Grad-Invited Seminar Nominations for 2009-2010

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EEB Graduate Student Association

In order to nominate a speaker for the 2009-2010 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 February 10. Voting will follow, and the decision should be made sometime in February.


Todd Dawson, University of California, Berkeley

Todd Dawson is a Professor in the Integrative Biology Department at UCB, an adjunct Professor in the Environmental Science Policy and Management Department, and is also the Director for Stable Isotope Biogeochemistry at Berkeley. He has large and dynamic lab, with a wide variety of interests and specialties. Broadly, his research focuses on plant ecophysiology, or the interface between plants and their environments. He uses a broad scope of ecological tools, and looks at ecological systems from many perspectives- from the molecular level to the ecosystem level. His research has been instrumental in understanding hydraulic redistribution, and has shown interesting interactions between fog and coastal redwood trees (Sequoia sempervirens- the tallest trees on the planet!!!). He is also a very fun and lively speaker.

Here is a summary of his research interests from the UCB website: "Research in my laboratory focuses on the interface between plants and their environment. The tools of physiological and evolutionary plant ecology and stable isotope biogeochemistry are currently being applied towards the study and interpretation of this interface. Investigations draw upon a variety of physiological methods, modeling and the use of stable isotopes as avenues for improving our understanding of how the ecophysiological characteristics of plants are shaped by and respond to the environments they inhabit. Projects pay special attention to how aspects of plant form and function combine to permit adaptation to environmental variation, whether naturally or anthropogenically imposed, and how plants and their unique traits influence the structure and function of the communities and ecosystems they compose.

"Current research themes include (1) exploring how the ecological and physiological characteristics of plants influence community and ecosystem processes (e.g. how the water, carbon and nutrient relations of plants may influence ecosystem hydrology and biogeochemistry); (2) elucidating the functional evolution and origin of adaptations in plants particularly with regards to how tolerance to low soil nutrient status, periodic drought, or low light and disturbance arises and the importance of evolutionary history in the origins of these adaptations; and (3) examining at the fluxes and exchanges of materials such as carbon, water and nitrogen between organisms and their biotic and abiotic environments using novel stable isotope techniques, Such an approach is proving to be especially powerful in looking at the origin of CO2 from different ecosystems and the exchange of water and nitrogen between plants and their fungal symbionts (mycorrhiza & endophytes) or their neighbors."

Jim Clark, Duke University, Durham, NC

James S. Clark is H.L. Blomquist Professor of the Nicholas School of the Environment, Professor of Biology, and Professor of Statistics and Decision Science. *Clark's experience lies in Ecology of forests and grasslands. Statistics and population dynamics.* Clark’s research focuses on how global change affects forests. Current projects explore consequences of climate, CO2, and disturbance. His lab is using long-term experiments and monitoring studies to determine disturbance and climate controls on the dynamics of 20th century forests in combination with extensive modeling to forecast ecosystem change. Clark has authored over 120 refereed scientific articles and published four books, including Models for Ecological Data (Princeton, 2007), Models for Ecological Data in R (Princeton, 2007), Hierarchical Models of the Environment (Oxford, 2006), and Sediment Records of Biomass Burning and Global Change (Springer, 1997).

Mark Bush, Florida International University, Melbourne, FL

Dr. Mark Bush is a professor in the Biological Sciences department, whose focus is on paleoecology. His research focuses on paleoecology, applied ecology, biodiversity, plant community ecology, tropical forests, and conservation in tropical America.

Below is Dr. Bush's description of his research from the paleoecology lab website:

"Successful conservation of tropical biodiversity requires that we understand the mechanisms controlling habitat and species distributions. Two potent forces induce changes in these distributions: climate change and human activities. My research uses paleoecology to understand the changing patterns of tropical biodiversity. Through the study of fossil pollen, diatoms and charcoal, we reconstruct the history of habitats in tropical South America. These paleoecological records allow us to reconstruct climate change over the last 200,000 years and relate it to patterns of biodiversity, speciation and human occupation. From these observations, we contribute to the current debate on global climate change and species conservation.

To gain these data, we must locate and visit ancient lakes in the neotropics. The lake sediments hold a history of the surrounding landscape since the formation of the lake. A core of those sediments provides us with a complete history of that location. We raise the cores using a backpackable coring rig. As many of these lakes lie in some of the most remote locations on Earth, the fieldwork is arduous and not for the faint-hearted. Although the coring is an important and exciting facet of our work, the great majority of our time is spent in intensive lab work counting and identifying the fossil pollen and statistically analyzing the resultant data.

Our study sites include Guatemala, Amazonia, the Andes of Peru and Ecuador, and the Galapagos Islands. Although spanning a large geographic area, the linking theme is in trying to understand how climatic events, such as El Niño-Southern Oscillation, and mega-droughts influenced natural and human communities. Our study of Lake Titicaca has provided a 340,000 year (four glacial cycles) record of climate changes and shows how changes in Earth’s orbit around the sun caused changes in climate. Our studies reveal that modern temperature change is happening 10–100 times faster than any parallel event of the last 50,000 years. These data raise serious questions about the ability of species to migrate to counteract current and future climatic change. Studies of younger lakes have provided the earliest documented corn cultivation in Amazonia, evidence of a sequence of megadroughts within the last 11,000 years, and the collapse of native societies at the time of European contact."


(I) If you are interested in explainatory factors for species distributions and speciation in the tropics, this publication may interest you:

A 24,700-yr paleolimnological history from the Peruvian Andes

Quaternary Research, Volume 71, Issue 1, January 2009, Pages 71-82

Rachel Hillyer, Bryan G. Valencia, Mark B. Bush, Miles R. Silman, Miriam Steinitz-Kannan

Abstract: A new paleolimnological dataset from Lake Pacucha (13 °S, 3095 m elevation) in the Peruvian Andes provides evidence of changes in lake level over the past 24,700 yr. A late-glacial highstand in lake level gave way to an early-Holocene lowstand. This transition appears to have paralleled precessional changes that would have reduced insolation during the wet-season. The occurrence of benthic/salt-tolerant diatoms and CaCO3 deposition suggest that the lake had lost much of its volume by c. 10,000 cal yr BP. Pronounced Holocene oscillations in lake level included a second phase of low lake level and heightened volatility lasting from c. 8300 to 5000 cal yr BP. While a polymictic lake formed at c. 5000 cal yr BP. These relatively wet conditions were interrupted by a series of drier events, the most pronounced of which occurred at c. 750 cal yr BP. Paleolimnological changes in the Holocene were more rapid than those of either the last glacial maximum or the deglacial period.

48,000 Years of Climate and Forest Change in a Biodiversity Hot Spot

Science, Volume 303, 6 February 2004, Pages 827-829

Mark B. Bush, Miles R. Silman, Dunia H. Urrego

Abstract: A continuous 48,000-year-long paleoecological record from Neotropical lower montane forest reveals a consistent forest presence and an ice-age cooling of ~5° to 9°C. After 30,000 years of compositional stability, a steady turnover of species marks the 8000-year-long transition from ice-age to Holocene conditions. Although the changes were directional, the rates of community change were no different during this transitional period than in the preceding 30,000- year period of community stability. The warming rate of about 1°C per millennium during the Pleistocene-Holocene transition was an order of magnitude less than the projected changes for the 21st century.

(II) If on the other hand you are interested in climate change, here is one of Dr. Bush's publications:

Fire, climate change and biodiversity in Amazonia: a Late-Holocene perspective

Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B 363:1795-1802.

M.B. Bush, M.R. Silman, C. McMichael & S. Saatchi

Abstract: Fire is an important and arguably unnatural component of many wet Amazonian and Andean forest systems. Soil charcoal has been used to infer widespread human use of landscapes prior to European Conquest. An analysis of Amazonian soil carbon records reveals that the records have distinct spatial and temporal patterns, suggesting that either fires were only set in moderately seasonal areas of Amazonia or that strongly seasonal and aseasonal areas are undersampled. Synthesizing data from 300 charcoal records, an age-frequency diagram reveals peaks of fire apparently coinciding with some periods of very strong El Niño activity. However, the El Niño record does not always provide an accurate prediction of fire timing, and a better match is found in the record of insolation minima. After the time of European contact, fires became much scarcer within Amazonia. In both the Amazonia and the Andes, modern fire pattern is strongly allied to human activity. On the flank of the Andes, forests that have never burned are being eroded by fire spreading downslope from grasslands. Species of these same forests are being forced to migrate upslope due to warming and will encounter a firm artificial fire boundary of human activity.

(III) If you are interested in the conservation and planning in light of the dynamic nature of tropical climates, check out:

Pdficon small.gif Bush, M.B. and Lovejoy, T.E. 2007. Amazonian conservation: pushing the limits of biogeographical knowledge. "Journal of Biogeography" 34: 1291-1293.

Greg Marshall, National Geographic Society

Greg Marshall is the vice president of remote imaging at the National Geographic Society. Greg has unique insights into science from the private sector and he's engaging, charismatic and fun to talk with. He also has big ideas for how to bring together science, education and outreach in the future.

From the crittercam website: Greg Marshall is a scientist, inventor, and filmmaker who has dedicated the last 17 years to studying, exploring, and documenting life in the oceans.

In 1986, while diving in the reefs off Belize, Greg encountered a shark and was struck by the sight of a remora fish clinging to the shark's side. Imagining the unique perspective the remora must have when hitchhiking with its host, Greg conceived a remote camera that would mimic the remora's behavior.

If the camera were small and lightweight, it could attach like a remora to a host and record the behavior of sea creatures in situations where a handheld camera could never venture. Recognizing the scientific potential of such a tool, Greg decided to make it a reality.

Greg began developing a revolutionary animal-borne research tool to record images, sound, and data from an animal's perspective. Today that tool is called Crittercam, and it has been used in groundbreaking studies on dozens of marine species.

Deployed on whales, sharks, seals, turtles, penguins, and other species, Crittercam has enabled Greg and his research collaborators to capture information that, until now, was inaccessible to humans. In 2003 Greg and his team deployed the first land-based Crittercam on wild lions in Kenya, capturing remarkable new images and insights—and ushering in a new era of behavioral science.

Funded by National Geographic Television, philanthropic foundations, and U.S. federal grants, Greg has created not only a scientific tool, but also a major collaborative research program engaging scientists worldwide. Over ten years, Greg's Remote Imaging Program has collaborated with over 25 scientific groups on almost 40 different species.

In addition to providing critical scientific data for basic biology and habitat management, Crittercam's unique perspective captures the imagination of television audiences. Shared through National Geographic films, the stories these images convey fuel public awareness of the extraordinary lives and challenges many marine species face. With heightened awareness comes caring, and with caring, conservation.

Greg is a two-time Emmy Award winner for cinematography and sound, for the National Geographic Specials Great White Sharks (1995) and Sea Monsters: Search for the Giant Squid (1999). In 1999 he produced Tiger Shark, a one-hour film for the National Geographic EXPLORER TV series. Today Greg is the creator and an executive producer of Crittercam, a 13-part series that will premier on the U.S. National Geographic Channel in early 2004.

Greg earned a bachelor's degree in international relations from Georgetown University and a master's degree in marine science from the State University of New York at Stony Brook. He is currently discovering extraordinary creatures named Connor and Logan—his sons.

David Stern, Howard Hughes Medical Institute and Princeton University

David Stern is an associate professor in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and Princeton University. David’s research focuses on the genetic underpinnings of morphological and behavioral change. Research in his lab takes a developmental genetic approach to investigating phenotypic evolution, focusing on a diverse assemblage of insect species. Recently there has been intense debate within the evolution community about the relative importance of cis-regulatory vs. coding sequence change for phenotypic evolution. In 2008 David, along with Virginie Orgogozo, published a groundbreaking paper that provided a theoretical framework for predicting the genetic locus of evolutionary change for specific cases of phenotypic evolution [1]. David Stern’s work has appeared in both Science Magazine and Nature, along with Evolution, Evolution & Development, Genetics, and PLoS Biology, among other premiere journals.

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