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Environmental change

The Symons Lab studies questions of what influences biodiversity and the response of ecological communities to environmental change. To do this, we study anthropogenic stressors in freshwater ecosystems across biological scales, from populations to food webs. Through a combination of field surveys and large-scale experiments, we hope to gain an understanding of how aquatic ecosystems will function in a rapidly changing world.

Key Papers:

Moffett, E.R.P, Baker, H.K., Bonadonna, C.C.G, Shurin, J.B., and Symons, C.C.. 2021. Cascading effects of freshwater salinization on plankton communities in the Sierra Nevada. Limnology and Oceanography Letters link


Rogers, T.L., Munch, S.B., Stewart, S.D., Palkovacs, E.P., Giron-Nava, A., Matsuzaki, S-I.S., and Symons, C.C.* 2020. Trophic control changes with season and nutrient loading in lakes. Ecology Letters. 23, 1287–1297. 

Symons, C.C. and Shurin, J.B. 2016. Climate constrains lake community and ecosystem responses to introduced predators. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences 283:20160825


Eco-Evolutionary Dynamics

Studies on eco-evolutionary dynamics have shown that trait variation within species can alter ecological processes at the individual, population, community, and ecosystem levels. These studies have also revealed that the evolutionary processes governing this variation can occur on contemporary timescales, making them particularly relevant for forecasting ecological dynamics under rapid environmental change. To quantify the importance of intraspecific trait variation for populations and communities, we have taken two approaches: examining the drivers and quantity of trait variation, and experimentally determining

the effect of trait differentiation on

community properties.

Key Papers:

Arnott, S.E.†*, Fugère, V.†, Symons, C.C.†, Melles, S.J.†, Beisner, B.E., Cañedo-Argüelles, M., Hébert, M.-P.†, Brentrup, J.A., Downing, A.L., Gray, D.K., Greco, D.A., Hintz, W.D., McClymont, A., Relyea, R.A, Rusak, J.A., Searle, C.L., Astorg, L., Baker, H.K., Ersoy, A., Espinosa, C, Franceschini, J.M., Giorgio, A.T., Göbeler, N., Hassal, E., Huynh, M., Hylander, S., Jonasen, K.L., Kirkwood, A.E., Langenheder, S., Langvall, O., Laudon, H., Lind, L., Lundgren, M., Moffett, E.R.P, Proia, L., Schuler, M.S., Shurin, J.B., Steiner, C.F., Striebel, M., Thibodeau, S., Urrutia-Cordero, P., Vendrell-Puigmitja, L., Weyhenmeyer, G.A., and Derry, A.M.† Broad scale intraspecific variation in freshwater zooplankton salt tolerance. Accepted at Limnology and Oceanography. 

Wood, Z.T*., Lopez, L.K., Symons, C.C., Robinson, R.R., Palkovacs, E.P., Kinnison, M.T. 2022. Causes and consequences of eco-evolutionary trophic cascades in mosquitofish. The American Naturalist 199:3. E91-E110 

Symons, C.C.*, Schulhof, M.A., Cavalheri, H.B., and Shurin, J.B. 2021. Legacy effects of fish but not elevation influence lake ecosystem response to environmental change. Journal of Animal Ecology 90: 662-672. `


Dispersal and Resilience

Working in the Canadian subarctic provided an interesting system to ask about the role of regional dispersal in maintaining ecosystem function and community diversity. In this region 40% of the land is covered with water and dispersal between ponds is likely high. We examined spatial patterns of zooplankton community composition and environmental variables and found evidence of high dispersal rates (Symons et al. 2014). We then conducted an experiment to examine how dispersal influenced ecosystem function and recovery after a nutrient and/or salt addition.

Key Papers:

Symons, C.C. and Arnott, S.E. 2013. Regional zooplankton dispersal provides spatial insurance for ecosystem function. Global Change Biology 19: 1610–1619. 

Symons, C.C. and Arnott, S.E. 2014. Timing is everything: priority effects alter post-disturbance invasibility.  Ecology and Evolution 4: 397-407. 

Symons, C.C., Pedruski, M., Sweetman, J.N. and Arnott S.E. 2014. Spatial, abiotic and biotic determinants of zooplankton community composition in Subarctic tundra ponds in Wapusk National Park, Canada. Arctic, Antarctic and Alpine Research 46: 159-190. 


Socio-Ecological Synthesis

This research is the result of a working group funded by the National Socio-Environmental Synthesis Center (SESYNC) under their Graduate Student Pursuit (GSP) program. We are investigating the relative contributions of ecological and management variables to 'ecological surprises'. We are studying three case studies of ecological surprise: the cod fishery collapse in the Bay of Fundy, the outbreak of mountain pine beetle in British Columbia and the continued eutrophication of Lake Champlain.

Team members:

Steven Alexander (Co-PI), Jeremy Pittman (Co-PI), Heather Haig, Karen Filbee-Dexter, Matt Burke  & Celia Symons


Key Papers: 
Filbee-Dexter, K.*, Symons, C.C.*, Jones, K., Haig, H., Pittman, J., Alexander, S., Burke, M. Management capacity in the face of ecological surprise. Journal of Applied Ecology 00: 1-12. *Authors contributed equally to this work 

Filbee-Dexter, K., Pittman J., Haig, H.A., Alexander S.M., Symons C.C., and Burke, M.J. Ecological surprise: concept, synthesis, and social dimensions. Ecosphere 8:e02005.

 Wallen, K.; Filbee-Dexter, K.; Pittman, J.; Posner, S.; Alexander, S.; Rolulo, C.; Bennett, D.; Clark, E.; Cousins, S.; Dubik, B.; Garcia, M.; Haig, H.; Koebele, E.; Qiu, J.; Richards, R.; Symons, C.C. and Zipper, S. 2019. Integrating team science into interdisciplinary graduate education: an exploration of the SESYNC Graduate Pursuit. Journal of Environmental Studies and Sciences 9:218–233

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