Rice University
BioSciences at Rice

Thomas Miller

Associate 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

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**Compagnoni, A., Steigman, K., and T.E.X. Miller Can’t live with them, can’t live without them? Balancing mating and competition in two-sex populations.  Proceedings of the Royal Society Series B 284: 20171999 2017

Eberhart-Phillips, L.J., Küpper, C., Carmona-Isunza, M.C., Vincze, O., Zefania, S., Cruz-López, M., Kosztolányi, A., Miller, T.E.X., Barta, Z., Cuthill, I.C., Burke, T., Székely, T., Hoffman, J.I. and O. Krüger Demographic causes of adult sex ratio variation and their consequences for parental cooperation.  Nature Communications 2017

Sullivan, L., Li, B., Miller, T.E.X., Neubert, M. and A. Shaw Density dependence in demography and dispersal generates fluctuating invasion speeds.  Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences , 114: 2017: 5053-5058

*Wagner, N.K., †Ochocki, B.M., Crawford, K., **Compagnoni, A. and ‡T.E.X. Miller Genetic mixture of multiple source populations accelerates invasive range expansion.  Journal of Animal Ecology 86:21-34, 86 2017: 21-34

†Schultz, E.L., Eckberg, J.O., Berg, S.S., Louda, S.M., and T.E.X. Miller Native insect herbivory overwhelms context-dependence to limit complex invasion dynamics of exotic weeds.  Ecology Letters , 20 2017: 1374-1384

†Ochocki, B.M. and T.E.X. Miller Rapid evolution of dispersal ability makes biological invasions faster and more variable.  Nature Communications , 8 2017: 14315

Eberhart-Phillips, L.J., C. Küpper, T.E.X. Miller, M. Cruz-López, K.H. Maher, N. dos Remedios, M.A. Stoffel, J.I. Hoffman, O. Krüger, and T. Székely Sex-specific early survival drives adult sex ratio bias in snowy plovers and impacts mating system and population growth.  Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences , 114 2017: E5474–E5481

Iler, A.M., **Compagnoni, A.C., Inouye, D.W., Williams, J., CaraDonna, P.J., Anderson, A., Miller, T.E.X Survival costs of early spring, not phenological shifts, threaten plant population viability.   2017

*Cavazos, B.R., †Sneck, M., ††Bohner, T., ††Donald, M.L., Shadow, A., Omacini, M., Rudgers, J.A., and ‡T.E.X. Miller Testing the roles of vertical transmission and drought stress in the prevalence of heritable fungal endophytes in annual grass populations.  New Phytologist 2017

†Sneck, M.E.S., Young, C.A.Y., Rudgers, J.A., Charlton, N. and T.E.X. Miller Variation in the prevalence and transmission of heritable symbionts across host populations in heterogeneous environments.  Microbial Ecology , 74 2017: 640-653

Elderd, B.D. and T.E.X. Miller Quantifying uncertainty in demographic models: Bayesian methods for Integral Projection Models. .  Ecological Monographs, 86 2016: 125-144

Petry, W.K., Soule, J.D., Iler, A.M., Chicas-Mosier, A, Inouye, D.W., Miller, T.E.X., Mooney, K.A Sex-specific responses to climate change in plants alter population sex ratio and performance.  Science, 353 2016: 69-71

**Compagnoni, A., †Bibian, A.J., †Ochocki, B.M., Rogers, H.S., †Schultz, E., †Sneck, M.E., Elderd, B.D., Iler, A., Inouye, D., Jacquemyn, H. and T.E.X. Miller The effect of demographic correlations on the stochastic population dynamics of perennial plants.  Ecological Monographs, 86 2016: 480-494

†Bibian, A.J., Rudgers, J.A., and ‡T.E.X. Miller The role of host demographic storage in the ecological dynamics of vertically transmitted symbionts.  American Naturalist, 188 2016: 446-459

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
Miller Lab Website

  • 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