Andy Dobson

Head of the Disease Ecology and Conservation Lab, Department of Ecology & Evolutionary Biology, Princeton University, Princeton, NJ, USA

Andy Dobson is a Professor of Conservation Biology and the Ecology of Infectious Diseases at Princeton University. He has been on the faculty there since 1990 and his research focuses on wildlife diseases and conservation problems in Serengeti, Yellowstone, the Arctic and in the eyes of House Finches in most backyards in the US. He is External Faculty at the Santa Fe Institute where he writes and works on problems related to Complex Systems. He is also A.D.White visiting Professor at Cornell University and visiting Professor of Sustainability at IMeRA at Marseilles, France. He has published over 200 papers and at least 4 books; "Unsolved Problems in Ecology" will be published by Princeton University Press later this year.


Group Living and Infectious Diseases
Many species live in social groups. This has subtle and important consequences both for their population dynamics and for the dynamics of their pathogens. In this talk I’ll present some new mathematical models for the dynamics of group living species, they are based on results obtained from the reintroduction of wolves into Yellowstone National Park. The simplest version of the models can be solved analytically, they suggest group-living species exhibit different dynamics from those assumed by simple models of logistic growth, this principally occurs because regulation occurs at two different hierarchical levels: within groups and between social groups. I’ll then extend the model framework to consider the dynamics of two different types of pathogen: a simple pathogen such as mange, where hosts can be divided into susceptible and infected individuals, and a more complex pathogen such as canine distemper, where the host population has to be divided into Susceptible, Infected and Recovered individuals. The group structure of the host population again changes the dynamics of these pathogens from those we see when we assume homogenous and well mixed populations. Throughout I will compare the assumptions underlying the model structure with data from studies of wolves in Yellowstone and wild dogs in Serengeti National Park, Tanzania. In the last part of the talk I will expand the framework and consider how the modelling framework can be modified to examine the social systems of different primate species and their pathogens.

Julie Etterson

Head of the Ecological Genetics Lab, Department of Biology, University of Minnesota Duluth and Campus Lead of the Institute on the Environment – Duluth, Duluth, MN USA

Julie Etterson has a BA in International Studies, a BS in Biology, and received her PhD in Ecology in 2000. Her lab group studies evolution in native plant populations in response to anthropogenic factors, such as climate change and habitat restoration using the toolkit of ecological genetics. One of the most powerful methods for understanding contemporary evolution is the "resurrection approach" where ancestral populations are revived (e.g. using old seed) and grown side-by-side with descendant populations for direct comparison of changes that have occurred over time. Although such antecedent-successor comparisons are powerful, the ancestral seed necessary to do the experiments is rarely available. To solve this problem, Etterson led a team to establish a new research seed bank, Project Baseline (http://www.baselineseedbank.org/) , that will provide old seed for resurrection ecology research for the next 50 years. At present, I am applying the resurrection approach to understand evolutionary change in restoration materials due to sampling and unconscious selection during the process of commercial seed increase and how evolutionary changes in plant material affects restoration success. I have applied other ecological genetic tools to predict and test the rates of evolution in response to climate change. Etterson’s lab group also tests efficacy of management practices that are designed to ameliorate negative impacts of rapid environmental change, such as assisted migration and genetic augmentation.


Wild plant evolution under natural and unnatural selection
Although it is widely hypothesized that anthropogenic stressors are driving plant evolution, it is difficult to observe. The resurrection approach, where ancestral populations are revived (e.g. using old seed) and grown side-by-side with descendant populations, is a powerful way of directly observing temporal change. In this seminar I will presnt a case study that illustrates the value of this approach in the context of inadvertent evolution of plant material for ecological restoration. The high demand for native plant material for restoration that has led to an increasing dependence upon commercially grown sources. Although this shift away from wild-collected seed may protect natural population demographics, it may have unforeseen consequences at the restoration site. During farm propagation, populations are subject to sampling effects as well as unconscious artificial selection. Both processes can constrict genetic diversity and change the type of genetic variation present in the populations resulting in phenotypes that may contrast sharply with those found in wild populations. We compared plants grown from seed collected from the original wild populations to plants grown from seed harvested after eight generations of commercial propagation. Overall, the relative fitness of the wild plants was more than twice as high than farmed plants which strongly suggests that unconscious selection on native seed farms can undermine restoration success. Although such antecedent-successor comparisons are extremely informative, the ancestral seed necessary to do the experiments is rarely available. To solve this problem, a team of plant ecological and evolutionary geneticists established a research seed bank, Project Baseline, which will provide old seed for resurrection ecology research for the next 50 years. This collection includes 10-20 populations across the US continental ranges of 65 plant species with diverse life history attributes. With this valuable resource secured, biologists will be able to grow genetically representative samples of past populations contemporaneously with modern samples. This living genome bank will vastly expand the opportunities to use this research approach to learn about plant evolution across time and space.

David Kleijn

Chair of the Plant Ecology and Nature Conservation Group, Department of Environmental Sciences, Wageningen University, Wageningen, The Netherlands

David Kleijn studied plant breeding at Wageningen University, the Netherlands, and did his PhD on the ecology of arable field boundary vegetation at the same university. He subsequently had a range of postdoctoral positions at Wageningen University, Fribourg University (CH) and Nijmegen University before obtaining a tenured track position at his alma mater. He is currently chair of the plant ecology and nature conservation group. Throughout his career his research has focused on understanding the causes of biodiversity decline in agricultural landscapes and finding conservation strategies that maintain diverse ecosystems and sustainable populations of plants, invertebrates and birds. He does this through applied cause-effects studies as well as more fundamental research examining underlying mechanisms and processes. Because effective conservation is as much about people as it is about wild species of plants and animals, lately, much of his research examines the pros and cons of using ecosystem services as the justification for biodiversity conservation and by using more participatory action research approaches.


Effective biodiversity restoration requires a landscape-level multi-stakeholder approach
The last few decades, efforts to conserve biodiversity have increased rapidly and significantly but have nevertheless failed to halt the biodiversity decline. Action to halt further decline is urgently needed because wild species of animals and plants have intrinsic value, are a source of inspiration and provide key ecosystem services such as pollination, pest control and nutrient cycling. The ongoing decline is largely attributed to the fact that conservation is currently implemented in complete separation from other activities in the landscape that adversely affect biodiversity (e.g. agriculture, urbanization, transport) and may counteract positive effects of conservation. In agricultural landscapes, populations of many wild plants and animals depend on combinations of farm and non-farm habitats. Reversing the ongoing biodiversity decline therefore requires integrated nature-inclusive management of farmland, public space and protected areas. Adoption of such integrated nature-inclusive landscape management depends on support from local communities. This in turn depends at least partially on the socio-economic impacts it will have. Finding ways to make biodiversity conservation more effective therefore needs a participatory research approach that examines under real world conditions and together with stakeholders, the key environmental, economic and social processes determining the success of nature-inclusive landscape management.

Nancy Schellhorn

Co-funder and CEO of RapidAIM Pty Ltd, Brisbane, Australia; Principal research scientist with CSIRO, Canberra Australia

Dr Schellhorn is currently co-founder and CEO of RapidAIM Insect Sensing Technologies. RapidAIM provides a service of real-time pest monitoring for targeted insect pest control. RapidAIM removes the barriers to sustainable pest management by taking the guesswork out of pest detection, targeted management, and validation of control.

Prior to co-founding RapidAIM, Nancy was a Principal Research Scientist with CSIRO in Brisbane Australia where she developed and lead concepts to achieve pest-suppressive landscapes; a way of measuring, designing and managing agricultural landscape mosaics for productivity and biodiversity. By combining large-scale experimentation with ecological modelling Dr Schellhorn, her team, and her colleagues were able to inform landscape design and recommend management options for the capture of ecosystem services of pest control. However, one of the greatest barrier to implementing sustainable pest management practices was knowing where and when pest are in the region, farm and field. This problem lead to the development of real-time automated insect monitoring. Nancy has lead several national projects associated with area-wide management of pests, area-wide management of natural enemies, and the delivery and deployment of pest control technologies (e.g. sterile insect techniques and GM crop technologies). Nancy has worked across cotton, grains, vegetable and fruit systems in temperate, tropical, sub-tropical and Mediterranean climates.

Dr Schellhorn received her BS in Agriculture from the University of Missouri–Columbia, a MS in Ecology from the University of Missouri-St Louis, and PhD in Entomology from University of Minnesota. In 1999, she joined CSIRO in Australia. Nancy has served on many national and international committees and advisory panels including the Federal Office of Gene Technology Regulator Technical Advisory Committee, the GRDC National Grains Pest Advisory Committee, the Cotton Industry Technical Advisory Committee, and the OECD Integrated Pest Management Advisory Committee.


Searching for the win-win of sustainable food production: habitat conservation and landscape scale pest management
Insecticide use continues to rise with little change in the loss and damage that is caused by insect pests. Managing tiny, highly mobile, fast reproducing organisms that fail to recognize field, farm and Government borders is a massive challenge. Research into insect pest management beyond the spatial scale of a field has a long history with many practical example, successful and unsuccessful, of pest control applied at an area wide basis. More recently, researchers have drawn on principles from landscape ecology to consider crop fields in the context of habitats surrounding the farm. The motivation stemming from the desire to conserve biodiversity and natural biological pest control. Natural and semi-natural habitat diversity, landscape composition and landscape structure have figured prominently as means to support the organisms that provide pest control. However, despite decades of study, on-farm adoption of conservation biocontrol is far from widespread, and incentives for large-scale landscape coordination to support conservation biocontrol efforts are virtually non-existent. Challenges abound. Area-wide management of pests needs support from many stakeholders, and from the community; target landscapes are often spatially and temporally heterogenous; and knowing where and when pests show up is still a guessing game. In this key note address, Dr Schellhorn will use examples from the literature, and case studies to examine the tools, technologies and transdisciplinary science that is needed to meet the challenges and achieve area-wide suppression of pests while supporting conservation.

Carly Stevens

Senior Lecturer at the Lancaster Environment Centre, Lancaster University, UK

Dr Carly Stevens is a senior lecturer at Lancaster University where she has been working since 2012. Her research is related to impacts of global change on plant communities and soils. In particular she is interested in how atmospheric nitrogen deposition has impacted on ecosystems and the services they provide, across the world. This has included demonstrating the relationship between nitrogen deposition and plant species richness in the UK, western-Europe and the USA. Her research group work on a range of topics focussed around plant ecology, soils and global change, including some interdisciplinary projects working with sociologists, historians and linguists.

Dr Stevens received her BSc in 2000 from Nottingham University and her PhD from The Open University in 2004. At Lancaster University she currently teaches Ecology and field courses in Ecological Skills and Vegetation Classification. Carly is Director of Postgraduate Research students within her department and leads a research council PhD training programme. She currently edits for Oecologia, Functional Ecology and Scientific Reports.


The impact of nitrogen deposition on ecosystems
Atmospheric deposition of nitrogen represents a serious threat to ecosystems globally, impacting on both directly and indirectly on plant species richness and composition, invertebrate communities, soil microbial communities and soil chemistry. Although nitrogen deposition levels in parts of Europe have declined in recent years in many regions they have only stabilised or continue to increase. Critical loads for nitrogen deposition (the levels below which no harm can be detected) continue to be exceeded in many habitats. As a consequence nitrogen deposition continues to be a major threat to ecosystems in Europe and I will show evidence from a range of ecosystems that demonstrates these impacts at an ecosystem and individual species level. Much research to date has focussed on impacts of nitrogen deposition on plants and soils but evidence is also building that impacts can be seem at higher trophic levels. There are a number of mechanisms for how both herbivorous and non-herbivorous invertebrates are being impacted and impacts on pollinator species are becoming increasingly apparent. In light of global trends in pollinators and their importance for food security this is a particularly pressing concern. In recent years policy makers have become particularly concerned with what might happen to ecosystems as N deposition levels begin to decline and the extent to which there is potential for ecosystems to recover from the impacts of N deposition. I will demonstrate that although there is some potential for recovery this is likely to be very slow and some habitats have potentially reached alternative stable states offering little prospect of recovery to previous conditions. Management of nitrogen deposition and it’s impacts on the environment is a very complex problem presenting us with many challenges. Finally I will explore some of these issues and consider what we should be focussing on in order to raise awareness of this environmental problem.

Kris Verheyen

Head of the Forest & Nature Lab, Department of Environment, Faculty of Bioscience Engineering, Ghent University, Belgium

Kris Verheyen (born 1974) obtained a MSc (1997) and PhD (2002) degree in Forest and Nature Management at KU Leuven, Belgium. In 2004 he moved to Ghent University and became head of the Forest & Nature Lab. Since 2018 he is also head of the UGent Department of Environment, with 160+ researchers. At the start of this research career he focused on understanding the effects of land-use legacies on temperate forest (understorey) vegetation. This is a continued interest, but his research on this topic has broadened to studying the effects of multiple global change drivers on forest composition and functioning in temperate forest in Europe and elsewhere (see www.fleur.ugent.be and www.forestreplot.ugent.be). A second research line is the study of biodiversity – ecosystem functioning relationships in forests. This is done both in an observational way in existing, mature forest stands and in experimental tree diversity plantations within the scope of TreeDivNet (www.treedivnet.ugent.be). A third, more applied research line focuses on effective and efficient ecological restoration of forests and species-rich grasslands on former agricultural land. Fourth, and finally, he is very interested in applying the ecosystem service framework to a better management of (socio-)ecological systems. He sees his further career developing at this interface between science and society. Kris has (co-)authored more than 350 peer-reviewed journal papers, has written and edited several books, and (co-)promoted 45 PhD students. Until recently, he was associated editor of Applied Vegetation Science and section editor of Current Forestry Reports. At present he is handling editor of Journal of Environmental Management and of Forest Ecosystems. In 2013 he received an ERC Consolidator Grant to further his work on global change effects on forests.


The forest herb layer: more than a step-over
The forest herb layer is an underappreciated stratum in forests. It is less well studied than the tree layer and is also rarely considered when taking management decisions. This is surprising since a high share of the total forest plant diversity is contained in this stratum. Besides, the herb layer has a non-negligible impact on forest functioning, e.g. by acting as a filter for tree regeneration and through its role in biogeochemical cycles. The stratum’s diversity, composition and functioning is, however, strongly affected by global change drivers, such as climate warming and increased atmospheric deposition of nitrogen, interacting with the effects of changing forest management regimes. In this talk I will take you to the temperate forest and show how the composition and functions of the herb layer have changed during the last decades, explain what is driving these dynamics, and demonstrate how this information can be used for a future-oriented management of our forest heritage.