The Real Jurassic Park–A Millennium of Evolution Captured by a Pontoon Boat

It is the stuff of action movies—researchers have resurrected killer Daphnia from our past. Okay so the Daphnia are only killer in the “killer” = synonym for “awesome” sense (unless you’re a phytoplankton anyway). But this study is still amazing. For the first time, we have a series of snapshots showing evolutionary change over a 1600-year period leading up to a century of rapid human population growth. In 1860, the … Continue reading

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

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

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

Trade-offs are important for promoting diversity, even for microbes

Background In 2005, Science Magazine published a special issue exploring 125 big unanswered questions in science in celebration of their 125th anniversary. One of the questions that I keep thinking about (as many biologists do, I’m sure), is this question of, “what determines species diversity?“. I know: This is an overwhelmingly big and important question in biology. So I decided to focus on just one hypothesis addressing this question. That … Continue reading

Sex is for the Greater Good

Allegedly, men think about sex once every seven seconds. While this may seem like an exaggeration, regardless of gender, it’s likely an underestimate if you’re a life history biologist. I grew up as a graduate student in a life history lab, and trust me, there’s no end to the number of sex jokes that can be made when you’re talking about reproductive strategies that involve sneaker males or massive orgies … Continue reading