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Departmental Seminars

Spring Semester 2014

Unless noted otherwise, all seminars are held at 12 noon in Hollings Science Center, room 239.

Monday, January 13
Some Things Never Change: Evolution and stasis in the pleurocerid snails of the Southern Appalachians
Rob Dillon, Department of Biology, College of Charleston  [website]

ABSTRACT: Many of the small rivers draining the piedmont and mountains from Virginia to Georgia are inhabited by dense populations of little brown snails that nobody even notices, much less cares about.  Here I will review 35 years of research suggesting that these nondescript snails may have evolved on the west side of the ancient Appalachians hundreds of millions of years ago, and have ridden the mountains down almost to baseline, without speciating or indeed even demonstrating any especially noticeable morphological change.

Monday, January 20
New paradigms in Natural Products Research: A designed multi-disciplinary approach
Peter Moeller. Hollings Marine Lab

ABSTRACT: Microbes (bacteria, algae, fungi) are continually migrating into new niches within the natural environment.    It is clear that new environments can incite microbes  to adjust their “normal” metabolism resulting in  synthesis of novel and oftentimes toxic metabolites.  These toxins are often implicated as the causative agents in significant detrimental effects observed in environmental and/or human health events.  Dealing with microbial metabolites requires a multidisciplinary approach focused on coupling environmental cues to microbial metabolism.  Several successful examples of this approach are discussed. In addition, a number of challenging real-life examples will be highlighted.

Monday, January 27
Defense by Ducking: A Novel Tactic for Plant Resistance
Michael Wise, Roanoke College  [website]

RESEARCH INTERESTS: Plant-Herbivore Interactions; Plant Breeding-System Ecology and Evolution; Insect Ecology; Conservation and Environmental Biology.


Friday, January 31
Microbial community ecology in 3-D: Environmental factors that affect Diversity, Dispersal, and Demographics of soil bacteria and fungi
Sean Berthrong, Cornell University  [website]

Monday, Frbruary 3
Understanding the drivers of community structure across scales
Daniel McGlinn, Utah State University  [website]

RESEARCH INTEREST: Research drawn from landscape ecology, statistical modeling, and biogeography to understand the determinates of species abundance and diversity through space and time. Using a combined approach of field studies, ecoinformatics, and analytical models to tease apart the influence of different driving processes on single and multi-species patterns in plants and birds.


Friday, February 7
Inconspicuous but Important: Impacts of Root Herbivores and Exotic Species on Community Dynamics
David Coyle, University of Georgia  [website]

RESEARCH INTEREST: Factors affecting forest health; Belowground-aboveground interactions; Stand management as a method to improve health; Effects of non-native species on community diversity.

Monday, February 17
Peter Moeller, Hollings Marine Laboratory

Monday, February 24
Sabbatical Report
Allan Strand, College of Charleston

Monday, March 3
Spring Break

Monday, March 10
Chris Balakrishnan, East Carolina University  [website]

Research Program: Work in the Balakrishnan Lab is aimed at understanding how genes and the environment interact to generate biodiversity. By combining a historical perspective with functional and comparative genomics, we seek to uncover both the genomic basis of evolutionary adaptation and the ecological and demographic processes responsible for population divergence.

Monday, March 17
Evolutionary Genetics Using Ancient DNA or How to Avoid Boring Research
Michael Hofreiter, The University of York  [website]

ABSTRACT: Ancient DNA research is much more than complete genome data such as the recently published Denisova hominin genome. Strictly speaking, it is not a research field in itself, but simply a technology that allows obtaining genetic information from degraded DNA, be it 50-year-old museum specimens or 500,000-year-old sediments from Greenland’s glaciers. These sequences can then be used to investigate almost any type of evolutionary genetics questions, ranging from phylogenetics over population genetic to functional genetics and many other types of studies. The two big advantages of ancient DNA in all these research fields are that it makes specimens and species accessible for genetic studies that are unavailable with modern DNA alone and that it adds time depths to evolutionary genetics. In my talk I will show how ancient DNA has contributed to a better understanding of evolutionary processes in both extant and extinct species. I will also show that ancient DNA has also helped us to better understand past climatic and environmental changes, the process of animal domestication, Late Pleistocene extinctions and the quality of prehistoric human art.

Monday, March 24
Ted Uyeno, Valdosta State

Monday, March 31
Adapterama on - Next-Generation DNA Sequencing Tools for Biologists
Travis Glenn, The University of Georgia  [website]

ABSTRACT: Next-generation DNA sequencing (NGS) presents a potential cornucopia of benefits, but easy low-cost preparation of many samples for sequencing remains a constraint.  In Adapterama, we present methods for preparing many uniquely tagged (indexed) samples for NGS.  Although many sample preparation methods exist, most of these methods rely upon a limited number of commercially available adapters or require single-purpose, custom adapters that require substantial initial investment (e.g., thousands of dollars of oligos to facilitate pooling dozens to hundreds of samples). We demonstrate cheap combinatorial methods to create double-, triple-, and quadruple indexed samples that can be pooled & sequenced with standard Illumina libraries to produce high quality reads for mitochondrial and genome assemblies, microsatellite identification, sequence capture, amplicon sequencing and restriction digest libraries in as many combinations as one desires.  The result is that sequencing for many projects can be achieved by using these methods & being nice to one’s colleagues..

Monday, April 7
Sex in Genealogies: Objective Species Delineation of Coral Reef Organisms
Drew Wham, Ph.D. Candidate, Penn State University  [website]

ABSTRACT: Species delineation is one of the most fundamental and original challenges in the field of biology. Species recognition, however, can be particularly challenging in organisms that are morphologically cryptic or have life histories that are difficult to study. For this reason current species designations do not reflect equal distinctions across taxa and may reflect a bias in resolution against some groups. Modern genetic techniques combined with population genetic theory, however, provide the tools necessary to objectively recognize independently evolving lineages (i.e. species). These methods provide data that can be used to directly test for patterns of inheritance consistent with sexual reproduction within and between collections of individuals. Using this approach, the biological species concept can be used to examine overlapping populations of putative species. Evidence gathered from this approach strongly challenges the long-standing assertions of species diversity that arose from the analysis of morphological characters of coral reef organisms.

Monday, April 14
Amphibians Facing Habitat Change, Contamination, and Disease:  Do or Do Not. There is No Try
Michelle Boone, Miami University (Ohio)  [website]

Monday, April 21
Jack DiTullio, College of Charleston  [website]