Priority effects in a changing climate

A new publication from the Feeley Lab in Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution addresses the importance of priority effects on species range shift. The publication is a comment to a paper published in Nature by Alexander et al (2015).

Commentary: Novel competitors shape species´ responses to climate change

Belen Fadrique and  Kenneth Feeley

There is a growing appreciation of the need to understand the effects of climate change on species interactions and how changes in interactions can influence the ability of species to persist in the face of climate change (Araújo and Luoto, 2007; Thuiller et al., 2008; Svenning et al., 2014). However, empirical or experimental studies investigating species interactions under climate change remain extremely scarce. Alexander et al. (2015) use experimental transplants of European alpine plant species and communities to provide valuable insight into some of the novel competitive interactions that may emerge as species migrate upslope to keep pace with rising temperatures. More specifically, they look at performance of plant species under simulated upslope migrations into preexisting higher-elevation plant communities as well as the performance of plant species that fail to migrate and find themselves competing with new suites of species migrating into their community from below. This is a useful approximation of some of the scenarios that are already being created by the unequal responses of species to climate and the creation of novel communities.

One limitation of the study by Alexander et al. (2015) is the omission of the earliest phases of establishment when processes such as dispersal and germination are crucial in the encroachment of initial populations of migrant species into the new locations (Hampe, 2011). In particular, the experimental set up fails to account for one of the potentially most important drivers of community assembly—priority effects. Priority effects refer to the observation that early colonists will often inhibit, or alternatively facilitate, the establishment of subsequent colonizers (Connell and Slatyer, 1977).

Keep on reading HERE.

Advertisements

P.E.O. ayudando a la educación superior de las mujeres

(see below for English version)

En la mayoría de los casos, el camino hasta llegar a los estudios de postgrado, y especialmente si es un postgrado en ecología tropical, no es barato.

Después de mis estudios de licenciatura, me encontré realizando actividades que definitivamente me iban a ayudar a desarrollar mis habilidades, enriquecer mi experiencia y mi curriculum, pero también a empobrecer mi cuenta bancaria. Fui voluntaria en laboratorios, en expediciones de campo, realicé prácticas en el otro lado del mundo y me apunté a varios cursos de inglés para tener varios certificados. Solía decir que todas estas actividades eran INVERSIONES. Cuando comencé mi doctorado pensé que todas esas inversiones por fin se veían recompensadas. Y sí, era verdad, estaba en un buen grupo de investigación, estudiando lo que yo quería. Sin embargo, muy pronto me di cuenta de que el doctorado era otra inversión. Tuve que hacer malabares para poder pagar las tasas, la renta, la comida, el seguro, el coche y todo lo necesario para empezar una vida en Miami.

Afortunadamente, mi compañera de laboratorio Catherine Bravo me animó a solicitar la International Peace Scholarship, ofrecida por la hermandad P.E.O. (Philanthropic Educational Organization). Esta beca apoya a mujeres internacionales que realizan estudios de postgrado en los Estados Unidos y Canada. Durante este año académico, P.E.O. me ha proporcionado apoyo para pagar las tasas y algún otro gasto, lo que ha hecho mi vida mucho más fácil y amena.

P.E.O. fue fundada en 1869 por siete estudiantes de Iowa Wesleyan College en Mount Pleasant, Iowa. El objetivo era promover oportunidades de educación para mujeres. La hermandad ha crecido y ahora está presente en los 50 estados de Estados Unidos y en seis provincias de Canadá. Hay más de 250.000 miembros de P.E.O. en el mundo. Más de 90.000 mujeres se han beneficiado de P.E.O. a través de becas, préstamos, premios, proyectos especiales y Cottey College.

Recientemente, tuve el honor de acudir a una comida en conmemoración de la fundación de P.E.O. por siete mujeres valientes, que desafiaron el mundo de su tiempo. Conocí a mujeres increíbles de diferentes capítulos de Broward County, Florida. Me mostraron un increíble entusiasmo por mi investigación, mis objetivos y el impacto que yo misma y otras mujeres podemos tener en la sociedad.

Fue una experiencia increíble y me gustaría agradecer a P.E.O. no solo por la beca, que es muy útil, sino por el apoyo emocional y social que me proporcionan.

P.E.O., helping women pursue higher education

In many cases, the path to arrive to Graduate school, and especially Graduate school in Tropical Ecology, is not cheap.

After completing my undergraduate degree, which already required a fair amount of money, I found myself performing different activities that were definitely helping the development of my skills, the enrichment of my experience and my resume, but also the depletion of my bank account. I volunteered in labs, in field expeditions, I had internships in different parts of the world and I enrolled in several English courses. I used to say (for myself and the judging world) that all of those activities were INVESTMENTS. When I got into the PhD program I thought that, finally, all of those investments would be acknowledged. Yes, they were; I got into a good lab doing what I want to do.  However, I soon realized that Grad school was one more investment. I was financially juggling to pay the fees, the rent, the food, the insurance and the car; everything to start a life in Miami.

Fortunately, my lab mate Catherine Bravo encouraged me to apply for the International Peace Scholarship offered by the sorority P.E.O. (Philanthropic Educational Organization). This scholarship supports international women doing their graduate studies in the United States and Canada. During this past academic year, they have provided me support to pay my fees and some extra expenses which has made my life a lot easier and enjoyable.

P.E.O. was founded in 1869, by seven students at Iowa Wesleyan College in Mount Pleasant, Iowa. The goal was to promote educational opportunities for women. The sorority has grown and now it is present in the 50 states and 6 Canadian provinces. There are more than 250,000 members of P.E.O. around the world.  More than 90,000 women have benefited from P.E.O.´s educational grants, loans, awards, special projects and stewardship of Cottey College.

I recently had the honor of attending a luncheon to commemorate the foundation of P.E.O. by the seven brave women who challenged the world of their time. I met incredible women from different chapters in Broward County, Florida. They showed an incredible enthusiasm about my research, my goals and about the impact that myself and other women can have on society.

It was certainly a great experience and I want to sincerely thank P.E.O., not only for the funding which is incredibly helpful, but for the emotional and social support that they provide me.

 

 

 

Dr. Mark Bush visits FIU

Invited by the FIU Biology Graduate Students Association and hosted by the Feeley Lab, Dr. Mark Bush from Florida Institute of Technology came to give a Bio-Seminar at FIU.

Dr. Bush is a world expert in the study of biogeography through the use of palynology (the study of pollen). However his interests do not stop there; he has undergone wide research on topics that vary from the collapse of the Pleistocene megafauna, to the recent megadroughts in the Amazon forest, and the impact of global events of climatic variability in past and current vegetation.  He is a lead investigator in the Andes Biodiversity and Ecosystem Research Group and he has collaborated with Ken Feeley on one of our most important papers: “Upslope migration of Andean trees”.

Even more, during relaxed conversation he can talk about the future of science, the ecology of South Florida, and he even showed us a new app that he has developed for frog-call identification – “WhatFrog?”. He definitely has a broad range of interests.

Bio-Seminar FIU

Bio-Seminar FIU

His talk:  “Forests and Megafauna in the Ice-Age Amazon-Andes” was one of the most crowded of this year’s Bio-Seminar Series.  In his talk it was again obvious the variety of topics that interrelate in his research, from past to present interactions of plants and animals, to the impact of humans.

In addition to the talk, Dr. Bush day at FIU was packed with meetings with people who wanted to talk to him and get an insight on his research. He gave very valuable advice to graduate students such as: “remember that you are doing a thesis, not the thesis”- which I will have in my mind from now on.

From everyone in the Feeley Lab, we thank you Dr. Bush for sharing your day with us.

El grupo del Dr. Feeley viaja a Colombia

No se puede pensar una forma mejor de pasar el descanso de primavera que ir a trabajar a la selva Colombiana. Compartiendo el mismo sentimiento, cuatro estudiantes del grupo del Dr. Feeley, Catherine Bravo, Tim Pérez, James Stroud y Belén Fadrique, junto con el propio Ken Feeley, viajaron al corazón del Amazonas.

El objetivo del viaje era conducir proyectos de investigación que contribuyeran a la conservación de la biodiversidad amazónica. Por esa razón fuimos a uno de los lugares más biodiversos del mundo, el Parque Nacional Natural Amacayacu, justo en el borde de Colombia, Perú y Brasil. Al parque se accede desde Leticia, DSC07703ciudad colombiana conocida como la puerta al Amazonas. Desde ahí, recorrimos en bote el río Amazonas, parando en las diferentes comunidades indígenas hasta llegar a la estación Amacayacu. La estación está construida sobre el agua del Amazonas y al estar en estación de lluvias, no es posible acceder a ella si no es en bote.

El equipo al completo, preparados para mojarnos

El equipo al completo, preparados para mojarnos

Éramos un grupo diverso compuesto por los cuatro estudiantes de FIU, dos estudiantes de grado de la Universidad Central de Medellin (Katherine Rivas Hernández and Sara Pineda Zapata), Andrés Barona, coordinador de la parcela, Dr. Juan Saldarriaga, profesor invitado, Dr. Ken Feeley y Dr. Álvaro Duque. En total sumábamos cinco nacionalidades por lo que los desayunos y las cenas eran momentos de discusión y comparación de las diferentes comidas, tradiciones y culturas de nuestros países de origen.

Dr. Duque es el artífice de esta aventura; él nos invitó y nos proporcionó la logística necesaria para el éxito de nuestros proyectos. Dr Duque es el investigador principal en la parcela Amacayacu, establecida en 2007 y perteneciente a la red CTFS. La parcela Amacayacu (-3.80917, -70.2679) consta de 25 hectáreas donde todos los árboles con más de 1 cm de diámetro están identificados y marcados siguiendo los protocolos de CTFS. La parcela está situada en la formación Pebas y presenta una topografía ligeramente irregular, la precipitación anual media es de 3000mm y la temperatura media mensual de 24-26ºC.

DSC07750Desde la estación hay que atravesar en bote la zona de bosque inundado para abrirse camino hacia la parcela. El primer día, el Dr. Duque y Andrés Barona nos ofrecieron una visita guiada en la que nos enseñaros las nociones básicas para orientarnos en la parcela. Creo que yo conseguí orientarme el último día.

Catherine Bravo intentando orientarse en la parcela

Catherine Bravo intentando orientarse en la parcela

Durante los cinco días de trabajo de campo colectamos hojas de especies de sotobosque localizadas en diferentes niveles de convexidad del suelo. Tim Pérez midió varios rasgos funcionales de las hojas y Catherine Bravo investigó la tolerancia de las hojas a la sequía. El objetivo principal era estudiar la plasticidad fenotípica en las especies de sotobosque.

Mi proyecto sobre plasticidad intra-individuo en la relación temperatura-tamaño de la hoja no pudo realizarse por problemas con la tecnología, cosas del directo. Por esa razón, tuve que preparar otro proyecto que contribuyera a la conservación de la diversidad y que trabajara al unísono con los proyectos de mis compañeros. Así, decidí estudiar los patrones de herbivoría en las especies de sotobosque. Para ello escaneé las hojas colectadas para calcular mediante programas informáticos el porcentaje de hoja que había sido consumida por herbívoros. De esta manera, podré relacionar la herbivoría con el resto de rasgos funcionales medidos y los niveles de convexidad del suelo. ¿Son quizás las hojas más finas las más consumidas? ¿O quizás si son duras puedes evitar ser consumidas por herbívoros?

Mientras tu miras a la mariposa, yo miro a los agujeritos de las hojas

Mientras tu miras a la mariposa, yo miro a los agujeritos de las hojas

Los resultados de este y los demás proyectos llegarán pronto al blog.

Esta experiencia ha sido una oportunidad única de recordarme por qué hago lo que hago. Estudiar semanas para un examen merece la pena si al final lo que consigo es poder ir al corazón de la selva, preguntarme porqué las cosas son tal cual las veo y tener el apoyo y los recursos para realizar un experimento y contestar a mi pregunta.

A su vez, este viaje sirvió para establecer nuevos vínculos entre los grupos del Dr. Feeley y Dr. Duque y fortalecer la colaboración ya existente. Adicionalmente, este proyecto es el resultado de la colaboración conjunta de las instituciones participantes en la iniciativa Socios para la Conservación de la Amazonia Colombiana, quien otorgó la financiación necesaria para llevarlo a cabo y a quien agradezco enormemente esta oportunidad.

El Río Amazonas

El Río Amazonas

The Feeley Lab goes to Colombia

One cannot think of a better way to spend the Spring Break than working in the Colombian Amazon. Sharing this very sentiment, four students of the Feeley Lab, Catherine Bravo, Tim Perez, James Stroud and I (Belén Fadrique), as well as Dr. Feeley himself, travelled to the heart of the Amazon.

The objective was to carry out research projects that will contribute to the conservation of Amazonian biodiversity. For this reason, we went to one of the most highly diverse forest in the world, the Parque Nacional Natural Amacayacu, DSC07703located close to the border between Colombia, Peru and Brazil. For accessing the park we had to go to Leticia, a Colombian city known as the door of the Amazon. From there, we took a boat that sailed along the Amazon river, stopping at the indigenous communities until arriving to the Amacayacu station. The station is built on the Amazon shore and as we were in the rainy season, the only way to arrive there was by boat.

DSC07663

The whole team ready to get wet

We were a diverse group formed by the four FIU students, two undergraduate students from Universidad Central Medellin, Andrés Barona, plot manager, Dr. Juan Saldarriaga, invited professor, Dr. Feeley and Dr. Alvaro Duque. As a whole, we added up to five nationalities, therefore breakfast and dinner were moments for comparing and contrasting the different cultures and traditions of our own countries.

Dr. Duque was the person who made this adventure possible. He invited us and provided us with all the necessary logistics for the success of our projects. Dr. Duque is the Principal Investigators of the plot. The Amacayacu plot (-3.80917, -70.2679) is part of the CTFS (Center for Tropical Forest Science) network; it was established in 2007 and has an extension of 25ha. The plot is located in the tropical moist forest life zone (Holdridge et al., 1978) in the Pebas formation, on Tertiary sedimentary plains characterized by a hilly and slightly dissected topography. Annual mean precipitation is 3000 mm and monthly average temperature is 24-26ºC. In the plot, all trees are tagged and identified following the CTFS protocols.DSC07750

In order to reach the plot from the station, we had to go through the flooded forest by boat. The first day, Dr. Duque and Andrés Barona offered a guided visit where they showed us basic notions for orientation inside the plot. I don´t think I was fully oriented until the last day of work.

DSC07655

Catherine Bravo trying to get oriented in the plot

During the five days of field work, we collected and processed leaves of understory species located on different levels of soil convexity, a proxy to soil moisture. Tim Perez measured several leaf traits and Catherine Bravo investigated drought tolerance. The common goal of our projects was to study phenotypic plasticity in understory species.

My project about intra-individual plasticity and the temperature-size leaf relationship did not work for technological difficulties. For that reason, I started another project that would contribute to both, diversity conservation and to the other projects carried out by the lab. Therefore, I decided to study herbivory patterns in understory species. I scanned the collected leaves in order to calculate, by using computer software, the percentage leaf consumed by herbivores. With this information, I could relate the herbivory percentage with the rest of the functional traits measured and with the soil convexity. Maybe thinner leaves are consumed more. Or maybe, if the leaves are tougher they can avoid being eaten by herbivores. Would this change with convexity?

While you look at the butterfly, I look at the holes on the leaves

While you look at the butterfly, I look at the holes on the leaves

Results from this and the other projects will arrive soon to this blog!

This experience has been a unique opportunity which has reminded me why I do what I do. Studying for weeks for an exam is worthy if at the end I get to go to the heart of the jungle, wonder why things are like they are, and I get the support for researching and experimenting until my questions are answered.

Additionally, this journey allowed us to establish new links between the groups of Dr. Feeley and Dr. Duque and to strengthen the already existing collaboration. In addition, this project was the result of the joint collaboration of the different participating institutions in the initiative: Socios para la Conservación de la Amazonía Colombiana, which funded me to carry out the project and which I am very grateful for.

DSC07705

The Amazon river

The Fairchild Challenge

On Wednesday, some graduate students from The Feeley Lab participated as mentors in the Fairchild Challenge’s Environmental Immersion Day at Fairchild Tropical Botanical Garden. The purpose of this event was to introduce high school students to the many disciplines of biology.

The activities offered were presented under the following cathegories: Biological imagery, Environmental professionals, Functional ecology, Plant–animal ecology, Tropical biodiversity and Growing, propagating and conserving. Each group of students had the opportunity to visit three “research stations” of their interest. High schoolers got hands on experience with an array of research, from watching birds with Alex Levin to observing microscopic fungi with Johana Weremijewicz or even catching lizards with our lab’s very own James Stroud. (More about Fairchild’s Graduate Students: http://www.fairchildgarden.org/Education/Graduate-Studies/Graduate-Students).

Tim Perez, Catherine Bravo and I introduced students to climate change and its relationship with functional leaf traits. After discussing functional traits, students hypothesized which leaves would be most adversely affected by high temperature. Students then measured leaf fluorescence as an indicator of plant stress and discovered that increasing environmental temperatures will decrease photosynthetic ability. For the first time, these students got to practice making and testing hypotheses of the climate change-related research! By the end of our activity, students understood that plants must migrate in response to climate change to avoid extinction.

Another important goal was to present Biology as a possible career. We encouraged the students to explore avenues of biology through coursework, and internships that can help them figure out a path to their vocation. We gave them useful advice and support as, a few years ago (for some more than for others), we were in their same position.

With this initiative, Fairchild Tropical Botanical Garden and the graduate mentors helped to bring some new students into the biological career. We may have planted the seeds for the next generation of Biologists.