We are interested in developing models and conducting experiments enabling us to quantify the relative and interactive influence of multiple processes operating across spatial scales to shape the structure of local communities. The composition and diversity of species we observe in a community is the outcome of the long process of assembly. Moreover, communities are nested within regional species pools, and we can only understand community assembly in light of the assembly of the species pool. It is therefore crucial that we ‘peel off the multiple layers of the local community’ if we are to understand the fundamental processes underpinning assembly. This might include developing null models of phylogenetic and trait community structure, ancestral reconstruction of species ranges or ecological traits, or geographically replicated experiments of community structure.