La SFE organise un Symposium le mercredi 21 août 2013, de 14h15 à 16h15 sur le futur de la recherche en Écologie lors de la conférence internationale INTECOL qui aura lieu à Londres en 2013 (18 au 23 Aout). La réception, sur invitation, aura lieu le même jour de 18h à 19h30.

Ce symposium (intitulé Emphasizing the importance of basic science in ecology) présentera et discutera le point de vue de 6 éminents écologistes sur le futur de la recherche, sur comment nous pouvons mieux comprendre les processus écologiques et éduquer nos jeunes et les scientifiques plus expérimentés dans le but de pouvoir accompagner les preneurs de décision pour créer les conditions favorables à la découverte et la compréhension profonde des systèmes écologiques. Notez que nous aurons également l’opportunité d’organiser une soirée SFE lors du Congrès pour une rencontre privilégiée et conviviale entre membres de la Société.

Résumé sur symposium : Les 100 prochaines années de l’écologie vont assister à des découvertes dont certaines peuvent être anticipées et d’autres non. Pendant cette période, les écologues vont pouvoir construire sur plus d’un siècle de savoir accumulé et publié en écologie, tout en employant des techniques rigoureuses et bien établies mais aussi de nouvelles technologies encore à définir, et continuer ainsi à alimenter une grande curiosité dans le domaine de l’évolution et de l’écologie. Cependant, durant ces 100 années à venir, nous devrons dépasser les seules questions scientifiques. Il nous faudra réfléchir, discuter et agir sur nos moyens de communiquer notre science et sur son application au service de l’humanité. Notre science s’enracine habituellement dans notre curiosité en l’intégrant dans une méthode scientifique héritée de nos mentors. De même, développer des approches plus appliquées repose aussi sur la curiosité et des méthodes, mais cela peut aussi être accompagné et stimulé par les agences de financement, les journaux scientifiques à fort impact et les institutions tutelles. Dans ce domaine, la question clé est celle du rôle des tutelles dans la transmission de la curiosité et de la méthode —bien que ces deux aspects soient clairement bénéfiques à la recherche d’application, ils sont incontournables pour le développement d’une science fondamentale de pointe. De nombreux scientifiques sont préoccupés de la tendance grandissante de toujours vouloir associer une‘valeur appliquée’ à la science fondamentale. Il nous faut cependant replacer clairement le rôle de la science fondamentale et de la science appliquée dans leur contexte respectif, et montrer comment de longues périodes de recherche fondamentale sans interruptions dans les faits servent l’objectif à la fois de la découverte et du savoir en tant que tel. Le principal but de ce symposium est d’insister sur l’importance de la science pure en écologie et d’insister sur (1) la quête de savoir et (2) le rôle central de la science pure comme support conceptuel à l’application écologique.

Organisateurs : Michael Hochberg, Christophe Thébaud et Franck Courchamp

Contact : mehochberg (at)

Programme :

Professor Robert M. May. University of Oxford.


Abstract: As both human numbers and individual’s ecological footprints continue to grow, there are increasingly serious questions about how to maintain ecosystem services upon which we depend. Here, as elsewhere in our history, the answers to these questions depend on fundamental research. And I think we are still at a mid-point on the learning curve. The threats, moreover, are not only to sustaining the growing numbers of people, but also to the quality of their lives. With documented extinction rates approaching levels characteristic of the Big Five episodes of mass extinction seen in the fossil record, we should recognise the consequent ethical and aesthetic questions concerning our stewardship of our evolutionary inheritance. This talk will, not incidentally, also indicate practical lessons to be learned by financial systems from advances in understanding ecosystems.


Professor Jennifer A. Dunne. Santa Fe Institute.


Abstract: Much ecological network research is couched in the applied language and frameworks of robustness, climate change, and conservation and management. But the roots of such research, and some of its most powerful contributions, are as a basic science that identifies universal patterns and principles underlying the structure and dynamics of complex species interactions. This talk will highlight ecological network research as basic science, its successes and failures, and surprising things we still don’t, but should, know. Connections to other aspects of fundamental ecological theory, as well as to the broader science of networks, will be discussed.


Dr. Franck Courchamp. CNRS – University of South Paris.


Because ecology and environment are so tightly connected and the latter is at the crux of human well-being, there might a natural tendency to focus overly on applied ecology and overlook the importance of fundamental science in ecology more than in other disciplines. Increasingly, researchers are encouraged to present their projects in the light of potential applications, thereby downsizing the primary role of fundamental ecology as a source of knowledge and primary understanding of our world. Here, we will emphasize this idea and illustrate it with some of the research history from our group, that shows that even the most applied research projects are often based on developments in fundamental ecology. Working on the intrinsic characteristics of the population dynamics of small populations – the Allee effect – we discovered a new and hitherto undocumented threat to many species of all taxonomic groups and ecosystems. This important finding for biological conservation, a particularly relevant discipline of applied ecology, was generated by a project originally funded for fundamental ecology. We claim that the quest for ever-improving understanding of basic ecological processes must be encouraged, especially at a time where applications are increasingly seen as the ultimate reason for doing research in ecology.


Dr. Yvon Le Maho. CNRS – University of Strasbourg.


We have much to learn in developing basic research in field ecology to understand how wild animals cope with global changes. For example, the male king penguin is able not to digest and to preserve food in its stomach when coming ashore to ensure the 2-3 last weeks of the incubation. Usually, the female after having foraged at sea, returns to feed the chick at hatching. She may have to go 600 km in a warm year as opposed to 400 km on a cold year, meaning that she will then be delayed and return after hatching. Thanks to the food preserved in its stomach, the male is able to ensure the survival of the newly hatched chick for about a week, i.e. for long enough to enable the delayed female to return before it is too late. How can food be preserved for several weeks given that penguin stomach temperature is about 37°C? We found an antimicrobial and anti-fungal molecule in stomach contents; the molecule is a small peptide belonging to the family of defensins. After determining its chemical structure, we produced it using biotechnological methods and found that it reduces populations ofStaphylococcus aureus and Aspergillus fumigatus, two major contributors to nosocomial diseases. A particular interest of this molecule is that it remains highly active in a saline medium, which opens possible applications for ocular infections. Clearly, such a discovery was unexpected, and was thanks to fundamental scientific investigation.


Professor Daniel Simberloff. University of Tennessee.


Ecology is a barely a century old.  The outline of the field is still fuzzy, and even within the last couple of decades entirely new aspects have exploded in prominence and yielded striking insights into organization and dynamics of ecological systems – linkages of belowground and aboveground parts of terrestrial ecosystems, ecological stoichiometry, and the role of various sorts of interspecies facilitation are examples.  The great majority of these fundamental advances have arisen from basic science – simply seeking to understand how systems work.  Although applications often arise from such fundamental redefinitions of the field, we are far from understanding what a basic ecology textbook will look like even 50 years in the future.  Many important applications of ecology to real-world problems are simply serendipitous offshoots of curiosity-driven research focused on how ecosystems and their components are structured and how they function. Without this basic research, the field would never reach its full potential as an intellectual force or as an aid in responding to societal problems.


Professor Teja Tscharntke. Georg-August University, Germany.


Two decades ago, ecologists focused mostly on natural ecosystems, undisturbed by human activities. Managed ecosystems were regarded as close to biological deserts or a heaven for pest species that are of interest only for applied scientists with little theoretical background. This attitude has changed and applied science addressing environmental change has blossomed and has been increasingly acknowledged, also by ecology purists, in the past decade. Agroecosystems and agricultural landscapes can be regarded as relatively simple model systems to analyze, for example, multitrophic interactions and the role of landscape composition or configuration. Research in agricultural landscapes may benefit from the structural simplicity, the limited biodiversity involved, a well-defined landscape configuration and the possibility to conduct large-scale experiments. These opportunities of agricultural landscapes can facilitate basic science, not just solutions of pressing environmental problems.