Plenary Speakers

Scientific Plenary and ESA Awards Session

Monday, August 7, 2017, 8:00 AM – 10:00 AM
Oregon Ballroom, Oregon Convention Center

The Robert H. MacArthur Award is given biannually to an established ecologist in midcareer for meritorious contributions to ecology, in the expectation of continued outstanding ecological research. The recipient is invited to be the Keynote Speaker at the Scientific Plenary.

Presider: David Lodge, ESA President

Keynote Speaker: Anurag A. Agrawal, Cornell University, Robert H. MacArthur Award Winner

Title: “How evolutionary is ecology?”

Some the greatest advances in our discipline have come from integrating ecology with other areas of study, resulting in fields such as biogeochemistry and natural resource management.An integration between ecology and evolutionary biology has been critically important since the very beginning, is the basis of academic units (i.e., Departments of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology), and repeated calls have suggested further integration to advance the basic and applied biological sciences. And yet there is some tension between ecology and evolutionary biology. Although “nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution”, not all ecological questions will necessarily profit from an evolutionary perspective. In this lecture I will address the hierarchical scales of ecology as a science, and where evolutionary biology already has, or likely will, contribute to advancement. Where tension exists, as in community ecology, we can advance the field by considering distinct questions from the small to the large scale, with and without an evolutionary perspective. Examples from diverse ecosystems will illustrate the point.

Brief Biography

Anurag Agrawal received a Bachelor’s and Master’s degree from the University of Pennsylvania and PhD from UC Davis (1999). After doing a short postdoc at the University of Amsterdam, he joined the faculty at the University of Toronto’s Department of Botany and moved to Cornell University in 2004, where he is currently professor in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology (joint appointed in Entomology). His research addresses questions on the ecology and evolution of plant-insect interactions, including aspects of herbivory, community ecology, chemical ecology, and coevolution. Integrating natural history, big questions, and interacting with diverse scientists, from students to citizens, is his passion.

New Phytologist Trust Keynote Speaker

Monday, August 7, 2017, 10:15 AM – 11:30 AM
Oregon Ballroom, Oregon Convention Center

Guest Lecturer: Tom Lovejoy, George Masson University

Title: “Look Back Lest you Fail to Mark the Path Ahead”

Daniel Pauly first drew attention to “Shifting Baselines” in 1995, formalizing the reality that people tend to consider the state of the world they are born into and grow up in as “normal”. Twenty two years later it is clear that a lot of environmental change is so rapid, to the point of in some cases of even exponential, that identifying appropriate baselines are increasingly challenging. What might that mean for how ecological science can aid in understanding the change and possible policy implications?

Brief Biography

Thomas Lovejoy is a professor in the Department of Environmental Science and Policy at George Mason University and a senior fellow for science, economics, and the environment at the United Nations Foundation, based in Washington, DC. Lovejoy has served on science and environmental councils under the Reagan, Bush and Clinton administrations and was also the World Bank’s chief biodiversity advisor and lead specialist for environment for Latin America and the Caribbean. Lovejoy holds Bachelor of Science and PhD in biology from Yale University.

Recent Advances Lecture

Wednesday, August 9, 2017, 12:15 PM – 1:15 PM
Oregon Convention Center

With the rapid expansion of our discipline, it becomes ever more challenging to stay abreast of what’s exciting and current across the field of ecology. No one can track the full primary literature of ecology, yet most of us would like to have some sense of what is current and important in areas outside our own particular expertise. The Recent Advances talks are designed to address this need by providing current, high-level synopses of timely issues, precisely for the broad community of professional ecologists. Topics will be different each year, and speakers will be selected for their capacity to offer a synthetic and up-to-date perspective for their colleagues.

Presider: Christopher Swam, ESA Program Chair

Guest Lecturer: Katharine N. Suding, University of Colorado Boulder

Title: “Digging deeper into the tangled bank: recent advances in biodiversity and ecosystem dynamics”

These are exciting times for biodiversity research. Following two decades of work on the importance of species diversity on ecosystem function, we are now forming a deeper understanding of biodiversity, one that embodies multiple dimensions – taxonomic, functional, phylogenetic, and genetic – of variation, as well as one that considers how these dimensions contribute to the dynamic nature of ecosystems across time and space. These advances bridge long-term observations of ecological change with contemporary approaches to quantify mechanisms as coexistence, resilience, and turnover. Specifically, drawing from my work in grassland and tundra as well as from work in other systems, I will argue that biodiversity might provide insights into the amazing variability we are witnessing in ecological sensitivity to environmental change. A range of biodiversity mechanisms that can lead to these differences in sensitivity, including feedbacks driven by select functional groups, networks of interactions driven by a diverse biota, and adaptive capacity driven by historical legacies. Together these advances are enabling rich insights that link population, community, and ecosystem dynamics and form a strong foundation for applications that inform on-the-ground ecological restoration and conservation efforts.

Brief Biography

Katharine N. Suding is a plant community ecologist who focuses on both diverse ecosystems of high conservation value and more degraded ones in need of restoration. She is a Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology and Fellow of the Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research. She directs the Niwot Ridge Long-term Ecological Research Program.