Monday 14 May 2018

Biosciences Seminar Speaker 17 May 2018

Biosciences Seminar Series - Spring 2018
17 May 2018 - 1pm - Zoology Museum

Coping with environmental stress in natural populations

Dr Marjo Saastamoinen

(University of Helsinki, Finland)

Photo by Peter Hunt

The Biosciences Seminar Series continues for the Spring Term with a talk by Dr Marjo Saastamoinen from the Department of Biosciences and the Research Centre for Ecological Change at the University of Helsinki (Finland). Marjo is broadly interested in understanding and predicting differences in how individuals in nature respond to, cope and adapt to environmental variation. To do so Marjo a broad range of techniques, from genetic and genomic methods to behavioural observations to mathematical approaches, applied to data from laboratory and long-term study systems in the wild.

Organisms are constantly challenged by environmental variation, for example in resource quality, which subsequently influences life history variation and evolution in natural populations. We are studying life-history responses and underlying coping mechanisms to environmental stress, namely changes in host plant quality induced by drought, in the Glanville fritillary (Melitaea cinxia) butterfly. Combining laboratory and field based studies, we show how developmental time as well as adult fitness-related traits are shaped by variation in food quality. We show that some of the responses are developmental stage-dependent, and that coping mechanisms include developmental switches as well as behavioural adjustments in both larvae and adults. These questions are assessed within an ecologically relevant context as environmental conditions from spring to late summer greatly impact the metapopulation dynamics of the butterfly. Working with the large metapopulation of the Glanville fritillary butterfly gives us a unique opportunity to assess the processes operating from genes within individuals all the way to metapopulation-level dynamics.

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

For the list of forthcoming seminars see here

Tuesday 8 May 2018

Biomaths Colloquium - 11/05/2018

BioMaths Colloquium Series - 2017/18

  11 May 2018 - 3pm Maths Seminar Room

(room 224 Talbot Building 2nd floor)

Genes as cues: integration of genetic and epigenetic information from a Darwinian perspective

Dr Sasha Dall

(BiosciencesUniversity of Exeter, UK) 


Our BioMaths Colloquium Series continues with a seminar by Dr Sasha Dall, from Biosciences at University of Exeter (UK). Sasha is an Associate Professor of Mathematical Ecology, broadly interested in how animals cope with the risks and opportunities of the uncertain natural environment, identifying their information acquisition and risk management strategies and their ecological and evolutionary consequences. Sasha distinctively works at the interface between biology and mathematics, have hold research positions at both Biology and Mathematics departments in the UK, US, and Israel. Work in his research groups ranges from the development of theoretical models, to experimental work with bird aviaries, to observational field studies on vertebrates.

The development of multicellular organisms involves a delicate interplay between genetic and environmental influences. It is often useful to think of developmental systems as integrating available sources of information about current conditions to produce organisms. Genes and inherited physiology provide cues, as does the state of the environment during development. The integration systems themselves are under genetic control, and subject to Darwinian selection, so we expect them to evolve to produce organisms that fit well with current ecological (including social) conditions. I argue for the scientific value of this explicitly informational perspective by providing detailed examples of how it can elucidate taxonomically diverse phenomena. I also present a general framework for linking genetic and phenotypic variation from an informational perspective. This application of Darwinian logic at the organismal level can elucidate genetic influences on phenotypic variation in novel and counterintuitive ways.

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

Biosciences Seminar Speaker 10 May 2018

Biosciences Seminar Series - Spring 2018
10 May 2018 - 1pm - Zoology Museum

Using trait-based models to understand vulnerability to extinction and to threats

Dr Manuela Gonzales

The Biosciences Seminar Series continues for the Spring Term with a talk by Dr Manuela Gonzales from the School of Biological Sciences at the University of Reading (UK). Manuela is a lecturer in Ecological Modelling, interested in understanding and predicting the drivers of current biodiversity loss. To do so, Manuela aims to combine life-history and trait-based approaches and quantify the role of individual variability in population dynamics -- see here more about her research group.

Anthropogenic impacts on the world’s ecosystems have led to a widespread and accelerating loss of biodiversity. No area of the planet can be considered pristine any longer, yet not all areas or species are affected equally by human impacts. Some species have characteristics that make them more (or less) vulnerable to threats, and threats can be localized and varying in intensity. In this talk I will discuss how we can use data describing species morphological, behavioural, and ecological traits to better understand and predict vulnerability to extinction and to individual anthropogenic threats.

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

For the list of forthcoming seminars see here

Tuesday 1 May 2018

Biosciences Seminar Speaker 03 May 2018

Biosciences Seminar Series - Spring 2018
03 May 2018 - 1pm - Zoology Museum

The ecology of ageing in wild animal populations

Dr Hannah Froy

The Biosciences Seminar Series resumes for the Spring Term with a talk by Dr Hannah Froy from the Institute of Evolutionary Studies at the University of Edinburgh (UK). Hannah is an evolutionary ecologist and demographer; after a Masters at Imperial College at Silwood Park on the joint dynamics of body mass and demography underlying small mammal population fluctuations, she completed a PhD on the ecology of aging in albatrosses at the University of Edinburgh, where she then continued as postdoctoral researcher. Hannah is especially interested in using log-term longitudinal individual datasets from natural populations to understand what drives the patterns and individual variation in aging, from variations in telomere length to individual movements and space use. 

Ageing, and the associated declines in performance, is something we are familiar with in humans and domestic species. Despite early scepticism about the occurrence of senescence in the wild, declines in survival and reproduction are increasingly documented in later life in natural vertebrate populations. However, a remarkable diversity in ageing rates is often observed even within species, and the causes of this variation are not well understood. We use data from longitudinal field studies, following individuals throughout their lives, to provide new insights into the processes that drive age-related variation in reproduction and survival. I will present recent results exploring how home ranges and immune function change over adulthood in two ungulate populations, and the consequences of these changes for fitness, using data from red deer on the Isle of Rum, and the Soay sheep of St Kilda, Scotland.

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

For the list of forthcoming seminars see here