Biodiversity Discussion Group

Welcome to the Biodiversity Discussion Group (BDG) at the Biodiversity Research Centre of the University of British Columbia!

Why & who: We meet to discuss recent research papers and topics in biodiversity from both ecological and evolutionary perspectives. Any interested undergraduates, graduates, postdocs, and faculty are welcome to suggest papers and join the discussion. See below for links to past terms' topics.

When & where: We're meeting Thursdays at 10am in Beaty 224 (Ralf Yorque), unless otherwise noted

Notes for a great meeting

Ask questions, whether you fret they are silly or not, what you think is a 'dumb question' is probably a fundamental question that many are wondering about or should be. So speak up.

And on that 'speak up' note: Around minute 40 we'll try to switch things up this term and ask everyone who has talked to try not to talk for 10 minutes. We'll see how it goes, but if it takes you a while to psyche yourself up to speak then work on that before minute 40 and if you talk a lot, practice your lip-biting skills.

Bring an expert: Special guests, faculty we don't see enough of, experts in a topic are especially welcome. If you're running a discussion and think someone should be there, or just if you know someone who should be at a particular discussion, bring them!

Information on the BDG mailing list is below.

Twitter feed: (thanks to Andrew) Jump to tweets about BDG (#ubcbdg).

Spring 2014 Schedule



Readings, tasks etc.


Snack provider

16 January


(1) Think of topics for this semester's BDG.



23 January


(1) Read this paper: pdf

(2) Think about these questions here.

Katie & Jenn


30 January

Predator/prey dynamics and the evolution of (endo)symbiosis

(1) Read this paper: pdf

(2) Think about these questions here.

Vera and Lilly


6 February

How to pitch a paper

1. Come up with the "golden thread" for your dream set of results from your current work. How would you pitch it for Science or Nature vs a specialty journal?

2. Skim these two articles:

Writing Ecology Research Papers

How to Write a Scientific Paper

3. Think about these discussion questions here.

Amy, Laura, and Greg

13 February

Biogeographic patterns in diversity

Read this paper: pdf

Think about these questions:

(1) How does marine bacterial biogeography compare with marine macrobial biogeography?

(2) Is this approach an appropriate way to model latitudinal distribution derived from sequence data?

Additional reading here.



20 February

Reading Break!

27 February

Species interactions in a spatial context/along ecological gradients

Have a look at this paper: pdf. It is long, but skim most of it and read the discussion.

Think about these questions:

1. If these researchers had conducted this study at a single site, would their conclusions have changed?

2. If the outcomes of biotic interactions can change along ecological gradients, how generalizable are results obtained in a limited climatic or geographic region?

3. Are there hypotheses about how abiotic and biotic factors interact in your subfield or study system?


6 March

Biogeochemical cycling

Read this paper: Cordell et al. 2009

For further background, read this short note (optional): Elser and Bennett 2009

Think about these questions, here.

Joey & Angelica


13 March


Read this paper: pdf

Think about these questions:

(1) What biotic/ecological interactions can be seen in the fossil record?
(2) How are ecological terms defined differently in a paleo context?
(3) What insight can paleoecology give “modern” ecology?



20 March

Food webs as complex adaptive systems

This weeks' topic is chosen to complement Kevin McCann's visit this week!

Read this paper: Tunney et al., 2012

Think about these questions, here



27 March  

no BDG


3 April **3pm** How can ecologists use the Metabolic theory of Ecology?

**note special time - 3pm** (same room)

2 Papers: Trebilco et al, 2013

O'Connor et al, 2009

Optional: Jennings et al, 2008

Jenn (with Mary)


10 April

Topics suggested in January 2014 or before that didn't quite make the cut, click here



Other topics
2013-2014 academic year: biogeography of science and publication, women in science, overuse of p-values (point-counterpoint opportunity), researchers and public education, rewilding, parasites, replication, macroecology, physiological ecology, paleoecology, historical ecology, interacting with the media, phenology, what is ecology, niche modeling, functional redundancy, top wacko ideas in conservation

2012-2013 academic year: Marine and terrestrial ecology: unifying concepts, revealing differences, Setting the agenda for speciation research,
Ecosystomics: ecology by sequencer, Parasites and fungi and stuff, Niche modeling insanity, Paleo-climate change,
Resurrection ecology, Restoration ecology, What's wrong with eco-phylogenetics, Historical ecology, Scaling in time and space
Evolution and climate change, Evolutionary ecology and Back to the future: The return of the 1970s to ecology.

2013-2014 academic year: Ecological Stoichiometry, Physiological ecology, Invasiveness, How to interact with media, Biogeography of science and publications

Miscellaneous papers
That have come up during discussions:

Previous terms
Fall 2012, Spring 2013, Fall 2013

Mailing List
Email may be sent to the list at
To sign up for the mailing list send an e-mail with "subscribe" in the subject to
To remove yourself from the mailing list send a message with "unsubcribe" in the subject to

Please e-mail Jenn Sunday if you have questions.

Biodiversity Research Centre
#112-2212 Main Mall
University of British Columbia
Vancouver, British Columbia, V6T 1Z4, Canada