January 30 2018

11:00 158 HH

This seminar is sponsored by EEB and QC Bio

Colin Kremer
W.K. Kellogg Biological Station
Michigan State University

Beakers to oceans, days to decades: evolution and plasticity mediate microbial ecology in a changing world


Living things react to their environment – this is a fundamental aspect of what it means to be alive. Despite this, large portions of ecology assume that species can be characterized by sets of static, unchanging traits, which determine everything from where species occur to how they interact. Ecologists are increasingly realizing the cost of this convenient assumption: mounting evidence shows that dynamic trait changes, driven by phenotypic plasticity and evolution, affect everything from basic population dynamics to the maintenance of biodiversity in the face of anthropogenic change. Perhaps nowhere are the effects of trait change more evident and critical to understand than among microbes, where ecological and evolutionary processes are intimately entwined.

I address this critical challenge through studying the ecology of phytoplankton (diverse, globally important photosynthetic microbes). Merging experimental and theoretical results, I will show that: (i) phytoplankton traits are far more dynamic than generally thought, and (ii) these dynamics, driven by plasticity and evolution, are essential to understanding the ecology of phytoplankton, from the behavior of populations in beakers, to the diversity of communities and the response of global marine ecosystems to climate change. Accounting for trait dynamics in these (and other!) systems will be essential to advancing both fundamental and applied ecology.
































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































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