In a new paper just out in Nature Ecology & Evolution, we argue that conservation for corals (and likely many other species) needs to explicitly plan for evolution to survive the effects of climate change:
We are very excited to announce the launch of our project website: futureblue.net. FutureBlue is an online database and mapping platform designed to make projections of future ocean conditions (species distributions, wind speed, oceanography, etc.) available and useful for the broadest array of stakeholders possible. The project is led by Rutgers, UCONN, and The Nature Conservancy, along with a large interdisciplinary team from academic, governmental, and non-profit organizations, including world experts in climate science, social science, oceanography, marine ecology and management, and online data portal development. FutureBlue originated as part of the National Science Foundation (NSF) Convergence Accelerator program in 2021, and we are currently in the process of securing funding for Phase II to expand and improve the tool.
Two new papers from the lab discuss how best to understand, and to mitigate, the effects of climate change by applying ecoevolutionary theory.
The first, published in Trends in Ecology and Evolution (doi: 10.1016/j.tree.2022.04.011) proposes that dominant ecoevolutionary processes for coping with climate change differ among terrestrial, freshwater, and marine taxa, but that a unified framework, spanning realms, is needed to fully understand them. The review was authored by Malin and coauthors Lise Comte (Illinois State U.) and Dov Sax (Brown U.).
The second, published in Ecological Applications (doi: 10.1002/eap.2650), investigated the merits of two restoration strategies for corals in a changing ocean: ‘demographic restoration’, in which coral is grown elsewhere and transplanted to a site; and ‘assisted evolution’, in which tolerant genotypes are transplanted. This paper, led by Lukas DeFilippo (NOAA) and coauthored by several current and former Pinsky lab members, used an ecoevolutionary simulation model to tackle the question. The model revealed that realistic levels of ‘demographic restoration’ offered little benefit, while transplanting thermally resistant corals helped, but only if maintained for a century. The study concluded that restoration approaches focused on building genetic variation would likely work better by allowing corals to naturally adapt to warming temperatures over time.
With $750,000 in funding from the National Science Foundation, we’re excited to be starting a new partnership with The Nature Conservancy, University of Connecticut, University of Massachusetts, the Responsible Offshore Science Alliance (ROSA), University of Wisconsin, Rutgers Equal Opportunity Fund, the Pacific Northwest College of Art and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration! The focus is on climate impacts ot fisheries, wind energy development, and conservation. More details here https://sebsnjaesnews.rutgers.edu/2021/09/national-science-foundation-awards-rutgers-a-750000-convergence-accelerator-grant/
Ed Tekwa (postdoc in the lab) led a study just out in PNAS, “Path-dependent institutions drive alternative stable states in conservation.”
We hear almost every day in the news about environmental disasters, but the world is also full of many environmental success stories. Why do we succeed at conservation some of the time, but fail other times? In our paper, we studied people’s decisions about whether to conserve or to over-harvest a renewable resource like fish or timber. Surprisingly, we found that people often get trapped by their past decisions. If they start out over-harvesting, they tend to continue over-harvesting. But the opposite is also true: once people start conserving, this behavior is also self-perpetuating. We built a mathematical model for this behavior, and showed that it explains global patterns in fisheries decisions better than any previous theory. Our results challenge the conventional expectation that collapse of fast-growing resources is unlikely, but also offer hope that conservation is much easier to continue once we start.
Erica Gies’ article in Hakai Magazine on how (and whether) marine conservation can keep up with climate change, with quotes from Will White (Oregon State) and Malin:
Our new paper on extinction risk in marine and terrestrial species is out today in PNAS, “Range contraction enables harvesting to extinction” [free preprint here]. Led by Matthew Burgess at UCSB, the research shows that shrinking distributions puts many animals at further risk from extinction as their abundance decline. While harvesters (fishers or hunters) are typically expected to stop harvesting when a species becomes rare and the costs of harvest become too high, contraction of a species into dense clusters can keep harvesting profitable, even at very low abundance. Examples of species with these contractions include Bengal tigers, Asian elephants, and bluefin tunas.
It is tempting to try to guess which species will be the winners of climate change, and which the losers. But our new paper in Trends in Ecology and Evolution suggests that we should avoid doing that when we design management and conservation measures. Instead, we propose harnessing the diversity and evolutionary capacity of the natural world as a climate adaptation strategy by designing “adaptation networks.” We focus on coral reefs as a particularly salient example.
Multiple PhD and postdoctoral positions in climate change ecology and evolution
Three postdoctoral positions and one PhD position are available in the Pinsky Lab at Rutgers University to work on climate change ecology and evolution in marine ecosystems. The positions represent an exciting expansion of research efforts in this area. Broadly, research in the Pinsky Lab uses empirical data, mathematical models, and population genomics to study global change in the coastal ocean.
Key themes across all new positions include understanding the ecological and evolutionary processes that determine how climate variability and climate change filter through ocean communities to affect human behavior and the success or failure of conservation efforts. Postdocs and students will join an international network of collaborators across conservation, marine science, climate science, economics, sociology, and policy, including Josh Abbott (Arizona State U.), Daniel Schindler and Andre Punt (U. Washington), Dan Holland and Melissa Poe (NOAA), William Cheung and Daniel Pauly (U. British Columbia), Jorge Sarmiento (Princeton), Carl Folke (Stockholm U.), and Pat Halpin (Duke).
Three (3) postdoc positions are open:
1) Coupled Natural Human (CNH) systems postdoc: The postdoc will take the lead on a research project investigating the causes and consequences of ecological synchrony in the California Current large marine ecosystem. Key questions include how portfolio effects emerge in open systems and how oceanographic processes and fishing interact to affect population dynamics. The postdoc will also be part of a broader NSF-funded team studying coupled social-ecological dynamics and feedbacks from physics to fish to people.
2) Nereus Fellow: As part of the Nereus Program (http://www.nereusprogram.org), the Fellow will design and lead empirical research to understand the consequences of climate change and shifting species distributions for human behavior and adaptation in marine ecosystems. Resources for the research include large datasets of fishing vessel behavior over decadal time-scales, as well as other datasets on environmental changes and ecological states.
3) Eco-evolutionary dynamics postdoc: The postdoc will develop models and theory to understand the extent to which ecological turnover and evolutionary rescue could preserve coral reef function over the coming centuries, and whether conservation efforts can facilititate the adaptation process at the landscape scale. Application of the theory to case studies in three geographies will also be part of the research.
All postdoc positions are two years.
One (1) graduate assistant position is open, preferably for a Ph.D. degree:
1) CNH Graduate Assistant: The GA will use statistical and process-based models to understand the mechanisms linking climate variability to marine animal population dynamics in the California Current large marine ecosystem, including recruitment and distribution. The GA will also be part of a broader NSF-funded team studying coupled social-ecological dynamics and feedbacks from physics to fish to people.
Across all positions, the ideal candidates will be skilled with data analysis, statistics, and ecological modeling (or a strong aptitude for learning these skills, in the case of the GA). Applicants with evidence of creativity, productivity, strong oral and written communication abilities, and enthusiasm are especially encouraged to apply, particularly those that bring a new perspective, new ideas, or a new skillset to the team. For postdoctoral applications, a promising record of publication is highly valued. The successful applicants will be independent, motivated problem solvers who communicate well and enjoy working in a collaborative setting.
The positions will be based at Rutgers with extensive opportunities for research visits across campuses, including U. Washington, U. British Columbia, and NOAA offices. Additional opportunities are available to interact with scientists at the Institute of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences; the Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Lab; the Princeton Environmental Institute; the Center for Discrete Mathematics and Theoretical Computer Science; and beyond.
The postdoc start dates are flexible and the positions are open until filled. The GA will begin in summer or fall 2017. Review of postdoc applications will begin on October 1, 2016 and will continue on a rolling basis. Review of GA applications will continue until December 2016, when applications to Rutgers graduate programs are due.
Interested postdoc candidates should submit: 1) a one-page cover letter that describes which position(s) they are applying for (and preferred position if applying to more than one) and their preferred start date, 2) a two-page research statement describing their relevant background and anticipated research approach to the problem they would be addressing, 3) a CV, and 4) the names and contact information of three other scientists familiar with their work.
GA applicants should include a 1-2 page cover letter describing their interests, CV, a recent transcript, GRE scores, and contact information for three references. Qualified GA candidates will be contacted and encouraged to apply to the graduate program in either Ecology & Evolution (http://ecoevo.rutgers.edu/) or Oceanography (http://marine.rutgers.edu/main/IMCS-Academics/Graduate-Program-in-Oceanography.html), depending on student interests. Ph.D. applications to Rutgers are due in December.
Please submit all materials to email@example.com with “Postdoc application 2016” or “Graduate application 2016” as the subject.
Department of Ecology, Evolution, and Natural Resources
Institute of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences
New Brunswick, NJ 08901