Oliver Carroll

Role: Conference Bursary Recipient

Department: Integrative Biology

Conference Attended: Joint annual conference of the Canadian Society for Ecology and Evolution and Ecological Society of

Location: Montreal, Quebec, Canada

Value: $2,407.00

Research Presentation: 

Many of the environmental effects of agriculture such as biodiversity loss and declines in water quality are strikingly clear. However, the ecological processes driving these ecosystem responses often remain uncertain. My research aims to improve understanding of the ecological mechanisms that agriculture interacts with to impact ecosystem function and ecosystem services. During my PhD I have tested mechanisms that determine plant community responses to nutrient enrichment, a widespread consequence of agricultural activity. Using field and greenhouse experiments, I have tested how nutrient enrichment impacts competitive interactions between plant species. Competitive interactions are critical to species coexistence and understanding how human activities influence coexistence mechanisms is essential to developing predictive frameworks for managing against biodiversity loss. In addition, in a recent first-authored publication, I assessed how increased nutrient availability disturbed fundamental diversity-stability relationships and impacted the stability of grassland ecosystem function and service delivery. At the CSEE+ESA conference, I will present novel results indicating how nutrient enrichment affects key coexistence mechanisms in plants, including how biomass responses can be used as predictors of a species’ long-term survival prospects in nutrient-enriched environments. This may help guide biodiversity management actions in nutrient-polluted ecosystems surrounding agricultural areas.

Objectives for Attending: 

Attending the CSEE+ESA joint conference will assist the fulfillment of two career objectives that I currently hold. First, my primary motivation for working towards a PhD is to improve ecological sustainability by developing mechanistic understandings of how human actions interact with ecological processes. My PhD research has led to several exciting findings that offer insight into these mechanisms. Attending this conference will allow me to share and publicize this research. In addition, as the showcase of contemporary ecology in Canada and the USA, this conference offers the potential to learn of other emerging results in the field. This will foster my ongoing contribution to the development of research in ecological sustainability. Second, following my PhD research, I intend to continue academic research in the area of ecology and agroecosystem function. I also intend to teach, in order to further improve my understanding of the multiple dimensions of agricultural sustainability. Accordingly, CSEE+ESA 2022 is an important opportunity to meet and network with other ecologists in North America, both graduate students, and established researchers. This is essential to future collaborations and to the development of my career.