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 monkeyworlds.com
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.