Monday 26 February 2018

Biosciences Science Club Series 26 February 2018

Biosciences Science Club Series - Winter 2018
26 February 2018 - 12pm - Wallace 113

Wolves for Yellowstone: dynamics in time and space

Prof Mark Boyce

We are delighted to welcome Prof Mark Boyce, from the Department of Biological Sciences at the University of Alberta (Canada). Mark is Professor of Ecology and Alberta Conservation Association Chair in Fisheries & Wildlife and is widely known for his research in wildlife population biology in North America and Africa, ranging from elk, to wolves, cougars and wolverines ecollogy and prey selection, elk movement ecollogy and population dynamics, to harvesting effects on wildlife population, to carbon sequestration and conservation, as well as his work developing Resource Selection Analysis.

Predation is increasingly recognized as an ecological process that structures natural communities, and has been targeted as an important focus for conservation.  Yet, others have argued that the extent and magnitude of trophic cascades has been overstated and that few clear examples exist in terrestrial ecosystems, especially for behaviourally driven trophic cascades.  I will review the details of this debate regarding wolf recovery in Yellowstone National Park and conclude that as predicted by theory we see  spatial and temporal variability in predator-prey systems that likewise generate spatial and temporal variability in the expression of trophic cascades.  Outside protected areas in western North America, however, humans have a dominant influence that overwhelms trophic cascades and can result in bottom-up influences on community structure and function.

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

For the list of forthcoming seminars see here

Tuesday 20 February 2018

Biosciences Seminar Speaker 22 March 2018

Biosciences Seminar Series - Winter 2018
22 March 2018 - 1pm - Zoology Museum

Ecological drivers and predictors of coral reef carbonate budgets

Dr Fraser Januchowski-Hartley

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Our Biosciences Seminar Series continues with a talk by Dr Fraser Januchowski-Hartley, from the Department of Marine Biodiversity, Exploitation and Conservation (MARBEC) at the University of Montepellier (France). Fraser is a marine biologist interested in the effects of traditional fishing and marine management on fish behaviour, and how changes in behaviour impinge on fishery and conservation goals, and more broadly in how local communities interact with coral reefs and on developing ways of co-management of marine protected areas. Fraser grew up in the UK and Malawi and his research has taken him to Fiji, Papua New Guinea, the Philippines, Vanuatu and the Seychelles. His project on investigating carbonate production and bioerosion on Kenyan coral reefs is part of the NERC funded Sustainable Poverty Alleviation from Coastal Ecosystem Services (SPACES) project - a transdisciplinary project aiming to fill critical knowledge gaps regarding how ecosystems contribute to wellbeing and poverty alleviation.

Climate change is one of the greatest threats to the long-term maintenance of coral-dominated tropical ecosystems, and has received considerable attention over the past two decades. Coral bleaching and associated mortality events, which are predicted to become more frequent and intense, can alter the balance of different elements that are responsible for coral reef growth and maintenance. In particular, over the past 50 years there has been global decline in coral cover with associated shifts in the relative abundance of corals with different carbonate production potential. The geomorphic impacts of coral mass mortality and community change have received relatively little attention, particularly questions concerning temporal recovery of reef carbonate production and the factors that promote resilience of reef growth potential. 

To address this issue, my research focuses on how coral reef carbonate budgets can be estimated using underwater visual census of both carbonate producing (corals, crustose coralline algae) and eroding (parrotfishes, urchins, clionaid sponges etc.) guilds on coral reefs. First, I will present on how this method has been used to identify the different carbonate production potential of reefs in East Africa across a gradient of human influence, identify which aspects are of primary importance, and what this means for future vertical reef growth in the context of rising sea-levels. Second, I will demonstrate how these methods can be calibrated with widely used census methods at a local scale to estimate historical trends in carbonate budgets where this data exists, with examples from the Seychelles. 

We used data covering 20 years and at least one major bleaching event and the ReefBudget census method to identify that relatively high massive coral cover, and low macroalgal cover and abundance of excavating parrotfishes were essential in maintaining positive reef carbonate budgets. Further, we showed that reefs in the Seychelles were trapped into either positive or negative budget trajectories within a decade of bleaching, and that this was likely to persist after the 2016 bleaching event.

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

For the list of forthcoming seminars see here

Thursday 15 February 2018

BioMaths Colloquium - 16/02/2018

BioMaths Colloquium Series - 2017/18

16 February 2018 - 3pm Maths Seminar Room

(room 224 Talbot Building 2nd floor)

Mathematical analysis and simulation in ecology and evolution: A new model of isolation-by-distance that overcomes longstanding technical limitations

Dr Yevhen Suprunenko

(Institute of Integrative BiologyUniversity of Liverpool, UK) 

Our BioMaths Colloquium Series resumes for the winter term with a seminar by Dr Yevhen Suprunenko, from the Institute of Integrative Biology at University of Liverpool (UK). Yevhen started as a theoretical physicist and moved on to theoretical ecology, with the aim to use mathematical and physical methods to study the complex dynamics of living organisms - especially aspects concerning the role of spatially explicit dynamics, stochasticity, and temporal processes.

In population genetics, models of isolation-by-distance (IBD) are crucial for understanding the role of evolutionary processes in the generation and maintenance of population genetic structure. However, despite the great importance and ubiquity of IBD in nature, a realistic mathematically tractable model is still missing due to the formidable technical difficulty of modelling nonlinear stochastic population dynamics. Instead, existing models of IBD use oversimplified and unrealistic approximations where spatial and/or temporal complexity is ignored, or only a limited number of evolutionary processes can be considered, e.g. selection and local density-dependent population regulation pose a long-standing problem. Here, we present a model of IBD which overcomes these technical limitations. The model takes into account explicit continuous spatial stochastic dynamics, selection, local density-dependent population regulation, limited spatial dispersal, genetic drift, mutation. We present approximate analytical solutions, asymptotically exact in a biologically relevant limit, for IBD patterns for neutral and non-neutral markers using arbitrary interaction kernels. Simulations show good agreement with our analytical predictions.

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 12 February 2018

Biosciences Seminar Speaker 15 February 2018

Biosciences Seminar Series - Winter 2018
15 February 2018 - 1pm - Zoology Museum

Tesla Valves and Turtle Lungs: The Loopy Evolution of Reptilian Respiratory System

Dr Colleen Farmer

Our Biosciences Seminar Series continues with a talk by Dr Colleen Farmer, from the Department of Zoology at Trinity College Dublin (Ireland). Colleen is broadly interested vertebrate evolution, especially concerning metabolism and vertebrate transitions. To do so she combines many laboratory and computational methods with cutting edge medical tools.

The lungs of birds are extraordinary organs because they contain aerodynamic valves, and these valves cause air to move in the same direction through most of the conducting airways during both phases of ventilation. It has long been thought that birds are unique in this way, and that airflow is tidal in the lungs of other animals, but research from my lab has revealed that aerodynamic valves exist in the lungs of crocodilians, and at least some species of turtles and lizards.  We create computational fluid dynamic models, measure flow with several techniques, and visualize flow in order to make maps throughout the lungs, and to gain insight into the mechanistic basis of how these valves work. Our aim is to help shed light on the evolutionary history of the vertebrate lung..

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

For the list of forthcoming seminars see here