Assistant Professor of Biology
Division of Science, Mathematics and Computing
Strange behavior? Could be an evolutionary trap!
February 24, 2014
Academic Building A G008, 5:00 PM
Cosponsored with the Department of Biological Science
Human-induced rapid environmental change (HIREC; e.g., climate change or exotic species) is responsible for global species declines. Although behavioral plasticity has buffered some species against HIREC, maladaptive behavioral scenarios called ‘evolutionary traps’ are increasingly common, threatening the persistence of native species. Traps occur when the cues organisms have evolved to use to guide their behavior have become so unreliable that they can actually trigger animals (including humans) to prefer more dangerous behaviors over safer ones. I’ll discuss the theory behind traps, illustrate how they are responsible for bizarre behaviors, and demonstrate how this is an emerging conservation problem for wild animal populations. I will illustrate a new model system I am using to study evolutionary traps involving an only recently discovered kind of light pollution (polarized light pollution) and its impacts on aquatic insect populations. Finally, I’ll discuss how traps can be disarmed and even used as tools in wildlife management, and how they might explain seemingly mysterious human behavior.
Bruce Robertson is a conservation ecologist. His research focuses on questions that address important conservation issues, but that also provide fundamental insights into ecological theory. Broadly speaking, he investigates the direct and indirect impacts of human activities on biodiversity, species persistence and species interactions with special emphasis on how rapidly changing environments may disrupt evolved relationships and trigger maladaptation. He is especially interested in cases in which novel environments trigger animals to actually prefer to make inappropriate, detrimental and often dangerous decisions. These scenarios are known as evolutionary traps. Traps are an emerging conservation problem that can contribute population declines in species of concern. He collaborates extensively on a variety of projects including a study of the impact of new forms of pollution (polarized light pollution) on aquatic insects, and research investigating how to grow next generation bioenergy crops that facilitate the conservation of biodiversity. Trained as an ornithologist, Bruce increasingly uses arthropods, mammals and plants as study organisms.
Reading will be posted to the EvoS blackboard group. Anyone with a Binghamton University email address can request to be added to the blackboard group by emailing EvoS[at]binghamton[dot]edu.
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