Thursday 13 June 2019

Wallace Coffee Talks - 18 June 2019

Wallace Coffee Talks - Spring 2019 
18 June - 1pm - Zoology Museum

Ashleigh Harper (Swansea University, UK)
Wildfires: Relearning to live with them, a British perspective
Wildfire is an integral part of the Earth system and has been for over 350 million years. It is a natural process and vital to many of the world’s ecosystems for rejuvenating vegetation, initiating seed dispersal and germination, clearing ground debris and maintaining biodiversity. As a result of climate change and human activities wildfires have been introduced to historically non-fire-adapted ecosystems causing the ‘wildfire problem’ we are currently experiencing. What does this mean for Britain and how can we relearn to live with fire?

Baptiste Garde (Swansea University, UK)
How do landscape and weather affect flight costs?
Flight is one of the most energetically costly of bird activities, and the extent to which birds modulate their decisions to minimise their energy expenditure in flight remains an active area of research. The goal of my PhD is to understand how flight costs are affected by the environment, especially the interaction between weather and landscape, and how birds respond to these effects. Behavioural responses may range from birds selecting flight paths that do not vary with flow conditions (instead reflecting a response to other factors), to birds modulating their flight trajectories, speed and flight mode (flapping versus soaring) in order to reduce costs. 
During my first year, I worked on finding a method to quantify energy expenditure in free flight with the help of accelerometery. I am now trying to understand the parameters that influence speed selection and the extent to which this behaviour relates to energy saving. This has been tested widely for flying animals, because the “power curve” leads to specific predictions about the flight speeds that animals should adopt in different scenarios. Nonetheless, this model is designed for level flight and does not explain the high variability in flight speeds often observed in powered flight. I equipped homing pigeons (Columba livia) with 1 Hz GPSs to examine the extent to which flapping birds vary their flight speed in relation to their climb rate and the influence of environmental factors on their flight altitude.

Wednesday 12 June 2019

Biomath Colloquium 14/06/2019

BioMaths Colloquium Series - 2018/19

14 June 2019 - 3pm Zoology Museum

(Department of Biosciences, Singleton Park)

Shape effects on microscale swimmers

Prof Stuart Humphries

(School of Life SciencesUniversity of Lincoln)

Our BioMaths Colloquium Series continues for the spring term with a seminar by Prof Stuart Humphries, from the School of Life Sciences at the University of Lincoln.  Stuart is Professor of Evolutionary Biophysics and the founding director of the Lincoln Institute for Advanced Studies (LIAS) and his resarch focusses on comparative biomechanics, biophysics and biological fluid dynamics,

Microbes in general, and bacteria in particular, exhibit great diversity in their shapes. However, while morphology is routinely linked to performance in multicellular organisms, there are almost no similar studies in bacteria. Our lab has been exploring the functional aspects of bacterial shape and I will highlight some recent studies using microfluidic experiments,  numerical modelling, and comparative phylogenetic methods to explore the links between cell shape and motility. I will show that lengthening of individual cells has profound influences on both a range of motility parameters and swimming-driven chemotactic behaviours that have implications for the ecology of these organisms. Our numerical models of bacterial cell shape show that a wide range of motile species are Pareto optimal due a trade-off between construction cost, swimming efficiency, and chemotactic ability. I will also provide insight into the evolution of prokaryote morphology and reconstruction of the phenotype of the Last Universal Common Ancestor.

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

Saturday 1 June 2019

Biosciences Seminar Speaker 05 June 2019

Biosciences Seminar Series - Spring 2019
05 June 2019 - 3pm - Zoology Museum

Toward a Periodic Table of Niches, or Exploring the Lizard Niche Hypervolume

Prof Eric Pianka

Our Biosciences Seminar Series terminates for the 2019 spring term with a talk by Prof Eric Pianka from the University of Texas at Austin, USAEric is the Denton A. Cooley Centennial Professor of Zoology at UT Austins. He is an evolutiionary ecologist and a world authority on the ecology, biology and evolution of lizards. He has done the most comprehensive surveys of lizard assemblages carried out anywhere in the world, which forms the basis of major ecological work.

Widespread niche convergence suggests that species can be organized according to functional trait combinations to create a framework analogous to a periodic table. We compiled ecological data for lizards to examine patterns of global and regional niche diversification, and we used multivariate statistical approaches to develop the beginnings for a periodic table of niches. Data (50+ variables) for five major niche dimensions (habitat, diet, life history, metabolism, defense) were compiled for 134 species of lizards representing 24 of the 38 extant families. Principal coordinates analyses were performed on niche dimensional data sets, and species scores for the first three axes were used as input for a principal components analysis to ordinate species in continuous niche space and for a regression tree analysis to separate species into discrete niche categories. Three-dimensional models facilitate exploration of species positions in relation to major gradients within the niche hypervolume. The first gradient loads on body size, foraging mode, and clutch size. The second was influenced by metabolism and terrestrial versus arboreal microhabitat. The third was influenced by activity time, life history, and diet. Natural dichotomies are activity time, foraging mode, parity mode, and habitat. Regression tree analysis identified 103 cases of extreme niche conservatism within clades and 100 convergences between clades. Extending this approach to other taxa should lead to a wider understanding of niche evolution.


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

For the list of forthcoming seminars see here