Tuesday, 19 March 2019

Biosciences Seminar Speaker 21 March 2019

Biosciences Seminar Series - Winter 2019
21 March 2019 - 1pm - Zoology Museum

Gone with the wind: from naïve juveniles to fast-food addict adult seabirds

Dr Sophie De Grissac

Our Biosciences Seminar Series continues with a talk by Dr Sophie De Grissac from our very won Department of Biosciences at the Swansea University. Sophie is a seabird and spatial ecologist and ornithologist, broadly interested in movement & behavioural ecology and population spatial dynamic of birds, especially those flying over the seas. She is currently working on mapping and modelling seabird-fisheries interactions in the Irish Sea for the Bluefish Project, an EU-funded Ireland Wales Territorial Co-operation Operation for the Irish and Celtic Sea.

Juvenile animals are more sensitive than adults to all forms of threats, from competition or predation to environmental changes and anthropic disturbances. Therefore, the path from being a newly fledged juvenile seabird to being a successful breeding adult is full of challenges and the learning curve is steep, especially when left alone by the parents. How do juvenile seabirds, on their own, find their way at sea once they have jumped off their natal cliff? How do innate and learnt skills drive them through the vast oceanic landscapes in search of food and a chance to survive? Not all individuals will make it and not all species are armed in the same way to deal with their first year at sea with the various threats they face. 

I will disentangle innate and acquired behaviour in the movement and foraging ecology of juvenile seabirds. One species of procellariforms, the wandering albatross (Diomedea exulans), shows great plasticity through their lives, from young to adult age. Plasticity in dispersal and migratory behaviour as well as in breeding and foraging strategies could be critical in how this species adjusts to current and future environmental change. Yet, climate change is not the only factor affecting seabird behaviour, distribution, and population dynamics, and a more immediate threat to procellariforms of all ages is that of the anthropogenic threat posed by fishing practices. I hence then proceed to explore seabird-fisheries interactions at different spatiotemporal scales for several iconic UK seabird species and discuss the potential long-term effects on populations.

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

For the list of forthcoming seminars see here

Wallace Coffee Talks - 26 March 2019

Wallace Coffee Talks - Spring 2019 
26 March - 1pm - Zoology Museum

An insight into the field of Ancient DNA
Ancient DNA (aDNA) offers an especially informative approach to explore features such as past trends in population connectively and size, levels of genetic diversity, and the response to environmental change, hunting or species introductions. It allows us to examine the genetics of species that have gone extinct, providing greater insight into the life and death of many iconic species, as well as providing information that may be relevant to the conservation of extant species. During this short talk, I will provide an overview of the field of aDNA and present a few case studies from my PhD research on how I used aDNA to explore the evolution and extinction of the great auk.

Untangling effects of size, habitat and invertebrate biodiversity on parasite prevalence of the Caribbean spiny lobster
The spiny lobster Panulirus argus is an important benthic mesopredator and a major fishing resource across the Wider Caribbean region. This species is host to a range of diseases, including the pathogenic virus PaV1 and metacercariae of Cymatocarpus solearis, a digenean trematode whose first intermediate host remains unknown. Studies have found that the probability of infection with diseases can change between densely and sparsely vegetated habitats, suggesting that marine vegetation can be a reservoir for disease. To increase insight into the role of habitat in the ecology of lobster diseases, the presence of both C. solearis and PaV1 was investigated in P. argus across different habitat types in the Mexican Caribbean. Habitat complexity, benthic component cover and macroinvertebrate biodiversity were characterised in each zone. I present some results, and talk about the importance of linking host surroundings, as well as host characteristics, to disease.

Thursday, 14 March 2019

Biomath Colloquium 15/03/2019

BioMaths Colloquium Series - 2018/19

15 March 2019 - 3pm Robert Recorde Room

(Computational Foundry, Bay Campus)

Rethinking the predator-prey relationship

Dr Rebecca C Tyson

(Faculty of MathematicsUniversity of British Columbia, Canada) 

Our BioMaths Colloquium Series continues with a seminar by Dr Rebecca Tyson, from the Faculty of Mathematics at University of British Columbia, Canada.  Rebecca is a mathematician with an interest in mathematical biology, spatial ecology, mathematical models of ecological systems, and models for population dynamics and dispersal. Rebecca applies her models also to problems in agriculture, forestry and effects of climate change on wildlife populations.

Thanks to mathematical models, it is well-understood that the interaction between predator and prey populations can lead to periodic multi-annual oscillations in both populations. Predator-prey models generally consist of one predator and one prey, with the growth rate of the prey controlled by the functional response of the predator, that is, the per prey kill rate of the predator. Two fundamental types of functional response have been identified: (1) the specialist functional response is characteristic of predators who require the focal prey to survive, and (2) the generalist functional response is characteristic of predators who can switch to alternative prey when the focal prey becomes scarce. 

Traditionally, it has been assumed that the functional response is a fixed characteristic of the interaction between a given predator and prey pair. So, for example, the Canada lynx is described as being a specialist predator on the snowshoe hare, while the bobcat is described as a generalist. In this talk, I will look at what we can learn from models where the classical approach is relaxed in two different ways. First, I will investigate how our understanding of predator-prey cycles is extended when we examine a model with multiple predators. Second, I will allow the predator-prey relationship to vary structurally between seasons. That is, I will consider a predator with a functional response that is of one type in the summer, and a different type altogether in the winter. 

The predator-prey interaction is a fundamental and ubiquitous component of dynamical systems in ecology, but also appears in many other contexts including epidemiology (where the disease is the predator and the host is the prey), finance (where the losses of one sector are the gains of another), and social dynamics (where gains in one voter group co-respond to losses in another). Thus, the shifts in perspective that I offer in this talk, can also help us rethink the functional relationships between variables in other models.

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

For the list of forthcoming seminars, see here

Monday, 11 March 2019

Biosciences Seminar Speaker 14 March 2019

Biosciences Seminar Series - Winter 2019
14 March 2019 - 1pm - Zoology Museum

Eco-evolutionary dynamics in a host-parasitoid system exposed to environmental fluctuations

Dr Marianne Mugabo

(University of Leeds, UK)

photo by Glen Marangelo

Our Biosciences Seminar Series continues with a talk by our guest from Leeds, Dr Marianne Mugabo from the School of Biology at the University of Leeds. Marianne is an evolutionary ecologist broadly interested in understanding the drivers of multi-trophic eco-evolutionary dynamics and on the mechanisms and consequences of transgenerational effects on life history variation.

Climate change is one of the primary drivers of the current biodiversity crisis. Species and community responses to mean changes in climate variables have received much attention in recent years. However, the impact of changes in the frequency of spatio-temporal variation in climate variables on species and interactions between species is still poorly understood. In this context, we investigated the effects of different types of temporal environmental fluctuations (none, red (positively correlated) noise, blue (negatively correlated) noise and white (purely random) noise) on the eco-evolutionary dynamics of the host-parasitoid system comprised of the Indian meal moth, Plodia interpunctella, and its parasitoid wasp, Venturia canescens. We combined single generation life history assays with a multi-generation microcosm experiment during which host and parasitoid abundances were monitored weekly and individual traits (e.g., body size, host fecundity, rate of parasitism) were measured repeatedly in ‘host-alone’ and ‘host-parasitoid’ populations subjected to different frequencies of temperature fluctuations. At the individual level, our results show that species and traits differ in their responses to the colour of temperature fluctuations, with stronger responses in hosts than parasitoids. Surprisingly, however, parasitoid populations were more affected by environmental fluctuations than host populations. These results highlight the complexity of the mechanisms through which environmental fluctuations affect top-down and bottom-up regulations in trophic interactions.

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

For the list of forthcoming seminars see here

Thursday, 7 March 2019

Wallace Coffee Talks - 12 March 2019

Wallace Coffee Talks - Winter 2019 
12 March - 1pm - Zoology Museum

Deluge Project
Karen Ingham is an internationally exhibited and published interdisciplinary artist. She is a Professor of Art, Science and Technology Interactions, a Honorary Interdisciplinary Research Fellow at Swansea College of Art UWTSD and Honorary Fellow at Swansea University Medical School 

Deluge is a project that uses photography, film, digital textiles and hybrid craft to interrogate materials and objects that allegorize how we’ve arrived at the Anthropocene (our current geological age where human activity is the major factor in global instability). 
Deluge is structure around three inter-connected strands: 
Of Earth and Elements 
Of Plant and Insect 
Of Sea 

Wednesday, 6 March 2019

BioMaths Colloquium - 08/03/2019

BioMaths Colloquium Series - 2018/19

08 March 2019 - 3pm Zoology Museum

(Department of Biosciences, Singleton Park)

Does developmental plasticity facilitate or inhibit speciation?

Dr Thomas HG Ezard

(National Oceanography CentreUniversity of Southampton, UK) 

Our BioMaths Colloquium Series continues with a seminar by Dr Thomas Ezard, from the National Oceanography Centre at University of Southampton.  Tom is an Associate Professor in Evolutionary Ecology, broadly interested in how the structure of populations and communities interacts with environmental changes, and how this affects ecological and evolutionary dynamics. His research hence focusses at the interface between mathematical and statistical models, and the testing of models using data drawn from a broad range of extant and palaeontological systems.

Environmental cues affect phenotypic traits at the life stage when they occur, but can also canalise later development in particular directions. There is often more flexibility in early life than later. Drawing data from experiments on planktonic foraminifera and developing feature extraction software for x-ray computed tomography, I'll use an integral projection model (IPM) to motivate studies of how developmental plasticity evolved in free living populations. IPMs are increasingly common in population ecology for studying the evolution of a continuously structured trait (such as size) that regulates rates of survival and fertility. According to the IPM, the strongest influence on foraminiferal population growth rate is somatic growth rate, which is morphologically visible in diverse fossil systems. The IPM also predicts that greater plasticity later in development increases population mean fitness. These results might therefore be taken to infer that greater plasticity should facilitate speciation, but this conclusion would contradict von Baer's Laws of Embryology, which state that divergence among species occurs at the earliest life stages. 

I'll introduce the first morphological and geochemical data of a new project seeking to resolve this apparent contradiction in free-living populations. The fossil record documents individuals that were once free-living and is surprisingly promising source material with organisms as diverse as zooplankton, bivalves, trilobites and trees containing records of their dynamic ontogenetic development that are extractable via modern imaging technology. Ecologically dominant species should be more labile in their growth rates, but we expect to see the clearest differences among species from the earliest life stages. The fossil record can make a strong contribution, especially empirically, to contemporary arguments into the evolution of size-structured populations spanning micro- and macroevolution.

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

For the list of forthcoming seminars, see here

Monday, 4 March 2019

Biosciences Seminar Speaker 07 March 2019

Biosciences Seminar Series - Winter 2019
07 March 2019 - 1pm - Zoology Museum

Phenotypic Plasticity and the evolution of eusociality: How does the queen control reproduction in her workers?

Dr Elizabeth Duncan

(University of Leeds, UK)

Image from: geneticliteracyproject.org

Our Biosciences Seminar Series continues with a talk by our guest from Leeds, Dr Elizabeth Duncan from the School of Biology at the University of Leeds. Liz is an evolutionary biologist broadly interested in genetics, evolution and development, such as the evolution of eusociality and the mechanistic basis of developmental plasticity in invertebrates, the evolution of developmental pathways, and the link between genome architecture and evolution.

The defining characteristic of eusocial insects, including the honeybee (Apis mellifera), is the reproductive division of labour, where only one female caste is reproductively active. In the honeybee, larvae destined to become queens are fed a diet of royal jelly which leads to substantial changes in adult morphology and behaviour; queen bees are larger, live a long time and have fully active ovaries. Adult workers do retain some ability to reproduce and mechanisms have evolved to constrain reproduction in workers maintaining the strict reproductive division of labour. In worker honeybees, sterility or reproductive constraint is conditional; in the absence of queen mandibular pheromone (QMP) and brood pheromone, worker bee ovaries can undergo a complete remodelling and lay unfertilised eggs.   This remarkable ability to radically alter their biology and behaviour in response to an environmental stimulus is an example of phenotypic plasticity.  

The reproductive division of labour is key for the evolution of eusociality; to understand how it works and ultimately how it evolved we have combined ‘omics approaches, with cell biology and functional experiments.  We find that as the ovaries become active, a range of genes organised in clusters in the genome, become co-regulated. These clusters of genes occur more frequently than predicted by chance, and have complex evolutionary history, some evolving in the lineage leading to honeybees, and some ancient complexes found in all Hymenoptera.  These findings imply that QMP responsiveness has shaped the evolution of the honeybee genome, and will help inform our understanding of the genomic basis of the evolution of eusociality.

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

For the list of forthcoming seminars see here