Professor Ivette Perfecto


Ivette Perfecto is professor of Ecology and Natural Resources. Her research focuses on biodiversity in agricultural landscapes, primarily in the tropics. She also works on spatial ecology of the coffee agroecosystem and urban agriculture and is interested more broadly on the links between small-scale sustainable agriculture, biodiversity and food sovereignty. She teaches Our Common Future (a course on globalization), Food Land and Society and Field Ecology. Her most recent books are Nature’s Matrix: The Link between Agriculture, Conservation and Food Sovereignty (2009, Earthscan), and Coffee Agroecology (Forthcoming, Earthscan).

The coffee project focuses on how local level multi-species interactions generate landscape level spatial pattern in the ant Azteca sericeasur and the consequences of that distribution on pest and diseases of coffee. We have established a 45-hectare plot in an organic coffee plantation and are conducting research on the interactions between the ant, its mutualistic scale insects, the natural enemies of the scale and the phorid flies that parasitize the ants. The coffee project also includes the investigation of various ecosystem services, such as the regulation of pests and diseases and pollination.

Another research project examines biodiversity and ecosystem services in urban gardens in southeastern Michigan. We are focusing on the local and landscape level factors that influence insect diversity in urban and peri-urban settings. More specifically we are investigating how features of the urban landscape influence bee diversity and the pollination services they provide.

More general interests include the role of the agricultural matrix in the conservation of biodiversity, sustainable development, and political ecology in the Third World, especially Latin America.

Recent Grants:
Spatial scaling with an unusual food web structure: the case of Azteca ants in the coffee agroecosystem With my colleague, John Vandermeer, this project combines food web dynamics and spatial modeling to understand and predict the formation of a clumped distribution by the ant Azteca sericeasur in coffee plantations in southern Mexico. Funded by NSF

Developing board and computer games for communicating complex ecological interactions With my colleagues Luis Garcia Barrios and John Vandermeer, we are developing a board game the incorporates the complex ecological interactions of the Azteca system with the idea that farmers and students that play the game can gain a deeper understanding of the complexity of nature. Funded by NSF

Generation of a spatial pattern and consequences for the succession of a northeastern deciduous forest in Michigan This project investigates the spatial distribution of trees in a mid-successional forest in Eastern Michigan and how this spatial distribution influences ecological succession. Funded by McIntire-Stennis; USDA

Current Research:

  1. Complex ecological interactions in the coffee agroecosystem

  2. Biodiversity and arthropod-mediated ecosystem services in the coffee agroecosystem

  3. How local and landscape level factors affect arthropod diversity and ecosystem services in urban agriculture

  4. How games can help communicate complex ecological interactions

  5. How spatial distribution of trees affect ecological succession in temperate forests

  6. Teaching Interests:
    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 the food system, a graduate course in field ecology and graduate seminars on topics that range from conservation in fragmented habitats to food sovereignty.

    Current Teaching:
    In the fall I teach Our Common Future: The Impacts of Globalization (ENVIRON 270) and Field Ecology (SNRE 455). In the winter (every other year) I teach Food, Land and Society (NRE 318) which has a three week field component at the end of the course in Cuba or Mexico.

  1. Office                        3541 Dana

  2. Phone                       734-764-8601

  3. Laboratory                3531 Dana

  4. E-mail            

  5. Fields of Study

  6.     Terrestrial Ecosystems, Sustainable Systems, Environmental

  7.     Justice, Conservation Biology

  8. Educational Background

  9.     Ph.D. Natural Resources, 1989, University of Michigan

  10.     M.S. Ecology, 1982, University of Michigan

  11.     B.S. Biology, 1977, Universidad Sagrado Corazon, Puerto Rico