Monday, August 10, 2015

ESA#100 Day 1: The bar is set high

Day 1! This is as good as you will feel - tomorrow and beyond sleep be in will decline and hangovers will rise. Today there was only a half day of talks, but they were a strong start to the week.

There was a great organized section on "Community and Ecosystem Effects of Rapid Evolution" that made a conclusive case for the frequent and meaningful effects of evolution over short timescales on the community or ecosystem. Examples ranged from Darwin's finches, where Sofia Carvajal Endara made at initial attempts to consider how feedbacks from finch evolution and character displacement affected species and trait diversity in seed plants. Martin Turcotte consider the issue in terms of agricultural domestication and the implications for herbivores. He obtained an impressive 29 species' pairs, representing a domesticated species and its ancestor and carried out trials, including one in which an aphid species was grown for multiple generations on the ancestral member of each pair, then switched to the domesticated species. There was no directional evolution observed for the aphid species, but their evolution slowed down on crop plants. Aphid abundances tended to be higher on crops, and simulations suggested that selection was higher on the wild plants, and so was genetic drift. As a final example, Erica Holdridge looked at protist (Colpidium) microevolution, and her results reminded us that many of the protist experiments in the past likely included both evolutionary and ecological effects. Hopefully this is a topic that will continue to grow in the future.

Random notes: I always try to see what I like in talks so I can emulate them. Today I noticed a number of speakers for whom confidence and careful, practiced wording went a long way, even on talks where the concepts were very difficult. 

Favourite quotes (unattributed for anonymity):

Use of "2 cents" to title that section where you extrapolate your results to bigger-picture discussion.

"Community ecologists always want more than two species, although, two species is a good starting point." (absolutely!)

"The data isn't very good; it doesn't support the model"

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