EVO-LTER: Multifaceted mechanisms of metropolis: Integrating society, ecology, evolution, and plasticity to advance urban evolutionary ecology

Project: Research project

Project Details


EVO-LTER: Multifaceted mechanisms of metropolis: Integrating society, ecology, evolution, and plasticity to advance urban evolutionary ecology EVO-LTER: Multifaceted mechanisms of metropolis: Integrating society, ecology, evolution, and plasticity to advance urban evolutionary ecology Overview - Urbanization can produce rapid and extreme shifts in the environmental conditions to which organisms are exposed. Heat-island effects and human-subsidized resources often result in altered ecophysiological conditions, which can be either disruptive or beneficial to organisms. Although some of these outcomes are increasingly well documented, large gaps remain in our understanding. We propose a workshop for Spring 2022 that focuses on the intersection of evolutionary biology and physiological and behavioral ecology to ask to what extent do organisms respond to the altered climate and resource availability of urban areas via phenotypic plasticity, genetic adaptation, and/or the evolution of adaptive plasticity? This workshop will use the Central Arizona-Phoenix Long-term Ecological Research (CAP) site as a case study. CAP scientists are at the forefront of developing a mechanistic understanding of the ecological, physiological, and behavioral adaptations of organisms to city life, and CAP is also a long-time leader in developing innovative and integrative approaches to social-ecological research. CAP has also amassed a wide array of long-term datasets as well as sample collections for some taxa. However, the necessary expertise to pursue questions of evolutionary and plasticity dynamics is not well-represented in the CAP community. Our workshop leadership team adds external leaders in urban evolutionary ecology to the existing CAP-scientist team. The workshop will apply a new conceptual framework to a list of five human-altered resources and/or selective agents associated with urbanization: heat, food, water, pollution, and species interactions. These urban factors can interact to produce complex biotic and abiotic outcomes at individual, population, and community levels. In addition, these resources/selective agents are distributed heterogeneously within and across cities as a function of both contemporary human decisions and past legacies of racism and other social processes. Key goals of the workshop are to facilitate the identification of the most feasible traits and study systems to pursue for future study, as well as preliminary analyses of existing datasets, using the CAP LTER as a case study. Intellectual Merit - The workshop will advance a new framework (SEEP) for integrating Social, Ecological, Evolutionary, and Plasticity processes for understanding the complexity of animal responses to urban systems and how these responses feedback to influence human-wildlife interactions. A prominent outstanding question in urban evolutionary ecology centers on the extent to which the success of some urban species is the product of pre-existing plasticity, local adaptation to the new environment, or the evolution of novel plastic responses. Understanding these non-exclusive mechanisms, which operate at different temporal scales, is critical to our understanding of the determinants of an urban organisms performance, urban population growth, and the basis of urban ecosystem biodiversity. The workshop thus will hone our mechanistic understanding of the genetic, physiological, and behavioral mechanisms that scale up to population- and community-level changes in the abundance and distribution of animals in metropolitan regions, as well as the human drivers, outcomes, and feedbacks that shape these changes across heterogeneous urban landscapes and over time. Using a trait-based approach, we will identify common phenotypic and genotypic traits across taxa and spatio-temporal scales that are ideal for investigating fundamental evolutionary dynamics in the urban landscape. This approach will facilitate connecting altered biotic communities to ecosystem services and effects on human well-being. Broader Impacts - Investigating the mechanisms that shape wildlife responses (e.g. ecological, evolutionary, behavioral, physiological) to urbanization and to people is crucial for mitigating future human-wildlife conflicts that jeopardize efforts to sustain biodiversity. Broad, synergistic frameworks that integrate well-being and equity for both human and non-human populations will be necessary for advancing positive ecosystem outcomes and social-ecological solutions. We focus on three forms of broader impact in our workshop: training, science communication, and community engagement. Our divere leadership team will prioritize recruitment of diverse workshop participants. Moroever, taking an explicitly justice-centered approach in all aspects of the workshop - from recruitment and advertisement through session participation and topics - will be pivotal to ensuring that we proceed inclusively in this blossoming field of urban evolutionary biology.
Effective start/end date9/1/218/31/23


  • National Science Foundation (NSF): $99,123.00


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