Evolution conference unites researchers

Ariel Lev

Kent State will host the 27th annual Midwest Ecology and Evolution Conference from March 9 to 11 in the Student Center. The conference will give students from 12 Midwestern states the opportunity to present their research to students and professionals in the field of biology.

“This is a great opportunity for people to see what research is being done in the Midwest,” said Jennifer Clark, organizing director.

This year’s conference features presentations from undergraduate, graduate and postdoctoral students. Students can attend a mixer where they will meet people from other universities in the Midwest. There will also be a banquet and a keynote speech from Washington University’s Robert T. Paine.

“(Paine) is very famous in our field,” Clark said. “He has come up with a lot of ecological theory that has been important to the advancement of this discipline.”

Paine is known for his introduction of the keystone species concept in 1969.

“A keystone species is a species that has a major influence on the structure of an ecosystem,” according to nationalgeographic.com. “Its presence impacts many other members of the ecosystem, and if its population dwindles or disappears, there can be far-reaching consequences for the ecosystem.”

The registration deadline for the conference is today. There is a registration fee of $50 and an additional $10 is needed to participate in field trips. Students who want to attend only the banquet and keynote speech can register using the same application and will be charged $30.

This year’s conference will begin with a field trip to the Cleveland Museum of Natural History and end with a tour of local bog and peat lands.

Many students will present their research during the oral presentation sessions. Session topics include conservation, biodiversity, evolution and anthropology.

Students will tell the audience about the research they have done, why the work is important and what the results mean. They will then answer any questions the audience has about their work.

Between the oral presentation sessions, other students will display their poster presentations. During poster presentations, students stand with their work and explain it to interested audience members.

During the Saturday night banquet, attendees will listen to Paine discuss what he calls “small” ecology.

“‘Small’ ecology is how research that is not groundbreaking in our field is contributing to the discipline as a whole,” Clark said.

Paine will also discuss natural history and experimental hypothesis testing.

“I will argue that these three attributes are both vital and endangered,” Paine wrote on the Web site. “Some historically important studies will be presented. I will extend these with details of my current research on disturbance, multi-species competition, and the importance of trophic structure to ecosystem function.”

The conference is sponsored by the Graduate Student Senate, Nature magazine, Davey Resource Group and the Cleveland Museum of Natural History, among others. The conference will also have a raffle with donations from the Ecological Society of America, The McGraw-Hill Companies and several others. Books, items from the Cleveland Museum of Natural History and prizes from other sponsoring companies will be raffled off toward the end of the conference.

Contact sciences reporter Ariel Lev at [email protected].