Professor University of California, Los Angeles Los Angeles, California, United States
Dr. Priyanga Amarasekare is the 2023 Scientific Plenary keynote speaker for the ESA Annual Meeting. She is the recipient of the prestigious ESA Robert H. MacArthur Award that honors an established ecologist in mid-career for meritorious contributions to ecology, in the expectation of continued outstanding ecological research.
MacArthur Lecture Non-linearity, variability and emergent patterns: an integrative perspective
Nature is full of puzzling biological patterns. All such patterns ultimately arise from the interplay between non-linearity and variability. Non-linearities arise when biotic factors generate density- or frequency dependence in fitness. Variability arises when abiotic factors modify these non-linearities, generating spatial or temporal variation in fitness. My research focuses on understanding how the interplay between non-linearity and variability generates the patterns we see, and how those patterns might change under perturbations to organisms’ typical biotic and abiotic environments. I will talk about how evolution of phenotypic traits may be constrained by variability that arises through non-linearity itself, emergent phenomena such as keystone dispersers that arise from the interplay between spatial variation and multi-trophic interactions, and how thermodynamical processes operating within cells can explain why organisms from warmer climates can easily move to cooler climates but not vice versa. I will present these ideas within an integrative framework that allows us to both understand and predict how organisms respond to environmental perturbations in ecological and evolutionary time.