Biodiversity and Ecosystem Function

This module will focus on the iterative nature of science, namely how hypotheses are generated from observations, how hypotheses can be tested and how the conclusions feedback to refine original hypotheses and experiments.



Readings, HW, Things to think about





Thursday, November 3

Discuss examples of low diversity and high diversity systems, and the hypotheses or conjectures for why they are that way.

  • This includes the latitudinal biodiversity gradient, historical ecology (contingencies of the past), what we know of functional and ecological diversity, what does competition mean, etc.

For today: Hutchinson 1959, Homage to Santa Rosalia, AND look at the thread of papers that have cited this work (especially, perhaps, those with “Santa Rosalia” in the title) to see where our questions of taxonomic and functional diversity started, and have gone.

For Tuesday: using John Pickering’s moth project and reading a short primer (10 pages) on diversity statistics by Maurer & McGill, students develop a hypothesis, or a proposal to find out more, about diversity (species? higher level, e.g. taxonomy as function) and phenology either in Clarke County, GA, or Costa Rica (or comparing the two regions, about 2500km apart). Generate a 1-panel (printed) presentation of what you identify.




Tuesday, November 8

  • Quick mixer, each student talks for 20-30 seconds on what they were focused on with the patterns they explored and hypotheses generated.
  • Identify a way to pool ideas into groups
    • talk about similar ways and different ways they approached the data available.
    • form groups that had a common interest in the data.
    • Talk about the data in small groups, and what questions can be asked next.
  • Short lecture-discussion on diversity statistics and ecology/evolution

For Thursday: Read Lubchenco 1978




Thursday, November 11

  • Discuss how Jane Lubchenco started resolving more complex interactions of +/- diversity in a system, what this tells us about the growth of community ecology in the decade following Paine - making additional observations of common processes, how did our understanding advance?

For Tuesday: Read Duffy et al. 2003 and think about: Is diversity itself a functional trait? How do we define function? Do we need to classify function or just maximize variation within and among species? How would this be measured?

HW: On your own or in shared-interest groups, identify how you would add a component of studying diversity to your MOTHING analysis, e.g. does your group want to consider interactions, function, beta diversity (how different sites are), add data from another location or contrast with a different dataset altogether? Identify the tools/knowledge you need to do so, or the data you wish you had. 




Tuesday, November 15

  • We discuss Duffy et al 2003 but in terms of our exploration of diversity overall, how do you interpret this paper now that you are thinking about high-diversity systems? How do you identify which players are likely to be important?
  • Discuss your group advances on considering Moth data
  • Brief presentation on beta diversity
  • Read for next class: Bolnick et al 2003 on individual space and niche space OF a taxon, Acevedo-Whitehouse et al 2003 on genetic diversity and disease susceptibility (second is quite short, just further examples of how diversity at hierarchical levels influences ecological dynamics of a system….)
  • HW for next time: Write group report on what your Moth questions ended up being, what additional information/data/techniques you would want to pursue. 1-page collaborative “microproposal”.




Thursday, November 17

  • Discuss intraspecific diversity - do species evolve? do species have consistent ecology across distribution? what is the importance of evolutionary/taxonomic precision in asking ecological questions? what is the power gained by lumping to higher levels (taxon? function? process?)?
  • Summarize collaborative microproposals
  • For next time: Prepare for a debate, 2 teams chosen and assigned a side to support for each question, email/discuss/meet within your team and consider the points that are relevant to the 3-4 debate questions (TBA). Thanksgiving week is travel/family time, but also 9 days.

Tuesday, November 29