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
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
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
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!