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Parasitism is an integral part of nature and parasites can play multiple roles in the process at multiple ecological hierarchies. Integrating parasites into ecological networks has great potential to provide new insights of parasitism in nature systems. Using the tool of network analysis, our study is aimed to elucidate features associated with parasite diversity and transmission within the complex network of ecological interactions. We first showed that parasites are not only occurring in non-random fashion in the network but also positively associated with the prominent network positions occupied by their hosts. Such non-randomness further sheds the light on modelling parasite diversity in the food web networks. Furthermore, when parasites were embedded within the networks, we can quantify and model impacts from parasites from the network perspectives. A simple and intuitive signed digraph approach was developed to measure species interactions, as well as for the parasitic effects. With the signed digraph approach, we can further reveal the interaction patterns between parasites and other major functional/taxonomic groups in ecological networks and elucidate the roles parasites played in ecological communities.
Professor Chen teaches Parasitology, Biostatistics and Advanced Ecology courses at National Chiayi University, Taiwan. His research efforts and publications have covered aspects of parasite ecology, parasitism in food webs, ecosystem modelling, and invasion biology.