Seminar: Elena Litchman

Tuesday, February 2, 2021 - 12:00pm

Elena Litchman

MSU Foundation Professor, Michigan State University

Ecological and evolutionary responses of phytoplankton to global change:
Scaling from the cellular to the ecosystem level

Understanding and predicting how diverse ecosystems will respond to changing environments is a key problem for ecologists. Phytoplankton are major primary producers performing half of Earth’s carbon fixation, forming the base of aquatic foodwebs and driving key biogeochemical cycles. In my talk, I will present a trait-based framework developed to understand how phytoplankton respond to rising temperatures and other global change stressors. Our global analysis of phytoplankton thermal traits shows that warming may change phytoplankton biodiversity, with tropical regions being especially vulnerable, and that the interactions of temperature with nutrient limitation may exacerbate the negative effects of rising temperatures. I will also show that, although phytoplankton can evolve greater tolerance of high temperatures, widespread nutrient limitation in the ocean may diminish phytoplankton adaptive capacity. I will conclude my talk by giving other examples of using trait-based approaches to understand the structure and organization of ecological communities.

Elena Litchman is an MSU Foundation Professor at Michigan State University studying the responses of microbial communities to changing environments. She received her PhD in ecology at the University of Minnesota and held postdoctoral appointments at the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center, Swiss Federal Institute for Aquatic Science and Technology, and Rutgers University. Litchman was the recipient of NSF CAREER and PECASE awards, MSU Foundation Professorship and the Petersen Foundation Excellence Professorship Award from Germany. Her main interests are developing mechanistic approaches to explain and predict how diverse ecosystems may reorganize under global change. She conducts research in a wide range of systems, from lakes in the US and Siberia to the global ocean, to algal biofuels and host-associated microbiota. She combines experiments, field studies and mathematical models to address ecological questions of fundamental and applied significance. 

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