Grad-Invited Seminar Nominated 2009

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EEB Graduate Student Association

In order to nominate a speaker for the 2009 Grad-Invited Seminar, create a section heading with that person's name and institution, along with links to their personal webpage, a blurb about their research, etc. See the page from last year for examples. Deadline for nominations will be March 28. Voting will be conducted in early April.

Kellar Autumn, Lewis & Clark College

Kellar Autumn’s research focuses on the mechanisms and evolution of animal locomotion, and on developing biologically inspired materials and machines. Autumn is best known for his discovery of the mechanism of adhesion of geckos.

Professional Accomplishments:

  1. Founded new sub-field of research: gecko adhesion / adhesive nanostructures at the interface between biology, physics, and materials science.
  2. Discovered that geckos stick to walls with intermolecular van Waals forces (PNAS 2002).
  3. Discovered that gecko foot-hairs are the first self-cleaning adhesive known to science (PNAS 2005
  4. Discovered that gecko setae are a "smart adhesive" controlled mechanically not chemically (Nature 2000).
  5. Invented and patented first biologically-inspired design for gecko-like dry adhesive nanostructures, "gecko glue". US Patents #6,737,160 and #7,011,723.
  6. Discovered that geckos use only 1/3 as much energy to move as do other animals with legs.
  7. Challenged common assumption that evolution produces optimal designs. Showed that adaptation often produces suboptimal designs.

Autumn’s work has been featured on every major television network and in hundreds of newspaper, magazine, and Internet articles worldwide. He's also young, very enthusiastic, and is doing world-class, multi-disclipinary research at a small liberal arts school.

John Marzluff, University of Washington

John is on the leading edge in the developing field of urban ecology and also does fascinating research on crow learning and behavior. I think his multi-disciplinary approach is very attractive and something I'd like to learn more about.

Here's a blurb from his website:
Most of my research currently is focused on comparisons of bird and small mammal populations (and resulting communities) along the gradient of urbanization that exists from Seattle to the Olympic and Cascade Mountains in western Washington. Along with my colleagues in planning, policy, and landscape architecture, I am investigating how the pattern of human settlement affects structure and function of bird communities. My aim is to translate this research into meaningful policy to better conserve birds where humans live. To compliment this research, my colleagues and I have developed a new graduate training program in Urban Ecology at UW. This interdisciplinary program is currently funded by the National Science Foundation and seeks to improve Earth's condition by engaging policy makers, scientists, students, and citizens in the generation, teaching, and use of knowledge about the interactions between humans and ecological processes in urbanizing environments.

Camille Parmesan, University of Texas

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).

Howard Rundle, University of Ottawa

Below is a blurb from his webpage, as well as some recent publications. He is the Evolution Society's 2002 Dobzhansky Prize winner.

"While I am interested in diverse topics in evolutionary ecology, the main focus of research in my lab currently addresses how natural and sexual selection interact during adaptation, and how both processes contribute to phenotypic divergence and speciation. Addressing such questions requires a comprehensive understanding of how sexual selection operates within populations and how it varies in different environments (e.g., social, geographical, natural). Our approach is primarily empirical and utilizes experimental evolution and behavioural assays to conduct manipulative, direct tests of various key evolutionary hypotheses. Because the majority of sexual selection theory has quantitative genetic foundations, much of our work is also conducted within a quantitative genetic framework.

Via ongoing collaborations with Steve Chenoweth and Mark Blows at the University of Queensland in Brisbane, Australia, I am also interested in understanding how the genetic basis of complex traits under natural and sexual selection affects their evolution, and how selection feeds back to alter the genetic basis of these traits. Examples of this work includes ongoing experiments examining the evolution of sexual dimorphism in sexual display traits, geographic variation in sexual selection among natural populations, and the evolution of indirect genetic effects of mating on sexual display traits.

The majority of this research uses the Australian fruit fly, Drosophila serrata..."

Rundle, H.D., S.F. Chenoweth and M.W. Blows. 2008. Comparing complex fitness surfaces: Among-population variation in mutual sexual selection in Drosophila serrata. American Naturalist: in press.

Chenoweth, S.F., H.D. Rundle and M.W. Blows. 2008. Genetic constraints and the evolution of display trait sexual dimorphism by natural and sexual selection. American Naturalist 171: 22-34.