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Departmental Seminars

Fall Semester 2016

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

4:30-5:30 PM in SSMB 129

The Coastal Geology and Ecology of South Carolina

Miles Hayes and Jacqueline Michel, Research Planning, Inc., Columbia, SC [flier]

The coastal geology of South Carolina is complex, formed by the combined processes of sea level rise, sediment supply, waves, and tides. This presentation consists of two parts. Part I describes the general processes and landforms of the coast, explaining the history of how the South Carolina coast evolved and how processes such as waves, tides, sediment supply, and sea level rise have combined to produce the modern coastal features such as barrier islands, deltas, estuaries, tidal flats, and salt marshes. Discussion of the impacts of hurricanes, changes in sediment supply that are both natural and man-made, the beach cycle, and methods to control erosion is included. Part II describes in more detail the coastal geomorphology of each of four compartments: the Grand Strand; the Delta Region; the Barrier Islands; and the Low Country. Explanations are provided for key features of the coast such as Carolina bays, capes, barrier islands, and tidal inlets.

Monday, September 19, 2016

12:00 PM in SSMB 138

Sickle Cell, Sea Stars, by the Sea Shore

John Wares, Department of Genetics, Oden School of Ecology, University of Georgia [website]

One of the most astonishing pandemics to strike marine populations in recent years, Sea Star Wasting Disease (SSWD) has killed up to 95% of the individual sea stars in 20 or more species along the Pacific coast of North America. John will talk about a fortuitous discovery of a single gene polymorphism in the iconic ochre sea star, Pisaster ochraceus, that reduces the prevalence of SSWD by 20% in individual sea stars carrying a particular mutation at a “housekeeping” gene, elongation factor 1-alpha. This mutation is lethal when homozygous, so the parallels with sickle-cell disease and increased survival to malaria will be discussed briefly, along with future directions for understanding this interaction between evolutionary diversity, disease, and the consequences for Pacific intertidal communities.

Monday, February 6, 2017

12:00 PM in SSMB 138

Know your roots:  loblolly pine genetics structure its mycorrhizal fungal community

Bridget Piculell, Department of Biology, College of Charleston

Plant populations are constantly exposed to a multitude of biotic and abiotic environmental selection pressures.  The ability of a population to persist in or adapt to its environment is heavily influenced by the genetic underpinnings of the adaptive traits involved, making an understanding of the genetic basis of traits necessary in order to understand patterns in plant populations. The work presented will focus on the interaction between ectomycorrhizal fungi and loblolly pine (Pinus taeda). Loblolly pine is important both as an economic crop and as a wide-ranging dominant species throughout the southeastern United States, where it is subject to natural selection from both biotic and abiotic sources, as well as artificial selection for favorable economic traits.  Through both laboratory and field experiments, we explored the degree to which mycorrhizal traits in loblolly pine are determined by the genetics of the host plant, and the degree to which mycorrhizal traits are genetically correlated with other traits.  Specifically, we evaluated the narrow-sense heritability of both above-ground (susceptibility to insect pests and fungal pathogens) and below-ground (mycorrhizal) traits of loblolly pine, determined the degree to which these traits are genetically correlated with one another, and determined variation among loblolly families in compatibility with different mycorrhizal species.  Additionally, we identified SNPs within loblolly pine candidate genes that influence the interaction with ectomycorrhizal fungi.  This information will help us not only to better understand the dynamics of this common symbiosis, but also to understand how natural and artificial selection focused on one or a few traits of interest (e.g., to mitigate the effects of pests and pathogens) may be indirectly affecting other traits through shared genetic pathways.  Ultimately, we hope this work will contribute to a better understanding of how plants may evolve in response to complex suites of selective sources.

Darwin Week, February 12-15, 2017

Each year the College of Charleston and its sponsors celebrate the life of Charles Darwin and his contribution to science by hosting a thought-provoking, week-long series of guest speakers whose research directly relates to Darwin's popular theories. 2017 Darwin Week events will take place February 12-15. Download the complete schedule here.

On Monday, Feb. 13, SSM Darwin Week 2017 will host a double-lecture:

At 3:30pm in SSMB Auditorium, Chris Bennett (Univ. Central Florida) will present "Astrobiology and Evolution", where he will discuss the chemistry that facilitated the evolution of life on Earth, and the exploration of habitable worlds within our solar system and beyond. This talk will be followed by a brief reception.

At 5:00pm in SSMB Auditorium, Phil Manning (CofC Geology, Mace Museum) will present "Darwin's Dilemma", where he will discuss evidence of complex life in the Precambrian era.

Monday, February 27, 2017

12:00 PM in SSMB 138

mRNA and tRNA modifications in the regulation of gene expression

Tao Pan, Department of Biochemistry and Molecular biology, The University of Chicago [website]

Over 100 types of chemical modifications have been found in biology. Although RNA modification were commonly associated with abundant cellular RNAs such as tRNA, eukaryotic mRNAs also contain a large amount of modifications. Recent discoveries indicate that cellular RNA modifications can be reversible, have cell type and cell state dependent patterns, and play important roles in the regulation of gene expression. Dr. Tao Pan will discuss recent developments and the contributions of his lab to this new emerging field of epitranscriptomics.

Monday, March 27, 2017

12:00 PM in SSMB 138

The role of selection in the evolution of pipefish: insights from population genomics

Sarah Flannagan, National Institute for Mathematical and Biological Synthesis, University of Tennesse [website] [flier]

Selection acts on phenotypes, but it is important to understand its effects on the genome to understand the relationship between selection and evolutionary change. The sex-role-reversed Gulf pipefish, Syngnathus scovelli, is an excellent species for studies of the genomic signatures of selection because they have a broad distribution, covering several different habitat types, and females experience strong sexual selection. In this talk, I will discuss how population genomics studies have helped elucidate the impacts of local adaptation, sexual selection, and genetic drift in populations of pipefish.

Monday, April 10, 2017

12:00 PM in SSMB 138

Brian Scholtens, Department of Biology, College of Charleston

More information to come.