Monday, 14 May 2018

Biosciences Seminar Speaker 17 May 2018

Biosciences Seminar Series - Spring 2018
17 May 2018 - 1pm - Zoology Museum

Coping with environmental stress in natural populations

Dr Marjo Saastamoinen

(University of Helsinki, Finland)

Photo by Peter Hunt

The Biosciences Seminar Series continues for the Spring Term with a talk by Dr Marjo Saastamoinen from the Department of Biosciences and the Research Centre for Ecological Change at the University of Helsinki (Finland). Marjo is broadly interested in understanding and predicting differences in how individuals in nature respond to, cope and adapt to environmental variation. To do so Marjo a broad range of techniques, from genetic and genomic methods to behavioural observations to mathematical approaches, applied to data from laboratory and long-term study systems in the wild.

Organisms are constantly challenged by environmental variation, for example in resource quality, which subsequently influences life history variation and evolution in natural populations. We are studying life-history responses and underlying coping mechanisms to environmental stress, namely changes in host plant quality induced by drought, in the Glanville fritillary (Melitaea cinxia) butterfly. Combining laboratory and field based studies, we show how developmental time as well as adult fitness-related traits are shaped by variation in food quality. We show that some of the responses are developmental stage-dependent, and that coping mechanisms include developmental switches as well as behavioural adjustments in both larvae and adults. These questions are assessed within an ecologically relevant context as environmental conditions from spring to late summer greatly impact the metapopulation dynamics of the butterfly. Working with the large metapopulation of the Glanville fritillary butterfly gives us a unique opportunity to assess the processes operating from genes within individuals all the way to metapopulation-level dynamics.

Hope to see many of you - everyone most welcome to attend!

For the list of forthcoming seminars see here

Tuesday, 8 May 2018

Biomaths Colloquium - 11/05/2018

BioMaths Colloquium Series - 2017/18

  11 May 2018 - 3pm Maths Seminar Room

(room 224 Talbot Building 2nd floor)

Genes as cues: integration of genetic and epigenetic information from a Darwinian perspective

Dr Sasha Dall

(BiosciencesUniversity of Exeter, UK) 


Our BioMaths Colloquium Series continues with a seminar by Dr Sasha Dall, from Biosciences at University of Exeter (UK). Sasha is an Associate Professor of Mathematical Ecology, broadly interested in how animals cope with the risks and opportunities of the uncertain natural environment, identifying their information acquisition and risk management strategies and their ecological and evolutionary consequences. Sasha distinctively works at the interface between biology and mathematics, have hold research positions at both Biology and Mathematics departments in the UK, US, and Israel. Work in his research groups ranges from the development of theoretical models, to experimental work with bird aviaries, to observational field studies on vertebrates.

The development of multicellular organisms involves a delicate interplay between genetic and environmental influences. It is often useful to think of developmental systems as integrating available sources of information about current conditions to produce organisms. Genes and inherited physiology provide cues, as does the state of the environment during development. The integration systems themselves are under genetic control, and subject to Darwinian selection, so we expect them to evolve to produce organisms that fit well with current ecological (including social) conditions. I argue for the scientific value of this explicitly informational perspective by providing detailed examples of how it can elucidate taxonomically diverse phenomena. I also present a general framework for linking genetic and phenotypic variation from an informational perspective. This application of Darwinian logic at the organismal level can elucidate genetic influences on phenotypic variation in novel and counterintuitive ways.

The discussions will continue over biscuits and tea/coffee after the seminar. 
Hope to see many of you!

For the list of forthcoming seminars, see here

Biosciences Seminar Speaker 10 May 2018

Biosciences Seminar Series - Spring 2018
10 May 2018 - 1pm - Zoology Museum

Using trait-based models to understand vulnerability to extinction and to threats

Dr Manuela Gonzales

The Biosciences Seminar Series continues for the Spring Term with a talk by Dr Manuela Gonzales from the School of Biological Sciences at the University of Reading (UK). Manuela is a lecturer in Ecological Modelling, interested in understanding and predicting the drivers of current biodiversity loss. To do so, Manuela aims to combine life-history and trait-based approaches and quantify the role of individual variability in population dynamics -- see here more about her research group.

Anthropogenic impacts on the world’s ecosystems have led to a widespread and accelerating loss of biodiversity. No area of the planet can be considered pristine any longer, yet not all areas or species are affected equally by human impacts. Some species have characteristics that make them more (or less) vulnerable to threats, and threats can be localized and varying in intensity. In this talk I will discuss how we can use data describing species morphological, behavioural, and ecological traits to better understand and predict vulnerability to extinction and to individual anthropogenic threats.

Hope to see many of you - everyone most welcome to attend!

For the list of forthcoming seminars see here

Tuesday, 1 May 2018

Biosciences Seminar Speaker 03 May 2018

Biosciences Seminar Series - Spring 2018
03 May 2018 - 1pm - Zoology Museum

The ecology of ageing in wild animal populations

Dr Hannah Froy

The Biosciences Seminar Series resumes for the Spring Term with a talk by Dr Hannah Froy from the Institute of Evolutionary Studies at the University of Edinburgh (UK). Hannah is an evolutionary ecologist and demographer; after a Masters at Imperial College at Silwood Park on the joint dynamics of body mass and demography underlying small mammal population fluctuations, she completed a PhD on the ecology of aging in albatrosses at the University of Edinburgh, where she then continued as postdoctoral researcher. Hannah is especially interested in using log-term longitudinal individual datasets from natural populations to understand what drives the patterns and individual variation in aging, from variations in telomere length to individual movements and space use. 

Ageing, and the associated declines in performance, is something we are familiar with in humans and domestic species. Despite early scepticism about the occurrence of senescence in the wild, declines in survival and reproduction are increasingly documented in later life in natural vertebrate populations. However, a remarkable diversity in ageing rates is often observed even within species, and the causes of this variation are not well understood. We use data from longitudinal field studies, following individuals throughout their lives, to provide new insights into the processes that drive age-related variation in reproduction and survival. I will present recent results exploring how home ranges and immune function change over adulthood in two ungulate populations, and the consequences of these changes for fitness, using data from red deer on the Isle of Rum, and the Soay sheep of St Kilda, Scotland.

Hope to see many of you - everyone most welcome to attend!

For the list of forthcoming seminars see here

Thursday, 26 April 2018

Science Club Series - 26 April 2018

Biosciences Science Club Series - Spring 2018
26 April 2018 - 1pm - Wallace 113

How to Peer Review - a workshop with the British Ecological Society Journal Editors

Dr James Ross - Assistant Editor, Journal of Ecology   
Dr Christopher Grieves, Assistant Editor, Methods in Ecology and Evolution 
Prof Luca Börger - Associate Editor, Journal of Animal Ecology & Methods in Ecology &Evolution 
Dr Emily Shepard - Associate Editor, Methods in Ecology & Evolution 
Dr Stephanie R Januchowski-Hartley - Associate Editor, Journal of Applied Ecology

Workshop programme:

  • Introduction to the BES - what we can offer members and why you might want to join (30 mins)

  • How to be a reviewer - what is peer review, why it is important, the peer review process, how to become a reviewer, how to write a good review (45 mins)

  • Practical activity on what makes a good review. Introduction and background about the Methods peer review mentoring scheme, which the activity will be based on. Participants will be given examples of reviews and will rate them using the Methods mentoring system. (45 mins with time for questions at the end).  

A massive 'Thank You' again to the British Ecological Society for organising this.

For the list of activities see here

Tuesday, 24 April 2018

BioMaths Colloquium - 27/04/2018

BioMaths Colloquium Series - 2017/18

  27 April 2018 - 3pm Maths Seminar Room

(room 224 Talbot Building 2nd floor)

The coupling of calcium signalling and mechanics: models and experiments

Dr Katerina Kaouri

(School of MathematicsUniversity of Cardiff, UK) 

Image by Katerina Kaouri

Our BioMaths Colloquium Series resumes for the spring term with a seminar by Dr Katerina Kaouri, from the School of Mathematics at University of Cardiff (UK). Katerina Kaouri holds a DPhil in Applied Mathematics from Oxford, on the modelling of sonic booms (see here a TED-Ed animation on sonic booms). After postdoctoral work in mathematical biology at Oxford and Nottingham she worked as a business consultant for a few years. Then, upon returning to her home country, Cyprus, she taught at various Cypriot universities for several years and co-founded the non-profit organization SciCo Cyprus to communicate science to the public in interactive and entertaining ways, a mission close to her heart. Katerina is currently a Lecturer in Applied Mathematics at Cardiff University. 

Katerina uses deterministic and stochastic mathematical modelling, asymptotics and simulations to tackle questions arising from biology, physics and engineering, but also from industry and the society. In her math-bio research she focuses on the interplay of calcium signalling and mechanics, a challenge which is crucial in embryogenesis but can be of interest also in wound healing and cancer. Regarding the industry and society side, in 2016 she led the organization of the first Study Group with Industry in Cyprus, an intensive academia-industry workshop where 50 mathematical modelling experts from 17 countries solved four industrial challenges. She is also a core team member of the EU-funded Mathematics for Industry Network (31 countries) and of the project (12 countries) tackling 250 societal challenges across Europe.

Calcium signalling is one of the most important mechanisms of information propagation in the body. In embryogenesis the interplay between calcium signalling and mechanical forces is critical to normal embryonic development, but poorly understood. Several types of embryonic cells exhibit calcium-induced contractions and several experiments indicate that calcium oscillations and contractions are linked via a two-way feedback mechanism; disruption of these calcium oscillations leads to embryo abnormalities. I will discuss some of these experiments and present appropriate mathematical models.

The discussions will continue over biscuits and tea/coffee after the seminar. 
Hope to see many of you!

For the list of forthcoming seminars, see here

Tuesday, 17 April 2018

Wallace Coffee Talks - 19 April 2018

Wallace Coffee Talks - Spring 2018
19 April 2018 - 1pm - Zoology Museum


eDNA as a conservation tool: from crayfish to cetaceans

Environmental DNA (eDNA) is increasingly being utilised as tool for detecting and monitoring a range of species in both terrestrial and aquatic environments. Aquatic invasive species (AIS) are difficult to locate when at low abundances, however eDNA has proven to be an effective technique for enabling early detection of target species. eDNA has the scope to be applied for non-invasive genetic sampling of  populations of large mammals such as cetaceans, to inform management for effective conservation strategies. 

Matt Perkins (Swansea University, UK)
Materials and ecology of marine infrastructure
Marine infrastructure presents novel habitats within coastal ecosystems, comprising hard substrate of non-local origin (concretes, rocks, metals). My research aims to test the ‘ecological performance’ of such materials by examining settlement communities, in order to make recommendations upon the ecological impacts and opportunities such materials present. As a new member of the department, in this talk I will also briefly describe some of my past work as a community ecologist using stable isotopes to examine food web structure.