FYI: I’m changing the topic of my ESA talk. I’m now going to talk about what I think are some very cool experimental results testing for a “spatial hydra effect” in metapopulation dynamics. A spatial hydra effect occurs when increasing the rate at which local subpopulations go extinct increases the persistence of the metapopulation as a whole. So getting your head cut off can be good for you, as it were. The really cool thing is, you don’t have to assume some weird “mythical” world in order for a spatial hydra effect to happen. It’s just a straightforward, but previously unrecognized (as far as I know), implication of simple models of metapopulation dynamics. Besides being a very “cute” phenomenon, I think the spatial hydra effect represents a deep insight into how colonization-extinction dynamics are even possible. I talked about the theory behind the spatial hydra effect a couple of years ago at ESA. The new experimental results come from an ongoing experiment my lab has been running for the past six weeks.
I’m doing this because I want to give the most interesting talk I can. Back in February, when ESA abstracts were due, this experiment was barely a glimmer in my mind. It’d have been way too risky (and technically against the rules) to propose to talk about a study I hadn’t even started yet, so I didn’t. But now that the experiment’s well underway, I’d feel bad giving what I think would just be an ok talk when I can give what I think will be a really good talk instead. Plus, the topic is still community ecology–it involves two species and interspecific interactions are part of the story, so it’s really a metacommunity talk. So the talk is still a good fit for the session (“community pattern and dynamics IV”). Heck, it’s still about protist microcosm metacommunities, so it’s not all that far from the talk I was originally planning.
And if you’re still bummed because you really wanted to hear the talk I was originally planning, you’re in luck. Just do what I’m planning to do and go see Eric Sokol’s talk. It sounds really good. Eric’ll be making the many of the same points I would’ve made, though in a different–and better!–way. (The existence of his talk had nothing to do with my change of mind, by the way.)