Early evolutionary analyses of animal cognition and behaviour by Darwin and subsequent researchers were highly integrative in their approach to mechanisms and functions across all species, including humans. Early in the twentieth century, however, evolutionary biology diverged from psychology, with the former mostly neglecting cognition and the latter being largely removed from animal natural history, ecology and evolution. In the past few decades, there has been a growing appreciation for the need to integrate the two diverged bodies of literatures to understand mechanisms and functions of information processing and decision-making in animals. The aim of this symposium is to increase dialogue among researchers with different scientific backgrounds and knowledge of distinct, relevant data from the past. This dialogue will help direct much-needed future research that combines mechanistic and functional approaches to enhance our knowledge of the evolution of animal cognition and the effects of cognition on animal ecology and evolution.
Network Ecology: The interplay of network structure and function Organizers: Mark Dale (Department of Ecosystem Science and Management, University of Northern British Columbia) and Marie-Josée Fortin (Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of Toronto)
This symposium focuses on how the relationship between the structure and the functional dynamics networks is of paramount to gain insights into ecological processes in a changing world. Indeed, there is a reciprocal interplay between the network topology/structure and how it affects the network function and subsequent dynamics, stressing the importance of modeling feedback effects in ecological networks. First, conceptual and analytical issues that are needed to model ecological networks will be presented. Then, through a series of case studies, we will illustrate how network theory can be applied to a wide range of ecological networks.
Integrative approaches in deep time phylogenetics, macroevolution and paleobiology Organizers: Tiago R. Simões, Department of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology, Museum of Comparative Zoology, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA 02138, USA. Oksana Vernygora, Department of Biological Sciences, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta T6G 2E9, Canada.
The last decade of research in organismal evolution has been marked by the increasing availability and size of morphological and molecular data, as well as new analytical approaches enabling the incorporation of different data types. As a result, comprehensive research programs in evolutionary biology now enable the incorporation of fossils and with several dimensions from extant organisms to answer long-standing problems in macroevolution. The main goal of this symposium is to bring together evolutionary biologists from various fields (phylogenetics, evo-devo, biomechanics and macroevolution) who use a broad array of new tools to extract data from fossil and extant organisms to investigate evolutionary patterns and processes across deep time scales. We hope to show the new face of macroevolutionary research and palaeobiology and promote further collaboration among all fields of evolution biology.
Putting whole genome sequences to work for conservation Organizers: Dr. Evelyn Jensen, Yale University; Dr. Rebecca Taylor, Trent University; Dr. Namrata Barai, CGEn
Whole genome sequences are becoming more widely available for non-model organisms, partly due to efforts such as the CanSeq150 project. This symposium brings together a diverse group of speakers to present on how these new whole genome datasets are being used to address issues in conservation for a range of taxa, from conifers to caribou to cougars. Join us to discuss the insights being gained in to inbreeding depression, selection, local adaptation, and demographic history.
University teaching and learning: Engaging students in ecology and evolution Organizers: Ariane Cantin and Mindi Summers, Department of Biological Sciences, University of Calgary
In foreseeing the future of ecology and evolution, we have to think of the next generation of scientists who are in our classrooms right now. University teaching is currently moving away from the classic lecturing model to more active learning classrooms aimed at engaging students. This symposium is for established, early-career and future teaching faculty who are interested in discussing how we are and could be teaching science. The program will focus on providing insight into the science of teaching ecology and evolution while exploring teaching strategies and methods to improve student learning and success. The symposium will highlight innovations in teaching and learning from single classroom activities, new course ideas, and reformatting of whole curriculums. We will provide opportunities for instructors to discuss the techniques they use in class, the challenges they have faced, and their vision for ecology and evolution teaching. Through our discussion, we hope to showcase best practices that advance university teaching in our discipline and have participants be inspired to engage their students and participate in research on learning in ecology and evolution.
Mountain ecosystems in a rapidly changing world Organizers: John Richardson (University of British Columbia), Charlie Loewen (University of Toronto), and Rolf Vinebrooke (University of Alberta)
High-elevation aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems are experiencing pronounced environmental changes associated with shifting climate and land-cover. Despite growing appreciation of ongoing global changes such as glacial loss and treeline expansion, consequences for mountain-dwelling organisms and broader communities are poorly understood. Shifts in environmental conditions along elevational gradients offer valuable insights into community assembly and opportunities to infer future biodiversity and ecosystem functioning in alpine regions from past or present observations at lower elevation (i.e. applying space-for-time-substitution). The topographic complexity of mountain regions also presents an interesting venue for evaluating spatial processes that influence regional community structure and the ability of organisms to track environmental change. Like extremophiles in the Arctic and Antarctic, alpine biota are unique and adapted to cold, harsh environments. As headwater regions often exist in protected areas shielded from broader human disturbance, their temperature and hydrological sensitivities make them useful sentinels of the impacts of a rapidly changing climate. Filling knowledge gaps in our understanding of the current state of mountain ecosystems and their threats will be essential to forecasting their adaptive potential in a rapidly changing world. In this symposium, we will consider what is known about Canada’s montane and alpine regions, and the myriad ways their ecosystems will be impacted by future global change.
CSEE Excellence in Doctoral Research Award Symposium Organizers: CSEE Student and Post-doc Representatives (Peter Soroye and Sharon Wang)
The Excellence in Doctoral Research award aims to showcase excellent student research from within the society. Successful applicants will have conducted high-quality research that addresses fundamental questions or is of an applied nature in the fields of ecology and evolution. In addition to demonstrated scholarship and merit, the selection committee aims to promote diversity in science (we encourage applicants to refer to the CSEE diversity statement), and to balance field of study and institutional representation. The five award winners are required to attend the annual CSEE meeting at present a 30-minute talk on their doctoral research.
Predators as sentinels and samplers of ecosystem change Organizers: Natasha Hardy (firstname.lastname@example.org), Postdoctoral Fellow, Department of Biological Sciences, University of Alberta Stephanie Green (email@example.com), Assistant Professor, Department of Biological Sciences, University of Alberta Apex predators from diverse environments have extensive resource needs over large home ranges, placing them in ecologically vulnerable positions due to intense competition with humans (e.g., with hunters, land-owners, fishers, and recreation). However, in doing so they are also excellent samplers of their habitat. In an era of altered predator populations and ongoing global change, we need to review the information this trophic guild is providing us about past, present, and potential future conditions within the ecosystems they depend on. Here, we focus on growing our knowledge of baselines, thresholds, and indicators for ecosystem status and change as revealed by research on predators. This symposium highlights studies for a range of predator species, focused on: (i) changes in the resource selection and diets of top predators as indicators of finer-scale changes to their food webs and habitat, and (ii) changes in predator populations and distributions as indicators of land and seascape level changes in their ecosystems. Each presentation will focus on indicators and thresholds of ecosystem change that can be uniquely observed through studying predators. This is particularly salient, in an era of human-induced changes to ecosystems and species populations, such as through climate change, habitat loss, invasive species and resource exploitation. With that context of change, we aim to showcase here the relationship between predator research and signalling ecological change.
Digging into the past, present, and future of soil biodiversity in Canada Co-organizers: Erin Cameron (Saint Mary’s University) and Andrew Gonzalez (McGill University)
Soil, and the biodiversity within it, supports many key ecosystem services in Canada, such as decomposition and plant production. Yet, our understanding of patterns of soil biodiversity, the processes that drive these patterns, and how soil biodiversity may be changing over time across Canada is limited. In particular, in recent global syntheses on diversity patterns of soil organisms, little data from Canada has been included. This session will examine current knowledge of soil biodiversity across the country and future steps that can be taken to address gaps in our understanding. It will include speakers from governmental agencies and universities from across Canada. Presentations will address groups of soil taxa from microbes to soil invertebrates and will discuss research ranging from local investigations of community composition to large-scale soil biodiversity sampling initiatives.
Dinosaurs and the deep evolutionary history of birds Organizers: Corwin Sullivan (University of Alberta), Philip J. Currie (University of Alberta)
Birds are distinguished from other living vertebrates by many unusual features, perhaps most obviously feathers and flight. Some of these characteristics have deep evolutionary roots and were inherited from earlier, non-avian members of Theropoda, the group of predominantly carnivorous dinosaurs that includes birds as specialized living representatives. Accordingly, information from the non-avian theropod fossil record provides essential context for fully understanding the structure and function of birds today, as well as their extraordinary evolutionary and ecological success. This symposium will explore the morphology, diversity and palaeobiology of non-avian theropods, in addition to their evolutionary continuity with birds. Edmonton is an ideal location for such a symposium, given that Alberta is one of the richest and most famous sources of dinosaur fossils worldwide.