Biweekly researcher forum, which offer an opportunity for researchers in ecology to present and discuss their work

CREAF runs an annual programme of seminars that showcase the global research work in the field of ecological science both within and beyond our centre. ​Each seminar normally lasts 30-40 minutes with plenty of time afterwards for questions and discussion. Seminars are usually on Wednesday at 3 pm.

Our free seminar programme is open to everyone.  For more information, please email CREAF Talks coordinator


Past seminars


Ongoing seminars


January 31, 2018   Agenda Event

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Stefan Doerr and Cristina Santín, Swansea University, United Kingdom.

"Understanding wildfire impacts and the need to ‘see the flames’: insights from two decades of international research at Swansea University"


Wildfires have shaped the Earth’s surface for ~400 Million years. Currently 3-4.5 million km2 burn globally per year, an area nearly ten times the size of Spain. Many landscapes have therefore evolved with naturally occurring fire, while in others, such as some cultural landscapes of Europe, fire has gone beyond its natural role. What remains common, however, is that fire can lead to profound direct and indirect changes to the ecological, hydrological and biogeochemical functioning of the land surface. 

Our knowledge to date on these fire impacts is based largely on examining burned areas sometime after a fire and comparing these with ‘control’ unburned areas, supplemented by small-scale or laboratory-based burning experiments. These have led to many important insights on fire impacts, but few researchers have been able to observe fires directly and therefore important gaps remain in understanding the behaviour and immediate impacts of wildfires.

In this presentation we will explore the main impacts of wildfire on soils and hydrology, with examples from two decades of post-fire research in the Mediterranean, Australia and the USA, followed by insights from our recent research where we did ‘see the flames’.  In this novel work we used severe experimental wildfires to isolate and quantify directly the processes and immediate impacts of fire on the carbon cycle and water quality in fire-prone regions of Australia, Canada and Spain.


Stefan H. Doerr is Professor of Physical Geography and leads the Environmental Dynamics Research Group at Swansea University, UK. He studied Geography, Geology and Botany at Tubingen University (Germany), and his PhD (University of Wales, UK) focused on the effects of wildfire on soils and hydrology in Portugal. He has investigated for over two decades the environmental impacts of wildfires in Europe, Australia, and North America. He has held collaborative research positions at the CSIRO in Canberra (Australia), Universitat de València (Spain) and the US Geological Survey (Denver, USA), which focused on the relationships between fire severity, fire frequency and post-fire responses of burned terrain. He has published 140 international journal publications with >6200 citations and is Editor-in-Chief for the International Journal of Wildland Fire.

Cristina Santín is Senior Lecturer in the Biosciences Department at Swansea University. She received her PhD in Biology in 2009 (University of Oviedo, Spain), which focused on the impact of human activities on the soils and sediments of estuarine environments. In 2011 she decided to move her topic of research to wildfires, a subject she has always been passionate about, and joined Prof. Doerr and the Environmental Dynamics Research Group at Swansea. Her current research focuses on the effects of fire on carbon dynamics and, also, on fire impacts on soils, waters and social perceptions of fire. She currently holds a prestigious Sêr Cymru II COFUND fellowship which aims to advance our knowledge on the effects of prescribed fire in two fundamental ecosystem services: water supply and carbon storage. She has published 24 international journal publications and is Associate Editor for the JGR-Biosgeosciences.



February 14, 2018   Agenda Event

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Louis Lefebvre, McGill University, Québec, Canada.

"An integrative approach to animal innovation: from ecology to neurotransmitters"


Some animals are opportunistic and respond to environmental change with flexible behaviour, while others are conservative and do not easily adapt to change. One way to operationalize this continuum is to quantify the number of novel foods and feeding techniques that animals use, corrected for all possible sources of bias. An integrative approach to this has several levels. First, it examines the phylogenetic distribution in as wide an array of animals as possible of the trait to assess the relative roles of common ancestry and independent convergent evolution. Second, it looks for all possible behavioral, ecological and life history correlates of this distribution to identify selective contexts, trade-offs and syndromes. Third, it identifies the neural mechanisms of innovation and its cognitive correlates at the level of brain area expansion, neuron numbers and neurotransmitter expression. Finally, ecologically relevant experimental proxies are validated to examine in the wild fitness differentials associated with innovative behavior.


Louis Lefebvre is professor at McGill University (Québec, Canada) and did his postdoc at Oxford University with Prof. Richard Dawkins. His research focuses on the non-genetic means by which new behaviours originate, are maintained and are transmitted in animal populations. Innovations, learning and cultural transmission are studied in the field, in captivity and with data from the literature. Most of the research is on birds; field work is conducted on nine avian species out of the Bellairs Research Institute of McGill University, Barbados, and on feral pigeons in Montréal.



February 28, 2018   Agenda Event

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David Alba, Director of the Institut Català de Paleontologia Miquel Crusafont (ICP)-UAB.

"Research in vertebrate paleobiology at the Institut Català de Paleontologia: A deep-time approach to evolutionary paleoecology"


The ICP is a CERCA research institute that aims to perform research in vertebrate paleontology at the highest international level. ICP research goes beyond classical descriptive paleontology and takes instead a paleobiological approach. The latter takes advantage of the access to deep time provided by fossils, in order to test hypotheses on evolutionary paleoecology at a geological timescale. In this talk, the history of the ICP and the aims and scope of its four main research lines will be briefly reviewed. Three aspects will be emphasized: (1) the quantitative analysis of paleobiodiversity dynamics, in relation to the interplay between faunal turnover and climatic change; (2) the investigation of life-history evolution under insularity conditions by means of paleohistological techniques; and (3) non-invasive imaging techniques applied to evolutionary and paleobiological studies on encephalization, diet and locomotion. Emphasis will be put on those research questions for which ICP and CREAF synergies could be generated or strengthened further.


David M. Alba is a vertebrate paleobiologist and paleoanthropologist. He obtained his PhD in Biology (2005, UB) with a dissertation focused on ape evolution, and subsequently expanded his research interests into other vertebrates from the Neogene and Quaternary of Western Europe. He was BP postdoctoral researcher at the UAB (2004-2006) and RyC researcher at the ICP (2009-2014), made several stays abroad in Italy and the USA, and worked for two private companies devoted to applied paleontology. Since 2012, he leads the Neogene and Quaternary Faunas Research Group of the ICP, being mostly focused on the paleobiodiversity, phylogeny and paleobiology of Miocene terrestrial vertebrates. He has published more than a hundred papers in SCI journals (indexed by the SCR) and supervised several PhD dissertations. Currently, he is Editor-in-Chief of Journal of Human Evolution (Elsevier) and Director of the ICP.



March 14, 2018   Agenda Event

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Lisa Wingate, Université de Bordeaux. France.

"Using a multi-functional enzyme-based approach to constrain the magnitude of the terrestrial biosphere CO2 sink"


When microscopic organisms such as bacteria, fungi and unicellular algae are assembled into communities they can exert a profound effect on the chemical composition of the atmosphere and modify climate at the Earth’s surface. This is because microbial processes drive global photosynthesis, organic matter decomposition and nutrient cycling. However, modelling and scaling microbial physiology at the global scale and predicting the function of microbial communities to global change is an enormous scientific challenge. Here I present some ideas about how a multi-functional enzyme-based approach could help us constrain estimates of the CO2 sink strength of the terrestrial biosphere. I also discuss how this approach could lead to new insights into the spatial regulation of microbial community function and diversity as soil edaphic properties vary.


Lisa Wingate’s undergraduate, postgraduate and postdoctoral research has a strong foundation in ecosystem physiology and the geosciences (The University of Edinburgh). She has worked alongside experimentalists and modellers to develop theoretical understanding of stable isotope fractionation in a range of ecological systems in order to interpret the responses of ecosystem components to climate, holding positions at the University of Cambridge before joining the Institut National de la Recherche Agronomique (Bordeaux) in 2012 and building the ECOFUN team with colleagues Her current research lies at the interface between geochemistry, physics, biology and ecology, and aims to describe regulation of atmospheric CO2 and COS concentrations at scales spanning the enzyme to the globe.