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Day 2

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iFAST Theoretical Ecology - Day 2

Biodiversity & Conservation

Date: July 27, 2021

Time:  10:00 am – 12:30 pm US EDT
              2:00 pm –   4:30 pm UTC/GMT
            10:00 pm – 12:30 am (July 28) Beijing

The biodiversity & conservation session (July 27) reflects Simon’s long-standing commitment to developing a scientific understanding of the drivers of biodiversity and applying that understanding to maintaining that diversity and supporting the sustainable use of common-pool natural resources.

Carla Staver is an Associate Professor in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at Yale University and the Associate Director of the Yale Institute of Biospheric Studies. She started her career as a field ecologist, receiving a BA in E3B from Columbia University and an MSc in Botany from the University of Cape Town. She started her training in theoretical ecology at Princeton University under the supervision of Simon Levin in 2008, graduating with a PhD in 2012. She went on to a Prize postdoc at Columbia University, before moving to her current position at Yale in 2014. She is especially interested in the dynamics of savanna ecosystems in response to global change and at the interface with forests and in their contributions to Earth system processes.

Marissa Baskett is a professor in the Department of Environmental Science and Policy at the University of California, Davis and Associate Director of Research Initiatives at the UC Davis Coastal and Marine Sciences Institute. Her research focuses on modeling ecological and evolutionary responses to global environmental change. While researching a wide range of biological topics from life history evolution to ecosystem resilience, she develops theory relevant to conservation management decisions, particularly in marine systems. She was selected as an Ecological Society of America Early Career Fellow in 2013 and UC Davis Chancellor’s Fellow in 2017. She received her BS in biology from Stanford University and her MA and PhD in ecology and evolutionary biology from Princeton University.

10:00 am - 10:20 am

Ran Nathan is a professor in the Department of Ecology, Evolution and Behavior at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel, the founding director of the Minerva Center of Movement Ecology, and the founding Editor-in-Chief of the open-access journal Movement Ecology. He received his PhD at the Hebrew University, and carried out a postdoctoral research in Simon Levin's lab at Princeton University (1999-2001). His research covers diverse topics in movement ecology of plants and animals, including seed dispersal, spatial spread, bird migration, flight biomechanics, animal foraging and navigation, and cognitive maps. Ran developed a mechanistic approach to study long-distance dispersal of plants, introduced the Movement Ecology framework, and co-developed the new ATLAS wildlife tracking system. He won the Humboldt's Bessel Award (Germany), the Landau Scientific Excellence Prize (Israel) and a Distinguished Professor Award from the president of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (China). Ran is a birder, a glider pilot and a recent grandpa, who admits he did not win even a single squash game when playing with Simon.

10:20 am - 10:35 am

Dr. Noelle G. Beckman earned her Ph.D. in Ecology, Evolution, & Behaviour with a minor in Statistics at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities and her B.S. in Biology at Washington and Lee University. She was a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Mathematical Biosciences Institute (MBI) and the National Socio-Environmental Synthesis Center (SESYNC). She is an Assistant Professor in the Biology Department and Ecology Center and affiliated with the Mathematical Biology and Climate Adaptation Science Programs at Utah State University.

Mitigating the impacts of global change on ecosystems requires a mechanistic understanding of the processes occurring in natural populations and communities that underly patterns of biodiversity. Many of these interactions are disrupted by global change, and Dr. Beckman’s research group examines the consequences of these disruptions for plant communities and ecosystem functions. Within this context, her focus is seed dispersal and seedscape ecology. Dr. Beckman integrates interdisciplinary empirical and quantitative approaches to understand the mechanisms underlying variation in plant movement, growth, and survival, specifically during the seed and seedling stage, and consequences for plant performance, populations, diversity, and ecosystem functions. The aim of her research group is to conduct transdisciplinary and actionable research that contributes to solutions of socio-environmental problems, disseminate results to a broad audience, and promote an inclusive community that welcomes and respects diverse backgrounds and perspectives.

10:35 am - 10:50 am

Charlotte Chang is an Assistant Professor in Biology and Environmental Analysis at Pomona College. Her research combines theoretical and statistical models and broadly focuses on socio-ecological systems to improve conservation science and practice. She develops models and methods for researchers and practitioners to quantify how different stakeholders interact with the environment, ranging from conservation constituencies in different countries to illicit wildlife hunting to managing agroforests to better support habitat specialist taxa. In all of her projects, she works with local community leaders, practitioners, and colleagues. Her collaborators are leaders in conservation science and practice in the US, China, the UK, and India. Outside of her research, she can often be found hanging out on a trail with her dog or getting ready to eat something spicy.

(15-minute break)

11:05 am - 11:25 am

Ann Kinzig is a Professor in the School of Life Sciences at Arizona State University, and her research focuses broadly on the ways in which humans interact with their environment, and with what consequences for human and environmental well being. She received her PhD from the Energy & Resources Group at Berkeley in 1994. She spent 4 years working with Simon at Princeton University—2 years as a postdoctoral researcher (1994-1996) and 2 years as the Assistant Director at the Princeton Environmental Institute (1996-1998) (but once a student of Simon’s, always a student of Simon’s—the collaborations and connections continue to this day).

11:25 am - 11:40 am

Madelon (Maddy) Case is a plant ecologist interested in how environmental variability, disturbance, and global change influence vegetation patterns in grassland, shrubland, and savanna ecosystems. Her research seeks to inform the management and restoration of ecosystems through a clearer understanding of the drivers of heterogeneous vegetation dynamics across scales. She is currently a postdoc at the University of Oregon, working with Lauren Hallett in collaboration with the Eastern Oregon Agricultural Research Center to understand the landscape ecology of annual grass invasion across the Northern Great Basin. In 2020 she completed her PhD in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology in Carla Staver’s lab at Yale University, studying rainfall variability and vegetation dynamics in African savannas. She was mentored by Simon Levin for her undergraduate thesis (on gopher disturbance and montane meadow plant diversity) at Princeton University, where she graduated with an AB in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology in 2012.

11:40 am - 11:55 am

Lisa McManus is a marine ecologist and theoretician. Her research focuses on the ecological and evolutionary drivers of coral reef dynamics, especially the response of coral populations to climate change. She earned a Bachelor’s degree in Marine and Atmospheric Science from the University of Miami and a Ph.D. in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at Princeton University as part of the Levin Lab. Lisa was subsequently a postdoctoral fellow with Malin Pinsky at Rutgers University. She is currently an Assistant Professor at the Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology at UH Manoa.

(5-minute break)

12:00 pm - 12:30 pm

Marine conservation scientist Heather Leslie is Director of the University of Maine’s marine laboratory, Darling Marine Center, and Professor of Marine Sciences in UMaine’s School of Marine Sciences. She conducts research on the ecology, policy, and management of coastal marine ecosystems, particularly in Maine, USA and Baja California Sur, Mexico, and how to more effectively connect science to policy and management. More information is available on her lab’s website at

Heather was trained as an ecologist, receiving her PhD from Oregon State University in 2004 and an A.B. in Biology from Harvard University in 1996. Thanks in part to an interdisciplinary postdoctoral research position at Princeton University (2004-2007), she gained valuable experience in interdisciplinary, cross-institutional sustainability research early in her career. These collaborations resulted in one of the first books on the science and practice of marine ecosystem-based management, Ecosystem-Based Management for the Oceans (2009, Island Press).

Heather lives by the Damariscotta River in Newcastle, Maine, with her two children and husband, microbial ecologist Jeremy Rich.


Kai Chan is a Professor and Canada Research Chair in Rewilding and Social-Ecological Transformation at the Institute for Resources, Environment and Sustainability at the University of British Columbia. Kai is an interdisciplinary, problem-oriented sustainability scientist, trained in ecology, policy, and ethics from Princeton and Stanford Universities. He strives to understand how social-ecological systems can be transformed to be both better and wilder. Kai leads CHANS lab (Connecting Human and Natural Systems), and is co-founder of CoSphere (a Community of Small-Planet Heroes). He is a former UBC Killam Research Fellow; a member of Canada’s Clean16 and Clean50 for 2020; a Leopold Leadership Program fellow; senior fellow of the Global Young Academy and of the Environmental Leadership Program; a member of the Royal Society of Canada’s College of New Scholars, Artists and Scientists; Lead Editor of the new British Ecological Society journal People and Nature; a coordinating lead author for the IPBES Global Assessment; and (in 2012) the Fulbright Canada Visiting Research Chair at the University of California, Santa Barbara.

Kai on Google Scholar, ResearchGate.

Frederic Guichard is professor of biology at McGill University in Montreal, Canada. He received his PhD in marine ecology from Université Laval (Québec , Canada) in 2000 and was a postdoctoral fellow at Princeton University (U.S.) prior to joining McGill in 2002. His research in theoretical ecology combines applied mathematics, computational tools and field experiments for the study of nonlinear dynamics and spatial structure in ecosystems. Prof Guichard is also applying his work to conservation and more specifically to the design of marine protected areas. At the core of his research are the feedbacks between species composition and ecosystem functions driven by the transformation and movement of matter across complex landscapes. Prof Guichard is also involved in the development of research and training at the interface between biology and mathematics. He is the co-director for the Center of Applied Mathematics in Bioscience and Medicine (CAMBAM) and the co-founder of the PhD program in Quantitative Life Sciences at McGill.

Malin Pinsky is an Associate Professor at Rutgers University (New Jersey, USA) in the Department of Ecology, Evolution, and Natural Resources, a member of the Institute of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences, and an affiliate in the Department of Marine and Coastal Sciences. He leads a research group studying global change ecology and evolution, particularly the consequences of climate change for biodiversity, the genomics of evolutionary rescue, and the implications for conservation design. He is an Earth Leadership Program Fellow and an early career fellow in the Ecological Society of America, and he was named one of Science News' ten scientists to watch, an Alfred Sloan Fellow in Ocean Sciences, a Kavli Fellow (National Academy of Sciences), and winner of a Young Investigators Award from the American Society of Naturalists. He is a science advisor to Oceana, an international marine conservation group. He has a Ph.D. in Biology from Stanford University and an A.B. in Biology and Environmental Studies from Williams College. He grew up exploring tidepools and mountains along the coast of Maine.