Climate change – who can keep up?

Evolution has no forethought. An artic fox turns white at a particular time in winter due to the selection pressures experienced by its ancestors. This adaptation helped foxes in the past blend into the snowy background and more easily disguise themselves from prey. But what if timing of first snowfall starts to move later and later into the year or becomes more unpredictable? This is a question of phenology, the … Continue reading

How to “train” good cleaners

How are mutualisms maintained when there is so much incentive for partners to cheat?? Do species interactions shift from cooperative to antagonistic or vise versa? If so, how? I’m very fascinated by these questions, as many ecologists are. In my previous post, I wrote about crayfish-worm symbiosis and how their interactions could shift from mutualism to parasitism, depending on the worm abundance. Today, I’ll talk about the work by Gingins … Continue reading

What is that plant doing over there?

Why do we see a species growing on one hillside and not another? Why are some fields dominated by native plants, and others exotics? These are questions addressing the establishment of plants in different habitats, a core concept in ecology with many theories to go along with it. These theories split into a mix of those looking at (1) characteristics of the environment (extrinsic factors, like soil moisture or propagule … Continue reading

Plants fungus and insects OH MY!

Post by Zoe Getman-Pickering One of the first lessons you learn in ecology (be it a class or research) is that the natural world is infinitely complex with countless direct and indirect interactions, and it is one we ecologist repeatedly learn through our careers. I was reminded of this lesson reading the paper, “Mycorrhizal abundance affects the expression of plant resistance traits and herbivore performance” by Rachel Vannette and Mark Hunter. … Continue reading

A Contemplation of Mixed Metaphors and Global Change

“Come gather ’round people Wherever you roam And admit that the waters Around you have grown And accept it that soon You’ll be drenched to the bone If your time to you Is worth savin’ Then you better start swimmin’ Or you’ll sink like a stone For the times they are a-changin’. “ – Bob Dylan, “The Times They Are A-changin’ “ (1964)   Oh Bob, if we only knew … Continue reading

The upside of invasion

Most people will agree that invasive species are, generally, not good things. Especially people who have ever sat down in a patch of star thistle, or been slapped in the face by an Asian carp. However, invaders are quite fascinating (terrible yet fascinating, like your drunk uncle’s dance moves at a wedding), and can be used to address fundamental issues in ecology and evolution.  One of my personal favorites is … Continue reading

Ants aiding ants on Acacia

A regular theme on this blog (here, here, here, etc…) is how fascinated all of our contributors are by the factors that promote and maintain biodiversity. Personally, I am really into some of these such as positive interactions between species, such as mutualisms (like the legume-rhizobium mutualism I study) and facilitative effects between species. In some systems, negative interactions between species can result in indirect facilitation of other species by … Continue reading

Too much of a good thing

I was at the annual ESA meeting in Minneapolis last week and had an opportunity to attend lots of interesting talks. One of my favorites was about crayfish and their symbiotic crayfish worm (check out the link here and here for abstracts). The talk by Petipa stood out to me because he used a classic succession framework to predict community assemblage of symbiotic worm species on crayfish host. Plus, his … Continue reading

Did you see a plant there? Me neither.

At a seminar on sexual selection in frogs I attended recently, an evolutionary ecologist (who studies plants), joked that compared to things like frogs that make noise and move, plants are really pretty dull. I can think of many reasons why plants are in fact the awesomest (being in the plant biology department makes me a little biased), and one particular example that came to mind was from an Am … Continue reading

A trip along the diversity effects highway: a new and exciting fork in the road

The dynamic dune ecosystem along Lake Michigan was where I first came to appreciate nature as a young child (granted, I was in the water most of the time). Blissfully unaware of the pioneering work of Cowles (1899), it was my time wandering forward and backward through successional time as I matured into a young man that put me on the road to studying ecology. So, when I came across … Continue reading