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K-State Today

October 30, 2017

Division of Biology presents Menna Jones on Oct. 31

Submitted by Division of Biology

Menna Jones, associate professor in the School of Biological Sciences at the University of Tasmania, will speak present "An eco-evolutionary approach to restoring native wildlife in invaded ecosystems" at 3:30 p.m. Oct. 31 in 221 Ackert Hall. 

Jones' research focuses on using food web dynamics for conservation, particularly among native and invasive predators and prey. She has long tangled with marsupial carnivore ecology and conservation and is immersed in research on Tasmania's apex mammalian predator, the devil, and its transmissible cancer. An eco-evolutionary approach to restoring native wildlife in degraded ecosystems is being applied to ecological restoration and conservation programs.  

The abstract for this lecture is based on new approaches that are needed to tackle the global loss of biodiversity from novel impacts, such as invasive species and emerging infectious diseases, or EIDs. This requires innovative thinking and integrated approaches that harness the power of natural ecological interactions and conserve the natural evolutionary processes inherent within complex ecological systems. Australian ecosystems are broadly dominated by invasive predators maintained at high density by the highly fecund invasive prey species with which they were co-introduced. Native mammals, which have lower fecundity, cannot withstand this amplified predation pressure. In addition, populations of the devil have been decimated by an EID, which will likely release feral cats from competition, with cascading loss of smaller biodiversity. Direct control of invasive predators and infectious diseases of wildlife frequently fail because it needs to be maintained at high intensity over large areas and in perpetuity.

Jones will present a multifaceted approach to facilitating native species recovery in invaded landscapes. The ecological component involves manipulating "leverage points" in food webs; these being nodes where a small intervention can trigger cascading changes of larger effect elsewhere. Leverage points include: restoring native apex and meso-predators to outcompete cats, controlling rabbits to reduce cats, and restoring habitat structure to provide refuge from predators. The evolutionary approach focuses on facilitating host adaptation to novel challenges, in this case rapid evolution of the Tasmanian devil to facial tumor disease. These approaches are multiscaled and animal-centric, linking individual-level behavioral decisions with occupancy and community structure at larger scales.

If you would like to visit with Jones, please contact Keith Gido at kgido@k-state.edu.

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