I am the George W. Pack Professor of Ecology, Natural Resources and Environment. My research focuses on biodiversity and arthropod-mediated ecosystem services in rural and urban agriculture. I also work on spatial ecology of the coffee agroecosystem and am interested more broadly on the links between small-scale sustainable agriculture, biodiversity and food sovereignty. I am co-author of four books, Breakfast of Biodiversity, Nature’s Matrix: Linking Agriculture, Conservation and Food Sovereignty, and Coffee Agroecology, and Ecological Complexity and Agroecology.
My recent research is related to ecosystem services in agroforestry systems in Mexico and Puerto Rico. In Mexico my lab is investigating how local level multi-species interactions generate autonomous pest control in agroecosystems using coffee agroforests as a model system. We are also interested in critical transitions within the pest systems in coffee. In collaboration with John Vandermeer (University of Michigan) and Stacy Philpott (University of California-Santa Cruz) I established a 45-hectare plot in a shaded organic coffee farm in Chiapas, Mexico, and am conducting research on complex ecological interactions among pests, diseases and natural enemies. In Puerto Rico I collaborate with John Vandermeer and Javier Lugo (University of Puerto Rico, Utuado) in a project that examines tradeoffs and synergies among ecosystem services from coffee farms within the Model Forest of Puerto Rico. This project also investigates how ecosystem services (coffee and food provisioning, conservation of biodiversity, pest control, pollination and carbon storate) respond to local and landscape level factors. In collaboration with Luis Garcia-Barrios from ECOSUR-San Cristobal (Mexico) I am also developing games to help farmers and students better understand ecological complexity in agroecosystems. After Hurricane Maria, we started a research project examining the resistance and resilience of coffee agroecosystems in the central mountainous region of Puerto Rico. Also, in collaboration with Casa Pueblo, a grassroots community organization, and Boricuá, a network of agroecological farmers in Puerto Rico, we are investigating how gasification, using biomass from farm residues and the trees knocked down by the hurricane, could de use to create a hybrid micro-grid that uses solar energy and syngas. We are also investigating the potential impact of the biochar generated through the gasification process on soil properties, plant growth and crop yield.
I teach “Globalization and its Discontent: Struggles for Food, Water and Energy” (Environ 270), Diverse Farming Systems (NRE 553), and Field Ecology (NRE 556). In my courses I like to challenge students to think for themselves. Most of my courses have a strong Latin American flavor because I am from Latin America (Puerto Rico) and I conduct research in Latin America (Mexico, Mesoamerica and Puerto Rico). Most of my courses are interdisciplinary and are taught from a social justice perspective. I teach undergraduate courses in sustainable development and globalization, and the agroecology and political ecology of food systems, a graduate course in field ecology, a graduate course in diverse farming systems, and graduate seminars on topics that range from conservation in fragmented habitats to food sovereignty.
Recent Publications 2017-2018 (* = students):
Peer-reviewed journals (* student or post doctoral collaborator)
- Iverson*, A, D. Jackson, R. Burnham, I. Perfecto , N. Vandenberg*, J. Vandermeer. In press. Species complementarity in two myrmecophilous lady beetle species in a coffee agroecosystem: implications for biological control. BioControl.
- Simao*, M. C., J. Matthijs and I. Perfecto. In press. Experimental small-scale floral patches increase species density but not abundance of small urban bees (Hymenoptera: Apoidea). Journal of Applied Ecology.
- Vandermeer, J. and I. Perfecto. In press. Ecological complexity in the Rosennean framework. Ecological Complexity.
- Fisher*, K., and I. Perfecto. 2017. Phenological floral resource complementarity explains patterns in bee abundance. Ecological Applications 27(6): 1815-1826
- Morris*, J. R., E. Jiménez-Soto*, S.M. Philpott and I. Perfecto. 2017. Ant-mediated biological control of the coffee berry borer (Hypothenemus hampei Ferrari): diversity, ecological complexity, and conservation biocontrol. Myrmecological News 26: 1-17.
- Vandermeer, J. and I. Perfecto. 2017. Ecological complexity in agroecosystems: seven themes from theory. Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems41(7): 697-722.
- Yitbarek*, S., J. Vandermeer and I. Perfecto. 2017. From insinuator to dominator: foraging switshing by an exotic ant. Diversity and Distributions 23: 820-827.
- Garcia-Barrios, L., J. Cruz-Morales, J., Vandermeer, and I. Perfecto. 2017. The Azteca Chess Experience: Learning how to share concepts of ecological complexity with small coffee farmers. Ecology and Society 22(2): 37. *Winner of the Best Paper of Ecology and Society Award of 2017.
- Monagan*, I., J. Morris*, A. Davis-Robosky, I. Perfecto and J. Vandermeer. 2017. Anolis lizards as biocontrol agents in mainland and island agroecosystems. Ecology and Evolution 7: 2193-2203.
- Vaidya*, C., M. Cruz*, R. Kauzel*, D. J. Gonthier*, A. L. Iverson*, K. K. Ennis* and I. Perfecto. 2017. Local and landscape constrains on coffee leafhopper diversity. Journal of Insect Science 17(2): 38; 1-7 (doi: 10.1093/jisesa/iew127).
- Li*, K., Y. He*, S. K. Campbell*, S. Colborn*, E. L. Jackson*, A. Martin*, I. V. Monagan*, W. Y. Ong* and I. Perfecto. 2017. From endogenous to exogenous pattern formation: Invasive plant species changes the spatial distribution of a native ant. Global Change Biology 23: 2250-2261. DOI: 10.1111/gcb.13671
- Wittman, H., D. J. Abson, R. Bezner Kerr, J. Blesh, M. J. Chappell, J. Hanspach, I. Perfecto and J. Fischer. 2017. A socioecological perspective on harmonizing food security and biodiversity conservation. Regional Environmental Change 17 (5): 1291:1301. doi 10.1007/s10113-016-1045-9
- Perfecto, I. and J. Vandermeer. 2017. The quality of the agricultural matrix and long term conservation of biodiversity. In: Routledge Handbook of Agricultural Biodiversity, P. Hunter, L. Guarino, C. Spillane, and P. McKeown. Routleghe, Taylors Group, New York, New York.
- Armbrecht, I. and I. Perfecto. 2017. Ant-plant-herbivore interactions in northern Neotropical agroecosystems. In: Ant-Plant Interactions in a Changing World, P. Oliveira and S. Koptur, eds. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.
- Perfecto, I. and J. Vandermeer. 2017. A landscape approach to integrating food production and Conservation, pp. 133-152. In: Food Security and Nature Conservation: Conflicts and Solutions, I. Gordon, G. Squire and H. Prins, eds. Routledge, Taylor and Francis Books.
View more publications here.
2015-2017 Curriculum Development in Sustainable Food Systems: Increasing Number and Diversity of Students in Sustainable Food Systems Studies (USDA-HEC Program) Robert Greses, Jenifer Blesh, Karen Peterson and Susan Aaronson, Co-PIs.
2014-2016 Generation of spatial pattern and consequences for the succession of a northeastern deciduous forest in Michigan (USDA-NIFA McIntire Stennis Program) John Vandermeer, Co-PI
2013-2014 Student engagement with the local and global food system (Third Century Initiative Award, UM)
2013-2015 Doctoral Dissertation Improvement Grant (for David Gonthier): Causes and Consequences of Biodiversity in Coffee Agriculture (DDIG-NSF)
2012-2014 Urban Gardens: spontaneous generation of spatial pattern, consequences for ecosystem and human health (MCube Award, UM)
Ph.D. University of Michigan (ecology, natural resources)
M.S. University of Michigan (biology)
B.S. Universidad Sagrado Corazón, Puerto Rico (biology)
Track Chair for the Environmental Issues and Environmental Justice Track for the Latin American Association (LASA) (2006).