Autumn seminars

Speakers for the Biosciences Seminar Series Autumn 2021
Venue: Online via Zoom
Time: 1pm

07 October

Speaker: Prof Richard Holland (University of Bangor, UK)
Title: Bird Navigation, olfaction or magnetism? That is still the question.

Migratory birds are able to correct for displacements from their normal migratory paths, sometimes even across continents. Their ability to navigate back to their breeding and winter grounds from places they have never previously been is a scientific puzzle that continues to rumble on, with the key debate over whether olfactory or magnetic cues are the answer. In this talk I will present my own attempt to solve this mystery, looking at the question with a number of different techniques, from global tracking to “virtual displacements” where the bird never leaves but thinks it has.

21 October
Speaker: Nathalie Kwok (Marine Conservation Society)
Title: The role of Blue Carbon in the fight against climate change

The latest Intergovernmental Panel on climate Change (IPCC) Report warns about faster global warming associated with irreversible effects on the Earth’s system in the next decades, urging governments to take action before the ability to limit warming to 1.5°C is out of reach. Blue Carbon (BC) is widely recognised as the carbon removed and stored by coastal and marine ecosystems, which could therefore significantly contribute to fight climate change by ensuring the necessary sustained reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. Despite worldwide acknowledgment of BC habitats’ key role in carbon sequestration and coastal protection, very few countries have taken steps to get BC included into climate change mitigation and adaptation policies as well as into their Nationally Determined Contributions to the Paris Climate Change Agreement. Uncertainties and data-gap in science remain the main barriers and further efforts are expected to be deployed in the UK to get BC habitats properly protected and restored.

4 November
Speaker: Dr Albert Phillimore 
(University of Edinburgh, UK)
Title: Phenological cues, processes and species interactions: insights from space-for-time approaches

Phenology, the timing of recurrent life history events, is often highly sensitive to environmental conditions and important for fitness, making it of interest to global change- and evolutionary-biologists alike. I will consider three questions that are key to predicting how populations will cope with a changing climate. 1) What environmental cues do different populations use to time their phenology? 2) What roles do plasticity and adaptation play in tracking shifts in optimum timing? 3) What implications do rising temperatures have for trophic mismatch? I will consider progress that we’ve made toward answering these questions using a combination of citizen science data and our own 44 site field study on phenology and trophic interactions in Scottish woodlands.

18 November
Speaker: Prof Gareth Griffith 
(Aberystwyth University, UK)
Title: Conservation of Grassland Fungi

Loss of semi-natural grasslands across Europe due to agricultural intensification has led to substantial decline in populations of grass macrofungi, notably those in the families Clavariaceae [fairy clubs], Hygrophoraceae [waxcaps], Entolomataceae, Geoglossaceae and the genus Dermoloma (together called CHEGD fungi), with several species now classified as VU in the IUCN global Red List. We have devised an eDNA metabarcoding approach that permits rapid assessment of fungal populations in grassland habitats and thereby recognition of habitats in most urgent need of legal protection. Our work on grassland fungi also involves taxonomic studies and exploration of their nutritional ecology and assessment of optimal management regimes for these habitats.

2 December
Speaker: Dr Adam Kane (University College Dublin, Ireland)
Title: Noisy Neighbours - The movement ecology of urban gulls


Human-wildlife conflict in urban environments highlights the intractable tension between our desire for a sheltered life and our commitment to animal conservation. The case of roof-nesting gulls epitomizes this tension in some of the most prosperous countries on Earth. This project sets out a plan to uncover information on the movement ecology of gulls in urban environments. By using the latest in GPS tracking technology in collaboration with BirdWatch Ireland and local councils, we will 1) reveal the hotspots of gull activity in Dublin city where there is an ongoing conflict between the birds and residents; 2) identify differences in movement ecology between urban-nesting birds and island nesting birds and 3) parametrise a spatial model which will reveal the potential of gulls to act as disease vectors/ water foulers in Dublin. All three components will produce data relevant to Irish conservation policy. Alongside, we will investigate the social side of the issue by analysing how the media portray urban gulls. We will use this information to develop an outreach campaign of our own that combats biased reporting, addresses public concerns and showcases our own research.

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