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UC Doctoral Student Presents Research At International Conference

November 5, 2010

Clement Loo, a University of Cincinnati doctoral student in the philosophy program, was one of the featured researchers at the biennial meeting of the Philosophy of Science Association Nov. 4-6 in Montreal, Quebec. The association promotes research, teaching and free discussion of issues in the philosophy of science.

Loo presented research themed around a Nov. 4 session on biology, evolution and selection. His paper was titled, “Invasive Species and Evaluating the Relative Significance of the Shifting Balance Theory.”

The paper focused on the R.A. Fisher and Sewall Wright debate on evolutionary theory, arguing in favor of adopting Wright’s Shifting Balance Theory over Fisher’s theory of selection in exploring how invasive species thrive and overtake native, established populations.

“I was taking a class on invasive species, and one issue that was brought up over and over was that invasive species tend to be in small, fragmented populations, which should suggest that they would be subject to inbreeding effects,” says Loo. “Considering those effects, they should have a very hard time establishing populations. But they seem to quite quickly overcome these inbreeding effects and out-compete the native species,” says Loo.

Wright’s three-phased model of evolution, The Shifting Balance Theory, suggested that “through migration or simply growth and expansion into common ranges, random mating is restored in isolated populations (such as invasive species),” Loo states in the paper. Research focused merely on Fisherian gradual mass selection in large populations fails to recognize the more nuanced processes underlying the evolution of invasiveness, says Loo.

To make his case, Loo examined previous research on 80 invasive species covering plants, birds, reptiles, mammals, insects and other species.

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