2019–Present: PhD Researcher, QMEE CDT, Imperial College London & Institute of Zoology
2018–2019: Research Assistant, VectorByte Project, Imperial College London
2017–2018: MSc Computational Methods in Ecology & Evolution, Imperial College London
2013–2015: BSc Zoology, University of Leeds
ResearchGate Francis Windram
My main research interests fall into three major categories: spider foraging & web traits, allometric scaling of biological traits, and rugged software and processing design to aid in-field analysis. More specifically I am interested in the complex internal optimisation problems which must be solved by animals in order to create complex structures in an energetically sustainable manner. My overarching goal is to contribute to our growing understanding of foraging in sit-and-wait predators, with spiders being an understudied and vastly widespread example.
Spiders are a very large, diverse, and ecologically important set of predators in both agricultural and unmanaged terrestrial ecosystems. They have been estimated to consume ∼400-800 million metric tons of biomass globally — around 1% of global net primary production. Yet, the effects of land-use and climate change on spider populations and the knock-on effects on biomass flows and stability of terrestrial food webs remain poorly understood. To understand the role of spiders in biomass flows through ecosystems, we must first understand their foraging behaviours and limits on their consumption rates.
During my PhD, I will use a hierarchical approach to biological traits to evaluate and understand changes in spider web architecture along multiple axes of variation. I will then combine metabolic and foraging theories to build mathematical models for the scaling of foraging rates of spiders with body mass under varying environmental temperatures. This is only now possible because of recent advances at the interface of the Metabolic Theory of Ecology and Foraging Theory.
Specifically, I aim to:
1. Formalise and develop a hierarchical framework to aid in evaluation of the relationships between linked biological traits, which will have broad applications beyond the application to spiders.
2. Apply this framework to spider foraging and web traits to:
- Evaluate the effect of temperature shifts on web design choices (e.g., the mathematical scaling of web size with body mass) made by spiders in different environments (e.g., agricultural vs. forested landscapes).
- Evaluate the cost tradeoff involved in web building in three (aerial) vs two (ground) spatial dimensions.
3. Validate model predictions from a previous mechanistic model of spider forging and refine this modelling by aggregating existing data and collecting new laboratory and field data on metabolic and foraging rates of representative groups of spiders.
4. Use the consumption/foraging rate models to estimate energy fluxes in different types of terrestrial foodwebs in both agricultural and natural landscapes.
Dr. James Rosindell, Imperial College London
Dr. Chris Carbone, ZSL
Prof. Van Savage, UCLA
Dr. Robin Freeman, ZSL