Seeds of Evolution: Using Resurrection Ecology and the Project Baseline Collection to Understand Responses to Anthropogenic and Natural Change
Wednesday, August 12, 2015: 8:00 AM-11:30 AM
315, Baltimore Convention Center
Julie R. Etterson, University of Minnesota-Duluth
Steven J. Franks, Fordham University; and
Susan Mazer, University of California, Santa Barbara
Mike Sorenson, University of Minnesota
In this session, we will discuss an experimental approach called “resurrection ecology” that provides a rare glimpse into temporal and spatial dimensions of evolution in the wild in response to natural and anthropogenic change. Evolutionary change can be directly observed if ancestors are recoverable or fortuitously available in storage such that they can be revived and compared side-by-side with their contemporary descendants in a common environment. This “resurrection approach” is a powerful way to study evolution and has been applied to propagules that have been recovered naturally (e.g. seeds preserved in frozen tundra soils, dormant eggs in lake sediments) and fortuitously stored by investigators (e.g. seed banks, bacteria). Here we present resurrections studies and introduce a new research seed bank, Project Baseline, that will greatly expand opportunities to conduct resurrection studies in the future.
In this first section of this organized session, presenters will discuss the development of resurrection ecology and provide case studies of how this approach has been used to document evolution in action for flowering phenology, competitive ability against an invasive species, and adaptation to a novel environment. Presenters will describe how combining the resurrection approach with quantitative and molecular genetic techniques allows unambiguous documentation of evolutionary change, while also facilitating efforts to dissect underlying mechanisms.
In the second section, will focus on current and future studies based on a new seed collection that will accessible to the scientific community, called Project Baseline. This collection provides a well-designed time capsule of seeds that will enable future investigators to document microevolution during a period of rapid environmental change. Project Baseline collections are particularly valuable because they span latitudinal, longitudinal, and elevation gradients for diverse species that occur in different habitats and differ in life history. Collections have also been made from multiple species at the same site to permit future studies of coevolutionary dynamics among community members. We expect that this resource will foster collaborations elucidating evolution in natural populations.
The session is conclude with a fundamental problem with resurrection studies which is that surviving propagules are not likely to represent an unbiased sample of the ancestral gene pool. This problem can be minimized if propagules are systematically collected and stored using best practices rather than fortuitously recovered from nature. We will discuss the potential consequences of this issue as it pertains to wild-collected material and how we are studying these effects in the Project Baseline seed bank.