Talks

Archives

September 30

Who – Dr. Maureen A. Donnelly, Professor, Biological Sciences, Florida International University

When – 11.30 am, Monday

Where –  CES Seminar Hall

What – Amphibian Conservation in the New World Tropics: A Tragedy in Three Acts

Abstract

Amphibians are experiencing catastrophic declines globally, and declines in the New World tropics focused the world’s attention to the problem. Approximately two-thirds of all living species are at risk of extinction because of rapidly changing conditions in the globalized world. These ancient vertebrates are at the forefront of the “sixth extinction crisis” described by Wake and Vrendenberg. I will present information on declines in the New World tropics because they are home to many of the enigmatic declines that focus our attention on the stressors leading to decline and their interactions. I will also describe conservation efforts currently underway to try and reverse the threats affecting these diverse vertebrates that serve critical roles in their ecosystems.

September 18

Who – Dr. Debasis Sengupta, Center for Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences, Indian Institute of Science

When – 3 pm, Wednesday

Where –  CES Seminar Hall

What – Ocean Salinity

Abstract

The average salinity of ocean water is about 35 grammes per kilogramme, or 35 ppt. The density of seawater depends on both temperature and salinity, and modest salinity changes can have profound influence on weather and climate. We shall look at salinity and global ocean circulation, and examine the possibility that low surface salinity can intensify Bay of Bengal cyclones.

September 11

Who – Dr. V. V. Binoy, National Institute of Advances Sciences, Bangalore

When – 3 pm, Wednesday

Where –  CES Seminar Hall

What – Determinants of shoaling decision in climbing perch, a freshwater fish

Abstract

Living in groups bestow multiple benefits in reducing the predation risk and improved foraging and individuals of a majority of the piscine species spend some stages of their lives in groups. However, the shoal/school (any social aggregation of fish is referred as shoal but a “polarized and coordinated” shoal is called school) life is not free of cost; individual fish has to face the enhanced competition and risk of parasitic and pathogenic infection, when it becomes the part of a group. Studies shows that an individual fish reaches a decision to join one group over another or to leave a shoal based on the benefit obtained from it, and such decisions are influenced by multiple factors including socio-ecological context experienced by the subject. We explored the impact of body size, shoal size (number of individuals present in a shoal) and the presence of alien invasive heterospecifics (Oreochromis mossambicus) on the shoal choice behaviour of an air-breathing freshwater fish climbing perch (Anabas testudineus). The influence of acquired familiarity on the decision to join an individual or a shoal that belongs to its own species (conspecific) or another species (heterospecific) and trade-offs between the effects of familiarity with that of group size were also tested.

Our results indicate that shoaling behaviour of climbing perch is flexible and this species modifies its shoaling decisions in accordance with the nature of circumstances available. This fish exhibited species specific shoaling pattern and preferred to join larger shoal over the smaller one. Additionally, body size of the subject fish and members of stimulus shoal as well as the familiarity acquired with conspecifics and heterospecific shoal-mates were also found to be influencing the shoal choice in this species. However, utilization of the familiarity based individual recognition as a criterion to select a shoaling partner was restricted to the conspecifics. The results will be discussed in the light of ‘oddity effect’ and the impact of alien invasive fishes on the shoaling behaviour of native species.

August 21

Who – Dr. Sandeep Krishna, National Centre for Biological Sciences, Bangalore

When – 3 pm, Wednesday

Where –  CES Seminar Hall

What – Benefits of cooperation and communication in bacteria

Abstract

Individual bacteria excrete many common goods, such as exoenzymes, siderophores, biofilm products and virulence factors, which can benefit the functioning and growth of not only themselves but also other individuals in their surroundings. I’ll discuss how the functional form of this benefit affects the decision of whether to turn on or turn off production of the common good, and how communication between bacteria may then become crucial for making such decisions correctly.

August 6

Who – Sumit Dhole, PhD Candidate at Servedio Lab, Department of Biology, University of North Carolina

When – 11 am, Tuesday

Where –  CES Seminar Hall

What – Age, sperm competition and male reproductive investment

Abstract

My work addresses how males evolve to allocate their resources towards reproduction. I will present some of my empirical work on how male and female ages interact to influence male mating effort in Drosophila pseudoobscura, and some mathematical work on the evolution of male investment towards seminal proteins that influence sperm competitive success.

July 26

Who – Dr. Sally Thomson, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering University of California, Berkeley

When – 11 am, Friday

Where –  CES Seminar Hall

What – Linking climate change, rainfall patterns and pathogen risks.

Abstract

The role of biological shifts in amplifying or dampening future changes in climate is acknowledged as one of the major uncertainties affecting projections of global change. Linking small-scale biological processes to large scale predictions made by global climate models (GCMs) is a significant challenge that impedes progress in this area. In this talk I will discuss an exploration of climate sensitivity and models of plant-pathogen interactions associated with temperature change, sensitivity to water availability and the simultaneous changes in multiple climate drivers in three case studies — palm seedlings in the Amazon rainforest, Western Australian Eucalyptus forests and Californian woodlands. The approaches used support the development of a probabilistic modeling framework that draws on established ecohydrological theory and is readily up-scaled.

July 17

Who – Dr. V. V. Robin, National Centre for Biological Sciences and Nature Conservation Foundation

When – 3.00 pm, Wednesday

Where –  CES Seminar Hall

What – Bridges and Gaps across the Sky Islands of Western Ghats

Abstract

Patchiness in habitat can vary across space and can have differential impacts across time. I summarize a decade’s work done at different scales on the sky islands of the Western Ghats examining genetic, cultural and ecological variability in birds. I summarize some of the earlier findings of research on different populations of one bird species, the White bellied Shortwing and present newer work that explores similar patterns across all bird species in the Shola sky islands. I will also summarize demographic and genetic impacts of habitat patchiness, from the smaller shola-patch level to the entire range of the Shortwing. Finally I will dwell on bird song variation in this landscape by summarizing some ongoing research that integrates technology by using automated recorders and building species identification algorithms to study song at a larger landscape scale.

Website: http://www.skyisland.in

July 10

Who – Dr. Shomita Mukherjee, Salim Ali Centre for Ornithology and Natural History

When – 3.00 pm, Wednesday

Where –  CES Seminar Hall

What – Are all cats gray in the dark? Explored through coats, quotes, tails and tales.

Abstract

India has the richest assemblage of cats in the world and yet most species within the family are poorly understood. On the other hand the domestic cat has drawn considerable attention from humans and figures prominently in folk lore, literature and entertainment. As T.S. Eliot says, “A CAT’S A CAT”, and research has shown that modern cats (including the house cat) have diverged rapidly and relatively recently, with very similar body plans, behaviour and physiologies, all geared towards an extreme specialisation in carnivory. Until recently studying wild cats was a challenge due to their cryptic habits and rarity. Molecular tools have changed the course of ecology and today rare and cryptic species can be studied to address academic as well as conservation issues together. I will present a compilation of work I have conducted on some small cats with a backdrop of popular quotes related to cats.

The aim of my work is to evaluate spatial distributions and morphology and relate these to genetic patterns that can ultimately inform conservation policies. The cats I have addressed are the jungle cat, leopard cat and fishing cat and I have studied them through mitochondrial DNA markers and non-invasive sampling. My research shows that they have differing levels of within-species variation in morphologies and genetic pattern. The jungle cat has high genetic variation and low structure as suggested by their wide distribution within India. The leopard cat, contrary to its known distribution and coat patterns within India shows high genetic structure and is split into the Western-Ghats population and Himalayan/East-India population. On the other hand the fishing cat that is thought to be patchily distributed in India shows genetic continuity. Global genetic patterns show no structure in jungle cat but deep structure in fishing cats and leopard cats. Additionally I will discuss the importance of these findings and non-invasive molecular techniques in future research on cats.

June 19

Who – Dr. Dhanashree Paranjpe, Postdoctoral research associate, Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of California, Santa Cruz, USA

When – 4.00 pm, Wednesday

Where –  CES Seminar Hall, 3rd Floor, Biological Sciences Building

What – A double whammy: Effects of changing temperatures and parasites on a lizard population

Abstract

Life history and behavioral repertoire of lizards are intimately tied to thermal aspects of their environment. Increasing temperatures due to climate change, therefore, can greatly influence populations of these ectotherms. To predict the short and long-term response(s) of a side-blotched lizard (Uta stansburiana) population to temperature changes, I estimated phenotypic variation in preferred body temperature (Tp). Various factors that contribute to the phenotypic variation in Tp were explored. In addition, additive genetic variation available in the population with respect to Tp was estimated using controlled laboratory breeding experiment. Results show very little heritability for Tp, while maternal effects play an important role in determining temperature preference in the next generation. The implications of these results for short and long-term responses of the population will be discussed. In second part of the talk, I will discuss effects of blood parasites on the lizard host. Finally, I will give blueprint of my future research plans related to animal communication and sexual selection in Indian Peafowl Pavo cristatus.

May 31

Who – Mr. John D. Liu

When – 3.00 pm, Friday

Where –  CES Seminar Hall, 3rd Floor, Biological Sciences Building

What – Finding Sustainability in Ecosystem Restoration

Abstract

For the past 15 years, Mr. Liu has concentrated on ecological film making and has written, produced and directed films on grasslands, deserts, wetlands, oceans, rivers, urban development, atmosphere, forests, endangered animals and other topics primarily for Earth Report and Life Series on the BBC World. In 2003, Mr. Liu wrote, produced and directed “Jane Goodall – China Diary” for National Geographic.

Since 1997, Mr. Liu has directed the Environmental Education Media Project (EEMP). Mr. Liu was also the driving force in the creation and development of the “China Environment and Sustainable Development Reference and Research Center” (CESDRRC), the China HIV/AIDS Information Network (CHAIN) and the Environmental Education Media Project (Mongolia). Mr. Liu is a foreign expert at the International Cultural Exchange Audio/Visual Publishing House, the Rothamsted International Fellow for the Communication of Science at the Rothamsted Research Institute, a member of the Steering Committee of the Global Forum on Media for Development, associate professor at George Mason University’s Center for Climate and Society and Senior Research Fellow, IUCN. (write up from: www.eempc.org/john-d-liu/)

May 15

Who – Dr. Madhusudan Katti, Dept. of Biology, California State University, Fresno

When – 3.00 pm, Wednesday

Where –  CES Seminar Hall, 3rd Floor, Biological Sciences Building

What – Life in the concrete jungle: global patterns & local processes in urban biodiversity

Abstract

With over half of humanity now living in cities, urban ecosystems, now recognized as dynamic social-ecological systems, increasingly dominate terrestrial regions of the Earth. Although most ecologists grow up in cities, urban ecology remains a relatively new discipline, particularly in India, and our understanding of evolutionary ecological processes in these novel ecosystems is still very limited. Here I will present results from one of the first global scale analyses of plant and bird diversity in urban areas to uncover patterns in distribution of biodiversity, and address some of the local scale social-ecological processes underlying these emerging patterns.

15.05.2013, Madhusudhan Katti, Talk

May 8

Who – Dr. Kaberi Kar Gupta, Dept. of Biology, California State University

When – 3.00 pm, Wednesday

Where –  CES Seminar Hall, 3rd Floor, Biological Sciences Building

What – Which is the better green space? A comparison of biodiversity in traditional grass lawns and water-wise gardens in a semi-desert urban landscape

Abstract

Landscaping and irrigation in urban residential area is influenced by local environmental conditions, the homeowners’ cultural preferences, socioeconomics, and city policies. Since land use is a key factor in determining habitat for other species, overall urban biodiversity is strongly driven by the outcome of interactions between these variables, but these interactions remain poorly understood. This project focuses on the significance of water in landscape pattern and biodiversity in the Fresno Clovis Metropolitan Area in Central California. The objectives of this project are to understand 1) individual homeowner decision making about landscaping, 2) distribution of landscape structure and pattern in the city and, 3) compare and contrast the plant, bird and arthropod diversity in different residential landscapes. Preliminary analysis suggests most homeowners prefer traditional grass lawns than low water yard. The latter type supporting higher biodiversity was preferred by homeowners concerned with wildlife, climate change and water conservation in Central California.

08.05.2013, Kaberi Kar Gupta, Talk

May 1BS Library Home page

Who – Mr. Yashwant G. Kanade, Biological Sciences Library in charge

When – 3.00 pm, Wednesday

Where –  CES Seminar Hall, 3rd Floor, Biological Sciences Building

What – Facilities at Biological Sciences Library

Abstract

The library aims to develop a comprehensive collection of documents and build a biological information system. One of the basic components of such an information service facility which keeps track of the latest scientific advances in the field of Biological Diversity and brings it to the attention of decision-makers, specialized technological personnel, field implementers, recipient agencies, etc.

Challenges: Integrating with all the departments of Biological Sciences with new emerging technologies, digital information, Institutional repositories, National consortia, D-Space, Federated search, Science Direct. and ETD.

Services: Borrow, renewal, reservation and recall, CAS, recent additions, SDI, Reprographic service, ILL, DDS, Referral service, Display of announcement, Recommendations of documents, Internet Bibliographic search systems at the Web site using E-Granthalaya a library software from NIC.

April 9Photo by Alex Wild (from hiddencause.wordpress.com)

Who – Dr. Ruchira Sen, Department of Entomology, Purdue University

When – 11.00 am, Tuesday

Where –  CES Seminar Hall, 3rd Floor, Biological Sciences Building

What – The dynamics of symbiont mediated crop protection by attine ants

Abstract

In many host-microbe mutualisms, hosts use beneficial metabolites supplied by microbial symbionts. Fungus-growing (attine) ants are thought to form such a mutualism with Pseudonocardia bacteria to derive antibiotics that specifically suppress the coevolving pathogen Escovopsis, which infects the ants’ fungal gardens and reduces growth. We tested 4 key assumptions of this PseudonocardiaEscovopsis coevolution model. Culture-dependent and culture-independent (tag-encoded 454-pyrosequencing) surveys reveal that several Pseudonocardia species and occasionally Amycolatopsis (a close relative of Pseudonocardia) co-occur on workers from a single nest, contradicting the assumption of a single pseudonocardiaceous strain per nest. Pseudonocardia can occur on males, suggesting that Pseudonocardia could also be horizontally transmitted during mating. Pseudonocardia and Amycolatopsis secretions kill or strongly suppress ant-cultivated fungi, contradicting the previous finding of a growth-enhancing effect of Pseudonocardia on the cultivars. Attine ants therefore may harm their own cultivar if they apply pseudonocardiaceous secretions to actively growing gardens. Pseudonocardia and Amycolatopsis isolates also show nonspecific antifungal activities against saprotrophic, endophytic, entomopathogenic, and garden-pathogenic fungi, contrary to the original report of specific antibiosis against Escovopsis alone.

We concluded that attine-associated pseudonocardiaceous bacteria do not exhibit derived antibiotic properties to specifically suppress Escovopsis. We evaluated the hypotheses on nonadaptive and adaptive functions of attine integumental bacteria, and develop an alternate conceptual framework to replace the prevailing PseudonocardiaEscovopsis coevolution model. If association with Pseudonocardia is adaptive to attine ants, alternate roles of such microbes could include the protection of ants or sanitation of the nest.

April 10Image from www.microbewiki.kenyon.edu

Who – Dr. Rhitoban Ray Choudhury, Department of Entomology, Purdue University

When – 4.00 pm, Wednesday

Where –  CES Seminar Hall, 3rd Floor, Biological Sciences Building

What – Evolutionary Consequences of Wolbachia Infection in the Wasp Nasonia

Abstract

Wolbachia is one of the most widespread endosymbionts in Arthropods. It produces various reproductive alterations in its hosts in order to maximize its own transmission through females in a host population. Thus, the evolutionary history of the host is inextricably linked with its Wolbachia infections. In this presentation I elaborate the various ways that Wolbachia have invaded the four species of the wasp Nasonia. Consequently, this invasion has influenced the evolutionary history of the host. I emphasize some of these major effects in each species of Nasonia.

March 26Screen Shot 2013-03-25 at 11.44.01 AM

Who – Dr. Bert Hölldobler, Foundation Professor of Life Sciences, Arizona State University

When – 11.00 am, Tuesday

Where –  Ground Floor Auditorium, Biological Sciences Building

What – Mechanisms and Evolution of the Regulation of Reproduction in Ant Societies

Abstract

One of the hallmarks of eusocial insect societies is the distinct division of labour in reproduction. Only one or a few individuals reproduce (queens), whereas hundreds or thousands of nest mates remain sterile and engage as workers in activities that benefit the reproductive potency of the queen. In many hymenopteran societies (ants, bees and wasps), the workers possess the potential to produce viable eggs; however, in most cases, in the presence of a queen, they refrain from doing so. In honey bees, the regulatory mechanisms underlying reproductive division of labour are well understood. Only recently have we made considerable progress in the analysis of such regulatory mechanisms in ant societies.

Screen Shot 2013-03-25 at 1.34.01 PM

March 14Image from coralcoe.org.au

Who – Dr. Bob Pressey, James Cook University

When – 4.00 pm, Thursday

Where – CES Seminar Hall, 3rd floor, Biosciences Building

What – Conservation planning in a changing world, full of people

Abstract

Conservation planning is inherently spatial. The science behind it has solved important spatial problems and increasingly influenced practice. To be effective, however, conservation planning must deal better with two types of change. First, biodiversity is not static in time or space but generated and maintained by natural processes. Second, humans are altering the planet in diverse ways at ever faster rates. As the science and practice of planning is refined to address these kinds of changes, a more important challenge awaits: bridging the gap between regional conservation designs and local conservation actions. The challenges of implementing the best-laid plans to promote human wellbeing as well as biodiversity conservation are considerable. India has made huge strides in addressing this problem, and I am visiting India to establish collaborations that will hopefully improve the links between designs and actions.

March 6

Who – Dr. Narendra Dixit, Department of Chemical Engineering, IISc

When – 4.00 pm, Wednesday

Where – CES Seminar Hall, 3rd floor, Biosciences Building

What – ‘Theoretical Population Genetics of HIV Within an Infected Individual’

Abstract

Following infection, the HIV population in an individual expands and evolves rapidly, resulting in a large and diverse collection of related viral genomes. This collection underlies the adaptability of the virus in the face of strong immune responses and pressure from drug therapy, posing a challenge to vaccine and drug design. Ideas from population genetics have served to quantify the relative strengths of the evolutionary forces driving the genomic diversification of HIV and identify its vulnerabilities. In this talk, I shall present some recent applications of the principles of theoretical population genetics to within-host HIV evolution and the resulting insights into virus-host interactions and strategies of intervention.

February 13paragana

Who – Dr. Y. B. Srinivasa, Institute of Wood Science and Technology

When – 4.00 pm, Wednesday

Where – CES Seminar Hall, 3rd floor, Biosciences Building

What – ‘Paragana eases research’

Abstract

Paragana is an ICT application that works alongside a researcher, from collection to presentation of data, particularly helping those involved in experimental work. It is built on a platform that can be customized to suit any research project. It simplifies every form of data collection, including multimedia, by multitude of people in the field or in the lab, spread across the face of Earth. Collection of data is enabled over a portable handheld device, which transmits them to the cloud using any telecommunication network. Such data are organized and made available to designated users in real time, wherever they are. Data, including spatial coordinates, are presentable over multiple slices and dices to know real time trends. Data can be viewed in the form of automatically updated graphs and tables. It allows archival and retrieval of data to obtain temporal trends. Further, it enables interpretation through GIS. For example, if Dr. X’s team is to collect data on the status of people and ecology of the region surrounding a certain megaproject area in the Western Ghats, they just need to carry a portable device with them. Dr. X, sitting in the office, will be able monitor real time data and trends. Not just that, Dr. X can view images of the region, listen to what people have to say and track the origin of data. If Dr. X wishes, his/her collaborator in London, or the funding agency in Australia, can simultaneously access the same!

January 23

Who – Dr. Banugopan Kesavaraju, University of Utah

Distribution of Aedes albopictus in the United States, by County, 2000
Map from cdc.gov

When – 4.00 pm, Wednesday

Where – CES Seminar Hall, 3rd floor, Biosciences Building

What – The role of behaviour, predation and competition in a biological invasion

Abstract

Among the subdisciplines within evolutionary ecology, invasion biology is increasingly perceived as vital for conservation since invasion by exotic species is increasing at an unprecedented rate and they can have enormous economic and ecological impacts. Although there are many examples of impacts of invasion by exotic species, knowledge of the factors involved in facilitation or prevention of invasion by an organism is limited. Mosquitoes are vectors for many diseases and cause more human deaths than any other animal. Mosquitoes are also excellent model organisms to understand ecological concepts especially invasive biology. Utilizing mosquitoes as model organisms also provides valuable information on the epidemiology of many deadly diseases that could help in the prevention of outbreaks. The Asian tiger mosquito (Aedes albopictus) is native to south east Asian countries including India but was introduced in to United States of America. Since their introduction they have invaded many states causing local extinctions and nuisance across the country. The presentation will be a summary of research conducted to understand the importance of behaviour, predation and competition in the invasion by Aedes albopictus.

December 14

Who – Dr. Anita Malhotra, School of Biological Sciences, Bangor University, UK

When – 4.00 pm, Friday

Where – CES Seminar Hall, 3rd floor, Biosciences Building

What – Snake venom: a natural experiment in protein engineering

Abstract

Snake venom is a complex cocktail of bioactive substances with very specific effects on their prey, and often also on other non-prey animals like ourselves. Snakebite is classed by the WHO as one of the world’s biggest and most neglected killers and a recent study in India highlighted this country as the global hotspot for snakebite deaths. The specificity of antivenoms for the venom of a particular species, or closely related group of species, is well known and underlines the need for cross-talk between taxonomists and toxinologists. I will briefly describe systematic studies of medically important species by our group in the last 20 years that are relevant to the South Asian context include the Asian Cobras Naja, Russell’s viper Daboia russelii, saw-scaled vipers (Echis), and the Asian lancehead pitvipers (formerly Trimeresurus). However, these studies also make clear that not all the clinically observed variation in symptoms of envenomation within species can be adequately explained by systematics. This may for several reasons: a) the studies have not yet been conducted at the appropriately detailed scale; b) random fixation of venom alleles due to population history (eg Daboia); c) adaptation to locally varying prey types (eg Calloselasma, Echis). Another reason for increasing interest in venom is the search for new drugs: some reptile-derived drugs are already on the market to treat diverse conditions such as diabetes and wrinkles! Current approaches to exploring the “venome” are based on exhaustive high-throughput screening, but with the number of venomous animals running into many tens of thousands, this could take a long time and require a lot of investment. In this talk, I will discuss the idea that the evolutionary history of toxins can be used to direct selection of potentially interesting groups of toxins. I illustrate this with reference to a study of over 100 new full-length gene sequences encoding Phospholipase A2 toxins, obtained from 20 Asian pitviper species, in combination with a well-resolved, independently derived multi-locus phylogenetic tree for Crotalinae. This study infers high rates of gene turnover and a strong signal of lineage-specific and site-specific selection (both positive and purifying) in protein-coding regions. In contrast to previous analyses of this toxin family in vipers, we find that duplication events are concentrated at the tips of the tree, suggesting that major functions such as myotoxicity and presynaptic neurotoxicity have been evolved convergently multiple times in the evolutionary history of vipers, and can identify groups of toxins with similar functions that may be acting through different pathways, allowing targeted investigation of particular functions of interest.

November 28

nationalgeographic.com

Who – Dr. Barry Noon, Colorado State University

When – 4.00 pm, Wednesday

Where – CES Seminar Hall, 3rd floor, Biosciences Building

What – Searching for Rare and Elusive Species: A Case Study of the Ivory-Billed Woodpecker in the United States

November 21

Who – Dr. Laura Mahrt , Eastern Oregon University

When – 4.00 pm, Wednesday

Where – CES Seminar Hall, 3rd floor, Biosciences Building

What – If you build it, they will come: Oviposition of Columbia Spotted Frogs in Man-Made Ponds in Eastern Oregon

Abstract

Columbia Spotted frogs (Rana luteiventris) were once abundant throughout Oregon. They now appear to be virtually eliminated from many areas. Major factors contributing to their loss include: modification to their habitat and introduction of non-native aquatic species. Columbia Spotted frogs prefer cold quiet waters in which to lay their eggs and to forage. McCoy creek, an upper tributary of the Grande Rounde River (located in Northeast Oregon) was canalized approximately 25 years ago. Farm crops were planted and cattle were grazed there until 1995. Beginning the summer of 1999, McCoy creek has been under active restoration. Between 1999-2000 work was preformed to restore the creek to its original path. The old channel was dammed and a series of “swimming pool” shaped ponds were established. During the summer of 2002, these ponds were reshaped. Starting in the 2003 spring breeding season, frogs began exploiting these ponds. Of the 12 ponds created, frogs deposited eggs in 9. Before this time, no oviposition occurred in the “swimming pool” shaped ponds. The only pond that was utilized by the frogs prior to the reshaping was one small Oxbow pond. Since 1999, the number of egg masses has increased from 5 egg masses to 173 egg masses.

October 29http://news.sfsu.edu/

Who – Dr. Laurent Keller, Department of Ecology and Evolution, University of Lausanne

When – 4.00 pm, Monday

Where – CES Seminar Hall, 3rd floor, Biosciences Building

What – Evolution of social organisation and altruism in ants and cooperative robots

Abstract

I will present data showing that social organisation in fire ants is under the control of a social chromosome having many of the properties of sex chromosomes.

October 8

Who – Dr. Wendy C. Turner, US National Science Foundation Postdoctoral Fellow, University of Oslo, Norway

When – 11.00 am, Monday

Where – CES Seminar Hall, 3rd floor, Biosciences Building

What – Anthrax transmission in grazing wildlife of Etosha National Park, Namibia

Abstract

Many mysteries remain in our understanding of how herbivores acquire Bacillus anthracis, the bacterium causing anthrax infections. Transmission of B. anthracis between hosts involves passage through the external environment, and herbivores are thought to be exposed via ingestion of B. anthracis spores. Changes in environmental conditions correlate with increases in disease incidence, but the mechanistic relationships among climatic factors, host exposure and susceptibility, and disease transmission remain largely unknown. My research focuses on foraging ecology and plains zebra (Equus quagga) anthrax carcass sites, to assess carcass nutrient effects on vegetation, factors affecting the persistence of B. anthracis, and how herbivores utilize these infectious sites over time.

October 10

Who – Dr. Axel Brockmann, National Centre for Biological Sciences, Bangalore

When – 4.00 pm, Wednesday

Where – CES Seminar Hall, 3rd floor, Biosciences Building

What – Honey bee dance language – a neurobiological perspective

Abstract

Honey bee dance language is one of the most elaborated and fascinating insect behaviors. In the last years, we have started to study the neural and molecular mechanisms underlying dance language communication using anatomical, genomic, and peptidomic, strategies. We proposed the hypothesis that the capability to communicate spatial information is an elaboration of sun compass navigation; and the brain neuropils involved in sun compass orientation are highly likely involved in dance behavior.

However, a major challenge is that we still do not know how the dance recruits perceive the dance information; a gap in our knowledge that has been used to question dance language communication. In my talk, I will present a review of the major behavioral findings, our approaches to study the neural and molecular underpinnings of dance behavior, and provide some new ideas on the evolution of dance behavior. The aim is to summarize the current state of honey bee dance research and formulate future research questions.

September 20

Who – Dr. Toby Marthews, Environmental Change Institute, University of Oxford

When – 4.00 pm, Thursday

Where – CES Seminar Hall, Biosciences Building

What – Tropical Forest Carbon Monitoring Plots: What’s happening in Peru (ABERG) and Malaysia (SAFE) and the ECOSINDIA.

Abstract

Tropical forests play a significant role in the global carbon cycle through the fixation, respiration and cycling of carbon. Along with savannas they account for over 60% of global terrestrial photosynthesis so their importance to the climate change debate is obvious and increasingly recognised. Only about a third of carbon fixed in photosynthesis ends up as aboveground biomass production with the rest being released mostly through respiration. At Oxford we have been pioneering protocols for measuring all ecosystem components of the carbon cycle in order to better understand these tropical carbon fluxes and how they might change in the future. With the recent advent of new and more accurate CO2 flux measurement technology, we have for the first time the ability to standardise these carbon measurements across multiple sites across wide tropical regions. In this talk I present a quick summary of ongoing research coordinated by Oxford University in carbon monitoring plots in Southern Peru and the SAFE Project in Malaysian Borneo. I include photos of how we do the monitoring and the protocols we follow. Finally, how does the new ECOSINDIA project fit in with current research work here at the CES?

About the speaker

I’m a plant ecologist and environmental modeller. I finished my PhD in seed dispersal ecology and forest gap dynamics in 2007 at the University of Aberdeen, UK, with fieldwork in the Barro Colorado Island CTFS plot in Panama. After that I worked at the University of Zurich and the LSCE in Paris on various FORTRAN-based and R-based modelling projects. For the last three years I have been a postdoc for Prof. Malhi and Dr Dadson at the Environmental Change Institute in the University of Oxford and heavily involved with the RAINFOR and RAINFOR-GEM worldwide networks of tropical carbon monitoring plots.

August 8

Who – Dr. Karel Mokany, CSIRO Ecosystem Sciences

When – 4.00 pm, Wednesday

Where – Biological Sciences Auditorium (Ground Floor), New Biological Sciences Building

What – Conserving biodiversity under climate change: a new macroecological approach

Abstract

Reliable projections of climate-change impacts are vital in formulating conservation and management strategies that best retain biodiversity into the future. While recent modelling has focussed largely on individual species, macroecology has the potential to add significant value to these efforts, by incorporating important community-level constraints and processes. This seminar will demonstrate how a new macroecological modelling approach can project outcomes collectively for all species over large regions, even for highly diverse and poorly studied taxonomic groups. Examples from Australia and New Zealand will be used to show how this new modeling approach can incorporate the key processes of dispersal and community assembly in projecting change in biodiversity over space and time. It will also be shown how this new approach can identify configurations of habitat that may best retain biodiversity under climate change.

August 7

Who – Dr. Alice Hughes, Songkla University, Thailand

When – 10.00 am, Tuesday

Where – Biological Sciences Auditorium (Ground Floor), New Biological Sciences Building

What – Past, present and future, projecting changing Southeast Asian vertebrate biodiversity patterns over time

Abstract

Tropical-Asia has some of the highest biodiversity and endemicity on the planet, but its’ biodiversity is also some of the most threatened.

In this study species distribution-modelling is used to project the effects of environmental change on biodiversity patterns, and explore biogeography. Altogether around 2500 vertebrate species are modelled, in four separate sets of analyses. Species distributions are modelled from 130KYA to 2100, and combined with other techniques to generate new insights into ecology and biogeography.

From Pakistan to the west, to the Philippines in the East, species distributions are modelled and the potential effect of climatic-change on biodiversity (Using the IPCC Scenarios A1B, and B1A, at 2050 and 2080) assessed. In Mainland tropical-Asia vegetation-change is also incorporated in models, and the effect of climatic-change using four main IPCC 2100 scenarios assessed. Using these projections with other techniques we assess vulnerability to climate change, and develop research and conservation priorities.

August 1

Who – Dr. James H. Hunt, Department of Entomology, North Carolina State University

When – 4.00 pm, Wednesday

Where – MRDG Seminar Hall (First Floor), New Biological Sciences Building

What – The ‘hows’ and ‘whys’ of Social Insect Evolution

Abstract

Evolutionary biology has been famously (or infamously) noted for periodic explosions of controversy, sometimes including vicious ad personam attacks. We currently are in the midst of such an explosion in which the prevailing paradigm of social evolution via kin selection has been challenged as uninformative and unnecessary. Roots of the controversy can be traced to the inclusive fitness concept put forward by W. D. Hamilton, and context of the controversy can be traced to the proximate/ultimate dichotomy of Niko Tinbergen and Ernst Mayr. The wasp family Vespidae has long been a major focus of research and thinking on social evolution, and a recent synthesis of natural history and empirical research on vespid wasps has led to a conceptual model in which it is proposed that inclusive fitness indeed plays no role in the origin of worker behaviour, which is the threshold of sociality. The model rests not only on the biology of Vespidae but also on emerging concepts of evolution in which it is proposed that phenotypic change precedes genotypic evolution and that the evolution of vespid sociality rests more strongly on a foundation of behaviour and development than of genetic change.

July 27

Who – Christophe LasseurEuropean Space Agency, Noordwijk, The Netherlands

When – 3.30 pm, Friday

Where – Biological Sciences Auditorium (Ground Floor), New Biological Sciences Building

What – Functional Ecology for long term Manned Space missions

Abstract

Whether on earth or in outer space, the conditions required for a human being to survive are alike: a suitable environment and the supply of consumables such as water, food and air. For long-term crewed missions (Moon base or Mars mission), the supply of consumables by regular cargos. i.e. open loop, is no longer an option due to cost and logistics issues. Therefore, sustainable solutions envisaged today are targeting the implementation of closed loop regenerative systems.

To this purpose, ESA has conceived the Micro-Ecological Life Support System Alternative (MELiSSA), which is inspired by a terrestrial ecosystem and using micro-organisms and higher plants based technologies, among others, to process the organic wastes generated by the human being into valuable consumables such as oxygen, water and food. The use of such human life sustaining system during space mission requires however a high level of control. This high level of control relies on the development of first principle mathematical models, based on mass and energy balances principles, which can only be reached through a system engineering approach.

Such an approach has been successfully used to study, characterise, understand, model, design and finally control some MELiSSA processes independently. Consequently a preliminary closed loop system is currently in integration phase for ground demonstration.

This presentation reviews the key requirements of the project, lists the main challenges, presents some results and roadmap for future developments.

July 25

Who – Dr. James H. Hunt, Department of Entomology, North Carolina State University

When – 4.00 pm, Wednesday

Where – Biological Sciences Auditorium (Ground Floor), New Biological Sciences Building

What – Ask the Wasps: Empirical Contributions Towards Understanding Social Insect Evolution

Abstract

The wasp family Vespidae offers an ideal framework to study and learn the evolution of insect sociality. The primitively social wasp genus Polistes has a life history pattern in the temperate zone that shows how morphology, ecology, development, and physiology are integrated components of their social life. A series of studies yielded individual pieces in the puzzle of Polistes sociality that, when put together, yield a clear picture of how their sociality evolved. An empirical understanding of Polistes social evolution is the gateway to understanding social evolution in Vespidae as a whole.

July 12

Who – Dr. Samrat Chatterjee, Immunology group, International Centre of Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology

When – 11.00 am, Thursday

Where – Biological Sciences Auditorium (Ground Floor), New Biological Sciences Building

What – Role of predator as a crucial positive regulator of the ecosystem

Abstract

Predator species greatly impact their environments, whether in an urban park or large wilderness complex. They have profound positive effects in their ecosystems because they send ripples throughout the food web, regulating the effects other factors have on the populations and thus helps in maintaining biodiversity. In this presentation three different problems are discussed where the positive role of predator were studied. It begins with a nutrient-plant–herbivore model to observe the role of predator in maintaining plant growth especially in the present of nutrient enrichment. Then the role of predator was studied in controlling disease carried by migratory birds. The results showed that predators could be used to make the system disease free. The presentation ends with a model for agro-ecosystem included in a typical homogeneous rural landscape, characterized by a continuous mosaic of cultivated land and a few small patches of grasslands and small woods bounding the fields. The role of the spider population as a biological controller in the agro-ecosystem is particularly emphasized. To summarize, a common role of predator species in preserving balance of the eco-system emerges.

July 04

Who – Dr. Arjun Sivasundar, Visiting Scientist at NCBS

When – 11.00 am, Wednesday

Where – Biological Sciences Auditorium (Ground Floor), New Biological Sciences Building

What – The ecological and genomic bases of adaptation, divergence and speciation

Abstract

Understanding the causes underlying adaptive evolution and ecological speciation is a long-standing objective in evolutionary biology research. Adaptative diversification can rapidly follow invasion of a species into a previously unoccupied area; hence recent invasions and range expansions provide us with a model to investigate the earliest stages of adaptation and diversification, and help identify the processes and factors that can trigger speciation. Ecological factors such as habitat heterogeneity, niche availability, predator, prey, competitor and parasite communities, dictate the scope of success of invasions and subsequent diversification in new environments. Genetic factors also determine the probability of success of such processes. Standing genetic variation is important in the early stages of adaptation, and populations founded by a large sample of an original population or by a mixture of samples from various sources are predicted to stand a better chance of successful invasion and subsequent adaptive diversification than those founded by bottleneck events.

The threespined stickleback Gasterosteus aculeatus has emerged as one of the best model organisms to study the evolutionary ecology of adaptation and speciation, especially over very short timescales. This marine species has invaded freshwater systems throughout the temperate regions of the northern hemisphere since the last glacial retreat and divergent ecotypes have evolved rapidly, even satisfying the strict biological species concept in some cases. In Switzerland, this species has only occurred since the 1870s, and has rapidly spread since then into a wide range of habitats making this an exemplary system to study the first stages of adaptive diversification. Genetic and ecological data reveal that there have been multiple parallel cases of divergence between habitats within this extremely short timescale despite ongoing gene flow. The success of this invasion appears to be related to the heterogeneous genetic ancestry of Swiss stickleback populations, which has provided ample phenotypic divergence for divergent natural selection to act upon.