Center for BioComplexity News – Winter 2014

Contributed by Sandra Milburn for PEI ・ High Meadows Environmental Institute

The Center for BioComplexity welcomes two new postdoctoral fellows: Andrew Hein and Thomas Van Boeckel.  Hein (PhD, University of Florida), a theoretical biologist with a background in statistics and applied mathematics, is using biomechanical models to predict migration distances of species ranging from dragonflies to whales.  He and his colleagues have discovered that walking migrants travel about the same number of body lengths, regardless of their sizes.  For example, a migrating lemming and migrating wildebeest both travel around 500,000 body lengths during migration.

Van Boeckel (PhD, Université Libre de Bruxelles) is working on estimating the global consumption of antibiotics in humans and livestock.  Having initially trained in spatial epidemiology, he is interested in comparing seasonal usage patterns between different countries, and identifying events such as the onset of seasonal flu that drive consumption of antibiotics.

Marine fish like this Atlantic cod are being strongly affected by changing ocean temperatures. As temperatures warm, cod populations have been shifting north. New research shows that the magnitude of these shifts can be predicted much more effectively than previously thought. Photo by Joachim S. Müller, courtesy of Malin Pinsky.


Stockfish (dried cod) in Ballstad, the Lofoten islands, Norway. Photo by Martin Malmstrøm, courtesy of Anne Maria Eikeset.

Other CBC news includes two recent publications by former CBC postdocs Malin Pinsky (CBC affiliated faculty, Rutgers University) and Anne Maria Eikeset (CBC affiliated postdoc, University of Oslo).  In “Marine Taxa Track Local Climate Velocities” (Science), Pinsky and colleagues (including Jorge Sarmiento and Simon Levin) examine why marine species move into new territories at a wide range of speeds and directions.  They show that the key to understanding these shifts is to follow local temperature changes.  Local changes are expressed as climate velocities, or the rate and direction that temperatures move across the seascape.  Their findings suggest that climate velocity will be a powerful tool for forecasting future ecosystem changes.  In “Economic Repercussions of Fisheries-Induced Evolution” (PNAS), Eikeset and colleagues demonstrate that genetic changes resulting from fishing pressure have significant economic effects for the Northeast Atlantic cod.  Evolutionary changes allow the individual fish to grow faster and mature earlier, increasing the stock productivity and revenue for the fishermen.  However, if fishing pressure is particularly high, genetic changes have a negative effect and result in economic loss.

CBC website