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ECOLOGY SEMINAR: Sex, Stochasticity, and the Spread of Biological Invasions

Tom Miller, Godwin Assistant Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Rice University
Fall 2014
Sep. 9, 4:00 pm - 5:00 pm
Ecology Auditorium

Reception precedes seminar at 3:30 p.m. in lobby. Host: John Drake.


The boundaries of species’ ranges are dynamic, now more than ever. Theory for spatial population dynamics provides a framework for understanding and predicting range expansion by exotic organisms and range shifts by native species in response to environmental change. Traditional invasion theory does not account for population sex structure. Ignoring sex is convenient – because sex makes things complicated – and may be well justified for asexual or hermaphroditic taxa. However, for dioecious organisms (most animals and many plants), differences in demography and dispersal between females and males may influence the dynamics of range expansion. In this seminar, I will present new theory for sex-structured biological invasions, and connect the theory to experimental studies of insect “range expansion” in laboratory mesocosms. Theoretical and experimental results will demonstrate how population sex structure can affect both the mean and variance of invasion speed, with implications for the management of dioecious pests.