Welcome to my homepage! 

My main research interest is in understanding the structure of ecological communities in terms of biodiversity and species interactions.  I am particularly interested in tropical ecosystems, as the most complex and diverse terrestrial habitats on the planet.  These habitats are estimated to contain at least 50% of all the species on the planet, but this extreme diversity is poorly understood.   Why are there so many species in the tropics?  Are differences in species abundances due to species characteristics or random dispersal?  What is the impact of species interactions on local diversity?  These are some of the big questions I hope to better understand through my research on a single, highly diverse group, ants in the genus Pheidole.

Please explore my site to learn more about my research, especially my work with Pheidole and litter-nesting ants, and the colleagues who have worked with me on this project.  My website also includes a section on conservation issues in my research area, Yasuní National Park, as well as my favorite photos taken during my trips there.  My films page includes information on my other main interests, acting and film-making and my links will take you to other great sites. Photo by Scott Appleby

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Whats new?

More new publications featuring the fabulous Pheidole:

Mertl AL, Sorenson MD, Traniello JFA. (2010). Community-level interactions and functional ecology of major workers in the hyperdiverse ground-foraging Pheidole (Hymenoptera: Formicidae) community of Amazonian Ecuador. Insectes Sociaux DOI:10.1007/s00040-010-0102-5

Mertl AL, Traniello JFA. 2009. Behavioral evolution in the major worker subcaste of twig-nesting Pheidole (Hymenoptera: Formicidae): Does morphological specialization influence task plasticity? Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology 63(10): 1411-1426


Two new publications just came out online! Feel free to contact me for reprints.

Mertl A.L., Ryder Wilkie K.T. and Traniello J.F.A. 2009. Impact of Flooding on the Species Richness, Density and Composition of Amazonian Litter-Nesting Ants. Biotropica. DOI 10.1111/j.1744-7429.2009.00520.x

Ryder Wilkie K.T., Mertl A.L., and Traniello J.F.A. 2009 Diversity of ground-dwelling ants (Hymenoptera: Formicidae) in primary and secondary forests in Amazonian Ecuador. Myrmecological News 12:139-147 (Online Early)


"Ants" was screened at the Show off your Short film festival in February. Whoo-hoo, we've gone Hollywood!

Watch "Ants", our recent documentary on ants and the myrmecologists who love them!



This video was produced by Project Documentary through Cambridge Community Television. We are looking into producing DVD's of the film plus additional information for educational purposes - please email me if you would be interested in getting a copy!

"Biodiversity Below Ground: Probing the subterranean ant fauna of Amazonia" K.T. Ryder Wilkie, A.L. Mertl and J.F.A. Traniello, 2007, was just published online by Naturwissenschaften! If you do not have online access to the journal please email and we'll be happy to send you a PDF.

A segment from my film The End of Hydrocarbon Man was featured in an NPR piece on the Boston Bike Film Festival! You can listen to it on the web - Check out the "Only a Game" archives for the October 28th, 2006 show.

Try out my online key to the Pheidole of Tiputini!

New link to a species list of the Pheidole of Tiputini (Amazonian Ecuador). I will be continually adding automontage images of all the species .

Check out my films page for links to some recent film productions and my video blog!

ecology abundance tropical tropics oil yasuni petroleum conservation photo image Pheidole Phiedole Ecuador ecaudor amazon amazonia ant ants biodiversity diversity research yasuni national park tiputini film key taxonomy