YIBS Program in Spatial Biodiversity Science & Conservation
All life on Earth has a spatial context and associated environmental conditions that contextualize its evolution, ecology and potential exposure to human-induced global change. The genetic and phenotypic make-up of populations, their connectivity, the distribution of species and their attributes, the composition of communities and the relative importance of biotic factors in structuring them -all are critically determined by the specific geographic and abiotic setting. The biosphere's environmental gradients are now rapidly changing and perturbing these interrelationships, with exact consequences depending on e.g. patterns and opportunities for dispersal, adaptation, and community reassembly. The spatial and environmental context of biodiversity thus provides a unifying theme to the disciplines of ecology, evolution and paleontology, and presents pressing new questions.
The past two decades have seen an information revolution that now provides previously unthinkable levels and detail of spatial and environmental data for integration with biology. Global expert range maps for well over 30,000 species have now been compiled, tens of millions of georeferenced locations of organisms are now available in databases such as the Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF)Ocean Biogeographic Information System (OBIS), and others, hundreds of thousands are coming online annually from tracking data, and ever more are expected from academic and citizen science projects, museum digitization initiatives and paleontological surveys. Scientists everywhere are now recording their biological data (genes, individuals, communities) with meter resolution GPS information. Simultaneously, ground based, modeled and especially remotely sensed climatic and environmental information -daily global greenness data in 250m resolution, 30m annual global land cover and land use, 3m global surface reflectance -are achieving a spatiotemporal detail that now allows the annotation of biological observations in a wholly unprecedented way. This means the spatial dimension of biodiversity can directly be associated with its environmental dimension, enabling e.g. a new quantitative assessment of the 'niches' of species, populations, individuals and even genes, and their potential change through time. Similar to bioinformatics empowering the analysis of genetic data, this data deluge has been accompanied by the development of ever-more sophisticated geo-, eco-and biodiversity informatics tools that facilitate data integration and analysis.
The much improved ability to invoke conjointly the spatial and environmental aspects of biodiversity in ever-increasing resolution and extent now offers fascinating interdisciplinary research opportunities. The two dimensions of space and environment like no other, strongly connect fields in organismal biology and environmental sciences with one another. Yet, departmental/organizational boundaries as well as methodological barriers to entry may hinder the uptake and benefit for individual faculty and students. While Yale has a strong YIBS-supported Center for Earth Observation fostering access to remotely sensed information, there is little support or education in the access, management and analysis of spatial biodiversity data and its integration with environmental information. At Yale, research groups with direct interests in this arena are in separate departments and even schools - School of Forestry & Environmental Studies (F&ES), the Department of Ecology & Evolutionary Biology (EEB), the Department of Geology & Geophysics (G&G), the Department of Anthropology, the Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History (PM) and the School of Public Health (EPH). Many of us e.g. are already quantifying the spatial and environmental attributes of species and population in our current research, but with little intellectual exchange and duplicated training, capacity and tool building. We are thus not yet in an ideal position to effectively address many questions and educational needs at the interface of life, environmental sciences and global change that are of society's utmost concern. To address this need for improved integration, support and training, and to achieve a larger and more visible presence in this area, we are forming the Yale Program in Spatial Biodiveristy Science and Conservation (SBSC) under the auspices of the Yale Institute for Biospheric Studies (YIBS).
Here at Yale and within YIBS, we are poised to capitalize on the new opportunities in spatial biodiversity science, conservation and global change. This Program will serve to foster the scholarly and methodological exchanges necessary to ensure Yale's leadership in addressing some of the most timely and important research challenges of the day. Specifically, we seek
i) capacity and support for spatial biodiversity data analysis,
ii) a framework for exchange and collaboration,
iii) joint training, and
iv) a stronger presence in national and international efforts.
By pooling and strengthening capacities and more fully realizing our interdisciplinary potential we expect to strengthen the formation and success of both individual and group projects in biodiversity and conservation at Yale. Most exciting will be the formation of new collaborative projects and initiatives as a result of the interactions, support and platform provided by the Program.
David Skelly (F&ES,Peabody): Modeling species distribution, population survival under climate change
Walter Jetz (EEB):Global distributions of species and traits, global change.
Eric Sargis(Anthropology, PM):Speciesdistributions, phylogeography ofmammals
Michael Donoghue (EEB,PM): Distribution, environmental niches and biogeography of plants
Ronald Smith (G&G): Director for the YIBS Center for Earth Observation; fine-scale regional climate models.
Other faculty and labs with strong thematic connection:
Derek Briggs Lab (G&G, PM): Spatio-temporal turnover of fossils;
Jacques Gauthier (G&G, PM): Spatial distribution of vertebrates;
Peter Crane (FE&S):Evolution and biogeography of plants;
Os Schmitz(FE&S):Spatial community ecology;
Karen Seto(FE&S):Remote sensing and urban environments;
Thomas Near(EEB,PM):Speciesdistributions, environmental niches, phylogeography of fishes;
Rick Prum Lab(EEB,PM: Phylogeography and evolution of birds and their traits;
Gisella Caccone (EEB):Genetic variation in space and environment;
Mary Beth Decker(EEB): Marine phylogeography;
Maria Duik-Wasser (E&PH): Spatial distribution, climatic niches of disease vectors;
Durland Fish(E&PH):Spatial disease dynamics, climatic niches of disease vectors.