EEB 297 spring 2016

Functional and ecophysiological approaches to population and community ecology

Graduate Seminar: EEB 297, Seminar 6, Spring 2016

Tentative meeting time: (starting March 29th) Tuesdays 2-4 PM, Life Sciences 3215

Instructor: Nathan Kraft (


Since the very beginnings of the field of ecology there has been an appreciation that the functional or ecophysiological variation among organisms in traits such as body size, leaf structure, metabolic rate or wing morphology can be a helpful tool for understanding the processes that structure populations and communities. This perspective has been reinvigorated in recent years by rapid growth in the subfield of functional trait-based ecology, which has promised to bring greater generality and also a stronger mechanistic basis to many areas of population and community ecology. The goal of this graduate seminar is explore the key foundations of this subfield, to survey the breadth of research questions that are currently being addressed through the use of functional traits, and finally to discuss the challenges and opportunities for innovation that exist on the current research landscape. In keeping with the breadth of the field, we will explore these questions from a broad taxonomic perspective, including work focused on both animals and plants.




Week Topic Lecturer Discussion Leader Readings
1 Introduction & Planning
2 Conceptual Basis  Nathan  Nathan

Core papers: McGill et al. 2006; Ricklefs and Travis 1980.

Breadth papers: Violle et al. 2007, Ingram and Shurin 2009, Wright et al. 2004.

3 Physiological basis of key plant functional traits  Megan  Grace Core papers: Reich et al. 2014; Skelton et al. 2015.  Breadth papers: Pockman and Sperry 2000; Moles et al. 2005; Falster and Westoby 2003.
4 Physiological basis of key animal functional traits  Mairin  Julia Core papers:  Dayan et al. 1989; Wilson et al. 2012Breadth papers: Bourassa and Morin 1995; Harley and Helmuth 2013; Anderson et al. 2011.
5 Demographic variation and population dynamics  Maggie  Marcel Core papers: Wright et al. 2010; Adler et al. 2014. Breadth papers: Ozgul et al. 2010; Russell et al. 2011; Pelletier et al. 2007.
6 Species Interactions  Gaurav  Mairin Core paper: Kraft et al. 2015; optional background paper: Litchman et al. 2015Breadth papers: Narwani et al. 2013; Moller et al. 2011; Maas et al. 1988.
7 Community pattern and dynamics  Marcel  Maggie  Core paper: Ackerly and Cornwell 2007; optional background paper: Mayfield and Levine 2010. Breadth papers: Pigot 2016; Cadotte et al. 2009; Stubbs and Wilson 2004.
8 Evolution and biogeography  Julia  Ian Core paper: Ackerly 2003.  Breath papers: Green et al. 2008; Whittaker et al. 2014; Mouillot et al. 2014.
9 Limitations of the trait-based approach  Grace  Gaurav Core paper: Albert et al. 2010.  Breadth papers: Chave et al. 2009; Mason and Donovan 2015; Wainwright et al. 2005.
10 Synthesis and future directions  Ian  Megan Core papers: Angert et al. 2009; Edwards et al. 2013.