Energy is uniquely fundamental to biology. We can at least conceive of life forms made up of elements other than the familiar carbon, nitrogen and phosphorus. Life forms that do not use energy, however, are inconceivable.
Ecologists have been studying the movement of energy in ecosystems for decades and two research traditions for doing so have developed. The older one, called ecological thermodynamics, looks at energy flow and storage within whole ecosystems and tries to explain and predict patterns in these flows. For example, scientists in this tradition might look at how the networks of energy flows in ecosystems change over time. The second tradition, metabolic ecology, starts with the metabolisms of individual organisms and the way metabolic rates vary with organism size and body temperature. They then make predictions about ecosystems based on the properties of the individuals making them up.
These two lines of research are potentially complementary. However, their practitioners have ignored each other's work to a remarkable extent. The workshop will bring together scientists from energy-centered lines of research, help them come to understand each other's research, and ask what emerges when we try to bring metabolic ecology and ecological thermodynamics together and what questions could be addressed from these bottom-up and top-down perspectives. With any luck, this synthesis will help us understand ecosystems on a fundamental level. It can also help us predict how ecosystems will respond to a warming climate.
More information about this project.