Contingency in Ecology

Apr 01, 2015

Abstract:Like all sciences, ecology attempts to make general predictions. However, the predictions that ecology makes often are contingent, that is, they depend on which species, which habitat and which part of the world. This has led some researchers to conclude that “ecology is a mess”. I argue instead that much of this contingency can be understood from a few key principles. I demonstrate this with research on insects that live in water-filled bromeliads in the tropics. When we compare this same ecosystem between different countries, the way that it functions can be predicted just from the presence of one predator and from the climate. Similar simplifications can be made when comparing between habitats. Understanding why ecology is contingent allows us to build general predictions about how the natural world will respond to change.About the speaker:Diane Srivastava is a professor in the Department of Zoology at the University of British Columbia and a 2014-2015 Wall Scholar at the Peter Wall Institute. She studies the interactions between species in food webs, how species are able to co-exist, and how the diversity and composition of ecological communities affects the way that ecosystems function. She has particular interests in tropical biodiversity and conservation, although her career has also included research in Nova Scotian lakes, Arctic saltmarshes, and British woodlands.
For the spring 2015 Wall Wednesdays Afternoon Series, view the bookmark. Attendees receive 15% off their first purchase before and after the talk.Peter Wall Ideas Lunch & Wine Bar, University Centre, UBC Lower Level, Room 176, 6331 Crescent Road, Vancouver