Theoretical and computational
ecology laboratory

ΣPhD Symposium

Very good feelings after the first symposium for Ecology students held at CEAB. Our most sincere and effusive congratulations to all the students who have joined this new initiative; hopefully it has been useful and stimulating.

Also a very special thanks to the jury. His commitment and spirit have been key to the success of this first symposium.

We hope to see you next year in its second edition! The winners of this first edition have been:
  • Elena Lloret Lloret (ICM, CSIC)
  • Carmen Leiva Dueñas (CEAB, CSIC)
  • Anna Barbanti (UB)
Programme flow 2019 Abstract oral presentations 1st The EPhD Symposium 2019 The symposium aims to be a regular retreat for PhD students in any ecological discipline. The symposium provides a great opportunity for students carrying out their thesis in a Catalan research centre to share and receive valuable feedback, on both their ecological work and presentation skills. The symposium will also be a space to network and socialize with other students and seniors. A panel of three prominent ecologists will evaluate oral presentations in a relaxed and constructive atmosphere. These researchers will also give a plenary talk during the symposium. We are happy to announce Hanna Kokko (University of Zurich), Fernando Valladares (MNCN-CSIC, Madrid) and Rohan Arthur (Nature Conservation Foundation, India) as the evaluators and keynote speakers for this first edition. A scientific committee will select a maximum of 12 oral presentations. The first best presentation will be awarded with the registration fee for attending an international ecological meeting to be held during 2020 in Europe (up to 400€). The second and third best presentations will also be awarded with vouchers for ecological books (up to 150€ each). Registration is free. All students and seniors should register to attend the symposium. CEAB will offer catering during coffee breaks and lunch, so it is important to know the number of attendants for optimal logistics. Important dates
  • 20 May:           Start of abstract submission/ Start of registration
  • 15 July:           Deadline for abstract submission
  • 30 July:           Deadline for registration/ Notification of presentation selection
  • 3-4 October:   The ΣPhD symposium

Details of the symposium

Registration Please send your name, position and affiliation to, as well as your intention to give an oral presentation (see below). Confirm also whether you will attend the first day of the meeting, when lunch will be offered to all attendants. Remember that deadline for registration is July 30th. If you register and later on you have some reason not to attend, please let us know. Abstract submissions Only students that have not yet submitted their PhD thesis can participate. Please send your abstract to (preferable pdf files). Do not forget to include a title, your name and affiliation and a summary of no more than 350 words. Please also include in which year your PhD thesis is actually running. Remember that deadline for abstract submission is July 15th. The scientific committee will select 12 abstracts for presentations. Oral presentations Presentations will last 15 minutes + 10 minutes for questions from the evaluators. We ask you to stick on time because timing will be a criterion to evaluate your presentation! Other criteria will be:
  • Organization of the talk and aim of the study
  • Scientific contents, particularly conceptual background and conclusions
  • Voice and body language
  • Visual aids, especially large readable and brief text, clear graphs, good balance between text and images.
In addition to questions, evaluators will fill a simple file with a qualification and some advice for improving your presentations. Keep in mind that the symposium (oral presentations, questions and plenary talks) will run in English. Venue The symposium will take place in Blanes. Details about how to get CEAB are at: Accommodation Blanes has many hotels at different prices; however for those with a lower budget and to encourage student’s interactions, the CEAB also offers free accommodation at some researcher’s and students homes. Those interested, write an email to Scientific committee Daniel Oro, Meritxell Genovart and Frederic Bartumeus

Plenary Talks

Hanna Kokko, University of Zurich

Two stories about modellers’ intuition, senescence, and sex

Mathematical modelling always comes with assumptions that are unlikely to met in nature – yet most of us would agree models can be useful. But what if two sets of modellers reach opposite conclusions? This is a situation with the question of whether lower extrinsic mortality selects for delayed senescence: some argue it is valid to say it does so, others claim such logic is flawed. I will try to clarify the situation especially with respect to density dependence. Thereafter, I will turn to empirical (statistical) modelling of another question: how should one measure the opportunity costs of paternal care — crucial in models but rarely estimated? The example — black coucals breeding in Tanzania — utilizes an information-theoretic approach to data analysis, and I will explain why I like this approach.

Fernando Valladares, MNCN-CSIC

We do not understand the individual responses to climate change (and what the hell are we waiting for?)

Divergence in phenotypic plasticity among species and populations is considered crucial for adaptation to global environmental change. But there is not a general pattern among either experimental or theoretical studies. Plasticity acting at the level of the individual is considered a rapid mechanism for surviving under rapidly changing conditions. But plasticity can also retard adaptation by shifting the distribution of phenotypes in the population, shielding it from natural selection. We know that not all plastic responses are adaptive and there are evolutionary intriguing ecological traps. Plasticity may buy time for populations, but whether it will be enough, given the rate of environmental change, is unknown. There are emerging modelling approaches attempting to explain future changes in species distribution ranges based on phenotypic plasticity and local adaptation of fitness‐related traits measured across geographical gradients. Predictions generally deliver a less alarming message than previous modelling exercises, suggesting that phenotypic plasticity could help some populations to persist under climate change. But, again, this is hampered by our fragmentary understanding of the ecological meaning of plasticity.

Rohan Arthur, Nature Conservation Foundation

Balance as metaphor in ecology and practice

Nature is inherently balanced. Our role as natural scientists is to identify the fundamental forces that hold this balance together. Humans are disrupting this delicate balance. Our role as conservation thinkers and practitioners is to locate the ruptures and restore the fabric of nature before it shreds completely. There are few ideas as comforting and as powerful as balance in nature. Something feels right about it. It seems to pass a psychic if not entirely rational Ockham’s razor. It forms the epistemic fabric of much of ecological science and is the basis of much contemporary conservation philosophy. Sure, there have been many attempts to challenge these assumptions based on observation, theory and practice, but it has proven remarkably resilient to these anarchic movements. From the perspective of a half-hearted conservation practitioner working in India, I will discuss the power and tyranny of this metaphor when thinking about the natural world and attempting to manage it.

Programme flow

Day 1, October 3rd:

09.00h –09.15h: Reception and welcome.

09.20h – 9.45h: “Linking phylogeographic history and contemporary dispersal dynamics: Multiple glacial refugia and restricted but effective present-day gene flow shaped the genetic structure of an endemic newt from the Pyrenees”. Federica Lucati.

09.45h – 10.10h: “Vegetation encroachment drives changes in the composition of butterfly assemblages and species loss in Mediterranean ecosystems”. Andreu Ubach. 10.10h – 10.35h: “Modelling surface thermal conditions of Pyrenean high mountain lakes for spatial and climate change projections”. Ibor Sabás. 10.35h – 11.00h: “Metallothioneins, a genetic response against metal toxicity in polluted marine environments”. Sara Calatayud.

11.00h – 11.30h: Coffee break (free for all registered participants)

11.30h – 11.55h: “Biotic and abiotic drivers of microbial community structure in a high iron calcareous-spring”. María Argudo. 11.55h – 12.20h: “Ecological drivers and seasonal change in commercial species distributions of the Northwestern Mediterranean Sea”. Elena Lloret-Lloret. 12.20h – 12.45h: “Production state and dynamics of seagrass meadows in Andalusia over the last centuries and millennia”. Carmen Leiva-Dueñas. 12.45h – 13.10h: “How redesigning organic vegetable cropping systems by managing agroecological service crops affects the agroecosystem functioning across Europe?”. David Navarro-Miró.

13.15h – 15.00h: Lunch served at CEAB (free for all registered participants)

15.00h – 15.25h: “Structuring and adaptation at a turtle pace: population genomics of the loggerhead turtle (Caretta caretta)”. Anna Barbanti.

15.25h – 15.50h: “Global warming transforms the functional identity of Mediterranean coralligenous assemblages”. Daniel Gomez.

15.50h – 16.15h: “Colonization – persistence tradeoffs reveal differential performance of occasional and persistent members in microbial communities”. Vicente Ontiveros.

16.15h – 16.40h: “Winter is coming: assessing the role of coastal wetlands for bat conservation during the hibernation period”. Maria Mas. All talks will be 15 minutes talk+ 10 minutes questions.

Deliberation time (only for the jury)

Day 2, October 4th:

09.30h – 10.15h: “Two stories about modellers’ intuition, senescence, and sex”. Hanna Kokko, University of Zurich

10.15h – 11.00h: “We do not understand the individual responses to climate change (and what the hell are we waiting for?)”. Fernando Valladares, MNCN-CSIC

11.00h – 11.30h: Coffee break

11.30h – 12.15h: “Balance as metaphor in ecology and practice”. Rohan Arthur, Nature Conservation Foundation

12.15h – 12.45h: Delivery of awards