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Bridging the gap between theory and empiricism in ecology


Priyanga Amarasekare

Department of Ecology and Evolution

University of Chicago

T: (773) 834-7647



Michael Neubert

Endorsed by the ESA Theoretical Ecology Section


The feedback between theory and data has been integral to every significant conceptual advance in ecology. The puzzling but compelling patterns unearthed by empiricists have been the fodder for theorists intent on explaining the patterns, and tests of these theories by empiricists have in turn provided the insights necessary to delve deeper into a more satisfying understanding of the patterns. This symposium will explore a range of topics at the forefront of current ecological thinking – disease dynamics, invasion ecology, spatial dynamics, multi-species interactions – in all of which a tighter integration of theory and data is necessary, both from a basic scientific point of view and well as from a more applied one. The goals are to: (1) highlight recent conceptual advances in these important areas; and (2) illustrate avenues for translating theory into testable hypotheses and how data, both experimental and observational, may be used to test and refine the theory.

Symposium 24: Bridging the gap between theory and empiricism in ecology
Organized by: P Amarasekare and M Neubert

Friday, August 12, 8:00 AM – 11:30 AM, Meeting Room 517 C, Level 5, Palais des congrès de Montréal


8:10 AM: King, Aaron*,1, Lele, Subhash2, Rohani, Pejman3, Pascual, Mercedes4, 1 University of Tennessee, Knoxville, TN2 University of Alberta, Edmonton, AB, Canada3 University of Georgia, Athens, GA4 University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI, Linking mechanistic models with epidemiological data: Parameter estimation in the face of incomplete information.

8:30 AM: Huisman, Jef*,1, Johnk, Klaus1, Sharples, Jonathan2, Stroom, Jasper3, Sommeijer, Ben4, Visser, Petra1, 1 University of Amsterdam, Amsterdam, Netherlands2 Proudman Oceanographic Labs, Liverpool, United Kingdom3 Water Board Rijnland, Leiden, Netherlands4 Center for Mathematics and Computer Science, Amsterdam, Netherlands, Climate change and harmful algal blooms: bridging competition theory, lab studies and lake experiments.

8:50 AM: Shea, Katriona*,1, Kelly, Dave2, Sheppard, Andrew3, Woodburn, Tim3, 1 The Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA, 168022 University of Canterbury, Christchurch, New Zealand3 CSIRO Entomology, Canberra, ACT, Australia, Thistle invasions: Integration of theoretical and empirical approaches.

9:10 AM: Rees, Mark 1, Ellner, Stephen*,2, 1 University of Sheffield, Sheffield, UK2 Cornell University, Ithaca, NY, Linking complex demographic transitions to population behavior: An integral projection approach.

9:30 AM: , BREAK.

9:45 AM: Huxel, Gary1, Talley, Drew1, 2, Sanchez-Pinero, Francisco3, 1 University of South Florida, Tampa, FL, USA2 San Francisco State University, San Francisco, CA, USA3 Universidad de Granada, Granada, Spain, Long-term dynamics of island food webs.

10:05 AM: Bonsall, Michael1, Hastings, Alan2, 1 University of Oxford, Oxford, U.K.2 University of California, Davis, CA, U.S.A., Reconciling theory with data in multispecies metapopulations.

10:25 AM: Fagan, William*,1, Lewis, Mark2, Neubert, Michael2, Aumann, Craig 1, Apple, Jenny 3, Bishop, John3, 1 University of Maryland, College Park2 University of Alberta, Edmonton3 Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute, Woods Hole, Stoichiometry and the spatial dynamics of consumer-resource coinvasions at Mount St. Helens.