02 July 2013

Don't dis dispersal: evolution in Utah

Long distance dispersal is on mind at the moment. This is partly because I am sitting in an airport hotel in Los Angeles after my flight from Salt Lake City was delayed.
Snowbird - a great place to have a meeting

The delay meant that I could not connect with my long dispersal event over the Pacific back to New Zealand. It's also partly because I just gave a talk on long distance dispersal (LDD) at the evolution conference in Snowbird, Utah. Snowbird is a snow resort during winter which, given it had snowed a week before we got there, is much of the year. It has an elevation of 2400m, so some of the gasps I heard in my talk were probably had nothing to do with what I said. There were marmots on the lawns grazing, coyotes on the road and chipmunks under the picnic tables! Seeing wild mammals is always exciting for New Zealanders. The annual Evolution conferences are great and I though that this year's event was one of the better editions that I had been to. The conference is getting quite large and there were often 8 sessions running at once, meaning a lot of conflict between talks that you wanted to see (hmmm natural selection for audiences?). There were a number of kiwis attending, including my former PhD student Emily Fountain who talked about beetle biogeography around the Canterbury Plains. I was there to talk about the perils of  panbiogeography, discuss the different meaning of the 'Gondwanan distribution' and what you miss out on if you take such a strict view on biogeographical hypotheses. You can hear a version of the talk here. In the talk I go through some of the issues with the method of panbiogeography and look at the Chatham Islands (which were the subject of a panbiogeography analysis) and examine what insights you can get from consisdering dispersal scenarios when it comes to understanding the biology of this island group.

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