial decreases in insect prey we would expect simultaneous declines in forest insectivore such as lizards and frogs. In our Luquillo study area we documented a 50% decline in the biomass of insect eating Anolis lizards between 1975-1976 and 2011-2012. We also analyzed long term data on Luquillo forest frogs, the other major insectivore in the Luquillo forest, taken as part of the Luquillo LTER initiative, and found steep declines in frog numbers over 20 years in all four populations analyzed. To assess our hypothesis that climate warming was the causal variable behind declining insects and collapsing food webs, we employed two powerful techniques: hierarchical partitioning and Vinod causality. This research was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (Lister and Garcia, 2018) and recently won the Prince Albert II of Monaco Foundation Award for contributions to the preservation of the Earth’s biodiversity.

Education

Ph.D. Princeton University

Research Focus
  • ecology and evolutionary biology
  • ecological impacts of climate change
  • computational ecology
Contact listeb@rpi.edu
Select Works
  • Lister, B.C. 2014. Information, behaviour and population dynamics. OIKOS (in press).
  • Lister, B.C. and A. Garcia. 2012. Radio tracking anoles The Anole Annals August, Harvard University.
  • Lister, B.C. 2012. Long term changes in the Anolis communities of a tropical rainforest. The Anole Annals February, Harvard University
  • Garcia, A. and B.C. Lister. 2010. Behavioral responses to seasonality by two Sceloporine species from a tropical dry forest.Animal Biology 60: 97-113