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


April 25, 2018   Agenda Event

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Andrei Lapenas, University of Albany – State University of New York, USA.

"A Newly Identified Role of the Deciduous Forest Floor in the Timing of Green-Up​"


Plant phenology studies usually focus on air temperature. Here we investigated significance of soil (edaphic) properties as additional important controls on phenology using satellite-observed green-up dates of small forested watersheds and measured soil properties in the Adirondack Mountains of New York, USA.  The spatial variability of green-up days was controlled by climate as well as by physical and chemical properties of forest soil. Forest floor thickness, the concentration of exchangeable potassium, and soil acidity manifest themselves as controls of surface greening. Biochemical mechanism linking the forest floor and green-up dates might be instrumental for predicting forest responses to climate warming.


Andrei Lapenis is a Professor in the Department of Geography and Planning at the University of Albany –State University of New York (UAlbany). He obtained his PhD in oceanography from Russian State Hydrometeorological University in St. Petersburg. From 1986 to 1992 he worked at the Department of Climate Change of the State Hydrological Institute in Russia where he and a group of colleagues developed an original approach to the long-term prediction of climate change, now known as paleo-analogues or paleocalibration. In 1992 Andrei accepted an invitation to be a visiting scholar in the Department of Earth Sciences at New York University where he worked on paleoclimatic reconstructions and ocean-atmosphere climate and carbon cycle models.

In 1992 Andrei moved to UAlbany where his interests turned from the oceanic to the terrestrial cycle of carbon.  The basis for this work was Historic Russian Soil Collection (HRSC): a large set of late 19th early 20th century soil monoliths hosted by Dokuchaev’s Soil Museum in St. Petersburg.  During this time Andrei participated in intensive field work at many original HRSC sampling locations across Russia and Eastern Europe. His analysis of old and modern soil samples resulted in a series of articles on estimated turnover times of labile and relatively stable carbon fractions of soil organic matter as well as observations of changes in the chemical composition of native forest and steppe soils, including leaching of base cations and soil fertility.  More recently, Andrei’s interests have changed again, this time to forest ecophysiology and especially to the physical and biogeochemical feedback mechanisms linking climate change, plant phenology and soil.    

In addition to his work, Andrei is passionate about history of science and sailing. He has sailed the Baltic and Mediterranean seas, the Caribbean and the Great Lakes. 



May 9, 2018   Agenda Event

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Sara Hortal, Consorci de Serveis Universitaris de Catalunya

"Fungal competition and partner choice in the ectomycorrhizal symbiosis"


Multiple ectomycorrhizal (EM) fungi with different functional attributes compete to colonise the plant root system. However, and despite their global importance, factors driving EM competition are not well understood. In this talk I will present a series of experiments assessing EM competitive interactions, how climate change factors might affect them and the extent to which plants control EM colonization. We found that, when given a choice, plants are able to limit colonization by the least cooperative symbiont; not by a reduction in allocated carbon but by up-regulation of defence-related genes against those fungi providing fewer nutrients.


My main research interests are soil microbial ecology and plant-soil interactions. I am currently Project manager at the Consorci de Serveis Universitaris de Catalunya after being Research fellow at the Hawkesbury Institute for the Environment (Australia) for five years. Before moving to Australia, I did two postdocs, one at the Functional Ecology lab of the Estación Experimental de Zonas Áridas  (CSIC) and another one at the Ecogenomics of Interactions lab of the Institut National de la Recherche Agronomique (France). I obtained my PhD in 2008 from the Institut de Recerca i Tecnologia Agroalimentàries and the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona.



May 23, 2018   Agenda Event

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Antoni Rosell, ICREA professor and ICTA's Deputy Director of postgraduate studies

"Anthropogenic footprints in the Northwestern Amazon"


The Amazon rainforest is the world’s largest expanse of tropical rainforest, harboring high levels of both biocultural and cultural diversity. It also has a very low human density (1.1 people per km2), and lies at the end of the continuum of human impact in terms of remoteness and high wilderness quality. Arguably, Amazonian wildlife should not be compromised by industrial and urban pollutants given its remoteness from the putative sources. Nevertheless, beneath this highly diverse and remote environment are large reserves of oil and gas, some of which have been exploited since the 1920s.

We analysed lead levels and their isotopic fingerprint in free-ranging wild game species in oil concessions in the north-western Peruvian Amazon, to provide a comprehensive picture of lead pollution and anthropogenic disturbances in the region. The high concentrations of lead in livers from the wild game that we encountered are comparable to values from industrialized countries and Andean mining areas. Although ammunition is the likely main source of lead  in wildlife, oil-related pollution is also a major source of concomitant lead in oil extractive areas. Due to the extended worldwide use of lead-shots in subsistence hunting and the ever-encroaching oil extraction activities in tropical rainforests, our results uncover important health risks to wildlife conservation and local communities relying on wild meat, and show yet another human footprint in low impacted rainforests.


The main goal of my work is the characterization of natural environments to understand the impact of anthropogenic activities through time. My research tools are based on geochemical techniques, which I apply in three main areas i) the quantitative reconstruction of past climates; ii) environmental forensics, to decipher the origin of pollutants in remote environments; and iii) the study of organic matter in an archaeological context, mainly to reconstruct palaeodiets and function of archaeological artifacts.

I trained as an analytical chemist at the Chemical Institute of Sarrià (IQS), in Barcelona, and earned my PhD in the School of Chemistry at the University of Bristol, England (completed in 1994). In 1996 I was awarded a NERC fellowship at the Department of Fossil Fuels and Environmental Geochemistry at the University of Newcastle, England. In 1999 I became a lecturer in the department of Geography at Durham University, England. In 2001, I joined ICTA-UAB as an ICREA Research Professor.



June 13, 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.