Wednesday, 12 October 2016

Biosciences Seminar Speaker 13 October 2016

Biosciences Seminar Series - Autumn 2016
13 October 2016 - 1pm - Zoology Museum (Wallace 129)


the evolutionary ecology of animal colouration

Dr William Allen

Image from:

Our speaker of this week, Dr William Allen from Swansea University, is an ecologists and in his work he uses comparative approaches to understand patterns of diversity in animals’ traits, to understand their evolutionary history and ecological context. Given the title of his talk, come to listen and watch a colourful seminar! 

The colours and patterns of animals are perhaps their most apparent and charismatic features. This ease of observation along with the role colouration can have in a wide range of ecological and evolutionary processes (predation, competition, mate choice, thermoregulation etc.) also makes it an important phenotype for scientific investigation. In this talk I give an overview of my work on understanding broad scale patterns in colour pattern diversity between species. Studies span a wide range of vertebrate taxa including primates, ruminants, cats, geckos and snakes. Topics include the ecological and behavioural factors that underlie colour differences, what form can tell us about function and mechanism, and how investigating colouration can inform our understanding of basic evolutionary processes such as speciation. 

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

For the list of forthcoming seminars this term, see here.

Friday, 16 September 2016

BioMaths Colloquium - 19/09/2016

BioMaths Colloquium Series - 2015/16

19 September 2016 - 3pm Maths Seminar Room

(room 224 Talbot Building 2nd floor)

Large scale PDE constrained optimization of cardiac defibrillation

Dr. Chamakuri Nagaiah

(Johann Radon Institute for Computational and Applied Mathematics, Austria)

from: Chamakuri et al. (2015)
We have an early start this year! Our first BioMath talk of the 2016/17 series will be in September, by our guest Dr. Chamakuri Nagaiah, from the Johann Radon Institute for Computational and Applied Mathematics (RICAM), part of the Austrian Academy of Sciences (ÖAW).
In this talk we present a feasible study of optimal control techniques for cardiac defibrillation on the basis of the bidomain-bath equations posed on a realistic rabbit ventricle geometry. The bidomain model consists of a system of elliptic partial differential equations coupled with a non-linear parabolic equation of reaction-diffusion type, where the reaction term, modeling ionic transport is described by a set of ordinary differential equations. The bidomain model is coupled with the quasi-static Maxwell's equation to consider the effect of an external bathing medium.

The optimal control approach is based on minimizing a properly chosen cost functional depending on the extracellular current as input at the boundary of torso domain, which must be determined in such a way that wave fronts of transmembrane voltage in
cardiac tissue are smoothed in an optimal manner. The existence and uniqueness of a weak solution for the primal and dual problems, the derivation of the optimality system and the description of its discretisation is given. In parallel computations, the domain decomposition of such realistic geometry consists of heart surrounded by torso is not a trivial task.  

I will present domain decomposition techniques and their efficient implementation of such PDE constrained optimization of bidomain model. The parallel algorithm efficiency is demonstrated not only for the direct problem but also for the optimal control problem.

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

Monday, 8 August 2016

Postgraduate Seminar Speakers 11th August 2016

Postgraduate Seminar Speakers 11th August 2016
1pm - Zoology Museum (Wallace 129)

S P E A K E R   1
O ye of little plague? Linking genetic diversity of North American Signal Crayfish populations (Pacifastacus leniusculus) with prevalence of crayfish plague (Aphanomyces astaci)

Chloe Robinson

Signal crayfish (Pacifastacus leniusculus) were first introduced to the UK in the 1970s through aquaculture and currently occupy a widespread distribution. Signal crayfish cause detrimental effects on native biodiversity, namely on their conspecific the white-clawed crayfish (Austropotamobius pallipes). The invasive crayfish are larger, more aggressive and more fecund than A. pallipes and subsequently outcompete them for food and shelter. The spread of crayfish plague (Aphanomyces astaci) from P. leniusculus causes 100% mortality in A. pallipes populations without having any adverse effects on the invasive crayfish. Despite their current status, very little is known about the dispersal and population genetics of P. leniusculus, especially in relation to plague infection levels. Catchments which are free of crayfish plague despite the presence of signal crayfish, could potentially see the coexistence of natives and invasive crayfish and identifying rivers early which are at risk of infection could minimise loss of native populations and aid in conservation of the species.

S P E A K E R   2
From Community to Individual: DNA Metabarcoding Reveals Pollen Transport by Hoverflies

Andrew Lucas

Pollination by insects is a key ecosystem service, and important to wider ecosystem function.  Using DNA metabarcoding to identify pollen, I have constructed pollen transport networks for hoverflies (Syrphidae) in the genus Eristalis and investigated pollen transport networks in grasslands in west Wales. The results are giving new insights into how pollen transport networks are structured.

S P E A K E R   3
The importance of body orientation in collective herding behaviour

Dan Sankey

For social animals, coordinating their motion to remain cohesive can provide selective advantages. An early study by Herbert Prins suggested that during stationary periods, ungulates can use body orientation to ‘vote’ on their preferred travel direction. Modern empirical and theoretical studies have since emphasised the importance of inter-individual alignment (a product of orientation) in collective decision making, although generally this has not been explored in the ‘pre-departure period’, or in free ranging animal groups. I will present high-resolution GPS (1 Hz) and inertial sensor (40Hz) data for a herd of n=16 goats over a 10-day period in the Namib Desert, Namibia. I will show how integrating compass heading from magnetometer/ accelerometer data with other measures from GPS data (e.g. linear distance; speed) provide information on individuals’ orientation even when sedentary or slow moving, allowing for a fuller understanding of the specific movement cues and social interactions that drive group movement dynamics.

Monday, 1 August 2016

Postgraduate Seminar Series - Speakers 4th August 2016

Postgraduate Seminar Series - Speakers 4th August 2016

1pm - Zoology Museum (Wallace 129)

S P E A K E R   1

Seaweed aquaculture - challenges and perspectives

Jessica Knoop 

When it comes to seaweeds many people associate them with slimy rotting masses along beaches and are not aware of their ecologic importance and economic potential. They are used since ancient times for a variety of applications, as a food source in Asian countries and mainly for non-food applications in the West. Recently, seaweed popularity increased in western countries – it was rebranded as a superfood and used as a biofilter in Integrated Multi-Trophic Aquaculture (IMTA) systems. Especially red algae of the genus Porphyra have gained fundamental attention because of their economic value, high content in health-beneficial substances and the growing interest of the public and the industry to use natural and local products. Because the European industry is relying on seaweed harvesting instead of farming, Porphyra populations are facing increasing pressure in South Wales. Successful cultivation would conserve natural stocks and improve product yield and quality through optimising culturing conditions and strain selection. However, seaweed aquaculture is at its infancy and nearly non-existent in Europe with many challenges to be solved for a successful and reliable cultivation. 

S P E A K E R   2

Natural enemy composition rather than richness determines pest density and plant biomass

Sanaa N. Abed

Natural enemy (NE) biodiversity is thought to play an important role in agricultural pest suppression. However, the relative importance of the number of NE species (diversity per se), versus the particular combinations of species (species composition), in determining aphid suppression and ultimately crop yields remains poorly understood. We tested the effects of NE diversity and composition on pea aphids Acyrthosiphon pisum and broad bean plants Vicia faba. The NEs we used were the larvae of two predator species, the ladybird Adalia bipunctata and the green lacewing Chrysopa carnea, and the parasitic wasp Aphidius ervi. We found NEs generally reduced aphid density and indirectly increased the biomass of plants. Among NE treatments, the richness of species did not affect aphid density or plant biomass, but the composition of NEs within richness levels affected both responses. The best-performing treatments in control of aphids were the single species treatment of ladybird, the ladybird and parasitoid treatment, and the three species treatment. Planned contrasts showed that the ladybird was the key species among the treatments. Plant biomass was increased in treatments that treated by NEs comparing to the once did not treat with NEs, which indicated decreasing aphid density will increase plant biomass. In conclusion, increasing NE diversity did not consistently affect aphid density or plant biomass. Rather, having a key species (the ladybird) among the divers NEs species was more important than species number per se in the biological control of aphids and their impacts on plant biomass. 

Friday, 15 July 2016

Science Club Seminar Speakers 19th July 2016

Biosciences Science Club Series - Summer term 2016

19 July 2016 - 1pm - Zoology Museum (Wallace 129)

The Changing Landscape for Wildlife: Space Use, Biological Scales, and Predictive Ecology

Dr. Garrett Street

photo by Eleonor Yushtyina

This month Dr. Garrett Street, from the Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Aquaculture at Mississippi State University (USA), will be visiting our University and has kindly agreed to give a talk on his current research. Garrett is a wildlife ecologist broadly interested in animal movements, landscape ecology, spatial modelling and wildlife and ecosystem management.

As landscapes change due to human land use and climate change, effective management and conservation requires attention to ecological phenomena occurring at multiple biological and spatiotemporal scales. Consideration of scale-dependency has produced a shift toward predictive ecology based on bottom-up and top-down phenomena. 

In this talk, I discuss the efficacy and utility of bottom-up approaches to predicting the distribution and abundance of wildlife across levels of biological organization from individuals to populations to biomes and global abundance. I emphasize both classical and modern statistical techniques for spatially explicit population estimation and discuss the role of wildlife not only as reactants to, but active contributors toward the function and stability of local ecosystems and the global biosphere.

Hope to see many of you - everyone is welcome!

Postgraduate Seminar Speakers 28th July 2016

Postgraduate Seminar Speakers 28th July 2016
1pm - Zoology Museum (Wallace 129)

S P E A K E R   1
Neither phytoplankton nor zooplankton: welcome to the mixotrophic world of marine plankton

Suzana G. Leles

Mixotrophy among marine protists (i.e., the combination of autotrophy and heterotrophy in a single cell) is not a new discovery but it was poorly investigated until 1980s. However, in reality, most protist plankton are neither strict non-phagotroph nor strict non-phototroph, but mixotrophs. This talk will focus on acquired phototrophy and will discuss the spatial and temporal distribution of these mixotrophs, highlighting the implications of not considering such complex nutrition within marine ecosystem models.   

S P E A K E R   2
Metabolite profiling of a robust cyanobacteria for industrial biotechnology

Bethan Kultschar

Cyanobacteria (blue-green algae) are photosynthetic prokaryotes; they produce an array of secondary metabolites which can be exploited as a sustainable source of useful compounds in industry. These metabolites can be monitored during growth and under different stress conditions using metabolomics. This utilises a variety of high resolution analytical techniques such as GC-MS, LC-MS, MALDI, HPLC and NMR to visualise these changes and to aid in the characterisation of the metabolome using online databases.


S P E A K E R   3
Temporary defences induced by Daphnia magna (Cladocera) in two green algae: Scenedesmus sp. and Chlorella sp.

Dania Albini

The ability to defend against grazers is a main driving force in phytoplankton evolutionary histories. This leads to trade-offs with other life-history traits, modifying eco-evolutionary dynamics. One well-known example is the chlorophyte Scenedesmus sp., which forms colonies when being grazed by the predator Daphnia. This morphological change allows Scenedesmus to increase its effective size to beyond the handling capacity of the grazers and thereby reduces its grazing mortality. The project involve the use of microcosms and modelling approaches to study inducible defence of green algae against grazers at the population and community levels, and metabolomics to characterise the chemical nature of the interactions and physiological changes in the organisms.

Thursday, 30 June 2016

Postgraduate Seminar Speakers 14th July 2016

Postgraduate Seminar Speakers 14th July 2016

1pm - Zoology Museum (Wallace 129)

S P E A K E R   1

Sex and parasites in the mangrove: who is winning the arms race?

Waldir Filho

Pathogens are powerful selective agents implicated in maintaining genetic variation in host resistance.  According to the Red Queen hypothesis, this is because parasites exert frequency-dependent selection against common genotypes, favouring sexual reproduction and genetic variability. However, asexual or self-fertilising populations that persist despite low genetic diversity challenge the traditional idea that low variation should result in reduced ability to respond to pathogens and threat the long-term viability of populations. In order to test the relationship between outcrossing, inbreeding and fitness in mixed mating species, we have analysed the parasite loads and genetic diversity of K. hermaphroditus populations from three different mangroves in North East Brazil, and will be discussing the implications of few parasites and genetic diversity for the long term persistence of populations.

S P E A K E R   2

Biodiversity conservation in alpine aquatic ecosystems in Gran Paradiso National Park (Western Italian Alps)

Matteo Rolla

High elevation water ecosystems are sensitive to several local and global anthropogenic impacts such as climate change and long transport of atmospheric pollutants. Water exploitation, alien species introduction and local sources of pollutants also have strong impacts on the biodiversity of these sites. The Life+ BIOAQUAE project is focused on the conservation and restoration of alpine aquatic ecosystems in Gran Paradiso National Park. It consists of three main actions: 1) eradication of non-native brook trout (Salvelinus fontinalis) from four high altitude alpine lakes, 2) interventions to improve the quality of high altitude aquatic environments and 3) conservation actions to protect the marble trout (Salmo marmoratus). Special emphasis will be given to the eradication activities that propose a novel, low impact technique (the exclusive use of nets and