The 6th Biennial Conference of the IBS

Miami, FL, USA (January 9-13, 2013)

The International Biogeography Society held its 6th Biennial Conference in Miami, Florida, USA from January 9-13, 2013.

The hosts for the 2013 Biennial conference were Florida International University Department of Biological Sciences ( and the Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden (  The main conference venue was Koven’s Conference Center at Florida International University ( located on the Biscayne Bay Campus of FIU. For more information, see

Pre-conference workshops were held at the FIU University student center (

Kovens Conference Center

Organizing Committee:

Kenneth Feeley, Department of Biological Sciences, Florida International University
Daniel Gavin, Department of Geography, University of Oregon
Karen Faller, International Biogeography Society

9th January :
Pre-conference workshops

1. Biodiversity Informatics Training
2. The Biogeography of Stress
3. Communicating Biogeography
4. Popular Science Writing
5. An Introduction to Bayesian Statistical Analysis

Field trips

1. Oleta River Canoe Trek
2. Everglades Airboat Ride and Swamp Tromp
3. Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden

10th January
Opening Ceremony & Introductory Lecture
Poster Sessions

11th January
Poster Sessions
Business Meeting, Awards Ceremony, and the MacArthur-Wilson Award Lecture: Miguel B. Araújo
Beach Party

12th January
Twelve sessions of contributed talks
Alfred Russel Wallace Keynote Lecture: James H. Brown

13th January
Field trips
1. Everglades Airboat Ride and Swamp Tromp
2. Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden
3. Oleta River Canoe Trek
4. Sea Kayak and Snorkel Adventure
5. South Florida Birding Tour

10th & 11th January: SYMPOSIA

       Island biogeography: new syntheses

Organizers: Robert Whittaker & Kostas Triantis

Robert MacArthur and Edward Wilson’s 1963 paper, An Equilibrium Theory of Insular Zoogeography and the subsequent book, The Theory of Island Biogeography, can be seen as the dominant symbols of a transition that took place five decades ago from a ‘static’ to a ‘dynamic’ approach in ecology and biogeography. While some island systems have provided short-term experimental systems, by their nature, the processes underlying biogeographic distributions and evolution on larger more remote islands occur on vast scales of time and space and remain among the most difficult to study and understand. Fifty years after the publication of their paper some of the areas emphasized by MacArthur and Wilson remain relatively unexplored or their promise unfulfilled. Recent advances in island theory demonstrate that we are moving towards a new synthesis, identifying and incorporating aspects of the island systems that were not considered in the past. This symposium will celebrate the 50th anniversary of the publication of An Equilibrium Theory of Insular Zoogeography, bringing together all the recent advancements in the study of the dynamic nature of island systems, looking forward to new syntheses and theories.

Alison Boyer, University of Tennessee, USA
Lenore Fahrig, Carleton University, Canada
François Guilhaumon, University of Évora, Portugal
Larry Heaney, Field Museum, USA
Knud A. Jønsson, University of Copenhagen, Denmark
Jens Olesen, Aarhus University, Denmark

       Beyond Bergmann: New perspectives on the biogeography of traits

Organizers: Adam C. Algar & Nathan G. Swenson

Biogeography has no shortage of mechanistic hypotheses to explain patterns of species diversity or co-occurrence, but no consensus has been reached. The majority of these hypotheses are based on how species interact with their abiotic and biotic environments, yet tests of these hypotheses have traditionally focused on patterns of species richness and composition within and among assemblages. Although biogeographical patterns of species diversity have formed the basis of much biogeographical thought, this approach fails to quantify how species interact with their abiotic and biotic environments (i.e. the actual processes on which most of biogeography’s hypotheses are based). We suggest that focusing on the biogeography of traits, rather than just on the biogeography of species, presents the best chance for biogeographers to identify general processes in the function and structure of communities, species assemblages, and ecosystems across geographical gradients and through evolutionary time.  The proposed set of talks demonstrates the power of recent advances in trait-based biogeography, linking evolutionary and ecological processes to advance our understanding of biogeographical processes acting through and across scales of space and time.

Katrin Böhning-Gaese, Senckenberg Museum, Germany
Folmer Bokma, Umeå University, Sweden
Nathan Kraft, University of Maryland, USA
Jonathan B. Losos, Harvard University, USA
Trevor Price, University of Chicago, USA
Nathan Swenson, Michigan State University, USA

       The convergence of conservation paleontology and biogeography

Organizers: Jenny McGuire & Edward Davis

An historical perspective is essential to explain large-scale biogeographic patterns. The fossil record provides a trove of data on evolutionary history and the responses of populations to past climate change. When fossil data are sufficiently extensive, it is possible to examine changes in species distribution, trait development, and community diversity. Major biogeographic questions currently being addressed using the fossil record include, among others, trait development and rates of change, stability or resilience of community composition to climate and disturbance, understanding the toleration versus migration responses to climate change, selectivity during extinction events, and searching for analogs to future hothouse climates. Many of these questions are made in conjunction and leveraged by phylogenetic data, but many others may only be addressed via the fossil record. This symposium will provide a forum for the most innovative work being done by paleo-biogeographers. Talks will span from Quaternary to Mesozoic time scales with an emphasis on the mammal record.

Jessica Blois, University of California – Merced, USA
Susanne Fritz, Senckenberg Museum, Germany
Rob Guralnick, University of Colorado, USA
Elizabeth Hadly, Stanford University, USA
A. Michelle Lawing, Indiana University, USA
Sara Varela, Charles University, Czech Republic

       Predicting species and biodiversity in a warmer world: are we doing a good job?

Organizers: Antoine Guisan & Niklaus E. Zimmermann

Projections of species ranges and biodiversity patterns into future, possibly non-analog, climates have been dominated so far by the use of correlative approaches, but other, more dynamic approaches are increasingly used and advocated. The challenge now is how to integrate them into ecologically more realistic prediction tools, suitable to process larger species numbers. But how do we do so? The goal of this symposium is to organize a set of talks that: (1) discuss the strengths and weaknesses of these approaches, (2) focus on one or several of these approaches, and (3) highlight how each could be combined with other approaches to overcome weaknesses. The symposium aims at fostering a discussion among IBS members about alternative approaches for modelling biodiversity futures.

Lauren Buckley, University of North Carolina, USA
Yvonne Buckley, University of Queensland/CSIRO Brisbane, Australia
Jim Clark, Duke University, USA
N. Zimmermann & A. Guisan, Swiss Federal Research Institute & U. Lausanne, Switzerland
Richard Pearson, American Museum of Natural History, USA
Jens-Christian Svenning, Aarhus University, Denmark

#1: Biodiversity informatics tools and resources for biogeography and global change

Robert Guralnick, University of Colorado
Rosemary Gillespie, University of California, Berkeley
David Bloom, University of California, Berkeley
Walter Jetz, Yale University

An unprecedented amount of biodiversity-related data is emerging with the potential to provide biogeographers with information about the present and past distribution of organisms and environments within which they lived and their physiological and genetic adaptations to changing conditions. This data comes from disparate sources; natural history collections and associated morphological, physiological and genomic data, climate layers, sensor networks, etc. The importance of informatics tools that can manage this data, provide geographical representations of distribution, and integrate multiple layers of temporal and spatial data, is apparent, though much remains to be done.

This workshop tackles both conceptual and practical issues in dealing with the massive quantities of biogeographic data that are coming to light through digitization efforts, or being produced through studies of historic or extant specimens, and the tools and resources being developed to deal with the problem.  We will present an overview of emerging data and knowledge repositories, their contents, limitations, and how they might be integrated and analyzed to enhance biodiversity research.  The workshop will investigate multiple domains relevant to biogeographers, discuss issues of spatial uncertainty and taxonomic biases, how to improve the data and assess their fitness for use, and demonstrate how to enhance long-term research programs and the ability to leverage funding by contributing data to these resources.  Pragmatic examples of the use of these resources in focused exercises will take concepts and make them more concrete while providing useful code and examples for future use.

Presentations will be given by each of the 4 organizers (Guralnick, Jetz, Bloom, Gillespie), as well as additional presenters, in a format that will combine lecture and workshop style settings. This topic is particularly timely because of the wealth of data that is becoming available, and the potential it offers for biogeographers. The workshop will provide participants with an understanding of the diversity of data types, and the limitations of access, integration, and interpretation.

Potential Topics:

  1. Data sources (GBIF, IUCN, ETI, eBird, FishBase, Neotoma, etc)
  2. Organization, analysis, work flow (BiSciCol, LIMS, etc)
  3. Coordination & funding (iDigBio, NSF ADBC)
  4. Georeferencing, spatial data uncertainty and quality control
  5. Data availability & sharing – crowd sourcing, citizen involvement
  6. Mapping tools & integrating specimen data into spatial layers
  7. Integration & added value (Genbank, Geophylobuilder)
  8. Analytical tools (how to use the data being generated for answering questions in biodiversity)
  9. Quantifying limits of data quality, scale and bias on analysis and inference

#2: Biogeography of Stress

Leslie Rissler, University of Alabama)
Michael Hickerson, City College, CUNY
Michael Angilletta, Arizona State University
Michael Hood, Amherst
Justin Calabrese, Smithsonian

An “ideas-lab” to stimulate discussion of the geographic patterns and environmental and evolutionary processes impacting neuroendocrine stress responses, disease susceptibility, and genetic diversity in natural populations.

The study of stress is important for a wide diversity of questions ranging from:  what limits species range distributions; how does the environment of a developing organism influence susceptibility to disease later in life; are abiotic or biotic factors more important in limiting adaptation at range edges. This topic is particularly novel and ripe for study because it integrates mechanistic approaches to understanding organismal fitness with landscape level approaches to understanding species range distributions. In so doing, we aim to mesh proximate and ultimate reasons for observed biogeography.  We believe the engagement of scientists from diverse fields will provide new insights.

Leslie Rissler will introduce the session and provide a general overview of the need for an integration of various disciplines in studies of the biogeography of stress.  Each of the invited speakers will introduce their specific discipline and place the big questions in their field within a biogeographic context. The presentations will be short, on the order of 10 min. A question and answer period with the panel and audience will ensue after the presentations. Break-out groups lasting around 40 min will be assigned for more in-depth discussion and brainstorming of ideas, and groups will reconvene to discuss ideas and the future of the field. At the end of the session the panelists will convene to develop a review paper on the important, emerging questions on the biogeography of stress. New collaborations may ensue. The biggest benefit to the IBS community will be the engagement of biologists that do not normally place their work within a biogeographic context.

Workshop #3: Communicating Biogeography

Rob Whittaker – Oxford University, UK

The workshop will provide an overview of how to put together a paper for journal submission (adopting an appropriate writing style, organization of material, structuring a convincing narrative, pace of referencing, importance of identifying core questions/hypotheses, use of tables, figures, etc.), what happens in the peer review process, what reviewers and editors are looking for, the role of co-authors, etc. Participants will be given some draft manuscript material and specific tasks to work on (e.g. how to write Aims statements, writing abstracts, editing texts, preparing legends). The template for the exercises will be the Journal of Biogeography format and guidelines, but the workshop is intended to be of general value in how to prepare manuscripts for submission to any scientific journal. We will also look at the other side of the coin: the role and responsibilities of the manuscript reviewer.

#4: Popular Science Writing

Sarah Perrault – University of California, Davis

Making science accessible to the general public is both difficult and important, and this workshop will help you learn how to write about science for a variety of non-specialist audiences.

As any professional writer knows—and all scientists are professional writers—learning to write well in new genres takes time and practice. Therefore, this workshop will not try to teach you a set of ready-mix skills that will turn you into David Quammen or E.O. Wilson or Elizabeth Kolbert. Instead, it will equip you with a set of skills for identifying, understanding, and using strategies that contribute to effective and engaging science communication. Topics include choosing the genre that works best for your communication needs; showing what you know without showing off; explaining technical concepts in non-technical language; being clear without being condescending; and framing scientific issues in ways that engage readers’ interest using narrative, metaphor, and other prose techniques.

#5: An Introduction to Bayesian Statistical Analysis

Brian Beckage – University of Vermont

This workshop will introduce participants to the theoretical basis of Bayesian statistics and then will guide participants through a set of applications to illustrate the mechanics of Bayesian statistics.   We will briefly review likelihood methods before introducing both simple and hierarchical Bayesian models.