Following on from our sponsorship of the Early Career Biogeographers Conference in 2021, PeerJ have again teamed up with the International Biogeography Society (www.biogeography.org) to support their 10th Biennial Conference held in Vancouver, Canada between 2nd and 6th June 2022.
PeerJ sponsored an award for Best Oral Presentation at the conference, and we recently spoke to the winner – Malin Pinsky – about his work.
Malin Pinsky Associate Professor at Rutgers University, USA.
Can you tell us a bit about yourself and your research interests?
My research addresses ecological and evolutionary responses to global change across scales of biological organization, from genes to communities. I integrate mathematical models with big data from global observing networks and genomics to understand the dynamics of ecological systems in a changing world. My current research focuses on 1) how environmental change drives the disassembly and reassembly of ecological communities, 2) the role of rapid evolution in mediating ecological change, and 3) climate adaptation in conservation and management.
What first interested you in this field of research?
I grew up in coastal Maine in the northeast US, and I have seen dramatic ecological change. There was an urchin fishery that boomed when I was young, then disappeared as it was quickly overfished. Cod in abundance were a memory in the coastal communities, more stories than reality. Lobsters became more and more abundant, but the worry is that it won’t last. Seeing this change made me deeply interested in why it was happening, and what choices we as a society have to guide the future trajectories of change.
You won the Best Oral Presentation award at the IBS Biennial Conference, can you briefly explain the research you presented?
I presented research that was led by Dr. E. Tekwa, a former postdoc in my group and now Hakai Fellow at the University of British Columbia. We used a mathematical model to test how food web interactions affect the ability of species to keep up with climate change. The model was a trait-based spatial food web model so that predator-prey interactions could dynamically reassemble as species shifted to keep up with changing temperatures. We found that the food web interactions prevented species from shifting as fast as they would in the absence of dynamic species interactions. Species also became less productive as they lagged further and further behind their optimal temperatures. The paper was published just a couple months before the conference (https://doi.org/10.1098/rspb.2021.2755).
What are your next steps? How will you continue to build on this research?
Much of the research in our group studies empirical datasets, but we developed the theoretical model so that we could build some intuition before examining empirical patterns. The next steps are to test for the impacts of food web interactions on range shifts in the real world.
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