The Community Ecology of Host-Symbiont Interactions: Breaking Boundaries and Crossing Scales
Friday, August 14, 2015: 8:00 AM-11:30 AM
316, Baltimore Convention Center
Pieter T.J. Johnson, University of Colorado
Daniel L. Preston, University of Colorado; and
Maxwell B. Joseph, University of Colorado
Daniel L. Preston, University of Colorado
Our proposed session focuses on understanding the community ecology of host and symbiont interactions across spatial scales. This session considers symbionts broadly to include parasitic, mutualist and commensal organisms that live in close association with a host organism. A major challenge in symbiont ecology has involved understanding the role of biodiversity in the outcome of species interactions at multiple levels of organization, including interactions among symbionts, between symbionts and their hosts, and between host individuals. Recent work in disease ecology has sought to understand how biodiversity can alter infection dynamics and disease outcomes, while microbial ecologists have worked to better understand microbial diversity amid the massive influx of data that has resulted from methodological advances such as culture-independent sampling and high-throughput sequencing. To date, these two fields have operated somewhat independently despite considerable overlap in research questions. Furthermore, each field independently has struggled to generate consensus, with disease ecologists being mired in a contentious debate about the effect of biodiversity on disease, and microbial community ecologists lamenting the lack of a clear theoretical framework to explain symbiotic diversity. The primary goal of this symposium is to facilitate discussion between disease ecologists and microbial community ecologists that have backgrounds in laboratory, field, and theoretical approaches to move toward a more synthetic and unified framework to explain host-host, host-symbiont, and symbiont-symbiont interactions. Specific objectives of the symposium include:
1) Identifying existing patterns in how biodiversity affects symbiont interactions at multiple scales. How does host diversity, non-host diversity, and symbiont diversity affect the outcome of species interactions? Is there a general framework that can be applied across systems?
2) Fostering communication and collaboration between ecologists working in distinct systems. We selected speakers from a diversity of backgrounds who work with plant pathogens, wildlife diseases, zoonotic vector-borne diseases, and microbial symbionts of humans and other species. We also chose speakers that employ both theoretical and empirical approaches, including observational field data, experiments at multiple scales, and mathematical modeling.
3) Identifying future research priorities in symbiont community ecology. What approaches are needed to identify broad-scale patterns? How can theory from community ecology be used as a framework to guide future data collection?