Posted by: Jeremy Fox | August 7, 2011

Blogging the ESA: Talks to see on Wednesday

8 am, room 5: Yuan and Chesson on differing sensitivities to environmental fluctuations as a mechanism of temporal niche partitioning. The storage effect is an important mechanism by which environmental fluctuations can promote competitive coexistence. But existing storage effect theory has a limitation: it only works if species respond differently to environmental variation, causing them to exhibit negatively-correlated fluctuations in abundance. That’s a serious limitation: if you have lots of species, it’s not mathematically possible them all to be negatively-correlated with each other. So Yuan and Chesson asked if the storage effect can also work if species differ in their sensitivity to the environment (so all species prefer the same environmental conditions, but some are much more sensitive than others to changes in conditions). This is a realistic case, and remarkably, the storage effect still works. In other words, environmental fluctuations can promote stable coexistence even when there are no temporal niches in the usual sense. Yet another reason why Hutchinson’s zombie ideas about temporal variability and coexistence deserve to be killed off.  Note that this talk may be slightly rough sledding if you’re unfamiliar with storage effect theory.

8:20 am, room 15: Duffy et al. on evolutionary dynamics of parasite resistance in Daphnia. Meghan Duffy and her collaborators have been doing great work on host-parasite dynamics in Daphnia. Every year they seem to come back to the ESA with a new and substantial addition to this story.

9:20 am, room 8: Fukami et al. on priority effects in natural nectar yeast communities. Tad Fukami talks about a very standard microbial microcosm experiment—except that he did it in the field! Cool.

9:20 am, Ballroom F: Shurin on engineering phytoplankton communities for biofuel production. Big energy companies are making big bets on algae as a biofuel—without having recognized that this is really an ecological problem rather than (or in addition to) an engineering problem. The terrific Jon Shurin will be filling that gap in this talk. Great example of how fundamental ecology can inform thinking about applied problems.

11:10 am, room 9AB: Vasseur and Fox on eco-evolutionary dynamics of competition for non-substitutable resources. Shameless self-promotion! Seriously, I like this talk, it’s a modeling talk about when you expect competition to select for character displacement (not nearly as often as you probably think) and character convergence (surprisingly often). The math isn’t at all scary, and it’s empirically-grounded, it should be something empiricists can appreciate. Plus, I always give out free beer at the end of my talks, so you’ll definitely want to attend no matter what I have to say. 😉 Note that this is the same talk I gave in May at the Canadian ecology & evolution meeting in Banff, so if you saw me speak there you can skip this talk (you’ve already gotten your free beer).

1:50 pm, room 10A: Livingston and Jiang on community dynamics under sudden mixing. None of my own grad students were able to attend the ESA this year. George Livingston is the closest thing; I’m his external committee member. George will be talking about a freakin’ massive microcosm experiment only a graduate student would be ambitious (read: crazy) enough to attempt. It tests some previously-untested theory on what happens when you take two previously-separated communities and merge them into one (think about the emergence of land bridges, connecting previously-isolated biotas).

2:10 pm, room 19A: Boettiger and Hastings advance detection of regime shifts. A currently hot idea is that shifts from one alternate stable state or “regime” to another are preceded by “warning signals” such as increases in temporal variance. Carl Boettiger is going to explain why detecting regime shifts in advance is a really difficult signal detection problem, why many proposed warning signals aren’t actually good choices, and how we can solve that signal detection problem directly rather than relying on indirect warnings.

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