Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History

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Carboniferous

Past Workshops

 

Community Assembly and Disassembly

 

Evolution of Terrestrial Ecosystems Program
Workshop 1: June 3-6, 2011

 

From June 3-6, the ETE Program hosted the first of a series of six annual Community Assembly and Disassembly workshops. The workshop was attended by seven NMNH scientists and 10 external scientists from nine institutions across the country and overseas, and included four post-doctoral researchers and two graduate students. The overall goal of the workshop was for paleoecologists and ecologists to come together to address the overarching question: What are the patterns and causal processes of animal and plant community assembly and disassembly over geological time, up to the present-day? In doing so, the workshop series represents a unique opportunity to develop a synthesis on the dynamics of biotic communities and biodiversity through time. The first workshop led to the production of a massive database of species associations spanning the last ~250 million years, which will be used to examine the question of assembly-disassembly through a series of upcoming publications. The group plans to present the initial results of ongoing analyses at the upcoming 2011 annual meeting of the Geological Society of America.

List of Attendees:

INTERNAL
Kay Behrensmeyer, Paleobiology & ETE Member
Bill DiMichele, Paleobiology & ETE Member
Gene Hunt, Paleobiology
Conrad Labandeira, Paleobiology & ETE Member
Kate Lyons, Paleobiology & ETE Member
Rick Potts, Human Origins Program & ETE Member
Scott Wing, Paleobiology & ETE Member

EXTERNAL
Jussi Eronen, Geosciences and Geography, University of Helsinki
Nick Gotelli, Biology, University of Vermont
Cindy Looy, Integrative Biology, University of California Berkeley
Ethan White, Biology, Utah State University
Jack Williams, Geography, University of Wisconsin

Post-Doctoral Researchers:
Katie Amatangelo, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Brown University
Tyler Faith, Anthropology, George Washington University
Rebecca Terry, Earth and Planetary Sciences, University of California Santa Cruz

Ph.D. Students:
Andrew Du, Anthropology, George Washington University
Nathan Jud, Biological Sciences, University of Maryland

Organizing Committee: Kay Behrensmeyer, Kate Lyons, Bill DiMichele, Department of Paleobiology, NMNH, Smithsonian Institution.

Participants in ETE 2011 Workshop

 

Stranger Than We Suppose: Evaluating the Breath of Ecological Possibility

 

Evolution of Terrestrial Ecosystems Workshop: September 12-14, 2008

 

The fields of paleoecology and ecology have long followed independent but parallel tracks as researchers` attempt to understand the interactions of organisms and environments and the importance of ecology in evolution. ETE is organizing a series of workshops to develop a set of central lessons from paleobiology that are critical for a true synthesis of ecology and evolution. The first workshop "Paleontological powers of ten: issues of scale in paleobiology" which took place in September 2007, focused on how to think and communicate about widely different scales of space and time that are available to paleobiologists, i.e., spatially from individual organisms through communities to the global biota and temporally from years to millennia to millions of years. This workshop synergized interdisciplinary understanding of paleoecology among the paleobiologists and we are currently generating reports for the wider scientific community relating to a future synthesis of ecology and paleoecology.

The second workshop "Stranger than we suppose: evaluating the breath of ecological possibility past, present and Future" will aim for further integration of evidence and theory relating to ecology and paleoecology. The meeting will involve many of the same participants as the 2007 workshop but adds ~12 new participants, mainly ecologists, for a total of 45. Attendees will range from researchers with decades of experience to graduate students, post-doctoral fellows, and young professionals. Approximately a quarter of the invitees will be ETE scientists, with the others selected from U.S. and international researchers who have interest and experience in promoting interchange between paleobiology and ecology. All participants will be expected to contribute information regarding their research and bring relevant datasets to the meeting.

Workshop participants will debate and clarify central issues under four theme topics of importance to researchers in both fields: 1) taxonomic vs. ecomorphological characterization of communities, 2) assembly and disassembly of communities - pattern, process, and scale, 3) trophic structures in space and time, 4) biodiversity and ecosystem dynamics. These topics were shaped by deliberations at the 2007 workshop and will draw upon information and ideas from the two scientific disciplines.

Organizing Committee: Kay Behrensmeyer, Cindy Looy, Bill DiMichele, Department of Paleobiology, NMNH, Smithsonian Institution

Paleontological Powers of Ten:
Issues of Scale in Paleoecology

 

Evolution of Terrestrial Ecosystems Workshop: September 13-16, 2007

 

The fossil record gives scientists the power to look back in time at important changes in Earth’s ecology over a wide range of scales, from years to billions of years. Researchers in paleoecology and ecology have long followed independent trajectories as they attempt to understand the interactions of organisms and environments in ancient vs. modern contexts. As a new initiative for its 20th anniversary year, the ETE Program is organizing a series of workshops to promote understanding about paleoecology over geological time and its relevance to the ecology of today. The first workshop will focus on how to think and communicate about the widely different scales of space and time that are available to paleobiologists, i.e., spatially from individual organisms through communities to the global biota, and temporally from years to millennia to millions of years. We see this theme as critical to all further integration of evidence and theory relating to ecology and paleoecology. The workshop will synergize interdisciplinary understanding of paleoecology among paleobiologists and generate reports for the wider scientific community that can lead to a future synthesis of ecology and paleoecology.

“Paleontological Powers of Ten” will bring together 32 paleobiologists with expertise in marine and terrestrial settings to debate and clarify what the central lessons regarding scale in paleoecology and ecology should be. Approximately 1/4 of the invitees will be ETE scientists, with the others chosen from international researchers who have interest and experience in confronting issues of scale in paleobiology or ecology. Over four days, participants will hammer out the major questions and issues regarding temporal and spatial scale in paleobiology in break-out groups based on areas of expertise as well in combined sessions. All participants will contribute information regarding their research prior to the meeting in the form of a questionnaire and an example of their published work. The meeting will be held in the Executive Conference Room, NMNH.

Sarah Williams, our science journalism intern, will attend the sessions and prepare reports for the general public and for the ETE Website. Hannah Bonner, who has worked with our scientists on a series of children's books about paleobiological topics, will attend with the aim of generating a book or other media offerings about how paleobiologists study the ecology of the past. The workshop will be featured on a regular basis via this link on the website of the Department of Paleobiology.

Organizing Committee: Kay Behrensmeyer, Bill DiMichele, Cindy Looy, Department of Paleobiology, NMNH, Smithsonian Institution

Past Meetings & Conferences

 

Environmental Change, Extinction Risk, and the Maintenance of Biodiversity through Time

 

Ecological Society of America Symposium: August 5-10, 2007, San Jose CA

Understanding the mechanisms responsible for the generation of biodiversity and its maintenance is critical in developing effective strategies for conservation and ecological restoration. Geohistorical records allow ecologists an opportunity to test for the generality of processes responsible for the maintenance of biodiversity over a range of natural environmental variation. Further, such records provide necessary baselines with which to compare ecological patterns and processes prior to the onset of anthropogenic influences. However, widespread misconceptions exist regarding the quality of such records and their application to ecological questions. Paleobiology has made great strides in understanding and accounting for biases in the fossil record which has opened new avenues for application of modern ecological theory, within a scale-informed context, to paleoecological and evolutionary problems. First, this symposium will present a synopsis of the ecological fidelity and acuity of geohistorical records in both marine and terrestrial settings. Building upon this foundation, the bulk of this symposium will address paleoecological research at multiple levels of organization from community to global scale biodiversity dynamics and will focus on the following two themes: 1) community restructuring in response to past environmental shifts, and 2) factors influencing extinction risk at community and macroecological scales. The research presented will apply theory and methods from diverse areas of ecology including niche theory, food web dynamics and neutral models to provide insights into the ecological processes structuring biodiversity over longer temporal scales from the near to distant past.


Over the past decade, ecologists have increasingly come to appreciate the unique insights afforded by comparative studies conducted using different spatial and temporal frames of reference, and the proliferation of LTER and LTREB sites is one testament to this fact. Examining ecological dynamics at time scales greater than that afforded in the present day can accelerate the development and refinement of existing ecological paradigms. Basic ecological processes underlie biodiversity dynamics in both the presence and absence of anthropogenic effects. Evaluating biodiversity dynamics at multiple spatial scales prior to the onset of human influences provides a baseline for comparison with the present day. The geologic record provides an archive of the response of organisms to past environmental change. However, because paleontologists and ecologists typically attend different meetings and rarely have the opportunity to interact some of the insights gathered from these different scales are not shared and certain misconceptions perpetuated regarding the ecological fidelity and acuity of the fossil record. This symposium, co-sponsored by the Paleontological Society and the Paleoecology section of ESA, will provide a forum for ecologists working at multiple temporal scales to discuss the maintenance of biodiversity during intervals of environmental change. Specifically, this symposium will address two topical areas of interest to ESA members: the factors associated with extinction risk and structure of communities in the face of climatic change. The multiple study systems, spatial and temporal scales, and analytical approaches represented in this symposium will be of broad interest to ecologists across ESA.


Organizers: Paul G. Harnik, Committee on Evolutionary Biology, University of Chicago and S. Kathleen Lyons, Department of Paleobiology, NMNH, Smithsonian Institution

 

AAAS Symposium, Denver

 

ETE researchers have organized two symposia at the 2003 meetings of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.


ETE members, A. K. Behrensmeyer and S. L. Wing arranged the symposium entitled, "Disruptions in Ancient Land Ecosystems: Lessons from the Fossil Record."

 

ETE member R. Potts and A. Brooks from The George Washington University organized, "Revolution and Evolution in Modern Human Origins: When, Where, Why?"

Other Activities

 

Global Change Briefing - NMNH - 1990

 

ETE organized members of several departments to present our expertise and assessments of global change in a press briefing held at the NMNH.

Left to right: Rick Potts (Anthropology), Dennis Stanford (Anthropology), Kay Behresnemeyer, Bill DiMichele, Ian Macintyre, Tom Simkin (Mineral Sciences), Marty Buzas, Brian Huber, Scott Wing

ETE Texas Permian Field Excursion - 1988

 

In 1988, ETE organized a field trip to the classic Texas Permian vertebrate-bearing red-beds with senior paleobiologists, Nick Hotton and E. C. Olson (emeritus, UCLA).

Left to right: Bob Hook, Hans Sues, Dale Winkler, Kay Behrensmeyer, Nick Hotton, Rick Potts (front), Ralph Chapman, Robyn Burnham (front), Lila Olson, Ole Olson, Dan Chaney.

 

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