Biodiversity Discussion Group 

Welcome! The Biodiversity Discussion Group meets weekly 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. 

Time: Thursdays at 4 pm

Location: Beaty 303 (Darwin Room). 

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Spring 2019 Schedule



Readings, tasks etc.


Snack provider

Feb 28

Coexistence theory

Read this paper by Barabas and colleagues. A big primer & update on “modern coexistence theory” that focuses on connecting theory to empirical studies



March 14

How we do science: small groups vs. big groups

Read this paper by Wu and colleagues. Analyzes a huge volume of scientific articles + patents + software to argue that small teams of scientists produce more “disruptive” science than large teams



March 21

Measuring the niche at population vs. species levels

Read this paper by Smith and colleagues. Argues that we should consider more evolutionary information when we characterize species’ niches. In particular, the fact that species typically consist of sets of genetically differentiated populations which may have distinct environmental preferences (i.e. niches). Implications for studying niche evolution, forecasting, etc.



March 28

Disease vs. diseases - the community ecology of pathogens and parasites

Read this paper by Johnson and colleagues. They argue that disease research would benefit from taking a community ecology approach. Are you convinced? Is the opposite also true (community ecology ideas would benefit from testing in disease systems)? Do you think a “community ecology approach” will help us manage and mitigate diseases?



April 4

Priority effects in community ecology

Read this paper by Grainger and colleagues. They make yeast strains fight with each other & see who wins & study these competitive interactions using the modern coexistence ideas we have been talking about. They manipulate which yeast is introduced first to the competitive arenas (to test priority effects) and measure different effects (stabilizing vs. fitness) the yeasts have on their yeasty brethren. Also the yeast strains have names like “Bumpy” and “Smooth”. How common do you think priority effects are in nature? What makes priority effects stronger or weaker? How helpful is being able to break down stabilizing vs. fitness effects? And last, why is Bumpy so damn good?



April 11

How does flowering time (and other phonological traits) evolve? Can we predict the future?

Read this paper by Rubin and colleagues. Flowering time is a very hot trait these days, in part because we have been able to document shifts in flowering time over the last century for many species, in many parts of the world. It’s a big trait showing impacts of climate change, and much of this work has been done on herbarium specimens – finding evidence of changes in collection dates over time, with the expectation that as times goes on, temperatures are increasing, and flowering is starting earlier in response. This paper goes at flowering time from a different perspective, asking about genetic variation for flowering time in a single population – there’s lots! They then look to see how flowering time (and a few other traits) change with different photoperiods. The idea here is that flowering earlier will affect the daylength at which you develop.

Lastly, I wanted to point out that this paper is very nicely written, and makes especially good use of topic sentences.



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Tips 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. 

Bring an expert: Special guests, faculty, and 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!

Tips for running a great discussion: Take a look at these tips, compiled specifically for BDG - they contain several possible ways to structure the hour so that everyone gets the most out of it. 

Previous terms
Fall 2012, Spring 2013, Fall 2013
, Spring 2014, Fall 2014, Spring 2015, Fall 2015, Spring 2015,Fall 2016, Spring 2017 

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Please e-mail Benjamin Freeman if you have questions.

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University of British Columbia
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