Tuesday 1 December 2020

Wallace Coffee Talks - 8th December 2020

Wallace Coffee Talks - Autumn 2020
1st December - 2pm - Online (Zoom)

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.

Rowan Durrant
Modelling a transmissible cancer epidemic 
Devil facial tumour disease (DFTD) is a transmissible cancer of Tasmanian devils. Despite only being first observed in 1996, DFTD has now spread over most of the island of Tasmania and has caused devil population sizes to decline by up to 90%. Models of disease can be useful tools for predicting disease trajectory and evaluate mitigation strategies, but currently most models of DFTD are restricted to the local spatial scale. We created an individual-based metapopulation model that allowed us to investigate what drives a regional outbreak, and to test out a potential DFTD management method. Our findings show that DFTD-devil coexistence lies in a fine balance of within-population mixing, disease transmission rates and long-distance dispersal, and that DFTD management attempts can have potentially adverse outcomes for devil populations.

Charlotte Christensen   
Quantifying grooming budgets in wild chacma baboons (Papio ursinus) using tri-axial accelerometers
Non-human primates spend a considerable part of their day grooming. These sociopositive interactions have been linked to both social benefits (increased tolerance, coalition support) and physiological benefits, e.g. lower physiological stress levels through modulation of hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal (HPA)-axis activity. Accurately quantifying the total time invested in grooming simultaneously for multiple individuals in a group, throughout day- and night-time is an impossible task for a human observer. For my PhD, I used tri-axial accelerometers (Daily Diaries) which recorded data continuously for 24 hours/day to obtain grooming budgets from chacma baboons (Papio ursinus). Using machine learning (random forest models), receiving and giving of grooming was identified with high accuracy (>79%) and recall (>78%). Whilst self-grooming has been identified from acceleration data in other species, this is the first-time social grooming (allogrooming) has been successfully identified and quantified for a primate species. Using absolute grooming budgets in combination with non-invasive hormone sampling, I aim to test hypotheses on the proximate mechanisms underpinning the link between sociality and HPA-axis activity. 

Friday 20 November 2020

Wallace Coffee Talks - 1st December 2020

 Wallace Coffee Talks - Autumn 2020

1st December - 12pm - Online (Zoom)

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.

Nathan Thomas
The basic biology and biotechnology applications of the photosynthetic flatworm Symsagittifera roscoffensis 
Symsagittifera roscoffensis or more commonly known as the mint source worm, is an Acoel in the phylum Xenacoelomorpha (previously Platyhelminthes). Symsagittifera roscoffensis gets its common name due to its vivid green colour, this colour is a result of symbiosis with the algae Tetraselmis Convoluta. Symbiosis means that all of the nutritional needs of these organisms are met by the photosynthetic activity of the algae. While S. roscoffensis are present at multiple locations within Europe, they only occur at one location within the UK. The scientific literature is sparse on key details that allow us to fully understand these organisms. My PhD focuses on understanding the basic biology, symbiotic interactions and behavioral aspects of these worms. Join me for this coffee talk where we will discuss the key research topics of my PhD and some preliminary data. 

Hywel Evans  
Fungal functional traits: their structure and role in ecological processes 
Fungi are critical components of terrestrial ecosystems. They recycle nutrients, create habitats, support plant communities, provide food for a wide variety of invertebrates and vertebrates and act as catalysts for Carbon and Nitrogen cycles. Fungi are ubiquitous in nature, but large parts of their life histories are unseen and difficult to quantify. The occasional fruiting body of some fungi alerts us to their presence, but the largest part of a fungus is the network of microscopic filaments called hyphae which it uses to burrow into its substrate. Advancements in molecular biology and high-throughput sequencing, has allowed us to study fungi in more detail, but due to their enormous diversity and often-large intra-specific variation, this still comes with its own set of challenges. Functional trait ecology can help us overcome some of these challenges. Functional trait ecology aims to examine characteristics, rather than individual species to help us better understand the fungal community. This approach is already prevalent in plant ecology, but for fungi it is still in its infancy. My research will consist of a meta-analysis of fungal functional traits, specifically looking at functional traits in the wood decomposing basidiomycetes, helping us to understand patterns in species assembly in wood decay communities and relationships between key traits. 

Monday 26 October 2020

Wallace Coffee Talks - 3rd November 2020

 Wallace Coffee Talks - Autumn 2020

3rd November- 12pm - Online (Zoom)

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.

Holly Stokes
Nesting ecology of sea turtles in the British Indian Ocean Territory (BIOT): Combining UAV and Biologging technology to estimate the population of foraging immature turtles at an important developmental site
Density and abundance estimates are key to understanding population dynamics and trends for use in conservation planning. Sea turtle population estimates can be challenging due to their elusive nature. Subsequently, current assessments are largely based on female adults using egg, nest, and track counts. The overarching aims of my PhD concentrate on data collection from nesting females and hatchlings, however, I was unable to conduct fieldwork due to COVID-19 this year. So, this first chapter concentrates on using available data to investigate immature foraging population estimates. There are several research gaps in our understanding of immature sea turtles, particularly critically endangered hawksbills in the Indian Ocean. We will explore how two techniques can be combined (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) and biologging tags) to estimate the immature foraging population of green and hawksbill turtles at an important developmental site in BIOT. In this talk, I will introduce my PhD objectives and in relation to the first chapter, discuss the methods used and preliminary results along with what I plan to do next. 

Sarah Weil
Life-history traits and long distance dispersal outcomes: the success of fast-paced chameleons 
A pressing challenge in ecology is establishing the mechanisms that underlie the distribution of life at a global scale. Why do some species have populations in many different geographical areas, while others are highly restricted in range? A key determinant is presumably a species’ ability to disperse over long distances to form populations away from its core range; and this ability likely varies between species according to their traits. In my PhD, I am using macroecological and macroevolutionary approaches to investigate how dispersal and life-history traits facilitate long-distance dispersal, tieing together patterns observed over evolutionary time, dispersal in the present, and future responses under climate change scenarios. In this talk, I focus on the first chapter of my PhD in which I analyse the role of life-history traits in the outcome of natural long-distance dispersals in the past. Using chameleons (Chamaeleonidae) as an example family, I test whether species with fast life-history traits have a higher probability of long-distance dispersal success. Employing trait-dependent biogeographic models, I find that in the past, fast chameleons, characterized by early sexual maturity, large clutches and short gestation time, were more successful long-distance dispersers than slow species. These results help us to better understand the role of life-history traits in global biogeography and the establishment of new populations.

Friday 2 October 2020

Wallace Coffee Talks - 6th October 2020

 Wallace Coffee Talks - Autumn 2020

6th October - 1pm - Online (Zoom)

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.

Jack Cooper
Functional diversity of sharks through time: past, present and future.
Sharks are ecological linchpins, having stabilised worldwide marine ecosystems for over 400 million years. Today, these ancient ocean predators are among the most threatened groups with over a quarter of species at risk of extinction. Traditionally, scientists have assessed the effects of extinctions on ecosystems by focusing on changes in species diversity. However, the ecology of species depends on their functional traits. The diversity of these traits (functional diversity) dictates how communities stabilise ecosystems and fill diverse niches. Such trait diversity can be recorded through time in the fossil record, providing valuable information on the ecological consequences of past extinctions. This talk will discuss why sharks and their teeth are ideal models for studying changes in functional diversity through deep time, and will lay out the key objectives of the upcoming PhD project to assess these changes in the past, present and future.

Here you can view Jack's talk:

Jordi Solà-Codina
Do interactions between spatial environmental patterns drive the structure and functioning of ecosystems?
The study of environmental effects on species communities has produced a range of applications for ecosystem-based management. These types of relationships consist on understanding the magnitude and directionality in the community or species responses to specific environmental changes - in the form of environmental gradients. Beyond the study of these gradients, the arrangement of environmental differences over space - spatial environmental heterogeneity - contributes to shape how organisms interact with their surroundings and with one another. My PhD focuses on understanding how these differences in spatial organization of environmental factors drive the composition of communities and the processes occurring within ecosystems. In this first chapter of the PhD, I am looking at the interactions of the two main and essentially different spatial arrangements of environmental drivers -environmental gradients vs. spatial environmental heterogeneity- and how these shape community structure and ecosystem functioning. To this end, I am using an in situ experimental design to test the effects of two contrasting levels of spatial environmental heterogeneity on community structure and ecosystem functioning along the intertidal environmental gradient of the rocky shore. Through image analysis, I quantify community structure parameters and the functioning associated with these communities. The outcome of this study aims to explain the combined effects of heterogeneity and gradients to provide a view on the importance of heterogeneity for a) abiotic and biotic stress reduction, b) the reduction in abundance of dominant species, c) increase in diversity and consequent putative increase in species interactions, and d) the disparate role that specific heterogeneity traits can have along environmental gradients. In addition, the results in this study will contribute to the discussion around the role of spatial environmental heterogeneity in driving the response of communities along environmental drivers and its potential importance for conservation.

Wednesday 23 September 2020

Biosciences Seminar Speaker 01 October 2020


Biosciences Seminar Series - Autumn 2020
01 October 2020 - 1pm - on Zoom

Living on the Edge - Salt marshes under global change

Dr Stefanie Nolte

Our Biosciences Seminar Series resumes for the 2020 autumn term with a talk by Dr. Stefanie Nolte, Lecturer in Marine Ecosystem Services at the Centre for Ocean and Atmospheric Sciences at the University of East Anglia (UK)Stefanie is an ecologist and her research focusses on coastal ecology, in particular on the effects of global change on biodiversity, ecosystem functions, and ecosystem services in coastal wetlands.

Salt marshes are coastal ecosystems, which form the transition zone between the terrestrial and marine environment. They are influenced by tides and therefore provide a valuable habitat for specialized plants and animals. Furthermore, they play an important role in climate change mitigation (carbon sequestration) and adaptation (coastal protection). Therefore, my research focusses on how this ecosystem, with its biodiversity, ecosystem processes and ecosystem services, is affected by anthropogenic effects and climate change. We studied how livestock grazing affects biodiversity, carbon cycling, and the ecosystems ability to withstand sea-level rise through sedimentation. Next to sea-level rise, increased storminess might be a threat to the ecosystem in the future. Therefore, we used a large-scale wave flume to investigate the effects of hydrodynamic forces on salt marsh plants and sediment surfaces. To study the effects of higher temperatures in a field experiment, open top chambers and electric heating cables are used to increase air and soil temperature, respectively. We can thereby assess effects of increased temperature on vegetation, soil fauna, greenhouse gas fluxes, decomposition, microbial communities, and ecosystem services such as carbon sequestration and coastal protection in salt marshes.


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

For the list of forthcoming seminars see here

Wednesday 11 March 2020

Wallace Coffee Talks - 17th March 2020

Wallace Coffee Talks - Spring 2020
17th March - 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.

Ellis Larcombe
Developing a cleaner fish sperm bank
Control of the parasitic salmon louse, Lepeophtheirus salmonis is perhaps the biggest issue in Atlantic salmon aquaculture. In recent years lumpfish, Cyclopterus lumpus, have been successfully used as cleaner fish to biologically control the costly salmon lice problem. However, production of lumpfish needs to upscale to reach the industry demand. The production cycle of lumpfish has not been fully closed and, therefore, relies on harvesting of sexually mature brood stock, and artificial insemination. This supply of broodstock is not always consistent, which can be problematic for production and harvested gametes can go to waste. Cryopreservation of the sperm can help solve these issues. This talk will present the current state of lumpfish sperm cryopreservation, along with my plans to optimise the methodology and make it more suitable for commercial lumpfish production. 

What is driving Swansea Bay? Learning from the past to prepare for the future   
Urbanised coastal environments like Swansea Bay have undergone dramatic change in the past centuries. There are two urban centres, Swansea and Port Talbot, the main wastewater outfall is located in the centre of the inner bay and shipping lanes are dredged to two docks and three rivers. A regularly dredged tidal harbour is located next to Port Talbot Steelworks. All dredge spoils are discarded at a disposal site in the outer Swansea Bay. The bay is designated a Heavily Modified Waterbody under the Water Framework Directive (WFD) because of coastal defence infrastructure dividing land and sea and in recent years it was proposed to build a tidal lagoon in Swansea Bay to convert the vast tidal range into electricity. Understanding vulnerabilities of coastal ecosystems facing anthropogenic use is precondition for management decisions and development planning. This can be challenging in areas with multiple activities affecting different faunal communities. In this talk I will discuss long and short-term ecological changes in Swansea Bay. What changed in the past centuries, what during the past decades? How do we assess these changes and what are the scientific challenges? What lessons can we learn for other urban area? And what does this mean for future research? The talk will give an overview of research carried out for a number of projects such as SEACAMS, KESS and Welsh Crucible, and will also highlight interdisciplinary work. 

Tuesday 3 March 2020

Biomath Colloquium 06/03/2020

BioMaths Colloquium Series - 2019/20

  06 March 2020 - 3pm Robert Recorde Room

(Computational Foundry, Bay Campus)

Modelling evolutionary adaptations of cancer cells to fluctuating oxygen levels

Ms Aleksandra Ardaseva

(Mathematical InstituteUniversity of Oxford) 

Our BioMaths Colloquium Series resumes for the winter term with a seminar by Aleksandra Ardaseva, from the Mathematical Institute at the University of Oxford.  Aleksandra is interested in understanding cancer evolution and identifying the processes that lead to incurable disease. In particular she is interested in the impact of temporal fluctuations in the tumoral microenvironment on its evolution.

A major challenge in malignant tumours is cell heterogeneity, which has been proposed to arise due to temporal variations in nutrient supply caused by highly irregular vasculature. Such variability requires cells to adapt to potentially lethal variations in environmental conditions. Risk spreading (“bet—hedging”) through spontaneous phenotypic variations is an evolutionary strategy that allows species to survive in temporally varying environments. Individuals within a species diversify their phenotypes ensuring that at least some of them can survive in the face of sudden environmental change. We aim to investigate whether cancer cells may adopt this strategy when dealing with rapidly changing levels of nutrient due to temporally -Varying blood flow.

Here, we present a system of nonlocal partial differential equations modelling the evolutionary dynamics of phenotype-structured cancer cell populations exposed to fluctuating oxygen levels. In this model, the phenotypic state of every cell is described by a continuous variable that provides a simple representation of its metabolic phenotype, ranging from fully oxidative to fully glycolytic. The cells are grouped into two competing populations that undergo hen'table, spontaneous, phenotypic variations at different rates. A combination of analysis and numerical simulations indicates that under certain conditions the cell-oxygen dynamics can lead to regions of chronic hypoxia (low oxygen level) and cycling hypoxia. Moreover, the model shows that under chronic—hypoxic conditions lower rates of phenotypic variation lead to a competitive advantage, whereas higher rates of phenotypic variation can confer a competitive advantage under cycling-hypoxic conditions. In the latter case, bet-hedging evolutionary strategies, whereby cells switch between oxidative and glycolytic phenotypes, can spontaneously emerge. These results shed light on the evolutionary processes that may underpin the emergence of phenotypic heterogeneity in vascularised tumours, and suggest potential therapeutic strategies.


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

Biosciences Seminar Speaker 05 March 2020

Biosciences Seminar Series - Winter 2020
05 March 2020 - 1pm - Zoology Museum

Unravelling the ecology of non-native species

Prof. Helen Roy

(Centre for Ecology and Hydrology at Wallingford, UK)

Harlequin ladybird (Harmonia axyridis). Photo by Ken Dolbear

Our Biosciences Seminar Series continues for the 2020 winter term with a talk by Professor Helen Roy from the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology at Wallingford (UK), and also a visiting Professor in the School of Biological Sciences at the University of ReadingHelen is an ecologist and in her research she is broadly interested in the effects of environmental change on insect populations and communities, with a particular focus on the dynamics of invasive non-native ('alien') species and their biodiversity and ecosystem-level effects and on which she is a leader at UK and EU levels. A further strong focus of her research is on Biological Recording and on science communication and citizen science. 

The recently released Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) Global Assessment’s message is stark: biodiversity – the diversity within species, between species, and of ecosystems – is declining faster than at any time in human history. Invasive non-native species introduced by humans into regions beyond their natural distribution, were identified as one of the five top direct causes of biodiversity loss. 

Biological invasions can threaten biodiversity and ecosystems, particularly through their interactions with other drivers of change such as climate warming. Species inventories are recognised as critical for the management of biological invasions, informing horizon scanning and surveillance, and underpinning prevention, control and elimination of invasive non-native species. There have been major developments in the availability of high quality data on invasive non-native species. Ensuring knowledge on invasive non-native species shared between countries, is essential to advance understanding and enable successful implementation of strategies to manage invasive non-native species. Here I provide an overview of the ways in which this information can be used to inform science, policy and ultimately conservation. I include insights into invasion ecology from broad patterns and processes to approaches in surveillance and monitoring, particularly involving citizens and highlighting the importance of collaborations including the forthcoming IPBES global thematic assessment on invasive non-native species. Networks established through these collaborative initiatives have benefits for people, science and nature.  


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

For the list of forthcoming seminars see here

Monday 24 February 2020

Biosciences Seminar Speaker 27 February 2020

Biosciences Seminar Series - Winter 2020
27 February 2020 - 1pm - Zoology Museum

The evolution of parental care diversity in Amphibians

Dr Isabella Capellini

Our Biosciences Seminar Series resumes for the 2020 winter term with a talk by Dr Isabella Capellini from the School of Biological Sciences at Queen’s University Belfast, UKIsabella is an evolutionary ecologist, interested in the evolution of reproductive strategies, biological invasions, the ecology and evolution of sleep, and in general eco-evolutionary life history studies,  taking a comparative approach.

Once evolved, parental care plays a key role in promoting social evolution, cooperation and conflict within the families, and alters the trajectory of life history evolution. Parental care is also extremely diverse across species, ranging from simple behaviour like attendance of the eggs to complex adaptation like food provisioning, lactation and viviparity. Most studies on parental care focus on one or few care forms, or reduce diversity to a simple presence/absence condition. Thus, we still do not know how diversity itself evolves, what the drivers of its evolution are, and whether all forms of care equally affect life history evolution. Amphibians offer the opportunity to address these questions being one of the most diverse taxon in reproductive, life history, and parental care strategies. By explicitly considering diversity and using phylogenetic comparative methods, we find support for some of the long standing hypotheses on the evolution of parental care, but also reveal a much more complex and unexpected picture on how and why care forms evolve, and what consequence different care forms have for the evolution of egg and clutch size.


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

For the list of forthcoming seminars see here

Friday 14 February 2020

Wallace Coffee Talks - 25th January 2020

Wallace Coffee Talks - Winter 2020
25th January - 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.

Carolina Gutierrez
Development and validation of an Operational Welfare Score Index (LOWSI) for farmed lumpfish Cyclopterus lumpus L.
Lumpfish (Cyclopterus lumpus L.) are widely used for sea lice control in commercial salmon farming, but their welfare is often challenged by poor husbandry, stress and disease outbreaks, compromising their ability to delouse salmon and causing public concern. For this reason, it is extremely important to identify when the welfare of the lumpfish is compromised in a practical and effective way, so corrective actions can be taken reducing stress-related mortalities and improving the sustainability of the industry. This talk will present the Lumpfish Operational Welfare Score Index (LOWSI) we have developed based on a Likert-scale assessment of skin and fin damage, eye condition, sucker deformities and relative weight. 

Alex Purdie 
Growing sea lice in the laboratory to support the aquaculture industry  
Sea lice, Lepeophtheirus salmonis, are an obligate ectoparasite of salmonids which costs the salmon farming industry millions of pounds every year. At low infection density (ca. 5-10 per fish) lice induce stress and form ulcers which can lead to secondary infections, at higher infection densities (ca. 100 per fish) lice can kill their host. Salmon cages stock fish at a high density, this provides the lice with a bountiful and easy to reach supply of hosts, causing lice populations to increase dramatically, often with hundreds of lice per fish. These epizootic episodes are costly for the farms and also increase infection rates in wild salmonid populations – this has been linked to the decline of some wild populations. New and improved sea lice controls are therefore required, and to develop these the industry needs a reliable supply of lice to test treatments on. However, the only way to culture lice is by using a live host salmonid, this leads to a high cost per louse and serious ethical issues. This talk will cover an MRes project which aims to culture sea lice in the laboratory without the use of a host. It will explore the key stages required to close the loop in this parasitic life cycle, notably by providing a reliable source of food for the lice which contains both nutrients to feed the lice and can induce the lice to attack it as if it were a salmon. If successful, the aquaculture industry will have a new reliable source of lice to use in the laboratory, which is both cheaper and more humane than the current system. 

Wednesday 5 February 2020

Biomath Colloquium 07/02/2020

BioMaths Colloquium Series - 2019/20


07 February 2020 - 3pm Zoology Museum

(Wallace Building, Singleton Campus)

Biomechanics and mechanobiology for bone tissue engineering in vitro

Dr Zhao Feihu

(College of EngineeringSwansea University) 

image by Zhao Feihu

Our BioMaths Colloquium Series resumes for the winter term with a seminar by Dr Zhao Feihu, from the Zienkiewicz Centre for Computational Engineering at Swansea University.  Zhao is a Lecturer in Biomedical Engineering and joined Swansea University in 2019, from the Eindhoven University of Technology. Zhao's research interest are in mechano-biology, using computational and experimental approaches, such as in silico bone tissue engineering, effects of stretching and mechanical stimulation on the development and characteristics of cells, etc.

Mechanical stimulation can regulate cellular activities in vivo, e.g. differentiation, proliferation and extracellular matrix (ECM) production. In vivo evidence has shown that higher bone mineral density can be achieved under mechanical stimulation (mechanical strain and/or fluid induced wall shear stress). If mechanobiological findings can be translated to bone tissue engineering in vitro, we may accelerate osteogenesis and enhance mineralised bone tissue formation, which for example can be used for drug testing to treat osteoporosis. Therefore, we aimed to explore this possibility by applying different mechanical stimulations to the cells (stem cells and bone cells) using different bioreactor techniques. Furthermore, to refine the in vitro bone tissue engineering experiments and reduce trial-and-error experiments, we used in silico (computational) approaches to find the optimal cellular mechanical stimulation for bone tissue engineering, and predicted how mineralised bone tissue grew within biomaterial scaffolds under different mechanical stimulations.  

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