Presented by Dr. Julian Olden, Associate Professor, School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences, University of Washington

Abstract: Early naturalists Comte de Buffon, Alfred Russel Wallace and Charles Darwin inspired famous ideas of change in life, but also revealed the range of life, that is how organisms were distributed across the globe. Historical roots in natural history provided the foundation for over a century of biodiversity research focused predominantly from a taxonomic perspective. In recent decades, however, scientific thought has branched out to include ecological theories and frameworks built upon traits rather than taxonomy; referred to as trait-based ecology. In many ways this represents new life for an old paradigm (more on this topic in my presentation). A functional perspective is viewed to be more mechanistic and more widely applicable, and consequently ecologists have increasingly turned to the use of species traits as a universal currency of studying patterns and drivers of biodiversity across diverse taxonomies and geographies. In my presentation I demonstrate the utility of a traits-based approach for tackling among the most pressing freshwater conservation challenges in the 21st century. These include (1) identifying those species most prone to extinction and at-risk to invasion, (2) forecasting large-scale impacts of environmental change for species assemblages, (3) systematic conservation planning to prioritize areas of high biodiversity value, and (4) predicting the consequences of community disassembly via species extinction and invasion for freshwater ecosystem function.

Biography: Julian Olden is an associate professor in the School of Aquatic and Fishery Ecology at the University of Washington. His research is in the area of conservation of freshwater ecosystems. His main research themes include: ecology and management of invasive species; environmental flows and the ecological impacts of hydrologic alteration by human activities; linking food webs & nutrient fluxes to landscape change; conservation biogeography, functional ecology and environmental change; ecology and conservation planning of desert fishes; and climate change and conservation strategies for the future.

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