Our friends in the Department of Geography and Environmental Sustainability continue to grow, and have posted two hires out of the 19 total in Environmental Science at OU (including Biology’s own two in Geographical Ecology, Deadline 1 October!). Join us as we build something great!
Tenure-track Assistant or Associate Professor in Geohumanities and Tenure-track Assistant or Associate Professor in Socio-Ecological Systems Modeling
OKLAHOMA, NORMAN 73019. The Department of Geography and Environmental Sustainability at the University of Oklahoma (http://geography.ou.edu/) is an actively growing and dynamic department. Over the past 5 years, undergraduate enrollment has more than tripled, research expenditures have doubled and the department has quintupled its computer resources for research and teaching. As part of our ongoing growth, applications are being solicited for two tenure-track assistant or associate professors.
Position 1: Tenure-track Assistant or Associate Professor in Geohumanities
We seek a geohumanities scholar who studies environment-society relations, utilizes critical theory, and incorporates stakeholder/community engagement. An urban or regional specialization would be welcome. The successful candidate will have an opportunity to participate in new and established campus-wide efforts to support humanities scholarship. To raise our research profile, we desire faculty members who are strong in research in terms of suitable publications and grant success, as well as active within both professional and stakeholder communities and effective at bringing research insights into the classroom.
Teaching duties would include introductory geohumanities courses as well as a course on environment and society, and possibly regional courses within the candidate’s expertise.
Application Process: Candidates are invited to submit a statement of interest and qualifications, a full curriculum vita, up to five scholarly publications, and a list of three references. Screening will begin September 15th, 2015. To apply, please submit applications electronically in one PDF file to Dr. Laurel Smith, Chair, Human Geography Search Committee at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please copy Ms. Deborah Marsh at email@example.com.
Position 2: Tenure-track Assistant or Associate Professor in Socio-Ecological Systems Modeling
The successful candidate will be capable of research excellence in socio-ecological systems modeling as related to climate variability and change, and they must have demonstrated success in proactively leading and/or participating in interdisciplinary, collaborative teams. In particular, the candidate will fill an immediate need in coupled human-natural systems modeling, preferably through Bayesian hierarchical modeling or similar methodology. The candidate will also be able to work within collaborative teams that examine challenging questions facing the social, natural, and physical sciences.
Application Process: Candidates are invited to submit a statement of interest and qualifications, a full curriculum vita, copies of up to five scholarly publications, and a list of three references. To apply, please submit all materials electronically in one PDF file to Dr. Bruce Hoagland, SES Search Committee Chair (Email: firstname.lastname@example.org) and copy Ms. Deborah Marsh (email@example.com).
Screening will begin October 1st, 2015. Applicants for both positions should have demonstrated a commitment to teaching at the undergraduate and graduate levels and a willingness to participate in Department, University, and professional service. We seek an outstanding candidate with a PhD in geography, or closely related field.
Persons from under-represented groups are strongly encouraged to apply. Initial appointment to this position will begin August 2016. Salary and remunerations are competitive and commensurate with qualifications.
Candidates interested in collaborative research will find many exciting opportunities on the campus. The University hosts the History of Science Collections, Digital Scholarship Lab in the Bizzell Memorial Library, Western History Collections, Carl Albert Congressional Research and Studies Center, and the Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art. The College of Atmospheric and Geographic Sciences hosts the National Weather Center, South Central Climate Science Center, Southern Climate Impacts Planning Program, and the Center for Spatial Analysis. The Department is home to the Oklahoma Wind Power Initiative and the Land Use Land Cover Institute.
The University of Oklahoma (OU) is a Carnegie-R1 comprehensive public research university known for excellence in teaching, research, and community engagement, serving the educational, cultural, economic and health-care needs of the state, region, and nation from three campuses: Norman, Health Sciences Center in Oklahoma City and the Schusterman Center in Tulsa. OU enrolls over 30,000 students and has more than 2700 full-time faculty members in 21 colleges. In 2014, OU became the first public institution ever to rank #1 nationally in the recruitment of National Merit Scholars, with 311 scholars. The 277-acre Research Campus in Norman was named the No.1 research campus in the nation by the Association of Research Parks in 2013. Norman is a culturally rich and vibrant town of around 113,000 inhabitants located just outside Oklahoma City. With outstanding schools, amenities, and a low cost of living, Norman is a perennial contender on “best place to live” rankings. Visit www.ou.edu/flipbook and www.ou.edu/publicaffairs/oufacts.html for more information.
The University of Oklahoma is an equal opportunity institution www.ou.edu/eoo.
I suggest to students in Advanced EEB, our course for first semester Ph. D. students, that creativity is about fostering
Toward that end, I also encouraged them to ask professors for a list of ten influential papers (“papers everybody should read” is how I think I put it).
Then, of course, BeccaP immediately sends me an email asking for my list. Serves me right.
The following ten papers occurred to me on a Saturday morning, over 10 minutes or so, and in the middle of my third cup of coffee. I figured they must be important to me if they sprung up with no more prompting than a dose of caffeine. They are not my “Top 10” (an odd concept), but they certainly exist in my 99th percentile.
Turns out, these kinds of lists serve both elements of the creative enterprise. First, the papers below are all full of ideas (some ultimately more successful than others) and represent highly creative people at the height of the powers. I remember, or at least I think I do, reading each for the first time and feeling energized and a little bit jealous. At the same time, they reflect my judgement as to the elements that combine to form a good science paper: clarity, ambition, stepping boldly into a knowledge gap, identifying and advocating a path forward. Each photocopy was highly scribbled upon. You can clearly see the fingerprints of these ecologists all over our lab’s work. The first on the list made such an impression, I deconstructed it.
MacArthur, R. H. 1958. Population ecology of some warblers of northeastern coniferous forests. Ecology 39:599-619.
Hutchinson, G. 1959. Homage to Santa Rosalia, or why are there so many kinds of animals? American Naturalist 93:145-159.
Hairston, N., F. Smith, and L. Slobodkin. 1960. Community structure, population control, and competition. American Naturalist 94:421-425.
Janzen, D. 1967. Why mountain passes are higher in the Tropics. American Naturalist 101:233-249.
McNaughton, S., M. Oesterheld, D. Frank, and K. Williams. 1989. Ecosystem-level patterns of primary productivity and herbivory in terrestrial habitats. Nature 341:142-144.
Power, M. E. 1992. Top-down and bottom-up forces in food webs: do plants have primacy? Ecology 73:733-746.
Holling, C. 1992. Cross-Scale Morphology, Geometry, and Dynamics of Ecosystems. Ecological Monographs 62:447-502.
Ritchie, M. E. and H. Olff. 1999. Spatial scaling laws yield a synthetic theory of biodiversity. Nature 400:557-560.
McGill, B. J., B. J. Enquist, E. Weiher, and M. Westoby. 2006. Rebuilding community ecology using functional traits. Trends in Ecology and Evolution 21:175-185.
Orians, G. H. and A. V. Milewski. 2007. Ecology of Australia: the effects of nutrient-poor soils and intense fires. Biological Review 82:393-423.
Debby Kaspari is a featured artist at the Leigh Yawkey Woodson’s annual “Birds in Art” competition. Here is a brief video that captures the glories of painting birds in tropical forests.
Guest Post by Karl Roeder
Ants. The adorable arthropods that have captured my imagination for years have finally become the focus of my Ph.D. research. They are abundant, diverse, and ecologically important with a variety of castes that contain a range of alternative phenotypes that differ in body size, life span, societal role, and reproductive output. Quite simply, ants are awesome. But perhaps most importantly for my work, they occupy almost every trophic level in a community.
So what am I up to? Besides cataloging the ant diversity across Oklahoma, I am working towards understanding the factors that influence stable isotope signatures. Specifically, I will be looking at variation in Nitrogen (N) and Carbon (C) isotopes as these are routinely used to estimate the trophic position and carbon flow of organisms. Together N and C help piece together how energy flows through a food web. However stable isotope studies using ants are presented with a variety of challenges.
Tools of the trade when studying fire ants. All this, and a strong immune system.
One challenge is size. In this case I am not just talking about body size but also colony and potentially population size. Understanding how and at what level size influences the intraspecific variation in isotopic signatures are first steps towards using stable isotopes to definitively map the trophic structuring of ant assemblages. In my mind it is vital to determine if a species’ isotopic signature is due to its diet or an artifact of morphological or behavioral mechanisms. Either way, the answer should be interesting!
After extracting ants from all that soil, Solenopsis invicta shows a range of sizes.
This summer I am based at the University of Oklahoma Biological Station to work on these questions. And as an added bonus I am working with one of my favorite species, Solenopsis invicta. Having been intimately acquainted with the red imported fire ant for almost three years, I still find myself continually fascinated by their life history. Polymorphic workers, mono- and polygyne queens, unmatched aggressiveness, painful stings, and a behavioral escape mechanism to floods by rafting (and thank goodness given the amount of rain in Oklahoma this summer!). Perhaps it seems fitting that I continue to work in this system, as they appear to be the perfect model organisms to address my surplus of size based questions. Just remember to grab your shovel!
Post by Jane Lucas
This summer (2015) I am working on furthering my exploration of the role antibiotic chemicals play in the structuring of leaf litter invertebrate and microbial communities. This work was inspired by a classic Janzen paper entitled “Why Fruit Rots, Seeds Mold and Meat Spoils” (1977). In this paper Janzen states:
“It is customary to view antibiotic production by microbes as adaptive in their competitive roles with each other… However, nowhere have I been able to locate a discussion of how antibiotics may render food uninteresting to animals”.
It is now my goal to shed light on Janzen’s question and begin to tease apart the complex relationship that occurs between microbial and litter invertebrate communities.
In order to explore how antibiotic compounds shape invertebrate and microbial communities, I will be conducting a series of experiments on Barro Colorado Island in Panama, run by the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute. In a common garden experiment, I am applying Streptomycin (a naturally derived antibacterial), Sulfonamide (a synthetic antibacterial) or Captan (a synthetic fungicide) to 0.25 meter-squared plots. By looking at both natural and synthetic compounds, I can begin to ask questions about whether there is an evolved history between litter invertebrates and the antibiotic compounds created by microbial communities. Over time, I will sample the invertebrate and microbial communities in these plots to examine how the presence of these various compounds affects community composition. It is my prediction that detritivore abundance should be lower in treated plots due to a markedly different and decreased microbial population.
Jane Lucas setting up her field experiment in the litter of Barro Colorado Island, Panama.
I will also conduct a mesocosm experiment that further tests litter invertebrates’ ability to sense and avoid antibiotic laden environments. By placing litter invertebrates in mesocosms that have half of the chamber treated with antibiotics and the other side untreated, I will be able to test whether certain taxa have developed a preference for one environment over the other. Previous tests have shown that detritivorous diplopods tend to avoid active antibiotic areas, suggesting a potential evolved ability to sense harmful compounds and move away from them. If this observation holds true across a variety of taxa, we may be able to explain part of the puzzle as to why the leaf litter is so patchy.
Mesocosms are ideal venues to explore how invertebrates choose soil with or without antibiotics.
Finally, I have the pleasure of working with Carolyn Gigot, an undergraduate student at Harvard University and an REU through STRI, on a project exploring how a few focal taxa respond to being raised in antibiotic laden environments. We hypothesize that invertebrates that rely on a healthy gut microbiome may suffer when raised in antibiotically active environments. Carolyn and I will monitor survival and growth rates of diplopods, isopods, oribatids and collembola over time, as well as extract their microbiomes, in order to test how our focal antibiotics influence individuals of a variety of detrivores.
Combined, these projects will shed light on Janzen’s 1977 inquiries, as well as provide important insight into a complex relationship that occurs across a large variety of environments.
The author, Jelena Bujan, in the canopy of Pseudobombax septenatum, a deciduous tree with smooth green bark. Jelena is completing her third field season on Barro Colorado Island, in Panama.
In tropical forests, is frequently assumed that canopies are “deserts” in terms of their microclimate conditions when compared to the leaf litter far below. If indeed they are extremely hot and dry then animals living in the canopies must require a special suite of adaptations. But the truth is we don’t know to which extent tropical canopies and understory diverge in their microclimates. Temperature and relative humidity (RH) data measured across BCI’s canopy tower provide air measurements in a close proximity to the canopy. And while these data are incredibly valuable, they don’t capture the microclimates experienced by ants crawling on the canopy’s leaves and branches. Ants, only a couple of millimeters high, experience quite different environmental conditions from those measured by weather stations. To handle high temperature and low humidity they need to adapt. Desiccation resistance arises through a suite of mechanisms which may be variously costly, trading off against other aspects of organismal performance. My study focuses on desiccation resistance and the tradeoffs that ants potentially experience regarding regulation of water loss, thus tolerating low humidity levels, and their critical thermal maximum (CTmax) – two traits necessary for surviving hot and dry environments. I am testing these ideas this in a community of tropical ants experiencing two microclimates—the tropical canopy and the understory of Barro Colorado Island (BCI).
First I needed to quantify the differences in microclimates of different habitats. This field season I placed data loggers in the canopies of 5 different tree species on BCI. Since I was trying to capture as many microhabitat variations as possible, I placed them above and below the branch, in the epiphytes, in the leaf litter, on lianas etc. To see how temperature and humidity changes in correlation with the surface distance I stacked them up.
Data logger probes in different canopy microhabitats, and at different heights. Cephalotes atratus is here for scale.
The loggers are recording temperature and relative humidity (RH) every 10 min. After finding the loggers that will tolerate high humidity and deploying them, it turns out they are also interesting monkey toys. But they are also quite durable – so far they all still work (knock on wood).
Data logger’s base station after a monkey attack
And yes, we are finding that the canopy is hotter, and more variable in terms of both temperature and RH, but the desert comparison seem to be exaggerated. Still, compared to the tropical litter is saturated with water, I predict that an RH under 60% found regularly in the tropical canopy should still be stressful to its ants. One way to avoid this stress is to be desiccation resistant.
To test ant desiccation resistance, we are first measuring how long ant workers from different habitats can survive in a 0% humidity air. Then, to see to which extent ants are regulating their water loss, we are exposing live and dead workers to 0% humidity, and measured their water loss over the same time interval. I expect to find no difference in water loss between live and dead ants from the understory (that is, understory ants don’t actively regulate water loss), because they do not need to invest in water regulation since they are living in 100% RH. Canopy ants, in turn, should actively regulate water loss. As of the time of this blog entry, I’m finishing the last runs of these experiments, and the data entry awaits….
A few days ago, a good friend wrote to ask what was known about the response of tropical soil invertebrates to drought. My first response was “precious little”, and then I remembered a cool article by Diana Wheeler and Sally Levings. The back story was that Levings did here dissertation work on BCI over a span of time that included a pretty awful El Nino drought. Back then BCI had a far-sighted program of ecological monitoring which included extracting soil litter for invertebrates. Wheeler collaborated with Levings years later to write the attached paper (as of this post, cited 4 times).
Funny, if this was published today, in an era of climate change, it would doubtless have wound up in a more high profile venue than Advances in Myrmecology. It is the curse of our times that understanding how ecosystems respond to highly unusual climate events is gaining traction. I attach Wheeler and Levings (1988) and another fine paper from Levings dissertation work that deserves to be more widely known. Enjoy.
Wheeler, Diana E., and Sally C. Levings. “The impact of the 1983 El Nino drought on the litter arthropods of Barra Colorado Island, Panama.” Advances in myrmecology (1988): 309-326.
Levings, S. C., and D. M. Windsor. “Litter arthropod populations in a tropical deciduous forest: relationships between years and arthropod groups.” The Journal of Animal Ecology (1985): 61-69.
MacroEcologist extraordinaire Brian McGill visited the lab last week, visited with grad students, and gave two first rate seminars. The first laid out trends for the next 25 years of ecology. The second laid out a compelling framework for a top down theory of community organization. The most inspiring slide (out of many):
What controls S? Check. Climate limits? Check. Global abundance? Check-a-rooni. Clumping and Traits? Sounds like we’re on the right track.
A splendid time was had by all by a handful of Rosenzweig lab alums.
Pictured Michael Weiser, Mike Kaspari, and Brian McGill.
Kaspari Lab alum Natalie Clay will be joining the Biology faculty of Louisiana Tech University this September. Good going Natalie, and Go Bulldogs!