This is the talk that I gave at the 2015 Ecological Society of America Annual meeting in Baltimore, MD. (Will add images/graphs soon.) Thank you to Jesse Lasky for including me in the special session he organized, The Effects of Eco-Evolutionary Feedbacks on Communities, Ecosystems, and Responsee to Environmental Change.
My talk, sitting in the last slot of today's session, draws on several presentations we have heard today. This final talk will put eco-evolutionary research and knowledge in the context of conservation and climate change.
Le me first remind you that climate change is a big deal with a large influence on biological systems. Under a business as usual emission scenario, temperatures on land are predicted to increase 5-6 deg C this century. The last time the world was this much cooler, Death Valley was covered with mesic forest, a habitat that has since been replaced with drought and temperature tolerant plants and animals. The last time the climate was this warm, there was a relative of the alligator living at the pole.
[Scientific] thinking, born out of engineering and mathematics, implemented in computers, drawn from a mechanistic mind-set and a quest for prediction and control, leads its practitioners, inexorably I believe, to confront the most deeply human mysteries. — Donella H. Meadows, Thinking in Systems: A Primer
The twenty-first century is likely to be remembered as the century of biology. We are gaining vast biological insights—and vast power over biological systems—because of high-throughput genetic sequencing technology and computer algorithms that handle vast amounts of data. These insights will give us not only the power to treat disease, but also the power to re-engineer the human body and even nature itself.