These are the plenary speakers at the 3rd Symposium on Ecological Networks and 3rd Symposium on Molecular Analysis of Trophic Interactions.
Ulrich Brose studies how environmental factors change the structure and diversity of species communities with knock-on effects on the dynamic stability and ecosystem functioning. He describes the structure of communities by complex food-web topologies (who eats whom) and the average body sizes of all species. His main interest is the responses of these structures to global and local environmental gradients in temperature, stoichiometry and habitat fragmentation. Mathematically, he analyzes how these structural responses drive the dynamic stability of populations, communities and ecosystem functions.
Elizabeth L. Clare
Elizabeth Clare completed her PhD in Canada on systematics and molecular evolution and began working on methods of detecting DNA from prey in stomach and faecal contents as a side project. She completed a NSERC fellowship at the University of Bristol and is now a faculty member at Queen Mary University of London. Her research group considers biodiversity at all levels from molecular evolution to ecosystem function and food web structure. The team employs novel genomic techniques to focus on the evolution and recognition of species and the connections between species and trophic levels. The evolution of trophic interactions has many repercussions for conservation. Members of the group use a variety of techniques to track food webs in both tropical and temperate systems and are particularly interested in the impact of landscape level processes (climate, El Ninio, forest fragmentation and degradation) on the structure of food webs across multiple trophic levels. They have constructed and compared food webs among frugivores, insectivores and pollinators in both temperate and tropical environments and work in many countries including Canada, the US, Jamaica, Costa Rica, Belize, South Africa, the Philippines and Malaysia.
Bruce Deagle is a research scientist currently working for the Australian Antarctic Division (part of the Australian Government’s Department of the Environment and Energy) and is based in Hobart, Tasmania. Bruce started his university education in Canada and after moving to Australia he enrolled in a PhD program at the University of Tasmania. His doctoral thesis focussed on DNA-based methods for studying diet of marine predators and the resulting publications were influential in what was at the time a relatively new field. On completing his PhD Bruce held an NSERC post-doctoral fellowship and studied evolutionary genetics of stickleback fish at the University of Victoria, Canada (2008-2011). He then grappled with Antarctic krill genomics in a post-doctoral fellowship at the Australian Antarctic Division (2011-2014). He continues to work on a wide range of ecological genetics projects within Australia’s Antarctic science program, including several using high-throughput sequencing to study trophic interactions.
Jennifer A. Dunne
Jennifer A. Dunne is Vice President for Science at the Santa Fe Institute, where she joined the faculty in 2007. She received an A.B. from Harvard in philosophy, an M.A. in biology from San Francisco State University, and a Ph.D. in Energy and Resources from UC Berkeley. Jennifer’s research interests are in analysis, modeling and theory related to the organization, dynamics and function of ecosystems, with a focus on ecological networks. Using cross-system analysis and computational modeling, Jennifer seeks to identify fundamental patterns and principles of ecological network structure and dynamics at multiple spatial and temporal scales. Such research provides a useful framework for understanding ecological robustness and persistence, including how humans fit into and impact ancient, historic, and current ecosystems. Her research has been covered in Scientific American, Wired, SmartPlanet, ScienceNow, and Nature News. She has served as an editor at the Journal of Complex Networks, Ecology Letters, and Oikos, is an Oxford Series in Ecology and Evolution editor, and is an advisor to the science and culture magazine Nautilus.
Anna Gårdmark is a professor in Quantitative Fish- and Fisheries ecology at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences. She studies how species interactions shape the responses of fish communities and food-webs to environmental change. Her focus is on how variation among individuals determines species interactions, and the feed-backs that arise from these, which together determine the ecological and evolutionary dynamics. To address this, her research group combines mathematical models of food-web modules, large-scale spatial and temporal gradient studies from observational data from aquatic food-webs, and field experiments. With these approaches she and her group currently study fish community responses to climate change, size-dependent interactions and responses in exploited communities, bioaccumulation of contaminants in aquatic food-webs, and detection of warming impacts on interacting species from monitoring data.
Sara Hallin is professor in Soil Microbiology at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences since 2012. Her research area is microbial ecology of bacteria and archaea, especially those involved in nitrogen cycling, in different environments and systems, including soils, aquatic environments and engineered systems. After her PhD on denitrification in wastewater treatment systems 1998 she did pioneering work to target denitrifying bacteria in the environment by developing molecular markers targeting genes encoding the key enzymes in the denitrification pathway at the time when only taxonomic markers were used. Today, this is a standard approach in functional microbial ecology. She was appointed Assistant professor in 2002 and Associate professor 2005. Currently, here main interests are fundamental microbiology, ecology and genomics of microorganisms and microbial communities, and understanding relationships between the ecology of microbial communities, the biogeochemical processes they perform and the corresponding ecosystem functions.
Tara Gariepy is a federal government research scientist with Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, and adjunct Professor at the University of Western Ontario (London, Ontario). Her research focuses on biodiversity and biological control of invasive insect pests in agroecosystems, and the application of molecular diagnostic tools to detect trophic interactions. Of particular interest is the development of diagnostic tools that can be used to assess host-parasitoid associations and define the ecological host range of candidate biological control agents. In addition, the development and use of molecular tools to evaluate species-specific parasitoid-parasitoid and parasitoid-hyperparasitoid interactions in order to provide insight on the impact of competitive interactions and hyperparasitism on biological control programmes. She has been involved in the molecular analysis of trophic interaction for biocontrol projects on numerous insect pests, including Lygus plant bugs in Europe and North America, aphids in Hawaii, and stinkbugs in North America, Europe and Asia.
Tom Gilbert received his BA and D.Phil in Biological Sciences from the University of Oxford, the latter focusing on the potential and pitfalls of using ancient DNA in human genetic studies. He subsequently undertook a Post Doctoral fellowship at the University of Arizona, where his work focused on the exploitation of formalin fixed materials in reconstructing the evolutionary history of HIV-1. In 2005 he moved to the University of Copenhagen, where he is currently Professor of Palaeogenomics at the Natural History Museum of Denmark. At Copenhagen he built a research group who exploit a wide range of molecular biology-based methods in the archaeological, ecological and evolutionary context. Many of these studies include the analysis of environmental DNA, from substrates as diverse as water and honey, to leeches, faeces and mass trapped insects.
Dominique Gravel is a theoretical ecologist interested in biodiversity and its impact on ecosystem functioning. He holds a Canada Research Chair in Integrative Ecology and is the director of the Observatoire des écosystèmes du Québec. He investigates species distribution and the collection of interactions among them driving ecosystem processes and supporting the diversification of life. His research, at the crossroad between biogeography and community ecology, raises the fundamental question to what extent the distribution of biodiversity, and the community ecology taking place, is influencing the global distribution of ecosystem productivity. He performs his research using mathematical modelling, data analysis and experimental studies in various ecosystems, including Arctic food webs, carnivorous plants and forest trees.
Jane Memmott is a Professor of Ecology at The School of Biological Sciences, University of Bristol. She started her research career as a tropical entomologist commuting between the UK and the rainforests of Costa Rica. She then discovered the delights of a life of constant summer and spent the winters working with the weed biological control team in New Zealand. The arrival of two children led to field sites somewhat closer to home. She currently runs a research group at Bristol that uses ecological networks as a tool for asking about the impact of environmental change. She works in a variety of research fields including the impact of alien species on natural communities, the impact of farming on biodiversity, urban ecology and restoration ecology. Working with practitioners is a key part of her approach and recent projects have involved working closely with city councils and the Wildlife Trusts.
Vojtech Novotny is a tropical ecologist interested in the ecology of plant-insect-vertebrate food webs in tropical rainforests. His work is focused on mapping and explaining high biological diversity in the tropics. He is also active in rainforest conservation and explores new approaches to research capacity building in tropical countries. He is particularly active in Papua New Guinea where he co-founded and leads the New Guinea Binatang Research Center.
William O. C. Symondson
William Symondson got his first degree at the University of Keele, and was then a farmer for some years before being attracted back to academia, where he did a PhD on carabid beetles as predators of slugs at Cardiff University. He obtained funds to continue work on predator-prey interactions in arable crops for a few years before securing a permanent position at Cardiff University (in 2000) where he remains to this day. He took an interest in developing improved methods for analysing and quantifying predator-prey interactions, initially using antibodies and later PCR. In arable crops he and his team were able to use these approaches to study in greater detail the temporal and spatial dynamics of crop pests, their predators and alternative prey. This theme continues, but has expanded into vertebrate diets (birds, mammals, reptiles) in conservation contexts. Today the research group uses Next Generation Sequencing to study diets and food webs at ever increasing scales.