Friday 11 December 2015

BioMaths Colloquium - 11/12/2015

BioMaths Colloquium Series - 2015/16

11 December 2015 - 3pm Maths Seminar Room 

(room 224 Talbot Building 2nd floor)

Effects of spatial structure on a cyclic herbivore populations

Dr Christina Cobbold

From: Hughes, Cobbold et al. (2015) Am. Nat. 185(5): E130-E152

Our final BioMaths Colloquium seminar of this term will be by Dr Christina Cobbold from the School of Maths & Stats at the University of Glasgow. Christina is Senior Lecturer in Applied Mathematics and member of the Boyd Orr Centre for Population and Ecosystem Health.  Her keen interest in Mathematical Biology concerns especially the mathematics of biological interactions, such as host-parasitoid interactions, the evolution of developmental timing, and modelling dynamics of rapid evolutionary processes. Examples of the latter include antigenic variation in trypanosomes and mutation leading to myotonic dystrophy. 

Understanding how cycles of forest-defoliating insects (herbivores) are affected by forest  structure is of major importance for forest management. Achieving such an understanding with data alone is difficult. We therefore constructed mathematical models to investigate the effects of forest structure on herbivore cycles, focusing on herbivore cycles driven by parasitoids.  
Forest tent caterpillar moth
Pic from Wikipedia

Typically when we think of spatially structured habitat we think of a habitat fragmentation and a mosaic of suitable and unsuitable habitat. However, suitable habitat can be uniformly distributed, but still show spatial structure  via spatial variation in the  plant genotype. It has been shown the plant genotype can strongly affect not only individual herbivore performance, but also community composition and ecosystem function. In this talk I will examine the impact of two these types of spatial heterogeneity (fragmentation and genotype variation) on the population cycles of forest-defoliating insects.

Forest tent caterpillar.
Pic from Wikipedia
Our integrodifference equation model shows that forest destruction can increase herbivore density when parasitoids disperse much farther than the herbivores because the benefits of reduced herbivore mortality due to increased parasitoid dispersal mortality exceed the costs of increased herbivore dispersal mortality. This novel result can explain observations of increased outbreak duration with increasing forest fragmentation in forest tent caterpillar populations.

A Tachinidae parasitoid, genus Leschenaultia.
Pic from
I will also show how plant genotype, the relative size of genotypic patches, and the rate of herbivore dispersal between them, affect the frequency, amplitude, and duration of herbivore outbreaks. We found that coupling two different genotypes does not necessarily result in an averaging of herbivore dynamics. Instead, depending on the ratio of patch sizes, when dispersal rates are moderate, outbreaks in the two- genotype case may be more or less severe than in forests of either genotype alone.

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

Monday 23 November 2015

Biosciences Seminar Speaker 26 November 2015

Biosciences Seminar Series - Autumn 2015
26 November 2015 - 2pm - Zoology Museum (Wallace 129)

[Note Change of Time]

Tidal Power and the Bay of Fundy

Prof Graham R. Daborn


With the projects for Swansea Bay Tidal Lagoon marching on (see here), this week's speaker couldn't be more relevant. Prof Graham R. Daborn, from Acadia University (Canada) is strongly involved in evaluating the environmental implications of marine renewable energy installations, especially those aimed at harnessing tidal currents in the Bay of Fundy, where the world's highest tides can be found. Graham currently works at the Acadia Tidal Energy Institute and is Board Member for Marine Renewables Canada, but previously was the founding Director of the Acadia Centre for Estuarine Research in 1985 and subsequently became also the first Director of the Academy for the Environment at Acadia University. Graham has a long-standing broad interest in the effects of human activities on estuaries and coastal waters.

By any measure, the Bay of Fundy is an extraordinary ecosystem. Known for having the world's highest tides, it is also one of the most biologically productive coastal systems in North America. Through the movements of fish, birds and marine mammals that come to the Bay to feed, it is biologically connected to the Arctic, the Americas, Europe and the North and South Atlantic. 
Hopewell Rocks at the Bay of Fundy. From: Wikipedia

For more than 100 years the high tides have been considered for production of electricity: for most of this time the focus was on tidal range technologies, and the 20MW Annapolis Tidal Generating Station has been in operation since 1984; recent attention is focused on tidal stream devices, for which a major test facility is being developed in Minas Passage. This presentation will outline the biophysical features of the Bay of Fundy and discuss past and present initiatives for tidal power development using barrages, lagoons or arrays of tidal stream devices, with an emphasis on environmental issues.  

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

BioMaths Colloquium - 20/11/2015

BioMaths Colloquium Series - 2015/16

20 November 2015 - 3pm Maths Seminar Room 

(room 224 Talbot Building 2nd floor)

A virtual tumour as a tool for Computer-Assisted Therapeutic Strategies

Dr Angélique Stéphanou

Our second BioMaths Colloquium seminar of this academic year was held by Dr Angélique Stéphanou, researcher at the TIMC-IMAG CNRS centre in Grenoble, France. Angélique is interested in Mathematical and Computational Biology, especially concerning cell biology, such as morphogenetics and metabolism.

The progress realised in cancer research showed that the evolution of the disease is much more complex than initially thought, with the occurrence of resistance to treatment. At the same time, this progress contributed to develop and acquire new means to fight and diagnose. But even though the range of therapeutic weapons is still growing, it remains very difficult to make an optimized or relevant use of them. 

An integrated approach as permitted by theoretical modelling, is more than ever necessary to manage the complexity of the problem and to rationalize and optimize the use of the existing therapeutic means of action. In this context, I will present a computational model representing a virtual tumour build from a mouse model and show how it can be a useful tool, tuned to integrate each individual specificities, in order to define an optimum and individualized therapeutic strategy.

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

Thursday 19 November 2015

Biosciences Seminar Speaker 19 November 2015

Biosciences Seminar Series - Autumn 2015
19 November 2015 - 1pm - Zoology Museum (Wallace 129)

Long time no see: Acoustic monitoring of whales, dolphins and porpoises

Dr Hanna Nuuttila

Who hasn't dreamed, at least as a kid, to study dolphin and whales, swimming along them in the seas? Reality is, these animals are in general really hard to see and observe out there in the seas. Much progress has been made in the last decades on using photo-identification methods (see here for a nice review) as well as by using acoustic methods (see here). Our speaker of this week, Dr Hanna Nuuttila from the SEACAMS group at our Biosciences Department at Swansea University, is a marine biologist with long expertise in using acoustic methods, which she has used to answer questions of basic and applied interest.

Cetaceans can be difficult to study, as they spend only a fraction of their lives above the sea surface - making visual studies methods less than perfect method to fully understand their ecology  and behaviour. Various acoustic techniques exist to study these elusive, wide ranging animals. My studies have focused on one method in particular using passive, static acoustic methods (SAM) to record animal vocalisations. 

This talk will be discuss aspects of cetacean bioacoustics, present some of my past and present work on using cetacean sounds to locate, track and assess behaviour, habitat use and abundance as well as provide an overview of challenges and obstacles presented by acoustic methods and SAM in particular.

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

Tuesday 10 November 2015

BioMaths Colloquium - 13/11/2015

BioMaths Colloquium Series - 2015/16

13 November 2015 - 3pm Maths Seminar Room 

(room 224 Talbot Building 2nd floor)

Modelling the impact of plant shoot architecture on leaf cooling: coupled heat and mass transfer simulations

Dr Lloyd Bridge

From Bridge et al. (2013) Interface

The first BioMaths Colloquium seminar of this academic year will be held by our own Dr Lloyd Bridge, lecturer at the Maths Department at Swansea University. Lloyd is a mathematical modeller with broad interests, ranging from scientific computing to biomathematics, including mathematical pharmacology and G-protein coupled receptors, biomedical modelling, and plant science. Research about the latter will be the subject of this weeks seminar.

Plants display a range of striking architectural adaptations when grown at elevated temperatures. In the model plant Arabidopsis thaliana, these include elongation of petioles and increased petiole and leaf angles from the soil surface. The potential physiological significance of these architectural changes remains speculative. 

We address this issue computationally by formulating a mathematical model for heat and mass transfer in and around shoots and performing finite element simulations, investigating the hypothesis that elongated and elevated plant configurations may reflect a leaf-cooling strategy. This sets in place a new basic model of plant water use and interaction with the surrounding air, using a transpiration term which depends on saturation, temperature and vapour concentration. A two-dimensional multi-petiole shoot geometry is considered, with added leaf-blade shape detail. 

Our simulations show that increased petiole length and angle generally result in enhanced transpiration rates and reduced leaf temperatures in well-watered conditions. Furthermore, our computations also reveal plant configurations for  which elongation may result in decreased transpiration due to decreased leaf liquid saturation. We offer further qualitative and quantitative insights into the role of architectural parameters as key determinants of leaf cooling capacity.

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

Biosciences Seminar Speaker 12 November 2015

Biosciences Seminar Series - Autumn 2015
12 November 2015 - 1pm - Zoology Museum (Wallace 129)

Self-fertilising mangrove killifish as a genetic model for studying embryonic development

Dr Tetsu Kudoh

Suppression of melanin synthesis in mangrove killifish embryo by treatment with PTU - photo by Tetsu Kudoh

From that primordial first cleavage to a ball of moving cells, through to shifting and folding cell sheets to a fully formed embryo - embryonic development has fascinated zoologists and biologists since long time. Many different processes and ultimately genes govern the growth and differentiation of a fertilized egg to a fully formed embryo, and many things can go wrong due to genetic and environmental causes. Our speaker of this week, Dr Tetsu Kudoh from the University of Exeter, is a developmental biologist interested in understanding the mechanisms underlying early embryonic development, from gene functions to the role of environmental disruption. Tetsu uses a variety of model organisms, including the fascinating mangrove killifish, the only vertebrate species able to self-fertilize, which will feature in his talk.

The mangrove killifish, Kryptolebias marmoratus (Kmar), and another related species are the only known vertebrate species which can reproduce with self-fertilisation. The hermaphrodite adult fish have bilateral ovotestis and lay fertilised eggs as daily bases. This ability makes the animal as a very powerful and unique model for genetics studies. In the talk, I would like to discuss our screening and characterisation of the Kmar mutants which has abnormalities in early embryonic development of the trunk, tail and fin. 

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

Friday 6 November 2015

Science Club Series - 06 November 2015

Science Club Series - 2015/16

Date: 06/11/2015

Venue: Zoology Museum

Time: 12:30 - 14:30 pm

We are delighted to host today an event run by the Royal Society of Biology.

We invite you to join us on Friday 6th of November in the Zoology Museum (Wallace 129) for you to hear about how the RSB can support you, how you can support our work, ask any questions and pick up some literature. Academic staff and technicians are welcome to join from 12:30 – 13:20 and research students from 13:30 – 14:20. One person will be picked to receive a complimentary year of membership.

About us
The Royal Society of Biology is the UK’s leading professional association for the life sciences: representing a single unified voice for biology: advising Government and influencing policy; advancing education and professional development; supporting our members, and engaging and encouraging public interest in the life sciences.

The RSB represents and supports a diverse membership of over 15,500 individuals, 90 learned societies and other organisations working within the life sciences. Individual members include practising scientists, students at all levels, professionals in academia, industry and education, and non-professionals with an interest in biology. Benefits of individual membership at professional grades include:
  • Access to professional registers and exclusive post-nominal letters
  • Apply for travel grants and grants to run regional events
  • A comprehensive CPD scheme and discounted rates for training courses
  • Opportunities to engage with policy and government legislation
  • Monthly themed e-newsletters and a bi-monthly copy of The Biologist magazine
  • Networking with other professional members and member organisations

Technical Registration: We believe that the work, experience and expertise of technicians working in the life sciences deserves to be formally recognised and through a licence, offered by the Science Council, the RSB is able to offer members registration to these registers:
  • Registered Science Technician (RSciTech)
  • Registered Scientist (RSci)
  • Chartered Scientist (CSci)
We also offer registration to the following Science Council and RSB Registers
  • Chartered Science Teacher (CSciTeach)
  • Chartered Biologist (CBiol)
  • Qualified Person (QP)
  • UK Register of Toxicologists (UKRT)

We look forward to meeting you.

For the full list of Science Club Events, see our blog here 

Friday 23 October 2015

Biosciences Seminar Speaker 22 October 2015

Biosciences Seminar Series - Autumn 2015
22 October 2015 - 1pm - Zoology Museum (Wallace 129)

Using Species Conservation to Drive the 

Restoration of Ecosystems

Dr Cynthia Froyd

This week's seminar will be by our won Cynthia Froyd. Cynthia is an ecologist interested in long-term dynamics, disturbance ecology and natural resource management, especially of forest systems. She uses paleoecological data to understand past ecological conditions, to inform present day management and conservation planning.

Long-term ecology (palaeoecology) provides the temporal data that is crucial to many modern conservation planning issues. Palaeoecological research techniques allow the detailed examination of biodiversity and ecological change over hundreds to thousands of years. Aspects of many international environmental agreements (i.e. the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment) require a temporal perspective significantly longer than that which can be obtained using traditional ecological methodologies alone.
A number of issues pertinent to modern conservation planning may be addressed through the examination of the long-term ecological record including: the stability and resilience of ecosystems over time, regime shifts or thresholds of nonlinear change, the range of natural ecosystem variability, the examination of baseline reference conditions on which to base measures of change, and natural disturbance regimes. These themes are examined for the Galapagos archipelago. 

Reconstructions of long-term plant community dynamics and environmental change are presented from sites throughout Galapagos, providing evidence of: the first human presence in the islands and resultant impacts on native vegetation, doubtfully native plant species’ provenance, changes in both terrestrial and aquatic communities over time, plant extinctions, the ecological consequences of reductions in large herbivore populations, and long-term changes in ecosystem function.

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

Wednesday 14 October 2015

Biosciences Seminar Speaker 14 October 2015

Biosciences Seminar Series - Autumn 2015
14 October 2015 - 1pm - Zoology Museum (Wallace 129)

Using Species Conservation to Drive the 

Restoration of Ecosystems

Prof Carl Jones

Image from

This week we will be hosting Prof Carl Jones, an eminent conservation biologist who succeeded to bring several species back from the brink of extinction. Carl's work has especially focussed on Mauritius, where Carl has been active since 1979 on the conservation of birds, plants, reptiles and the restoration of island ecosystems. 

A particularity of his approach is the application of captive breeding and horticultural techniques to wild populations, to increase productivity and survival of endangered animals and plants. This approach has been fantastically effective for a wide range of species and has allowed the restoration species of forest habitats and small islands.

Carl will discuss the rebuilding of communities through multiple introductions of species, as well as ecological replacements for extinct species. He will focus on Mauritius and the reintroduction of plants, reptiles and birds to restore island ecosystems.

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

Tuesday 13 October 2015

Science Club Series 2015/16

The Science Club Series resumes

Science Club Series - 2015/16

Venue: Zoology Museum

Time: 1pm

Last week also our Science Club Series resumed, with 2 events! First, on Tuesday 06 October Prof Spencer J. Greenwood (University of Prince Edward Island, Canada) gave a great talk on The Secret Life of Lobster Vets: unravelling host-pathogen-environment interactions in our favourite crustacean. Spencer is a Professor at the Department of Biomedical Sciences at the University of Prince Edward Island (Canada) and also Director-Research Scientist at the AVC Lobster Science Centre (Atlantic Veterinary College, also at the University of Prince Edward Island in Charlottetown, Canada). Spencer's research focusses on crustacean biology, using molecular methods to address questions about host-pathogen interactions and aquatic species and parasitology, and is closely linked to industrial applications of new research findings. At his seminar, Spencer focussed on his research on lobsters:

The American lobster (Homarus americanus) fishery forms the backbone of the coastal Maritime economy adds approximately $1 billion to the Atlantic Canadian economy annually. At the AVC Lobster Science Centre, we are applying current transcriptomic technologies (microarray and RNASeq) to explore a variety of basic questions in lobster biology. A summary of recent findings on the lobster’s immune response to different pathogens, biomarkers of larval life stage transitions, biomarkers of sexual maturity, and the impact of anthropogenic stressors (live holding/shipping and pesticides) will be presented.

Then on Thursday we started a cool series of workshops on Scientific Presentation, with a roundtable discussion about the peer review system (see here). These events are mainly targeted for graduate students, but staff members will be welcome, too. We will continue this week with a workshop on using Social Media for science communication, followed by workshops on poster presentations at conferences and on how to write scientific manuscripts for publication. And there will be more to come!

For the full list of Science Club Events, see our blog here