Thursday 19 December 2019

Wallace Coffee Talks - 07 January 2020

Wallace Coffee Talks - Winter 2020
07 January - 12pm - Zoology Museum

Fancy a cup of coffee or tea and learning more about the researchers at Swansea university? Come join us at the Wallace coffee talks: an informal seminar series where students, staff and others related to Swansea university speak about their research or personal interests.

Billy Moore
A coralline alga gains tolerance to ocean acidification over multiple generations of exposure 
Crustose coralline algae (CCA) play a crucial role in the building of reefs in the photic zones of nearshore ecosystems globally and are highly susceptible to ocean acidification. Yet the extent to which CCA can gain tolerance to ocean acidification over multiple generations of exposure is unknown. We show that while calcification of juvenile CCA is initially highly sensitive to ocean acidification, after 6 generations of exposure the effects of ocean acidification disappears. A reciprocal transplant experiment conducted on the 7th generation where half of all replicates were interchanged across treatments confirmed that they had acquired tolerance to low pH and not simply to laboratory conditions. Our results demonstrate that reef-accreting taxa can gain tolerance to ocean acidification over multiple generations of exposure, suggesting that some of these cosmopolitan species could maintain their critical ecological role in reef-formation.

Maze learning and memory in a decapod crustacean 
Spatial learning is an ecologically important trait well studied in vertebrates and a few invertebrates yet poorly understood in crustaceans. Considering many decapod crustaceans play key roles in marine and freshwater ecosystems and live in complex, three-dimensional habitats, learning the location of, and routes to, resources should be an adaptive trait we can investigate in these animals using mazes. We investigated the ability of European shore crabs, Carcinus maenas, to learn a complex maze over four consecutive weeks using food as a motivator. Crabs showed steady improvement during this conditioning period in both the time taken to find the food and in the number of wrong turns taken. Crabs also clearly remembered the maze as when returned two weeks later but without any food, they all returned to the end of the maze in under eight minutes. Crabs that had not been conditioned to the maze (naïve animals) took far longer to reach the end and many did not venture to the end of the maze at all during the one-hour study period. This study provides an initial description of spatial learning in a benthic decapod.

Thursday 5 December 2019

Wallace Coffee Talks - 10 December 2019

Wallace Coffee Talks - Autumn 2019 
10 December - 12pm - Zoology Museum

Fancy a cup of coffee or tea and learning more about the researchers at Swansea university? Come join us at the Wallace coffee talks: an informal seminar series where students, staff and others related to Swansea university speak about their research or personal interests.

Lloyd Hopkins & Emma Brisdion
For What It’s Earth: can podcasts encourage changes that last? 
Forest fires, pollution, over-consumption and climate change - it's hard not to feel down about the environmental outlook for the planet. Ever the optimist, my friend Emma pitched to me (Lloyd), the idea of a sustainability and environment podcast to raise awareness to a raft of issues whilst encouraging small, concerted lifestyle changes from the average person. Armed with a rough plan, a shoe-string budget and some microphones, we recently hit 17,000 total listens after less than a year. For both of us, this was our first real strike out into the world of science communication media. We'll be sharing how we got set up, our planning and recording process, the numerous lessons we learned and more. Discussion and ideas on science communication and outreach will be welcome and very much encouraged!

Twitter: @WhatEarthPod
You can find the podcast on Apple, Spotify, Acast  and Podbean

Monday 2 December 2019

Biosciences Seminar Speaker 05 December 2019

Biosciences Seminar Series - Autumn 2019
05 December 2019 - 1pm - Zoology Museum

The importance of life cycle assessment in system design and how this relates to research

Dr Trisha Toop

(Harper Adams University, UK)

Image by Dr Trisha Toop

Our Biosciences Seminar Series concludes for the 2019 autumn term with a talk by Dr Trisha Toop from the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at Harper Adams University. Trisha is currently the Academic Engineering Expert for the Agri Project at Harper Adams University. Her project focuses on addressing the barriers to innovation in the agri-tech/food sector, and more broadly in using life cycle assessment methods for research in ecology, agriculture, and natural resource management..

It is essential to consider all aspects of sustainability when designing new and improving existing systems. Life cycle assessment (LCA) is a systematic approach that allows us to identify, measure, document and interpret the sustainability of a system. Initially developed for environmental assessment its scope is being broadened to include social and economic impacts also. This paper will explore how LCA can be used in research to report the sustainability of proposed systems. It will show how it has been used to identify areas for improvements in systems which were used as targets for research.

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

For the list of forthcoming seminars see here

Thursday 28 November 2019

Biomath Colloquium 29/11/2019

BioMaths Colloquium Series - 2019/20

  29 November 2019 - 3pm Zoology Museum

(Wallace Building, Singleton Campus)

Signal detection and spike sorting in noisy time series using higher criticism

Dr Farzad Fathi Zadeh

(Department of MathematicsSwansea University) 

Image: Farzad Fathi Zadeh

Our BioMaths Colloquium Series resumes for the autumn term with a seminar by Dr Farzad Fathi Zadeh, from the Department of Mathematics at Swansea University.  Farzad is a Marie Curie - SER Cymru II Cofund Research Fellow in Mathematics at Swansea University & Guest Research Scientist at the Max Planck Institute for Biological Cybernetics (Germany). Farzad works on time series analysis and signal detection, including applications to multidimensional neurobiological measurements, multiple hypothesis testing in large datasets, and applications of stochastic analysis and geometric and differential analysis methods to a wide variety of practical cases.

I will talk about a novel and robust method based on making use of higher criticism for detecting signals and sorting peaks in electrophysiological measurements of neuronal activities, which are accompanied with considerable noise. The method relies solely on the intrinsic statistical properties of the data and avoids any preprocessing, which prevents the loss of any invaluable information. This is join work with E. Mitricheva, R. Kimura, N. K. Logothetis and
H. R. Noori.   

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

For the list of forthcoming seminars, see here

Wednesday 27 November 2019

Biosciences Seminar Speaker 28 November 2019

Biosciences Seminar Series - Autumn 2019
28 November 2019 - 1pm - Zoology Museum

Unanticipated roles of consumers in mediating the functioning of marine ecosystems

Prof Matthew Bracken

(University of California, Irvine)

Image from

Our Biosciences Seminar Series continues for the 2019 autumn term with a talk by Professor Matthew Bracken from the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at the University of California, Irvine. Matthew is Professor in Ecology and Evolutionary Biodiversity and leads the Marine Biodiversity Lab. Research in his lab broadly investigates linkages between marine communities and ecosystems, using a large variety of interdisciplinary approaches. Current specific questions of interest include evaluating the causes and consequences of biodiversity change and quantifying the relative importance of consumers’ top-down and bottom-up effects on the growth and diversity of primary producers.

Humans are altering the diversity of life on Earth and consequently altering how biological systems function. Large, mobile species – consumers – are at greatest risk of extinction, prompting the question: What are the consequences of the loss of consumers for the functioning of marine ecosystems. Whereas most work evaluating consumer impacts focuses on consumption, Prof. Bracken will present and discuss other functions that consumers provide in marine systems, including their roles in recycling nutrients and enhancing recruitment of algae. He will specifically address the roles of consumers in enhancing algal growth, describe experimental designs for partitioning consumptive and non-consumptive effects of grazers, discuss the importance of community composition, and describe insights gained from conducting these experiments in the field. Typical perspectives on interactions between grazers and algae focus on consumption by the herbivores, but herbivores can also benefit primary producers, and these positive effects can outweigh the negative effects.   

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

For the list of forthcoming seminars see here

Tuesday 19 November 2019

Wallace Coffee Talks - 26 November 2019

Wallace Coffee Talks - Autumn 2019 
26 November - 1pm - Zoology Museum

Fancy a cup of coffee or tea and learning more about the researchers at Swansea university? Come join us at the Wallace coffee talks: an informal seminar series where students, staff and others related to Swansea university speak about their research or personal interests.

Loving Leonardo: Dissolving The Boundaries…
About half a century ago, back in the 1960’s, some engineers and artists in the USA got together and started working on interdisciplinary projects that became known as SciArt. Then it all sort of fizzled out … Fast forward a quarter century to the UK in the mid ‘90s and SciArt resurfaced with the Wellcome Trust, which funded a decade of action research projects to see what happened when medical scientists and artists work together. It was good! Since then, there have been more and more scientific research projects across British universities that include an artist as part of the team.
There’s tons of science and technology in art! I use science and technology all the time! I get to use poison! And explosives! And don’t get me started on Leonardo da Vinci!

@RosieScribblah on twitter and instagram

Thinking outside the box: Developing cross disciplinary research with older adults 
The benefits of regularly spending time in natural blue and green environments in terms of overall wellbeing is well documented. But what about when you can’t access those spaces? This talk will focus on how thinking outside the box and working across very diverse academic disciplines can bring potential solutions to these challenges, while enhancing our own academic research to help us better understand the synergies between the natural world and physical and mental health.

Wednesday 6 November 2019

Biosciences Seminar Speaker 07 November 2019

Biosciences Seminar Series - Autumn 2019
07 November 2019 - 1pm - Zoology Museum

Small to medium scale spatial and temporal effects on insect–plant interactions

Dr Thomas Tscheulin

(University of the Aegean, Greece)

Male bees (Eucera sp.) sleeping on Anemone coronaria.
Photo © Laboratory of Biogeography & Ecology

Our Biosciences Seminar Series continues for the 2019 autumn term with a talk by Dr Thomas Tscheulin from the Department of Geography at the University of the Aegean, Greece Thomas is an Assistant Professor in Spatial Ecology and Biogeography. He joined the University of the Aegean after studies in Freiburg (Germany) and Imperial College (UK) and postdocs at the Centre of Agri-Environmental  Research (CAER) at the University of Reading (UK). Research in his lab, the Biogeography and Ecology Lab, focuses on understanding spatial patterns of ecological processes & biodiversity, especially of invertebrates, including drivers of species distributions and the Geography and Ecology of biological invasions, as well as Agricultural Entomology, in particular plant-insect interactions and Pollination Ecology.

Drawing from my own research, this talk aims to emphasise the importance of space and scale in ecological research by looking at several examples of small to medium (and even to large) scale spatial and temporal effects on insects and insect–plant interactions. My presented research will focus mainly on pollinators and their respective flowering plant partners and how they are impacted in space and time by disturbances such as wildfires, species invasion, climate change and telecommunication antennas. I will conclude by highlighting the practical implications of spatial heterogeneity and suggest potential mitigation measures. 

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

For the list of forthcoming seminars see here

Tuesday 5 November 2019

Wallace Coffee Talks - 12 November 2019

Wallace Coffee Talks - Autumn 2019 
12 November - 1pm - Zoology Museum

Fancy a cup of coffee or tea and learning more about the researchers at Swansea university? Come join us at the Wallace coffee talks: an informal seminar series where students, staff and others related to Swansea university speak about their research or personal interests.

A Novel Application of Environmental DNA to Identify Historic Outbreaks of Forest Pests Within the Pacific Northwest of America
Current outbreaks of forest pests, notably Dendroctonus bark beetles, in the Pacific Northwest of America are widely regarded as unprecedented, with human induced climate change attributed as the primary driver of the increased scale and severity of these aggressive population expansions. The assumptions of historic outbreak dynamics are largely based on tree ring data, fossil pollen records, GIS and remote sensing, and the identification of well-preserved remains, however, each of these come with their own set of limitations. This talk aims to explore the effectiveness of a new detection tool - Environmental DNA (eDNA) - in directly identifying forest pest presence within sedimentary records, to reconstruct past dynamics, and determine whether these outbreaks are truly unprecedented. 

Alex Dearden (Swansea University, UK)
How semiochemicals can be used to improve the monitoring and control of the Western flower thrips
The Western flower thrips (WFT), Frankliniella occidentalis (Peregande), are insect pests of Agriculture and Horticulture worldwide. It is estimated that WFT cause damage to over 500 marketable plant species and result in the annual loss of over £1 billion. Their small size (1-1.4 mm), cryptic nature and high fecundity pose a significant challenge to successful management of the pest. Control of WFT has mainly relied on pesticide application to the canopy regions of crops, targeting adult life stages. However, WFT have become resistant to a wide range of insecticide groups such as organophosphates, carbamates and pyrethroids. As a result, there is a growing urgency to peruse sustainable alternatives. Semiochemicals are behavioural altering substances that offer value to the monitoring and control of WFT and other insect pests. 

This short talk aims to summarise the threat posed by WFT to food and ornamentals production. Additionally, the applications and challenges of using semiochemicals within pest management will be discussed. 

Tuesday 22 October 2019

Biosciences Seminar Speaker 24 October 2019

Biosciences Seminar Series - Autumn 2019
24 October 2019 - 1pm - Zoology Museum

Multimodal foraging and intraspecific sensory variation in wild capuchin monkeys

Dr Amanda Melin

(University of Calgary, Canada)

Image from
Our Biosciences Seminar Series continues for the 2019 autumn term with a talk by Dr Amanda Melin from the University of Calgary, in Alberta (Canada). Amanda is a behavioural ecologist and research in her lab involves questions concerning the behaviour, sensory ecology, and dietary outcomes of nonhuman and human primates. The broad questions tackled are about primate origins and evolution, and are adressed using an integrative approach, combining assessment of sensory systems with molecular ecology, microbiome analysis, metagenomics, and field observations of primates.

Senses serve as the interface between animals and their environment and play a critical role in food detection and evaluation. Color and/or scent changes during ripening may attract frugivores and inform their investigation behaviors. While numerous studies have assessed the impact of color on fruit selection, comparatively little is known about fruit scent, and how olfactory and visual data are integrated during foraging.

We combine behavioral data on white-faced capuchins, black-handed spider monkeys, and mantled howler monkeys with measurements of fruit reflectance spectra (color) and plant volatile organic compounds (scents) from 18 dietary plant species at different ripeness stages. We show that the frequency of sniffing behaviors – a proxy for reliance on the sense of smell – is positively correlated with increases in the volume of fruit odorants during ripening. Additionally, monkeys with red-green colorblindness (dichromacy) sniffed fruits more often, indicating that increased reliance on olfaction may be a general behavioral strategy that mitigates decreased capacity to detect red-green chromatic contrast. These results demonstrate a complex interaction among fruit traits, sensory capacities and foraging strategies. By examining fruit traits and sensory investigation of seed dispersing mammals, we help elucidate the evolutionary relationships between plants and frugivores and explain variation in primate behavior.


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

For the list of forthcoming seminars see here

Wallace Coffee Talks - 29 October 2019

Wallace Coffee Talks - Autumn 2019 
29 October- 1pm - Zoology Museum

Creating global river obstruction inventories using a citizen science approach.
River obstructions in the form of dams, locks, and other such barriers, are a globally important impact that humans have had on the movement of water, sediment, organisms, and nutrients from land to sea. Despite existing datasets of the world’s largest dams like GRanD, there is not a global inventory of obstructions to rivers. Hence, the goal of this project is to identify and categorise human-built river barriers for rivers wider than ~30 meters across the globe. By using Google Earth Engine and the Global River Widths from Landsat (GRWL) dataset, I am trying to create a global inventory for categorised obstructions on rivers across the globe. 

The devil (survival) is in the detail – scrutinising the evidence for biological extinction risks
Informed management of threatened wildlife species often requires more than just identifying the source of threat. This is because the adverse effects of environmental stressors on wildlife performance may unfold differently over time and space or affect individuals to different extents. But how can we establish the evidence of which particular biological processes drive wildlife extinction risk and how can we use such insights for more targeted conservation efforts and better forecasting? 
This short talk invites discussion over a cuppa about the use of individual-based models and model evaluation techniques for exploring extinction dynamics if ‘landscapes of danger’ are heterogeneous or if individuals are prone to different treats, using Tasmanian devils and their Tasmanian devil facial tumour disease burden as a case study.

Monday 7 October 2019

Biosciences Seminar Speaker 10 October 2019

Biosciences Seminar Series - Autumn 2019
10 October 2019 - 1pm - Zoology Museum

Rebuilding the reptile communities of Mauritius

Dr Nik Cole

Our Biosciences Seminar Series resumes for the 2019 autumn term with a talk by Dr Nik Cole from the Durrell Conservation Trust, UK and the Mauritian Wildlife Foundation, MauritiusNik is a world expert in island restoration and reptile conservation, having saved several species from extinction and is restoring native ecosystems on several Mauritian islands. Further conservation work routinely takes him also to other islands across the Indian ocean and the Caribbean. A particularly interesting aspect of his conservation work is the drive to rebuild stable communities, building up one trophic level after the others.

The island of Mauritius has suffered from extensive habitat degradation and species invasion since the 16th Century, resulting in multiple reptile extinctions and extirpations. Several endemic reptile species became restricted to single islet populations, threatened by the presence of introduced mammalian herbivores and predators. Between 1979 and 1998, introduced mammals were removed from the northern islets with the aim to prevent further reptile extinctions. These actions permitted the rebuilding of the reptile communities on the islets through species reintroductions to reduce future extinction risks. Only four small reptile species survived the presence of rats on the northern islet, Gunner’s Quoin (0.70 km2). Having been freed from invasive terrestrial predators and competitors, maintaining suitable habitat structure and closed to public access, Gunner’s Quoin was selected as a suitable recipient islet to rebuild its lost reptile community. 

The keel-scaled boa and Telfair’s skink were present on Gunner’s Quoin until rats invaded in the mid-1800s, but survived on the rat-free Round Island (2.19 km2). Smaller reptile species, such as the orange-tailed skink that became restricted to Flat Island (2.53 km2), were also once part of the wider reptile community on the northern islets. In this presentation, I will summarise the process of reintroducing the Telfair’s skink and keel-scaled boa, and the emergency translocation of orange-tailed skinks to Gunner’s Quoin, which prevented their extinction. Frequent monitoring of the reptile populations has shown the resident species have remained abundant and healthy, that the translocated skinks are established and the boa population size is increasing.


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

For the list of forthcoming seminars see here

Friday 4 October 2019

Wallace Coffee Talks - 8 October 2019

Wallace Coffee Talks - Autumn 2019 
8 October- 1pm - Zoology Museum

The assessment of artificial floating islands as a method of habitat creation in marine environments.
Eco-engineering and the installation of urban green infrastructure such as artificial floating islands (AFIs) are novel methods used to add complexity and support biodiversity on localised scales in terrestrial, freshwater and marine habitats. AFIs have primarily been used in freshwater ecosystems including reservoirs, ponds and river systems for water quality improvement and habitat creation. In order to assess the potential application of AFIs in marine environments, this comparative study focused on bird, fish and macroinvertebrate species interactions with three AFIs installed in Swansea Marina and Swansea Docks; sites that have both been heavily modified for commercial and recreational activities. The successful growth of five halophytes was also investigated both in a laboratory experiment and in the field. In addition to ecological monitoring of the islands, a social study was conducted to gain information on the public’s understanding of AFIs, aesthetic preferences and concerns about their installation in marine environments. By addressing gaps in current research on habitat creation using AFIs, this study aimed to support future projects that seek to mitigate the loss of coastal wetlands or provide an alternative habitat within inshore marine habitats such as marinas and docks.

Finding an optimal location for a seaweed farm using publicly available data: a case study in the Milford Haven waterway.
The Milford Haven Waterway is a natural harbour in Pembrokeshire wales. The waterway and the Daugleddau estuary it is connected to have a lot of potential for aquaculture activities such as a seaweed farm. However, the fluctuations in nutrients, salinity and various physical parameters (e.g. tides) make it a challenge to choose where to place these kinds of aquaculture facilities. By combining publicly available datasets with a growth model and some experimental results I am trying to find the optimal location for a seaweed farm. In this coffee talk I will discuss how I am approaching this problem and show some preliminary results.