Linking local adaptation with the evolution of sex differences

Organizers: Hanna Kokko (University of Zurich, Switzerland), Erik Svensson (University of Lund, Sweden), Florence Débarre (Centre for Interdisciplinary Research in Biology, Paris, France), and Tim Connallon (Monash University, Melbourne, Australia).

Our Special Topics Network focuses on linking the study of local adaptation with the study of sex differences. While the theory of local adaptation is well established, it is also surprisingly incomplete: this theory often ignores a fundamental feature of biology — sex and the consequent potential for sexual dimorphism. On the other hand, sex differences in selection and sex-biased demographic parameters are known to play important roles in population dynamics and the evolution of sexual dimorphism and sex-specific adaptation, but the study of sex differences is typically not conducted with spatially varying environments in mind. We are a group of integrative enthusiasts who would like students to think about both topics – therefore we are glad to get the funding and organized our first workshop in Lund on August 14-17th 2017, i.e. just before the Groningen ESEB meeting.

As part of the ESEB Special Topic Network program, our team organizes three workshops over six years. We aim to make each of the workshops attractive and interesting to both empirical and theoretical researchers in the field. Of course, participation in one of the workshops does not entail attending them all.

The first one took place in Lund, Sweden, on August 14th-17th 2017 (i.e. before the ESEB meeting in Groningen), with an emphasis on teaching the tools of the trade to PhD students and early career researchers interested in this topic. It created a basis for a network of young scientists who are also interested in participating in the 2nd meeting.

The second meeting will take place in the Cévennes, France, on August 26-30 (i.e. following the ESEB 2019 meeting in Turku). It will be attended by most of the PhD students and early career researchers who came to the first meeting in Lund, Sweden, and some new participants — thereby expanding the international network of collaborators that started forming with the first meeting. The second meeting will consist of: participant-lead lectures and discussion on mathematical models and modeling tools related to the topic of local adaptation and sex differences; journal-club sessions based, in part, on the articles published after the first meeting; and open discussion sessions and collaborative research.

The third meeting (planned for 2021) will wrap up what the projects so far have found, and also form an update on the theoretical state of the art of the field by then. Although the exact career stage of the participants remains to be determined, it might be possible to include the newest generation of students again by providing some of the material in a teaching-oriented manner again, with a focus on theoretical methods that are by then used in mathematical and simulation models in spatial evolutionary ecology. We will seek to break down the common communication barriers between theoreticians and empiricists.