Tuesday, September 11, 2012

The Kumbaya Model and the Jake Reset Effect

Community genetics, evolutionary metacommunities, niche construction, ecosystem engineering, ecological stoichiometry, genes to ecosystems, evolutionary ecology, ecological genetics, evolutionary quantitative genetics, ecological speciation, life history theory, evolutionary rescue, community phylogenetics, coevolutionary theory …

All of these research “fields” with their wonderfully jargony titles involve the study of interactions between ecology and evolution. Surely they can all be united into a single framework under a unified conceptual model of eco-evolutionary dynamics: the “Kumbaya Model” if you will. Adopting a motivating degree of naiveté, the working group meeting from which I just returned had set the Kumbaya Model as one of its key goals.

The previous two meetings of this working group, both funded by the Quebec Centre for Biodiversity Science, had taken place at the Gault Nature Reserve, McGill’s field station/mountain near Montreal. The working group then splintered (or adaptively diversified) into three subgroups: one considering evolutionary rescue, one considering rates and patterns of trait evolution, and one working on the Kumbaya Model. An original driving force behind the overall umbrella working group was Eric Palkovacs, previously at Duke University. In the last year, Eric moved to UC Santa Cruz and so when a meeting location for the third subgroup was debated, California was a promising candidate. Tipping the balance, my family has a vineyard and winery in Napa (http://www.hendrywines.com/) that could host us for free.

The Chardonnay and Pinot Noir harvest was in full swing.
Last Friday, ten eco-evo types (yes, Jonathan Davies, you too now fall under this appellation) descended on the Hendry Vineyard in Napa – and particularly on the house of my brother Mike, his long-to-be-suffering wife Molly, and their enthusiastic dog Jake. For three days, we held hands, sang Kumbaya, and asked of the eco-evolutionary fields “why can’t we all just get along”? When inspiration flagged, we sought more of it through walks, tours of the vineyard and winery, a lot of very fine wine, and a barbeque banquet to end all banquets (Mike and Molly crafted a feast for us that included Mike-caught coho salmon from our cabin in BC and Molly-grown Asian pears from the garden below their house.)

Jonathan used locally available fossils to time-calibrate a large fish phylogeny.
On one of the walks, we were privileged to witness and thereby recognize and appreciate the Jake Reset Effect. At this time of year, reservoirs on the vineyard have very little water in them and are just a few feet deep. With thoughts of maybe initiating some eco-evolutionary research in these reservoirs, we had walked over to have a look – and Jake had come along as a guide. As soon as we arrived, Jake followed his muse and waded into the water and around the reservoir. In doing so, he stirred up mud from the bottom in big plumes. David Post had been standing beside the reservoir and waxing poetic on the power of Daphnia as a model system for studying eco-evolutionary dynamics when he noticed Jake wading through the sediments. “Noooooo …” he wailed “Jake you are stirring up the Daphnia egg bank and destroying decades of adaptive evolution.” Although he was being a bit histrionic, his assertion could literally be true: small and rare disturbances, such as a dog walking through a reservoir, could reset or at least remix the past evolutionary history of Daphnia and shuffle its genetic variation across the decades of evolution buried in the sediments. So, in one fell swoop, it was too late and so much for Daphnia research in the Hendry Vineyard Reservoir. At least the reservoir still has stickleback and I doubt Jake can so easily reset their evolution.
"... and another cool thing about Daphnia is ..."
Although walking and drinking wine might seem like frivolous distractions, we actually did make great progress on the Kumbaya Model. I don’t want to spill the beans here, because you will soon (or late) be able to read it in Science or, failing that, the Proceedings of the Southwest Santa Cruz Natural History Society. We, and Eric in particular (see his previous blog entry), have railed about the fact that eco-evo review papers are more common than eco-evo studies that actually present real data, and so we promise that this new Kumbaya Model paper will be the review to end all reviews – the one review to rule them all. In the meantime, we will seek new and clever ways to invade the vineyard again and perhaps collect some real data as a part of Fanie Pelletier’s Global Eco-Evolutionary Research Consortium.

A nexus of the consortium? (Photo by Mike Hendry.)
So what could we do? An excellent way to study the role of evolution in ecological dynamics is to have two replicate populations (such as Daphnia in two ponds) where one population is allowed to evolve adaptively while the other is not. And one of the best ways to prevent directional adaptive evolution is to increase mixing between gene pools that have been selected in different environments, such as populations from different places or that exist at different times – think Daphnia eggs from different depths in the sediment (and therefore different years). As there are two reservoirs on the vineyard, I am thinking we can just have Jake regularly wade through one (adaptation interrupted) but not the other (adaptation perfected). I can see the paper title now: “Experimental Manipulation of the Jake Reset Effect Validates the Kumbaya Model of Eco-Evolutionary Dynamics.” The only question is where Jake should be in the author list.

Jake: for hire as a reset effect technician.
Workshop participants who can all just get along: Andrew Jones, Chris Dalton, Nash Turley, Dan Hasselman, Alison Derry, Fanie Pelletier, David Post, Eric Palkovacs, Andrew Hendry, and Jonathan Davies.

Honorary participants: Mike Hendry, Molly Hendry, and especially Jake.

Photo by Mike Hendry.

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