Friday, 14 July 2017

Postgraduate Seminar Speakers 20th July 2017

S P E A K E R   1
Quantification of movement and behaviour of African wild dogs (Lycaon pictus) and domestic dogs (Canis familiaris) using Daily Diary biologgers

Holly English
Biologgers incorporating accelerometers and magnetometers can facilitate quantification of animal behaviour and fine-scale movement patterns. Swansea University’s Daily Diary features a tri-axial accelerometer and magnetometer, as well as temperature, pressure and light sensors. Preliminary analyses of movement patterns related to locomotion type in domestic dogs (Canis familiaris) and captive African wild dogs (Lycaon pictus) are being used to develop a biologger ethogram verified by behavioural observations. This work on captive and domesticated animals provides a basis for future studies on wild canids, allowing fine-scale movement and behaviour to be determined from field data, where direct observation is often impossible.

S P E A K E R   2
The Application of Artificial Floating Islands in Saline Environments

Jessica Ware 

Approximately 30% of UK electricity generation must be produced via renewable energy, in order to meet ambitious 2020 carbon emissions targets. Due to such pressures for decarbonisation, the marine energy sector is gaining momentum, as they seek to develop, construct and operate tidal and wave energy projects across the UK. Such hardening of the coastal landscape is anticipated to cause considerable changes in coastal ecosystem structure and community assemblages. However, the scale of the impact is still unknown and further research is required on ecosystem scale enhancement measures such as Artificial Floating Islands (AFIs).
AFIs have primarily been used in freshwater habitats such as reservoirs, ponds and river systems for water quality improvement and habitat creation for breeding birds. In order to address the potential application of AFIs in marine environments, this comparative study focuses on both the floral species suitable for island installation and the fauna associated with the islands including birds, fish and macroinvertebrate populations. By addressing gaps in current research this study aims to support future ecosystem enhancement programs that seek to mitigate the loss of coastal habitats.

S P E A K E R   3
Can insect larvae be used to study gut-related pathobiology?

Helena Emery
Larvae of the greater waxmoth, Galleria mellonella, are an established model for studying novel drug toxicity and microbial pathogenicity. Despite its frequent use, little is understood about the insect gut and its relatedness to the vertebrate gastro-intestinal tract. Overall, this project aims to evaluate the suitability of G. mellonella as a novel platform for gut-related damage and repair. To this end, a combined molecular, cellular and whole organism approach will be employed – in addition to interrogating the immune-modulating properties of the entomopathogenic fungus, Cordyceps sinensis, as an emerging nutraceutical.

Monday, 3 July 2017

Biosciences Science Club Events 04 July 2017

Biosciences Science Club Series - Summer 2017
04 July 2017 - 1pm - Zoology Museum (W129)

Testing niche construction theory: Landhoppers, trait variability, adaptation and salt marsh dynamics 

Prof. Matty Berg

Prof Matty Berg will be visiting our department this week and has kindly agreed to give also a seminar - which is always a great thing! More info to follow.


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

Friday, 30 June 2017

Postgraduate Seminar Speakers 6th July 2017

Postgraduate Seminar Speakers 6th July 2017
1pm - Zoology Museum, Wallace 129

S P E A K E R   1
Detecting forest insect and disease outbreaks within the palaeoecological record

Matt Watkins  

Threats to tree health from insect pests and diseases are becoming an increasing environmental and economic concern throughout temperate forest ecosystems globally. Recent outbreaks of bark beetles, a damaging forest pest, throughout western North America and Europe have been described as 'unprecedented' and attributed to the impacts of global warming. But are present levels really unusual? Understanding the long-term interactions between forest tree species, insects and disease and changing climates requires a long-term ecological (palaeoecological) perspective. However, to date, palaeoecological assessments of forest pathogens have been largely based on inference - more scientifically robust measures are required to definitively identify and quantify past outbreaks and to examine associated environmental drivers and ecological consequences. The project will examine a novel combination of multidisciplinary analysis techniques to calibrate evidence of the presence and impacts of forest pests preserved in sedimentary archives (20 sites). Outbreak indicators (fossil pollen fluctuations, stomata, plant and insect macrofossils and, in a novel approach, analysis of preserved environmental DNA (eDNA) of insect pests) will be directly compared with detailed annual biological inventory data (USDA) of forest pathogens over 68 years (1947-2015) in the Pacific Northwest, USA.


S P E A K E R   2
FosSahul database and Megafauna extinctions in Australia

Marta Rodríguez-Rey

The fossil record has grown substantially over the last three decades, thus permitting more refined chronologies of major biological events and tests of their underlying causes. These chronologies provide palaeoecological insights into extinction and evolutionary processes that enable better predictions and management of factors driving biodiversity loss. However, more fossil data does not necessarily equate to higher information quality given uncertainties in dating that can lead to incorrect timing of ecological processes. FosSahul is the first quality-rated dataset of nonhuman vertebrate fossils for Sahul (Australia and New Guinea) through the Quaternary to the present (doi:10.1038/sdata.2016.53). Only 23% of the full set of fossil ages were rated as ‘reliable’, so available ages must be carefully scrutinised before they can be used for building chronologies or timing inferences. I will discuss multiple potential applications of this dataset for better understanding the past, present and future of Australia’s history of life.

S P E A K E R   3
Trade-offs between multiple ecosystem services in UK and US salt marshes

Kate Davidson 

Salt marshes - coastal grasslands regularly flooded by the tides - supply many and varied ecosystem services. They provide coastal protection, carbon storage, recreation, habitat for diverse wildlife, and livestock pasturage. Through a combination of observational study, experimental manipulation, and analysis of secondary data, I will examine how one of these services – livestock grazing – can impair or enhance the other services provided by salt marshes. In this presentation I will give an overview of my PhD research in both the UK and the US, covering topics as diverse as soil science, bee-hunting and fence-building!

Monday, 26 June 2017

BioMaths Colloquium - 30/06/2017

BioMaths Colloquium Series - 2016/17

30 June 2017 - 3pm Maths Seminar Room

(room 224 Talbot Building 2nd floor)

Taming Nature Inspired Evolutionary Optimisation Algorithms

Dr Sean Walton

(Department of Computer ScienceSwansea University, UK) 

Image by Sean Walton

Our last BioMaths Colloquium Series for the 2016/17 academic year will feature a seminar by Dr Sean Walton from the Department of Computer Science at Swansea University (UK). Jon is a computer science lecturer, interested in mesh generation and optimisation algorithms, evolutionary optimisation algorithms and intelligent design, web development, and computer games design - for the latter he even founded a company, Pill Bug Interactive. He is particularly interested in optimisation of computer design and in harnessing the power of evolution to do so. Sean is part of the visual computation research group and is passionate also about teaching, especially of web development.

Can a computer automatically design a car, a boat or an aircraft?  This is a driving question at the heart of design optimisation.  Increasingly researchers are looking towards nature for inspiration to achieve this goal, making a computer evolve a car instead of designing it.

By its nature evolution is hard to control, which causes some problems when trying to use it to do a specific task.  What seems like a simple solution to a complex problem can quickly become difficult to use.  The inherit randomness means you can never be completely certain you’ll get a good design quickly enough.  This has led to complex adaptive algorithms which try to control mutation and survival rates from generation to generation to get the best design in the shortest time.  

In this talk I will give a brief overview of evolutionary optimisation algorithms, discuss the problems with them and suggest some potential solutions. 

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

Friday, 16 June 2017

Biosciences Science Club Events 16 June 2017

Biosciences Science Club Series - Spring 2017
16 June 2017 - 1pm - Zoology Museum

Marine renewables risk: so what?

Dr Simon Jude

We are excited to host this week Dr Simon Jude, Lecturer at the Cranfield Institute for Resilient Futures at Cranfield University. His research focuses on the development and application of interdisciplinary approaches to investigate and improve environmental decision-making.  Marine environmental risks and decision-making form a key component of this work, with recent research projects investigating issues ranging from marine vertebrate interactions with wave and tidal developments, to cumulative effects assessment, and risk frameworks for use in marine licensing processes.  Simon also has practical experience of working in the offshore wind industry, which you will hear more about during the seminar.

Legal carbon reduction targets have triggered ambitious plans for large-scale deployment of ocean energy, with numerous wind, wave and tidal technologies under development by companies ranging from SMEs to multinationals.  This seminar will report on how these new forms of emergent technologies are associated with highly uncertain technological and environmental risks, which are posing significant challenges for the wave and tidal technology sector, its investors and regulators. Case studies from Simon’s research and practical experience of the offshore renewable energy sector will illustrate the wide-ranging risk management challenges - from device and technology failures, to the complex forms of environmental interactions with offshore renewables developments, and organisational and risk governance - that are proving problematic.  The need for strategies for managing and mitigating risks and exploiting potential opportunities will be considered.

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

Tuesday, 23 May 2017

Biosciences Seminar Speaker 25 May 2017

Biosciences Seminar Series - Spring 2017
25 May 2017 - 3pm - Zoology Museum

Note Change Of Time!

More than just a Teaching Fellow

Dr Anne Tierney


Our Biosciences seminar series comes to an end this week for the 2016/17 academic year and before starting with our Postgraduate Student Seminar Series (stay tuned!), we are delighted to host a somewhat different speaker, on a topic of increasing interest to both the research and teaching facing staff members. 

We are delighted to welcome Dr Anne Tierney, lecturer at Edinburgh Napier University. Anne is theme leader for Research, Scholarship and Supervision in the Postgraduate Certificate in Learning, Teaching and Assessment Practice and a member of the teaching team for the other areas of the PgCert Learning, Teaching and Assessment Practice in Higher Education and is also programme leader for the MSc Blended and Online Education (BOE). She uses her research help support excellence in learning, teaching and assessment and in supporting educational scholarship. In particular, her research considers the evolving place of Teaching Fellows in academia, threshold concepts in pedagogical research and the place of pedagogical research in the REF.

Teaching-focused academics are increasingly employed in UK universities. For many institutions, this has been as a result of REF, to free up time for research-focused academics to maximise institutional gain. However, the role of the teaching-focused academic, as an emerging role, has, in some cases, been neglected, in terms of the long term implications for the individuals who choose this path. Based on the accounts of twenty-one teaching-focused academics, I explore what it means to be a teaching-focused academic in Life Sciences in the UK.

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

For the list of forthcoming seminars for next year, keep an eye on our blog.

Tuesday, 16 May 2017

Biosciences Science Club Events 18 May 2017

Biosciences Science Club Series - Spring 2017
18 May 2017 - 9:30am - Wallace Board Room (226a)

In Search of Resilience: Lessons from Ecology for Applied Conservation

Professor Victoria Braithwaite

Typical Adirondack Lake Setting. Photo from Victoria Braithwaite

We are very excited to host this week Professor Victoria Braithwaite, Professor of Fisheries and Biology at Penn State University (USA), Co-Director of the Center for Brain, Behavior & Cognition (CBBC) and one of the leading scientists in the fields of animal cognition and welfare and the author of the highly acclaimed book ‘Do Fish Feel Pain?’. Victoria is broadly interested in animal behaviour, especially animal cognition - identifying the mechanisms that underlie cognition and decision making, as well as the environmental context and evolutionary history shaping how animals behave. To do so she uses fish and rodent models, investigating questions from the level of neurobiology and physiology to whole animal behaviour. her group's research projects (see here) range from Cognitive Ecology, to Pain in Fish, Fish Welfare and Brain Function, to Conservation and Restocking and Stress and Behavioural Development.

The environment a fish experiences as it develops influences the way its brain develops, the way it perceives its environment, its physiology and behavior. Understanding how these processes occur in natural populations of fish can be useful to help us devise rearing methods for fish that will be released as part of restocking projects where the aim is to bolster threatened or dwindling populations. Until recently, we have tended to play a numbers game where many millions of fish are released in the hope that some will survive. I will present data from experiments indicating that a more targeted approach where fewer, but smarter fish, are reared is a better long term strategy.

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

For the list of forthcoming Science Club Events, see here