Wednesday, August 9, 2017: 8:00 AM-11:30 AM
Portland Blrm 251, Oregon Convention Center
Gordon G. McNickle, Purdue University
Ray Dybzinski, Loyola University Chicago
Paul A. Orlando, Purdue University
Background: Ecology is defined as the study of interactions among organisms and their environment, and Evolutionary Game Theory (EGT) – which has come a long way from the simple matrix games of the 1970s used by John Maynard Smith – is a powerful tool for studying these interactions mediated by trait interactions. EGT makes explicit the population-, community-, and ecosystem-level consequences of small-scale interactions between individuals with different (or similar) traits. When the traits are discrete, matrix games (e.g. hawk-dove, prisoner’s dilemma), can be used to find evolutionarily stable strategies (ESS) and the relative abundance of coexisting strategies in a population or community. When the traits are continuous (e.g. plant height, herbivore foraging), adaptive dynamics can be used to find the ESS and population densities of coexisting types.
Combined, EGT provides a powerful theoretical framework that scales from interactions among organisms and their environment mediated specifically by functional traits, up to patterns of biodiversity and predictions of ecosystem services. Because it is a specialized field, many ecologists may be intimidated by the mathematics of EGT developed over the last 30 years, and they may be missing out on a powerful investigative tool. In this symposium, speakers will discuss the state-of-the-art in modern continuous EGT, focusing on empirical predictions at these higher-order scales rather than the underlying mathematics.
\The speakers will focus on scaling up from functional traits to higher level patterns of biodiversity and ecosystem services. These will include topics as broad as coexistence and community structure, predictions of net primary productivity, food web connectivity and topology, successional dynamics, and agro-ecology. Our objectives are to highlight questions that modern EGT can address and foster discussion among a wider audience of ecologists.
Now that EGT has progressed to a point where it can address larger scale questions and increasingly complex ecological systems, we believe that theoretical and empirical ecologists need to work more closely together to drive discovery in this field. This symposium will encourage collaboration and debate at a critical time in the emergence of EGT as a predictive tool at the scale of patterns of biodiversity and ecosystem services.
Ecology is often described as a field that lacks general theory. We believe EGT may be on the cusp of being an important and general theory of ecology. Anyone interested in a general theory of ecology will find ideas to take away from this symposium.