Rice University
BioSciences at Rice

Thomas Miller

Godwin Assistant Professor in BioSciences

Research in my lab addresses fundamental questions regarding population dynamics and the population-level consequences of inter-specific interactions, mostly in plant and insect systems. My work spans population, community, and evolutionary ecology, including the spread of biological invasions, the dynamics of consumer-resource and host-symbiont interactions, and the evolution of life histories. 2014miller.jpg My interests are broad but united by an emphasis on demography and demographic structure. Most natural populations are demographically heterogeneous – some individuals are small, some are large; some are young, some are old; some are female, some are male, etc. – and individuals in these different categories can have very different vital rates. This simple observation is central to the study of population dynamics and can also be a critical ingredient of spatial processes, inter-specific interactions, and community dynamics, as ecologists are just beginning to understand.

I address research questions using both empirical and theoretical methods, and I am particularly excited about the integration of data and theory. Much of my work is characterized by the dual approach of exploring the behavior of general models, and tethering models to particular biological systems. In practice, this means I use observations and experiments to estimate model parameters and evaluate how those parameters respond to particular factors of interest. To this end, I rely heavily on maximum likelihood and information-theoretic approaches to experimental design and data analysis, and less so on frequentist hypothesis-testing (though I do some of this too). The interplay of theory and data is a powerful way to connect patterns we observe in nature to the processes that generate them. I also believe that attention to natural history is an important part of this process.

Empirical work in my lab focuses on insects, plants, and their ecological interactions (including plant-insect mutualism, herbivory, and plant-microbe symbiosis). These groups are experimentally tractable, relevant in many applied contexts, and are just plain cool. I conduct field studies in Texas, New Mexico, Colorado, and Florida. I also conduct population dynamics experiments using Bruchid beetle colonies in the laboratory

Pubmed Search for articles by TE Miller

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Snyder, K.T., Freidenfelds, N., and T.E.X. Miller. 2014. Consequences of sex-selective harvesting and harvest refuges in experimental metapopulations. Oikos  123:309-314

Miller, T.E.X. and J.A. Rudgers. 2014.  Niche differentiation in the dynamics of host-symbiont interactions: symbiont prevalence as a coexistence problem. American Naturalist 183:506-518

Miller, T.E.X. 2014.  Plant size and reproductive state affect the quantity and quality of rewards to animal mutualists. Journal of Ecology 102:496-507.

Miller, T.E.X. and B.D. Inouye. 2013. Sex and stochasticity affect range expansion of experimental invasions. Ecology Letters 16:354-361.  Faculty of 1000 selection

Williams, J.L., T.E.X. Miller, and S.P. Ellner. 2012. Avoiding unintentional eviction from integral projection models. Ecology 93:2008-2014

Miller, T.E.X., J.L. Williams, E. Jongejans, R. Brys, and H. Jacquemyn. 2012. Evolutionary demography of iteroparous plants: incorporating non-lethal costs of reproduction into integral projection models. Proceedings of the Royal Society Series B 279:2831-2840.

Rudgers, J.A., Miller, T.E.X., Ziegler, S.M., and K.D. Craven. 2012. There are many ways to be a mutualist: endophytic fungus reduces plant survival but increases population growth. Ecology 93:565-574.

Miller, T.E.X. and B.D. Inouye. 2011. Confronting two-sex demographic models with data.  Ecology 92:2141-2151

Holland, J.N., Chamberlain, S.A., and T.E.X. Miller. 2011. Consequences of ants and extrafloral nectar for a pollinating seed-consuming mutualism: ant satiation, floral distraction, or plant defense? Oikos 120:381-388.

Lee, C.T., Miller, T.E.X., and B.D. Inouye. 2011. Consumer effects on the vital rates of their resource can determine the outcome of competition between consumers.  American Naturalist 178:452-463

Miller, T.E.X., Shaw, A.K., Inouye, B.D., and M.A. Neubert. 2011. Sex-biased dispersal and the speed of two-sex invasions. American Naturalist 177:549-561.

Miller, T.E.X. and B. Tenhumberg. 2010. Contributions of demography and dispersal parameters to the spatial spread of a stage-structured insect invasion. Ecological Applications 20: 620-633

Miller, T.E.X., J.C. Legaspi, and B. Legaspi. 2010. Experimental test of biotic resistance to an invasive herbivore provided by potential plant mutualists. Biological Invasions 12: 3563-3577

Takahashi, M., Louda, S.M., Miller, T.E.X., and C.W. O'Brien. 2009. Occurrence of the biological control weevil, Trichosirocalus horridus (Panzer), on a newly acquired native host plant and on a pre-adapted, targeted exotic thistle. Environmental Entomology 38: 731-740

Robbins, M. and T.E.X. Miller. 2009. Patterns of ant activity on Opuntia stricta (Cactaceae), a native host-plant of the invasive cactus moth, Cactoblastis cactorum (Lepidoptera: Pyralidae). Florida Entomologist 92: 391-393

Rominger, A.J., T.E.X. Miller, and Collins, S.L. 2009. Relative contributions of neutral and niche-based processes to the structure of a desert grassland grasshopper community. Oecologia 161:791-800

Miller, T.E.X., S.M. Louda, K.A. Rose, and J. Eckberg. 2009. Impacts of insect herbivory on cactus population dynamics: experimental demography across an environmental gradient. Ecological Monographs 79: 155-172

Tom Miller Lab

  • Ph.D. Ecology (2007) University of Nebraska - Lincoln
  • B.A. Biology (2002) Colgate University
  • Department of BioSciences
Research Areas
  • demography, population, dynamics, plant-animal interactions, life history evolution, theory-data interface
Professional Experience
  • Assistant Professor
    Rice University
  • Huxley Fellow
    Rice University
Contact Information
Email: tom.miller@rice.edu
Phone: 713-348-4218
Office: Anderson Biological Laboratories, 119A