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Earth and Planetary Sciences Seminar: Dr. Gwen Antell - Macroecology of marine ecosystems through the Phanerozoic

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This talk will discuss the ways ecological and evolutionary processes scale (or, more frequently, don’t scale) from local sites and populations up to the world’s oceans and millions of years. First, analyses of the nature and history of the relationship between geographic range size and species richness test the long-standing view that competition limits species’ distributions—an assumption that underpins major theories in ecology and evolution, such as community saturation or diversity rebounds after mass extinctions. Contrary to theoretical expectations, results suggest that so-called competitive exclusion has not dominated as a pattern in marine communities at the species level. Non-competitive factors such as environmental suitability may instead control species’ distributions to a large degree at coarse scales. A resulting question is the extent to which environmental tolerances adapt when Earth’s climate changes. Focusing on temperature preferences in planktonic foraminifera at the fine temporal resolution of 8,000 years, thermal niches appear static throughout the last 7 global ice-age cycles (700 ka). Evidence for niche stability in this focal group validates the use of transfer functions in paleoclimatology; these results also suggest that ongoing warming and ocean acidification could redistribute and reduce populations of foraminifera and other calcifying plankton, which are primary components of marine food webs and biogeochemical cycles. Ongoing and future work continues this theme of high-resolution paleontology, assessing ecosystem-wide changes in the Santa Barbara Basin in response to North American climate and land use changes over the last two millennia.

Dr. Gwen Antell holds a B.S. in Ecology & Evolutionary Biology from Yale University and a PhD in Earth Sciences from the University of Oxford, focused on the relative influence of biotic and abiotic factors on marine ecosystems as reconstructed from the geological record. This research program is quantitative and synthetic, integrating many sources of fossil, sedimentary, and climatic data. Dr. Antell is currently based at UC Riverside, Department of Earth & Planetary Sciences, as a UC President's Postdoctoral Fellow.



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