Evolution 2017 followup

Wow, what a meeting!

I went Evolution 2017 not knowing what to expect because I’m not an evolutionary biologist. So it was to my pleasant surprise that there was a lot of ecology and evolutionary ecology at the meeting! (Or, perhaps it was the meeting experience I constructed, as I selected which talks to attend that tended towards ecology and evolutionary ecology.) Furthermore, there were many talks on mutualism! In fact, the first and last sessions of the meeting I attended were on Evolutionary theory I (but all mutualism theory) and Mutualism. Between, there were many other sessions on mutualism, with a strong representation of the legume-rhizobium mutualism/symbiosis.

I saw SO many good talks, but I think my favorite was by Charles Marshall on inferring phylogenies with neither molecules nor fossils. In sum, they looked at a geologic history of the Hawaiian archipelago to determine diversification. Using the strong, well-established relationship between area and species richness as a main assumption, the model predicted species diversity as islands emerged, grew, and eroded. They found that rates of diversification were very different than what is inferred from molecular methods. I chose this as my favorite talk because it was a novel, creative, and informative perspective that seriously challenged a major assumption in evolutionary biology in a system that’s generally understood as being somewhat resolved. Further, it was presented with a lot of character. A link to the paper can be found here: link.

My poster was the first night, and it was definitely the best poster session I’ve experienced. I met many people who I’ve wanted to meet over the years, saw friends and colleagues, and otherwise enjoyed the feedback I was getting on the poster. I think what I enjoyed most about the poster was the reaction when I showed the assumption of the Lotka-Volterra and saturating models that the benefits received by a population are density-independent. The graphs are pretty compelling, and one person whose work I admire literally gasped when I showed her! I’m eager to see how this holds up when we submit it for publication. Everybody across all ranges of study systems and experiences seemed to be interested and the implications are pretty clear and important, so hopefully this will go to a more visible journal. I think it’d be nice for me professionally, as it will probably be the most significant work out of my postdoctoral stint here at Case.