Monday, 18 February 2019

Wallace Coffee Talks - 21 February 2019

Wallace Coffee Talks - Winter 2019 
21 February - 1pm - Zoology Museum

Charlotte Solman (SwanseaUniversity, UK)
Intra-individual variation in sheep wool cortisol
It is becoming increasingly important to be able to accurately assess the welfare of livestock populations, given the many different stressors they are exposed to. My MRes project focused on validating the use of wool samples, collected from Welsh mountain sheep, to measure chronic cortisol concentrations and determine the suitability of this technique for assessing and monitoring the welfare of agricultural sheep populations.

Anna Bracken & Charlotte Christensen (SwanseaUniversity, UK)
A snapshot of Cape chacma baboon fieldwork 2018
Having recently returned from their first field season studying baboons in Cape Town, South Africa, Anna and Charlotte will give a short (photo heavy!), insight on the current conflict with baboons on the Cape, baboon behaviour and how to identify individuals and various interactions, the type of data they collected and the challenges they encountered. They will finish by giving a brief outline of what each of their separate PhD studies will investigate.

Friday, 15 February 2019

Biomaths Colloquium - 15/02/2019

BioMaths Colloquium Series - 2018/19

15 February 2019 - 3pm Robert Recorde Room

(Computational Foundry, Bay Campus)

Modelling Across Scales in Development and Disease

Dr Noemi Picco

(Department of Mathematics, Computational FoundrySwansea University, UK) 

Our BioMaths Colloquium Series resumes for the winter term with a seminar by Dr Noemi Picco, who recently joined us as Lecturer at the Department of Mathematics (Computational Foundry) at Swansea University, coming from the Mathematical Institute at the University of OxfordNoemi is a mathematician particularly interested in research questions in Mathematical Biology coming from the fields of cancer research and developmental neurobiology, such as tumour growth or the dynamics of the development of the cerebral cortex.

Most biological systems span multiple spatial and temporal scales. It is often the case that the experimental data is available at a coarse-grained level, while the process of interest operates at much finer scales. Mathematical modelling can help the understanding of how dynamical interactions at different scales filter through at the level of the observable data.

I will talk about two model systems, the developing brain and cancer, to show how data-driven modelling can describe the processes of interest and make testable predictions. Neurogenesis is the process by which neurons are produced by neural progenitor cells. Many factors influence how neurogenesis differs between species, leading to brains of different shapes and sizes. In order to understand the divergence of evolutionary trajectories resulting in such diversity, we must study and compare the developmental programmes in different species. Critically, to fully understand neurogenesis in development, we are faced with the challenge of understanding the temporal changes in cell division strategy. 

Resistance to targeted therapies in a class of cancers (e.g. melanoma and non small cell lung cancer) is poorly understood and seems to be the result of complex interactions between the cancer cells, the host tissue, and the drug. Using a mathematical and computational framework to bridge between experimental models and scales, we can separate intrinsic and extrinsic components of resistance. The ultimate goal is to design an intermittent treatment protocol able to control the emergence of resistance during drug administration, while limiting tumour regrowth during treatment holidays.

The power of these interdisciplinary efforts is to drive an understanding of what is known, and what is left to discover, planning onwards to systematically fill in the gaps. For both systems I will present some preliminary findings and highlight the current limitations in the interpretation of model predictions, identifying a specific need for experimental quantifications.

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

Monday, 4 February 2019

Biosciences Seminar Speaker 07 February 2019

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

Digestive adaptations to aerial lifestyle: bats are birds

Prof Ariovaldo Pereira da Cruz Neto

Our Biosciences Seminar Series resumes for the winter term and we are delighted to welcome Prof Ariovaldo P. Cruz-Neto from the Laboratory of Ecological and Evolutionary Physiology at the Department of Zoology at the State University of São Paulo in Rio Claro (Brazil). Neto is an ecological and evolutionary physiologist (e.g. see here for his recent book), with research focussing especially on bats, rodents and birds.

In vertebrates, powered flight independently evolved in three lineages:  bats, birds and in the extinct pterosaurs. Powered flight is an expensive mode of locomotion and requires extensive, and intertwined, modifications in the respiratory, circulatory and digestive systems. To what extent such modifications reflects phylogenetic constraints or are special cases of convergent evolution is an interesting question.  Phylogenetic constraints seem to operate at the level of respiratory system. However, bats shows optimization of some elements of the respiratory system that are thought to enhance its capability for gas exchange. Bats and birds showed convergence in some aspects of the circulatory system and in the muscle capillary network. 

In this talk I provide evidences for convergent evolution between birds and bats at the level of digestive system. Due to the burden placed by carrying excess mass when flying, birds and bats evolved intestines with smaller mass and smaller nominal surface area than non-flying mammals (NFM). In principle, such reduction in gut size would be maladaptive, as it decreases food transit time and could potentially jeopardize digestive capacity. However, digestive efficiency in bats and birds are remarkably similar to that of NFM. The reliance on paracellular route for nutrient uptake convergently evolved in bats and birds to overcome this potential trade-off. Although data are still scant, the mechanistic basis associated with a high reliance of the paracellular pathway seems also to converge between birds and bats. Thus, at the level of the adaptations of digestive system associated with the evolution of powered flight, bats are birds!

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

For the list of forthcoming seminars see here

Thursday, 24 January 2019

Wallace Coffee Talks - 29 January 2019

Wallace Coffee Talks - Winter 2019 
29 January - 12pm - Zoology Museum

Teja Muha (SwanseaUniversity, UK)
Development and application of molecular tools estimating spatial and seasonal distribution patterns of aquatic native and invasive species
Freshwater aquatic invasive species are one of the major causes of decline in aquatic environment. Limiting their impact requires an appropriate management strategy such as early detection and estimations of its spread for its containment or eradication. Environmental DNA (eDNA) is becoming a method of choice for assessing species distribution in aquatic environments. I am going to take you through a journey of (un)limited possibilities that environmental DNA detection based technique has to offer, discovered throughout my PhD, from invasive seaweed all the way up to freshwater fish limited dispersal in fragmented rivers.

Waldir Miron-Berbel-Filho (SwanseaUniversity, UK)
Don’t get fooled by appearances: morphologically similar mangrove killifish species show different genetic structure along the Brazilian coast
Looks can be deceiving. Morphologically similar species may have divergent evolutionary history which lies beneath their skin, hidden on their DNA. On this talk I will tell a short tale about two sympatric killifish species that look that same, but are not! Come over if you like population genetics, molecular ecology, or just want to know a bit more about the fascinating killifishes! You won't be deceived! 

Tuesday, 4 December 2018

Wallace Coffee Talks - 06 December 2018

Wallace Coffee Talks - Autumn 2018 

06 December - 1pm - Zoology Museum

Marta Rodríguez-Rey (Swansea University, UK)
Pathways of Introduction and Spread of Aquatic Invasive Species (AIS) in freshwater ecosystems
Aquatic invasive species negatively impact on biodiversity, economy and biosecurity, especially on freshwater ecosystems which are among the most endangered but less protected ecosystems on Earth. Therefore, it is required, to identify the pathways of introduction and spread of invasive species in order to find optimum management approaches. In this talk, I will present the main outputs of my thesis entitled ‘Pathways of Introduction and Spread of Aquatic Invasive Species (AIS) in freshwater ecosystems’. Species Distribution Models are applied to study the range expansion of multiple freshwater taxa (fish, arthropods, molluscs, amphibians and reptiles) by including both environmental and anthropogenic predictors. Also, I will present the social perception toward invasive species in three European countries, a study that was conducted to understand the society’s role in the invasion process, needed for the success of any management actions.

William Kay (Swansea University, UK)
Designing hydrodynamic biologging tags with a slice of policymaking on the side
Having undertaken a Science Policy Internship at The Royal Society last summer, I will talk first about some of my highlights from this opportunity, and some of my involvements in other policy-related activities since, often through the British Ecological Society. Not surprisingly then, also my thesis is quite policy focussed, aimed at providing an evidence base for managing the impact of tidal energy structures on grey seal movements and behaviour along the Welsh coast. Crucial to these aims is the design and deployment of bio-logging devices to record animal behaviour, so I will present a chapter where I have led a collaboration between engineers and ecologists to use Computational Fluid Dynamics techniques borrowed from aerospace engineering to improve the design of bio-logging devices attached to seals.

Monday, 26 November 2018

Wallace Coffee Talks - 29 November 2018

Wallace Coffee Talks - Autumn 2018
29 November - 1pm - Zoology Museum

Sergio Trevi (Swansea University, UK)

Trust your gut (flora): designing a study on the relations between gut-flora and lipid uptake in fish
With the expansion of the aquaculture sector in the last two decade new constraints arises. Raw materials like fish meal and oil from fisheries have become more expensive and unsustainable. Therefore, it is imperative to either replace those raw materials with others and/or increase the feeding efficiency. While many alternative ingredients have been extensively evaluated, the possibility of acting on the gut microbiota to enhance nutrients absorption remains mostly uncharted. The aim of my research is to manipulate the gut microbiota of fish to improve the assimilation of the nutrients present in feed, with particular attention to fatty acids.

Matt Watkins (Swansea University, UK) 
An Introduction to Radiocarbon Dating: Principles, Methods, and Applications within Quaternary Science.
Following a recent visit to iThemba LABS, Africa's first and only AMS dating facility, Matt will outline the principles that facilitate radiocarbon dating, discuss the AMS methodology, and explain why this widely applicable technique is invaluable to Quaternary scientists.