Grad-Invited Seminar Nominated 2008

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Sarah Reichard, University of Washington, Seattle, WA

Biology of invasive organisms; Reintroduction of rare species; Rare plant preservation

Research Interests:

  • Biological invasions including the traits of invasive plants, prediction of invasive ability, early detection and rapid assessment of new invaders, and the impacts of plant invaders on native ecosystems and plants
  • Rare plant species including the impact of anthropogenic disturbance on rare species and the use of horticultural techniques in rare plant reintroduction

Current Sponsored Research:

  • Characteristics of habitat occupied by Buddleia Davidii in riparian areas of King County, WA and its impact on associated vegetation communities
  • Ecological effects and control of Polygonum cuspidatum
  • Invasive plants in Pacific coast forestlands: Creation of a priority list and identification and management aids
  • Riparian vegetation enhancement and restoration
  • Synthesis of PNW invasive plants issues
  • The economics and ecology of the risk of invasive plant establishment from the horticulture trade in North America

Marcel Rejmanek, University of California, Davis, CA

Research Interests:

  • Succession, disturbance, and stability of biotic communities.
  • Biological invasions and invasibility of ecosystems.
  • Weed-crop competition.
  • Tropical ecology (Central America, South Africa).

Examination Topics:

  • community ecology
  • invasion biology
  • plant ecology
  • principles of ecology
  • research/quantitative methods
  • tropical ecology

Camille Parmesan, University of Texas, Austin, TX

Parmesan's early research focused on multiple aspects of population biology, including the ecology, evolution and behaviors of insect/plant interactions. For the past several years, the focus of her work has been on current impacts of climate change in the 20th century on wildlife. Her work on butterfly range shifts has been highlighted in many scientific and popular press reports, such as in Science, Science News, New York Times, London Times, National Public Radio, and the recent BBC film series "State of the Planet" with David Attenborough.

The intensification of global warming as an international issue led her into the interface of policy and science. Parmesan has given seminars in DC for the White House, government agencies, and NGOs (e.g., IUCN and WWF). As a lead author, she was involved in multiple aspects of the Third Assessment Report of the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, United Nations).

Kevin Nixon, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY

Dr. Nixon's research interests include theory of systematics and classification, systematics and taxonomy of the genus Quercus (Fagaceae), collaborative studies on Cretaceous angiosperm flower fossils, higher level phylogenetic studies of seed plants, early angiosperm evolution, and development of computer programs for analysis of phylogenetic data. He has made particular strides in reconstructing morphological character evolution, and has been involved in the classification of the fossil angiosperm Archaefructus. He has worked on the phylogenetic concept of species, and is an outspoken opponent of the phylogenetic nomenclature (PhyloCode) system of taxonomy. Dr. Nixon authored the "parsimony ratchet" method to drastically improve tree searching efficiency for large data sets, as well as the phylogenetics program WINCLADA. He is a charismatic speaker with broad interests who would generate fruitful interaction with our EEB graduate students on the topics of phylogenetic reconstruction, systematics and classification.

Myles Jackson, Willamette University, Salem, OR

Prof. Myles W. Jackson received his Ph.D. in the history and philosophy of science from the University of Cambridge. He joined the Willamette faculty in 1998 after teaching at Harvard, the University of Pennsylvania and the University of Chicago. He has received the Derek Bok Prize for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching from Harvard, two Letters of Commendation from the Dean of Students for his teaching at Penn, the Mortar Board Award from the Willamette student body and he received the Graves Award for Outstanding Professor in the Humanities in 2006. Prof. Jackson has published over 25 articles, book chapters and encyclopedia entries on the history of science from the Scientific Revolution to the present. His first book, Spectrum of Belief: Joseph von Fraunhofer and the Craft of Precision Optics (MIT Press, 2000) received the Paul Bunge Prize from the German Chemical Society. He has completed his second work, Harmonious Triads: Physicists, Musicians and Instrument Markers in Nineteenth-Century Germany, which is forthcoming with MIT Press in 2006. He is currently working on a new project dealing with issues of privacy and ownership relevant to the Human Genome Project.

Robert Poulin, University of Otago, New Zealand

[Comment from Maxi: Beware of voting for international speakers, it is not cheap to get them here and without a graduate student contribution, the department may not approve it.]

Research interests:

  • Evolutionary ecology of parasites
  • Effect of parasites on communities and ecosystems
  • Manipulation of host phenotype by parasites

"Since arriving here from Canada in 1992, I have established a research programme in parasite ecology and evolution that focuses on broad questions and not on any particular taxa. Currently, our research has three main branches, reflecting my main long-term interests. First, we investigate the forces shaping the evolution of parasites, in particular the evolution of life history traits such as body size and fecundity, host specificity, the ability to manipulate host behaviour, and the complexity of the transmission pathways. Second, we are studying the role of parasites in coastal ecosystems, i.e. how they affect community diversity and productivity and food web stability, and how parasitism may interact with climate change to influence the properties of ecosystems. Third, I have long been exploring large-scale patterns of parasite biodiversity and biogeography, in the hope of better understanding the processes behind the diversification and distribution of parasites and diseases."

He does it all: he is an evolutionary biologist, ecologist, field biologist, does molecular work, manages a big lab, has tons and tons of publications and 4 books on eco/evo/biodiversity in parasites, etc, etc...I think he would be very interesting and could connect with anyone in the department based on his broad interests...We are currently reading one of his books for our Parasite Seminar if anyone wants to take a look at it before we vote...

Sarah Hake, University of California, Berkeley, CA

Research Interests

Our laboratory uses genetics to study plant development. We primarily work with maize and Arabidopsis. The laboratory research falls into three categories: 1) identifying the downstream targets of the knotted1-like (knox) homeodomain transcription factors, 2) identifying genes that regulate inflorescence architecture in maize and other grasses, 3) investigating new morphological mutations.

  1. Class 1 knox genes are expressed in shoot meristems and are down-regulated as leaves initiate. Loss of function mutations reveal that knox genes are important for meristem maintenance and internode patterning. Gain of function mutations suggest that knox genes regulate determinacy. We are using biochemistry, expression profiling and genetic screens to identify the targets of knox genes in maize and Arabidopsis.
  2. Maize has two distinct inflorescence structures, the tassel and ear. Both of these produce floral meristems from determinate branches called spikelets. A number of maize mutations affect determinacy of the spikelet meristem; branching structures form instead of flowers in these mutants. Isolation of these genes provides a useful tool for studying meristem fates and for comparative studies in other grasses. For example, both the sequence and expression pattern of branched silkless1 are conserved in all the grasses we have examined.
  3. Isolation of morphological mutants in maize provides a means for understanding developmental processes. New mutants we are investigating include Wavy auricles in blade (Wab) and milkweed pod (mwp). Wab defines a lateral domain in the leaf that is required for proper coordination between the proximal/distal and medial/lateral axes. The mwp mutant was originally discovered by Oliver Nelson and affects husk leaf development.

John Sperry, University of Utah, Salt Lake City, UT

Plant Structure and Function, Water Relations, and Ecophysiology.

My interests lie in the physiological and structural adaptations of plants. A long-standing focus has been on water relations. The balance of water supply and demand in plants has direct links to their photosynthetic potential and adaptation to environment. My research emphasizes the water uptake and transport process because it has given new insights into the adaptive significance of stomatal regulation and the mechanisms underlying drought and freezing adaptation. There are well-defined biophysical limits on water uptake caused in part by xylem cavitation and rhizosphere processes which have their basis in plant structure. These limits on water uptake set stomatal limits on water loss and photosynthesis. Differences in drought tolerance, root distribution, vegetative phenology, and stomatal behavior between taxa correspond closely with water uptake limits. We have studied the coordination between water uptake capacity and water loss regulation in a variety of species and circumstances ranging from mangroves to deserts to boreal forest. Current projects in the lab include: a comparative study of water uptake and drought tolerance in Great Basin shrubs of Utah, stomatal responses to leaf water status and hydraulic conductance, modeling biophysical limits on plant water flux, susceptibility to freezing-induced cavitation, hydraulic vs. mechanic consequences of wood structure, and allometry of plant vasculature.

Brian Enquist, University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ

Dr. Enquist is a broadly trained plant ecologist. His lab investigates how functional and physical constraints at the level of the individual (anatomical and physiological) influence larger scale ecological and evolutionary patterns. In particular, the lab focuses on two core areas:

  1. highlighting and deducing general principles, scaling rules, and the physical constraints influencing the evolution of organismal form, function, and diversity;
  2. understanding the larger scale ramifications (ecological, evolutionary, and ecosystem) of these rules/constraints.

In order to address these critical issues the lab uses both theoretical, computational, biophysical and physiological and ecophysiological approaches.

Research in the lab can be summarized into four distinct yet interrelated areas:

  1. The evolution of form and functional diversity;
  2. The origin of allometric relationships (how characteristics of organisms change with their size) and the scaling of biological processes from cells to ecosystems.
  3. The evolution of life-history and allocation strategies;
  4. Community ecology and macroecology.

Maureen Donnelly, Florida International University, Miami, FL

I've worked with Mau for a couple of years in the REU program of OTS. She is super dynamic and one of the top scientist in her field. She is super energetic and I believe will be a fantastic speaker to invite. Some people in the department know Mau and can give their impression about her.

Web site about her book:

Jeffrey Palmer, Indiana University, Bloomington, IN

He specialized in horizontal gene transfer, particularly in plant mitochondria. I've met him and seen him speak and he is a great speaker and a really nice guy.

Here's a tidbit of what his website says about his research:

We use approaches of comparative molecular biology, genomics, phylogenetics, and bioinformatics to study various major issues in the evolution of genes and genomes. Current studies fall into four areas:

  1. Horizontal Gene Transfer in Plants - Horizontal gene transfer (HGT) is now recognized as a major evolutionary genetic force driving genomic and phenotypic change in prokaryotes and many unicellular eukaryotes. In contrast, there is little published evidence that HGT is common or important in the major groups of multicellular eukaryotes (animals, plants, and fungi). We recently discovered that HGT of mitochondrial genes in plants is both widespread and recent and have now expanded this work in several directions. Our efforts focus on plant mitochondrial genomes because their evident propensity for HGT and certain other attributes make them a model system for investigating HGT in eukaryotes. These studies assess rates, patterns, extents, chimeric consequences, directionality, donor/recipient relationships, functionality, and mechanistic aspects of HGT across many lineages of plant mitochondrial genomes. Our recent work has provided insight into mechanisms of HGT (it frequently occurs by direct physical contract between parasitic plants and their host plants) and has identified a plant whose mitochondrial genome has been radically shaped by HGT (it contains numerous genes acquired by HGT, and from a wide variety of donors, from other flowering plants to mosses).
  2. Transfer of Mitochondrial Genes to the Nucleus - We are using flowering plants as a model "system" to study the evolutionary transfer of mitochondrial genes to nucleus. This process occurred on a massive scale early in mitochondrial evolution, and is therefore of fundamental importance to all eukaryotes, but continues to a significant extent only in plants. We have identified a number of very recent cases of gene transfer, which we are studying to elucidate underlying mechanisms and to characterize intermediates in the gene transfer process, e.g., plants which contain and express the same gene in both the organelle and the nucleus. We are also asking why some genes are transferred surprisingly frequently, hundreds of times during plant evolution, why certain lineages of plants transfer genes at highly elevated rates, and whether nuclear genes of mitochondrial origin are ever recaptured by the mitochondrial genome.
  3. Accelerated Evolution of Mitochondrial Genes - We have discovered two separate lineages of plants whose mitochondrial genes are evolving at a highly accelerated rate, up to 4,000 times faster than in other plants. In each group, multiple major increases in the mutation rate have occurred, in some cases followed by major decreases. Current efforts seek to elucidate the molecular bases of these unprecedented changes in the fundamental mutation rate and to investigate whether such exceptionally high mutation rates have had any secondary effects on mitochondrial genome evolution and function.