May 10: The geography of spatial synchrony

Spatial synchrony, defined as correlated temporal fluctuations among populations, is a fundamental feature of population dynamics, but many aspects of synchrony remain poorly understood. Few studies have examined detailed geographical patterns of synchrony; instead most focus on how synchrony declines with increasing linear distance between locations, making the simplifying assumption that distance-decay is isotropic. By synthesizing and extending prior work, we show how geography of synchrony, a term which we use to refer to detailed spatial variation in patterns of synchrony, can be leveraged to understand ecological processes including identification of drivers of synchrony, a longstanding challenge. We focus on three main objectives: 1) showing conceptually and theoretically four mechanisms that can generate geographies of synchrony; 2) documenting complex and pronounced geographies of synchrony in two important study systems; and 3) demonstrating a variety of methods capable of revealing the geography of synchrony and, through it, underlying ecology. By documenting the importance of geographies of synchrony, advancing conceptual frameworks, and demonstrating powerful methods, we aim to help elevate the geography of synchrony into a mainstream area of study and application.

Speaker: Jon Walter

Jon Walter is an ecologist who uses long-term observations, theoretical and data-driven models, and experiments to examine spatiotemporal dynamics of populations and communities. He is currently a postdoctoral researcher affiliated with Virginia Commonwealth University and the University of Kansas, where he is working on projects related to spatial synchrony and insect outbreaks. He obtained his PhD from the University of Virginia in 2014, where his dissertation research focused on spatiotemporal patterns in the gypsy moth invasion.