Title: A computational system using (non-Avidian) digital organisms to examine how phenotypic plasticity affects ecological communities
Dr. Scott Peacor
Department of Fisheries and Wildlife
Michigan State University
Date: October 15, 2010
Time: 11:30 am
Room: 1279 Anthony Hall
Community ecologists study how the interactions of species dictate the dynamics and structure of ecological communities. Phenotypic plasticity, a ubiquitous property of species interactions, has typically been ignored in ecological theory: species modify traits in response to changes in other species densities, which affects the very interactions that underlie the community. Thinking that traditional ecological theory would be less than ideal to address this problem, we constructed an individually based computational system in which species are created by artificial evolution. Initial implementation of the computations system has been successful in two complimentary ways. First, it has uncovered two novel mechanisms by which phenotypic plasticity can stabilize ecological communities. Second, the results “surprised” us: the mechanisms, which involve different levels of organization, were unforeseen, and it required using the system in an experimental manner to discover the underlying processes.
Collaborators on this project include Erik Goodman and Bill Punch from MSU, Stephano Alesina from the University of Chicago, and Rick Riolo, Mercedes Pascual, and John Holland from UM.
Scott Peacor is an associate Professor in the department of Fisheries and Wildlife at MSU. His PhDs are in physics and ecology from the University of Michigan. He combines experimental and theoretical ecology to examine how individual behavior, in particular behavioral response to environmental variability, affects species interactions and in turn ecological community properties.