Boots on the Ground: Direct-Action Conservation Through Land Trusts
Abstract: For students in the field of ecology, it seems like our work is relegated to highly-competitive government positions, the wide world of academia, or a career in government lobbying with little to no field work involved. For those who aren’t particularly excited by any of those prospects, there’s another type of organization that combines science, conservation, and public outreach, all in a way that is hands-on and direct-action. Land Trusts are little-known charitable organizations devoted to conserving ecologically sensitive land in a given area. As the Executive Director of the Thousand Islands Watershed Land Trust, my day-to-day can include a morning of species ID in the field, an afternoon of negotiating the terms of a conservation agreement, and an evening with acoustic monitoring equipment, guiding the public on a tour of Ontario’s bat species. Our model is simple: we purchase or are donated land and pledge to conserve it forever. This seminar will go into the specifics of land trust operations, the government programs that make our work possible, our process of conservation, and the little-known world of direct-action charity.
Tracking birds and their predators throughout the annual cycle to understand population declines
Abstract: Tracking birds throughout the year, using miniaturized tracking devices, provides one way in which to identify regions and time periods within the annual cycle that could be responsible for population declines. I used range-wide continental-scale tracking of a migratory songbird to demonstrate how migratory networks can be used to assess areas of importance, key flyways and nodes. I will also discuss how domestic cats (Felis catus), impact bird populations and how I use novel camera systems to estimate cat populations and assess their impact on birds and other wildlife.
Province-wide patterns, and between-layer associations, of mycorrhizal host type within British Columbia forests
Abstract: Plant-soil feedbacks within forests can facilitate or inhibit success among neighbour seedlings depending in part on the type of mycorrhizal association; ectomycorrhizal (ECM) associations tend to yield positive, facilitative effects whereas arbuscular mycorrhizal (AM) associations tend to elicit negative, antagonistic effects. Given these potential feedbacks, details about the fine-scale prevalence and distribution of MF hosts and their association types, particularly within each forest layer, could improve our understanding of recruitment dynamics and diversity patterns within forests. Using forest survey data from more than 25,000 plots distributed throughout British Columbia (BC), we first show how the proportion of different mycorrhizal types varies between the herbaceous layer and the canopy, and the encounter probability between types across BC. We then quantify the strength of the association between the proportion of AM and ECM-compatible host cover in the canopy with the same proportion in the sub-canopy and herbaceous layers. Our findings reveal significant negative associations between AM hosts and neutral associations between ECM hosts, but also underscore how encounter probabilities varies enormously among forest types.
DAZED AND CONFUSED: a naturalist in the 20th century
Abstract: As I am retiring from my faculty position at the end of this month, I have been asked to give this exit seminar, though I am not actually going anywhere. I will reflect on what it was like to be a naturalist in the last half of the twentieth century, with the coming of age of evolutionary biology and the emergence of evolutionary ecology and behavioural ecology as vibrant and exciting subdisciplines. This has truly been a golden age for evolutionary biology with new concepts (kin selection, sperm competition, honest signalling, island biogeography, selfish genes), new instruments for tracking, recording and observing animals and plants (GPS, drones, satellites, citizen science) , and new tools for data analysis, writing, and drawing graphs (desktop computers, GUIs, R, machine learning). While I have embraced all of these ideas and technologies with a passion, I still see a lot of value in getting out into the wilds with a pencil, a notebook, and an enquiring mind.
Thinking outside the park: a landscape ecology approach to urban ecosystem services Abstract: The current era of unprecedented urban growth has markedly changed ecosystem structure, function, and biodiversity, and consequently the ecosystem services that our health and wellbeing depend on. To work towards more sustainable, liveable cities, it is important to understand where there are opportunities to manage cities for increased ecosystem service provision – requiring an understanding of urban areas as spatially heterogeneous and temporally dynamic ecosystems. Drawing on synthesis, observational, and citizen science approaches, I will discuss how landscape structure, land-use history, and biodiversity can impact multiple ecosystem services in urban landscapes. Specific examples are drawn from empirical work in the mid-size city of Madison, Wisconsin, including: the role of agricultural legacies and contemporary land-use in driving patterns of soil-based ecosystem services; a novel, sensor-based approach for quantifying the potential of urban forest management for climate adaptation; and the use of citizen science approaches in urban invasion ecology.
The immediate phenotypic effects of whole-genome duplication on asexual reproduction through clonality
Abstract: Polyploidy, having 2 or more complete chromosome sets, is extremely common throughout the flowering plants and is believed to play a large role in speciation and diversification. However, surprisingly little is known about the mechanisms that contribute to polyploid success in natural populations. Here I will present my work on the immediate phenotypic effects of whole-genome duplication (WGD) on asexual reproduction via clonality, a trait that is expected to promote polyploid establishment, by comparing diploids and newly synthesized polyploids in two study species. The use of synthesized polyploids in studying the evolutionary and ecological consequences of polyploidy remains rare, but is indispensable for understanding the specific role of WGD in evolutionary divergence between polyploids and their diploid progenitors.
RoboScientist: Whale research in collaboration with machines
Abstract: Whales and dolphins has always been a challenge, as they spend most of their lives below the surface. Oceanic conditions can also make observations tricky. Fortunately, technological developments are opening up new avenues of study. We can now deploy equipment into the ocean to eavesdrop on passing animals and attach tags to track their underwater movements. Most recently, drones and remotely operated underwater vehicles have given us previously unimaginable opportunities. With the help of these technologies, we are beginning to unlock some of the secrets kept by these enigmatic species.