The causes and consequences of variation in dispersal distance

The causes and consequences of variation in dispersal distance

Mon, 11/03/2013 - 14:30 to 15:30

About the Presenter

Winsor H. Lowe

Winsor H. Lowe's research examines how processes acting at large spatial scales affect the evolution, population biology, and community ecology of stream organisms. Winsor is especially interested in the role of dispersal in stream systems. He hopes this work expands basic understanding of the ecological and evolutionary drivers of dispersal, and helps in the protection of stream biodiversity. By using stream systems to test spatially explicit models of demography, community ecology, and evolution, Winsor expects this research to provide the challenges and insight that make for exciting and useful science.

Winsor H. Lowe is currently an Associate Professor for the Division of Biological Sciences at The University of Montana and a Visiting Associate Professor for the Australian Rivers Institute, Griffith University.

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Dispersal is a fundamental process in population biology, ecology, and evolution. In most species, dispersal distributions are characterized by many individuals that remain close to their origin and large variation in the distances moved by those that leave. Darwin saw that long-distance dispersal played a key role in range expansion, and models show that dispersal distance can strongly affect population and community dynamics.

But despite these wide-ranging implications, we have little understanding of how variation in dispersal distance is maintained in natural populations and, more specifically, the fitness consequences of long-distance dispersal. My research uses a stream salamander system to address these gaps in our understanding of the proximal causes and consequences of variation in dispersal distance.

This work does not support the widely held view that fitness consequences of long-distance dispersal are unpredictable, and instead suggests that consistent evolutionary mechanisms may explain the prevalence of long-distance dispersal in nature.

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