To facilitate discussions aamong members of the RCN, we have set up Slack channel at To join the channel please visit this site. The steering committee has developed a reading list for Spring 2020, with a schedule for discussions every two weeks. We encourage you to discuss the papers with other participants prior to joining the larger discussion on slack. For each topic, your group should choose one person to post a summary to the Slack channel that summarizes the group’s reaction to the papers and discussion questions. We have made efforts to improve representation and diversity in our selected readings. Please scroll to the bottom of this page for a diversity summary.

To form a discussion group 1) Start a group at your home institution and meet once or twice during each two-week period (any time during the two weeks is fine) to read and discuss the papers, 2) Discuss papers virtually before joining the larger discussion via the #Virtual_Discussion group on the RCN slack.

All participants can use the thread feature in Slack to post additional questions, and react to comments or questions posed by other groups. Additionally, this year we will have a weekly thread dedicated to resolving questions that emerge from the readings. Moderators will monitor threads and respond to questions. We encourage individuals or groups to use these threads to clarify any uncertainties.

Under Channels click the + and search for 2020-spring-readings

Each week will have two threads:

  • Under the thread Week X. <Topic Name> Post your group's discussions here, click on the chat icon Reply to thread to post a summary of your group’s discussions (see image below).
  • To ask a question about the papers, use the thread Week X. <Topic Name> Questions for Understanding. If you have any technical questions about the papers, post them here and the moderators will do their best to answer them!


New Theme and Format

For our second set of coordinated readings, we focus on phenotypic plasticity. Phenotypic plasticity is the ability of a single genotype to express different phenotypes in different environments. Plasticity has the potential to promote adaptation, constrain adaptation, or be the adaptive response itself, so it plays an important role in adaptation to changing environments.

A central goal of the RCN-ECS is to synthesize and integrate ideas about evolution in changing seas. This year, rather than posting questions unique to each week’s theme, we have two overarching questions to serve as guideposts for weekly discussions. We will devote the final week for groups to gather together, synthesize previous discussions, and provide answers to the two questions. We encourage groups to generate bold and testable predictions and to distance themselves from simply summarizing past discussions.

Discussion Questions:

1. Under what conditions do we expect plasticity to evolve, and in what traits? When will plasticity be adaptive, nonadaptive (neutral), or maladaptive?

2. What are the conditions (organismal traits, genomic, theoretical, etc) in which plasticity promotes/constrains adaptation?

Note that the date posted for each week below is the date we expect the discussion to be completed and summaries posted to the Slack channel.

Week 1 (Deadline for discussion February 7)

Topic - Definitions of plasticity

Rationale: There are myriad forms that phenotypic plasticity can take with many different terms to describe these patterns. These papers will help the RCN establish shared language and examine the utility and origins of these definitions.

Paper 1: (Paper and Link)

Evolution of phenotypic plasticity: patterns of plasticity and the emergence of ecotypes

Gerdien De Jong

Paper 2:

Phenotypic plasticity, global change, and the speed of adaptive evolution

Patricia Gibert, Vincent Debat, Cameron Ghalambor

Optional Background Paper:

Genotype-environment interaction and the evolution of phenotypic plasticity

Sara Via and Russell Lande

Week 2 (February 21):

Topic - Fluctuating Environment


Fluctuating environments favor the evolution of phenotypic plasticity. Is this always true?

Paper 1: (Paper and Link)

Environmental stability affects phenotypic evolution in a globally distributed marine picoplankton

Elisa Schaum, Björn Rost, Sinéad Collins

Paper 2:

Keeping your options open: Maintenance of thermal plasticity during adaptation to a stable environment

Inês Fragata, Miguel Lopes-Cunha, Margarida Bárbaro, Bárbara Kellen, Margarida Lima, Gonçalo Faria, Sofia Seabra, Mauro Santos, Pedro Simões, Margarida Matos

Optional Background Paper:

The genetics of phenotypic plasticity. X. Variation versus uncertainty

Samuel Scheiner and Bob Holt

Week 3 (March 6):

Topic: Costs and benefits of plasticity


Plasticity is associate with tradeoffs. This week we want the RCN to discuss how these tradeoffs affect the development and evolution of phenotypic plasticity.

Paper 1: (Paper and Link)

Modeling the interplay between plastic tradeoffs and evolution in changing environments

Mikhail Tikhonov, Shamit Kachru, and Daniel S. Fisher

Paper 2:

Constraints on the evolution of phenotypic plasticity: limits and costs of phenotype and plasticity

Courtney Murren, Josh Auld, H. Callahan, Cameron Ghalambor, Corey Handelsman, Mary Heskel, Joel Kingsolver, Heidi MacLean, Joanna Masel, Heather Maughan, David Pfennig, Rick Relyea, S. Seiter, Emily Snell-Rood, Ulrich Karl Steiner, Carl Schlichting

Optional Background Paper:

Costs and limits of phenotypic plasticity

Thomas Dewitt, Andrew Sih, David Sloan Wilson

Week 4 (March 20):

Topic: Genomic architecture of plasticity


Plasticity is a heritable trait and thus can evolve. This week we want the RCN to think about the various ways that genomic architecture can affect the evolution of phenotypic plasticity.

Paper 1: (Paper and Link)

Constraints, independence, and evolution of thermal plasticity: Probing genetic architecture of long- and short-term thermal acclimation

Alison Gerken, Olivia Eller, Daniel Hahn, & Theodore Morgan

Paper 2:

Ecological Genetic Conflict: Genetic Architecture Can Shift the Balance between Local Adaptation and Plasticity

Olof Leimar, Sasha Dall, John McNamara, Bram Kuijper, Peter Hammerstein

Optional Background Paper:

Determining the evolutionary forces shaping G × E

Emily Josephs

Week 5 (April 3):

Topic: Transgenerational Plasticity


The environment experienced by parents can influence plasticity observed in offspring. This week we want groups to discuss how transgenerational processes affect the evolution of phenotypic plasticity.

Paper 1: (Paper and Link)

Transgenerational Plasticity in Human-Altered Environments

Sarah Donelan, Jennifer Hellmann, Alison Bell, Barney Luttbeg, John Orrock, Michael Sheriff, & Andrew Sih

Choose one of the following:

Personal and transgenerational cues are nonadditive at the phenotypic and molecular level

Laura Stein, Syed Abbas Bukhari, Alison Bell

How does parental environment influence the potential for adaptation to global change?

Evatt Chirgwin, Dustin Marshall, Carla Sgrò, & Keyne Monro

Optional Background Paper:

Transgenerational plasticity and climate change experiments: Where do we go from here?

Jennifer Donelson, Santiago Salinas, Philip Munday, Lisa Shama

Week 6 (April 17):

Topic: Synthesis


Please use this week to synthesize your group’s discussions from the past five readings and prepare answers to the two overarching questions. Again, we encourage groups to consider the discussions from the perspective of future research and provide answers in the form of testable predictions.

In addition, groups may consider where do we go from here? Where is consensus? What areas are ripe for research?

Optional Background Paper (Paper and Link)

Key Questions on the Role of Phenotypic Plasticity in Eco-Evolutionary Dynamics

Andrew Hendry

Diversity Summary

Paper Female Author? Non-US Researcher Biome Paper Type
DeJong 2005   X   Theory
Gibert et al. 2019 First author X Terrestrial Review
Via and Lande 1985 First author     Theory
Schaum et al. 2016 First and last author X Marine Empirical
Fragata et al. 2015 First author X Terrestrial Empirical
Scheiner and Holt 2012       Theory
Tikhonov et al. 2019       Theory
Murren et al. 2015 First author     Review
DeWitt et al. 1998       Review
Gerken 2015 First author   Terrestrial Empirical
Leimar et al. 2019   X   Theory
Josephs 2018 First author     Review
Donelan et al. 2019 First author     Review/opinion
Stein et al. 2018 First and last author   Freshwater Empirical
Chirgwin 2018 Middle author   Marine Empirical
Donelson et al 2017 First author     Review
Hendry 2016   X   Review