Centre for Biodiversity and Environment Research


CBER Events

CBER Research Talk - Professor Deborah Gordon - 22 May 2018

Start: May 22, 2018 1:00:00 PM
End: May 22, 2018 2:00:00 PM

Title: "The ecology of collective behaviour"
Speaker: Professor Deborah Gordon - Department of Biology, Stanford University (lab page)
Venue: G04 Anatomy Gavin de Beer LT (map)
Dr Seirian Sumner (email)
Like many biological systems, an ant colony operates without central control. Each ant responds to its interactions with other ants nearby. In the aggregate, these stochastic, dynamical networks of interaction regulate colony behaviour.
Ants are extremely diverse, and species differences in collective behaviour reflect relations with diverse environments. A long-term study of desert seed-eating ants shows how colonies regulate foraging activity according to food availability and humidity, and how natural selection is shaping collective behaviour in current drought conditions. In the tropical arboreal turtle ant, trail networks respond to the distribution and stability of resources.
The algorithms that generate collective behaviour have evolved feedback regimes that fit the dynamics of particular environments. Examples from ants provide a starting point for examining more generally the fit between the particular pattern of interaction that regulates collective behaviour, and the environment in which it functions.

CBER Research Talk - Dr Georgina Adams - 4  June 2018

Start: Jun 4, 2018 1:00:00 PM
End: Jun 4, 2018 2:00:00 PM

Title: "Predicting dynamics of African ecosystems under human pressures"
Speaker: Dr Georgina Adams, Research Associate
Venue: G01 Lankester LT Medawar Building (map)
Predicting future impacts on ecosystems is necessary for informing and assessing policy decisions. This is particularly true in much of Africa, a continent with a fast-growing human population that will drive rapid environmental changes in the coming decades. However, ecosystem change can be challenging to forecast because of a lack of available ecological data, and because individual processes will respond differently to different pressures. There are three main human pressures that are likely to alter ecosystem structure and function in Africa: climate change, land use change, and bushmeat hunting. In this talk I will discuss how we are using the Madingley general ecosystem model, an individual-based mechanistic model, to predict ecosystem dynamics under different scenarios of these pressures.

CBER Research Talk - Professor Jake Alexander - 12 June 2018

Start: Jun 12, 2018 1:00:00 PM
End: Jun 12, 2018 2:00:00 PM

Title: Reshuffling the ecological deck: novel interactions and the dynamics of species’ ranges
Speaker: Professor Jake Alexander - Department of Ecology and Evolution, University of Lausanne (research profile)
Venue: G01 Medawar Building Lankester LT (map)
Host: Richard Pearson (email)
Abstract: Species' distributions are being reshuffled across the globe at an unprecedented rate, occurring through the spread of non-native species and range shifts of native species responding to climate and land use changes. This redistribution of species’ ranges is giving rise to novel assemblages, in which species interact that were not previously in contact. Biological invasions show us that the impacts of these novel interactions can sometimes be dramatic. However, the impacts of novel interactions following climate change are poorly understood. In this presentation I will draw on research conducted in our lab in alpine plant communities and with non-native plants to ask how novel interactions could affect the responses of species, communities and ecosystems to climate change. I also ask how evolution could affect the outcome of novel interactions. This work suggests that novel interactions could play a central role in mediating the ecological impacts of climate change, and I highlight several key challenges and opportunities to better understand and predict these impacts.

CBER Research Talk - Jess Williams - 6 August 2018

Start: Aug 6, 2018 1:00:00 PM
End: Aug 6, 2018 2:00:00 PM

Title: Local climatic changes influence biodiversity responses to land use
Speaker: Jessica J Williams - PhD student (personal page)
Venue: G01 Lankester LT, Medawar Building (map)
Abstract: Rapid human population growth has resulted in increasing exploitation of the environment and conversion of land for human use. These changes in land use can alter land cover, which mediates local climatic conditions and in turn may influence community composition. In human-altered landscapes, sites are generally hotter and drier than in natural habitats. By using the PREDICTS project (Projecting Responses of Ecological Diversity In Changing Terrestrial Systems) database, we analysed, for the first time globally, whether human land uses and land-use intensification systematically favour species with certain climatic niches. We found that communities within human-dominated land uses were, on average, composed of species affiliated with warmer and drier climates relative to communities within primary vegetation. In addition, community-average thermal niche breadths were found to be wider in human-altered land uses. The size of these effects differed between geographic zones as well as between endothermic and ectothermic communities. These results enhance our understanding of how biodiversity responds to land-use change, which will help us to predict species’ responses to future land-use changes and to design suitable management and conservation strategies.