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Tested For Shodan in Ki-Aikido

I am excited to announce that I have recently been given the rank of Shodan (1st degree black belt) in the art of Shin Shin Toitsu Aikido, by David Shaner Sensei, Erik Harrell Sensei, and Mark Stone Sensei.

I would like to thank Case Sensei, Tarry Sensei, Clifford Sensei, McGrath Sensei, and Parsons Sensei at Raleigh Ki Aikido for their hard work in preparing me for this test, as well as to the many people who attended and tested with me!

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New Paper in ‘Functional Ecology’

Response of bluebunch wheatgrass to invasion: differences in competitive ability among invader‐experienced and naïve populations.

Gibson, Nelson & Atwater

 

I am very excited to have been a part of this publication, in which Alexis Gibson, once a fellow graduate student with me at the University of Montana, investigated evidence of evolutionary responses of bluebuch wheatgrass plants to invasion. Her findings contribute to a growing body of research showcasing the enormous potential for native plants to evolve changes in competitive ability in response to invasion.

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Andina IV Meeting – Bariloche

This past week I had the great pleasure of attending the 4th annual Andina workshop in Bariloche, Argentina, organized by Mariana Chiuffo (Inibioma Conicet), Roger Cousens (U. Melbourne), Kay Hodgins (Monash U.), Ingolf Kuhn (UFZ, Halle), Brendon Larsson (U. Waterloo), Martin Nunez (Inibioma Conicet), and Bruce Webber (CSIRO, Perth).

We enjoyed spectacular scenery in the Patagonian Andes while deliberating on the topics of local adaptation and range expansion, particularly in invasive species and those responding to anthropogenic change. In total, 36 researchers with diverse disciplinary backgrounds attended. I got to know a lot of people, made friends, built collaborations, and am very excited about future directions.

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Joining Earlham College

I am extremely excited to announce that I will be joining Earlham College, as an Assistant Professor of Biology, in July 2018. I admire the strength of the Biology Program at Earlham College and its dedication to the education of the next generation of global thinkers, leaders, and citizens, and I am honored to have the opportunity to join the Faculty.

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Research Featured in Editorial in Nature

Our recently published paper documenting shifts in the climatic niches of introduced species has been featured in an Editorial published in Nature today. A link to the article can be found here!

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New Paper in ‘Nature: Ecology & Evolution’

Climatic niche shifts are common in introduced plants.

Atwater, Ervine, Barney (link) (pdf)

 

I am very excited to announce that our paper has just been accepted for publication by Nature: Ecology & Evolution. In it, we show that almost 1000 invasvie plant species occupy much different climates in their introduced range than in their native range.

This finding is significant for several reasons. First, it means that species do not necessarily occupy the same environments everywhere they are found on Earth. Second, it casts doubt on the viability of using information about species’ native-range habitat preferences to predict where they will invade.

However, we found that niche shifts depended upon species growth form, life expectancy, and degree of cultivation, suggesting that ‘niche shifts’ might be predictable.

Particular congratulations go to Carissa Ervine, who contributed to this manuscript as an undergraduate student. She was responsible for assembling the first version of our database of 13 million occurrence records for 1135 species–a major undertaking!

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New Paper in ‘Invasive Plant Science and Management’

Competition and propagule density affect sexual and clonal propagation of a weed.

Atwater, Kim, Tekiela, Barney

 

This study was pioneered by Wonjae Kim, an undergraduate student at Virginia Tech who designed and executed it on a grant from the Fralin Life Sciences Institute.

Wonjae confirmed that Johnsongrass establishes readily both from seed and from buried rhizome fragments, although these two modes of reproduction differed in their sensitivity to competition and soil quality. In fact, a single plant produces enough seeds and rhizomes to establish over more than a hectare (if spread out evenly)!

Wonjae’s results show that effective management of Johnsongrass must limit spread from both seeds and underground rhizomes.

A great way to ring in the new year!

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New Paper in ‘Biological Invasions’

Ecotypic diversity of a dominant grassland species resists exotic invasion

Yang, Callaway, Atwater

In this study, Lixue Yang showed that bluebunch wheatgrass (Pseudorogneria spicata) populations with greater within species diversity were pound-for-pound more resistant to invasion by spotted knapweed (Centaurea stoebe) than populations with less species diversity, by an order of magnitude.

Dr. Yang attributed this to two processes: 1) as seen in our previous study,  more diverse bluebunch populations had greater yield, and 2) even accounting for their increased yield, diverse populations were more resistant to invasion than suspected.

The causes of this phenomenon remain mysterious, but they may have something to do with root recognition among related bluebunch or with activity of soil communities.

This paper takes an important step towards demonstrating the extreme–yet cryptic–effects that within-species diversity has on plant communities.

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New Paper in ‘Journal of Plant Ecology’

Evidence for fine-scale habitat specialization in an invasive weed

Atwater, Fletcher, Dickinson, Paterson, Barney (pdf)

In previous studies, we found evidence for striking genetic and phenotypic differentiation in Johnsongrass (Sorghum halepense) populations collected throughout the United States. Here, we report that Johnsongrass may be adapting to local habitat variation.

Johnsongrass from non-agricultural populations competed better in a field community than Johnsongrass from agricultural populations. Agricultural and non-agricultural populations were separated by less than a kilometer, suggesting that this species may be adapting to habitat variation at extremely fine spatial scales.

These results contribute to a growing list of studies revealing the importance of fine-scale habitat specialization in invasive species, with possible ecological and management implications.