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Plenaries / Plénières

Dr. Justina Ray

Recipient of the inaugural President’s Award for Excellence in Societal Engagement (2020 awardee)

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Abstract / Abstrait

Galvanizing transformative change to address the Biodiversity Crisis: The Essential Role of Scientists

Hundreds of federal and sub-national laws, strategies, plans and policies provide a picture how Canada’s obligations under both the Convention on Biological Diversity and overarching national commitments related to biodiversity and sustainable development are being implemented. Results from an analysis of these governance instruments and approaches indicate clearly that effectively addressing the biodiversity crisis in Canada will require transformative change. In spite of the myriad challenges and frustrations associated with informing “evidence-based” environmental policies, scientists have critical roles to play in driving this necessary societal change.

Le role essentiel des scientifiques: Mener la charge pour addresser la crise de biodiversité

Des centaines de lois fédérales et sub-nationales, des stratégies, des plans, et des règles se combinent pour dicter les obligations du Canada sous the Convention on Biological Diversity et guider l’engagement fédéral relies à la biodiversité et le développent durable. Les résultats d'une analyse de ces paramètres et approches indiquent clairement qu'adresser la crise de la biodiversité au Canada demande des changements transformatifs. Malgré les défis et frustrations associées au travail d'informer les règles environnementales supportées par la science, les scientifiques sont essentiels à la poursuite des changements sociaux nécessaires.

Presentation time / Temps de présentation: Coming soon / Bientôt disponible
Twitter: @WCS_Canada

Dr. Lenore Fahrig

Recipient of President’s Award 2021 / Récipiendaire du Prix du président 2021

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Abstract / Abstrait

Habitat fragmentation: a long and tangled tale

Ecologists have been studying the causes and consequences of habitat fragmentation for more than 60 years. In this presentation I discuss my role in the past 30 years of that history, especially in tackling the fragmentation "non‐questions" - "Is habitat fragmentation a big problem for wildlife species?" and, "Are the effects of habitat fragmentation generally negative or positive?" I speculate on the reasons why we are, so far, largely incapable of accepting the answers, and I muse on some lessons learned along the way.

Fragmentation de l'habitat : une longue histoire bien mêlée
Les écologistes étudient les causes et les conséquences de la fragmentation des habitats depuis plus de 60 ans. Dans cette présentation, je discuterai de mon rôle au cours des 30 dernières années de cette histoire, en particulier en abordant les « questions évidentes » de la fragmentation - « La fragmentation de l'habitat est-elle un gros problème pour les espèces sauvages ? » et « Les effets de la fragmentation de l'habitat sont-ils généralement négatifs ou positifs ? » Je spécule sur les raisons pour lesquelles nous sommes, jusqu'à présent, largement incapables d'accepter les réponses, et je réfléchis à certaines leçons apprises en cours de route.

Presentation time: Friday August 20th 2021 11:30 AM - 12:15 PM PDT
Temps de présentation: Vendredi 20 août 2021 11h30 - 12h15

Dr. Isabelle Laforest-Lapointe

Recipient of Early Career Award 2021

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Abstract / Abstrait

Although the majority of scientific research on biodiversity has focused on plants, vertebrates, and arthropods, it is now recognized that microbial communities colonize and interact with macro-organisms, potentially influencing their fitness in the face of global change. Research on host-microbe interactions has benefited greatly from using ecological theories developed for macro-organisms to explain the assembly, diversity, stability, resilience, and resistance of communities. However, the adaptation of macro-ecological theories to the microscopic world represents a considerable challenge due to the unique properties of microorganisms. In addition, the scales at which temporal and spatial patterns are measured in macro-ecology are far from representative of the dynamics of the microbial world. Microbial ecology, a synergy between microbiology, ecology, and bioinformatics, has revealed an important role for plant-microbe interactions as drivers of terrestrial ecosystem functions such as productivity and resilience. We now know that microbial community assembly is determined by a combination of intrinsic and extrinsic factors, modulated by stochastic and deterministic processes. In this talk, I will discuss how my research (1) has made significant contribution to the field of microbial ecology; and (2) has led to a better understanding of plant-microbe interactions by identifying their role in supporting key terrestrial ecosystem functions.

Traduction française à venir

Presentation time: Tuesday August 17th 2021 8:30 AM - 9:15 AM PDT
Temps de présentation: Mardi 17 août 2021 8h30 - 9h15

Dr. Tess Grainger

Recipient of Early Career Award 2021

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Abstract / Abstrait

Eco-evolutionary dynamics will play a critical role in determining species' fates as the climate changes. Unfortunately, we have little understanding of how rapid evolutionary responses to climate play out when species are embedded in the complex communities that they inhabit in nature. In this talk, I'll discuss two recent projects that are aimed at addressing this gap. In the first project, we used a large-scale evolution field experiment with a native and an invasive vinegar fly on to test how adaptation to competition during one time period affects ecological and evolutionary trajectories when populations are subsequently subjected to a stressful climate. This experiment demonstrated that a history of adaptation to competition fundamentally altered the trajectory of trait evolution when populations were subjected to stressful climatic conditions. In the second project, we synthesized the results of 58 experiments that tracked rapid evolution of life history traits in response to warming, competition and predation in order to determine whether there are consistent responses across taxa and across selective pressures. We found surprisingly weak and inconsistent effects of all three selective agents on the evolution of life history traits, and I'll discuss the potential underlying causes of this result and the implications for the ongoing development of eco-evolutionary research.

Traduction française à venir

Presentation time: Tuesday August 17th 2021 8:30 AM - 9:15 AM PDT
Temps de présentation: Mardi 17 août 2021 8h30 - 9h15

Amber Gigi Hoi

Recipient of PhD Award 2021

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Abstract / Abstrait

Emphasizing the Vectors in Vector-Borne Disease Transmission and Evolution

Disease transmission is a product of mechanisms and interactions at multiple levels of biological organization, and a comprehensive understanding of these processes is essential to disease control. Malaria parasites, for example, can infect dozens of vector species and undergo complex, density-dependent developmental transitions within those vectors, but the consequences of vector diversity on disease transmission, or vector-parasite interactions on parasite trait evolution, have rarely been explored. My research fills these gaps by investigating the myriad and nuanced roles that vectors play in disease ecology and evolution, beyond simply carrying parasites, at the macroecological, community, and within-host scales. First, I examine the impact of vector diversity on malaria transmission. I synthesized disparate theory for vector community ecology, linking principles of community assembly to disease risk, and curated a unique, multi-scale dataset of global mosquito distribution and malaria burden. Using structural equation models, I provide the first empirical evidence that mosquito diversity amplifies malaria prevalence at both local and global scales, and demonstrate that this relationship is sensitive to a multitude of abiotic factors. Second, I investigate the evolutionary consequences of vector-parasite interactions. For malaria parasites, relative investment in transmission versus proliferative (i.e., host cell-infecting) stages is a key trait determining infectiousness, infection severity, and ultimately parasite fitness. To study how developmental processes and trade-offs that occur in the vector interact with the host half of the parasite life cycle to influence investment strategies in the host, I developed a mechanistic, mathematical model that links parasite development dynamics within-hosts and within-vectors. This model generates predictions for optimal transmission investment under a variety of scenarios, and provides refined proxies of parasite fitness by including transmission potential after passage through the vector, a major advancement over classic models of parasite evolution. Together, my research elevates vectors to their rightful place as crucial drivers of disease ecology and evolution.

Traduction française à venir

Presentation time: Thursday August 19th 2021 8:30 AM - 9:15 AM PDT
Temps de présentation: Jeudi 19 août 2021 8h30 - 9h15

Mike LaForge

Recipient of PhD Award 2021

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Abstract / Abstrait

Migration, Parturition, and Forage Selection in a Changing World

Climate change represents a significant threat to migratory species, as life history events such as migration and parturition are being decoupled from resources. Populations can, however, develop strategies to mitigate these consequences by developing plasticity in their behaviour to changing environmental contexts or via evolutionary adaptation as individuals better adapted to novel conditions gain fitness advantages. My research incorporates contemporary hypotheses regarding the behavioural ecology of individual differences and applies them to testing drivers of herbivore migration and parturition timing. Many herbivores track the flush of vegetation as it greens up along their migratory routes. Conversely, others opt to migrate prior to this green-up to take advantage of high-quality vegetation after migration when calves represent an additional energetic burden. Annual reproductive success is maximized when individuals time their life-history phenologies to take advantage of ephemeral resources. The timing of spring green-up is variable among years and advancing due to climate change. Within an individual’s lifetime they may be plastic in the timing of migration and parturition to acclimate to inter-annual variation. Across generations within a population, differences among individuals may have the potential to drive changes in mean dates of life history events to allow for adaptation to novel conditions in the Anthropocene. In this talk I will present results of my research into how migratory ungulates acclimate the timing of migration and parturition to changes in the timing of spring, and what consistent differences among individuals can tell us about the prospect for adaptation to climate change.

Traduction française à venir

Presentation time: Thursday August 19th 2021 8:30 AM - 9:15 AM PDT
Temps de présentation: Jeudi 19 août 2021 8h30 - 9h15

Peter Soroye

Recipient of PhD Award 2021

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Abstract / Abstrait

Climate Change and Land-Use Effects on Bumblebees

Biodiversity is declining across the globe, with climate change and land-use change frequently implicated as primary causes. Understanding the mechanisms behind declines is critical for developing effective conservation and management strategies. Pollinators are an especially important group to understand biodiversity change in, given the ecosystem services that they provide, and bumblebees (Bombus) are a particularly important and beautiful group of wild pollinators. My thesis investigated how climate change and its interactions with land-use change have related to population and community change in North American and European bumblebees, as well as the potential role of protected areas in mitigating declines in this group. I find a likely mechanism of how climate change has driven biodiversity change and introduce a broadly applicable methodology to improve prediction of climate change-related risk. This work implicates the increasing frequency and severity of extreme weather events in pollinator declines, and suggests that the creation and maintenance of microrefugia within landscapes could help slow extirpations. I find that interactions between climate change and land-use change are complex but often negative, especially in historically degraded areas. Yet, human land-use is not always associated with declines, suggesting that properly managed human landscapes could have minimal effects on pollinators. Finally, I find some evidence that protected areas may mitigate some negative effects of climate change and land-use change for bumblebees. However, these benefits may vary depending on the characteristics of protected areas, suggesting that reversing pollinator declines may require complementary conservation measures.

Traduction française à venir

Presentation time: Thursday August 19th 2021 8:30 AM - 9:15 AM PDT
Temps de présentation: Jeudi 19 août 2021 8h30 - 9h15

Francisco Henao Diaz

Recipient of PhD Award 2021

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Abstract / Abstrait

Reconstructing the Historical Dynamics of Lineage Diversification, Macroevolutionary Features and Scaling

Evolutionary rates play a central role in connecting micro- and macroevolution, and connect evolutionary biology with ecology and biogeography. Using 104 curated time-calibrated molecular phylogenies and 90 fossil time-series we describe that macroevolutionary rates are time-dependent. Our results are robust to model fitting, tree estimation or errors, taxonomic or sampling bias. This scaling pattern, where higher rates are observed on measurements done in short time intervals, is also shared with molecular evolution and trait evolution rates. Although molecular, trait and diversification rate scaling has been observed before, here we considered them under a unifying explanatory lens. Many processes can potentially result in the phenomenon of time-dependent rates. We group these into two classes of explanations that involve estimation error and/or model misspecification with some clear repercussions on how we are interpreting rates. Then, I discuss some recent work exploring other shared patterns in the shape and structure of phylogenetic trees beyond the time scaling. Using a set of recently published mega-phylogenies subsampled in different ways, we cataloged several similarities across groups with disparate histories. Specifically, we find that tree imbalance, expansion and branch length homogeneity increases towards the present. We also observed that named taxonomic groups differ in repeatable ways from similar clades without names. By describing and synthesizing recurrent phylogenetic patterns we provide a catalogue reference for empirical studies and motivation for future theoretical developments.

Traduction française à venir

Presentation time: Wednesday August 18th 2021 8:30 AM - 9:15 AM PDT
Temps de présentation: Mercredi 18 août 2021 8h30 - 9h15

Chloé Schmidt

Recipient of PhD Award 2021

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Abstract / Abstrait

Linking Population Processes to Biodiversity Patterns

Biodiversity patterns are the product of the interacting components of ecosystems, but in practice inferring broad-scale diversity patterns with knowledge of local scale processes is difficult. Thus, a complete understanding of the processes that give rise to diversity requires incorporating observations made from multiple perspectives and scales. In particular, we know little about broad spatial patterns of genetic diversity across species. The emerging field of macrogenetics provides an opportunity to evaluate the extent to which population processes predict biodiversity patterns at higher organizational levels. I hypothesized that demographic processes related to resource availability and heterogeneity shape patterns of biodiversity across the biodiversity hierarchy. To test this idea, I compiled publicly archived molecular genetic data encompassing ~60,000 raw genotypes with which I could estimate the genetic composition of 99 terrestrial vertebrate species (44 mammals, 25 birds, 19 amphibians, and 11 reptiles) sampled at >1,600 sites across the US and Canada. With these data I assessed patterns of biodiversity in relation to urbanization, species richness gradients, and biogeographic transition zones. In general, genetic diversity and species richness both increased with resource availability but were negatively correlated in heterogeneous environments where genetic differentiation also increased. These relationships were clearest for mammals and less straightforward in other taxa. It appears population processes contribute to broad scale patterns in other levels of biodiversity, however it is difficult to predict the effects specific environments will have across taxa. Repurposing open genetic data for multi-species analyses brings new opportunities for exploring previously hidden levels of biodiversity.

Traduction française à venir

Presentation time: Wednesday August 18th 2021 8:30 AM - 9:15 AM PDT
Temps de présentation: Mercredi 18 août 2021 8h30 - 9h15