Calendar of Events

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Tania Iqbar: "The Environment and Inflammation: Mechanisms of Neurogenic Inflammation in the Mouse Olfactory Epithelium"

January 29, 2015 4:00 PM  – 5:00 PM
Druckenmiller Hall, Room 020

Our noses incur damage on a daily basis, and the olfactory epithelium is able to regenerate and maintain function. However, if chronic inflammation is initiated, it can lead to olfactory dysfunction. To begin to understand chronic inflammation, modulation of acute inflammation in the mouse olfactory epithelium is being studied at the Hegg Laboratory at the University of Michigan.

Tania Iqbal spearheads the project, which focuses on elucidating mechanisms of neuroregeneration using the mouse olfactory epithelium as a model. Iqbal's central hypothesis is that environmental irritants activate inflammation by acting on trigeminal nerve receptors to release inflammatory neuropeptides. Neuropeptides then activate the release of cytokines from macrophages and initiate an inflammatory cascade. She anticipates her work will direct studies toward developing therapies for olfactory dysfunction and chronic inflammation. 

Tania R. Iqbal is a postdoctoral candidate at Michigan State University. Her research focuses on mechanisms of regeneration, neuromodulation, and inflammation in the olfactory system.

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Iris Levin '05, University of Colorado, Boulder "Seabirds, Swallows and Social Networks"

February 5, 2015 4:00 PM  – 5:00 PM
Druckenmiller Hall, Room 016

In her presentation, Iris Levin '05 examines questions and themes from molecular ecology, behavioral ecology, evolutionary biology, and disease ecology. Her research explores biological interactions at multiple scales, from social transactions between individuals to patterns of population structure between hosts and parasites. 

Using subjects within the avian world, she studies the interface between social behavior, physiology and parasite/microbe transmission by testing hypotheses that integrate themes from evolutionary biology, behavioral ecology and wildlife epidemiology, within the mathematical framework of social network theory. 

Iris Levin is a National Science Foundation postdoctoral fellow in the department of ecology and evolutionary biology at University of Colorado, Boulder.  She graduated from Bowdoin in 2005 and earned her PhD in Ecology, Evolution and Systematics from the University of Missouri, St. Louis in 2011.

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Emily Doolittle, Cornish College of the Arts: "Animal Songs, Animal Music"

February 12, 2015 4:00 PM  – 5:00 PM
Druckenmiller Hall, Room 016

Can animal songs be considered music? Join composer Emily Doolittle as she explores this philosophical question within the context of zoomusicology, the study of the musical aspects of sound or communication produced and received by animals. Doolittle investigates how humans across cultures and time periods have used animal songs in their music, and analyzes bird and other animal songs from both a musical and a scientific perspective. 

This past year, she was part of a study showing that hermit thrushes base their songs on the overtone series. She was also recently composer-in-residence at the Max Planck Institute for Ornithology (Seewiesen, Germany), where she and ornithologist Henrik Brumm discovered that the musician wren shows a preference for singing perfect consonant intervals. 

Doolittle has written for such ensembles as Orchestre Métropolitain (Montreal), Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra (Toronto), Symphony Nova Scotia, the Vancouver Island Symphony, Ensemble Contemporain de Montréal, the Motion Ensemble and Paragon, and such soloists as sopranos Suzie LeBlanc, Janice Jackson, Patricia Green and Helen Pridmore, pianist Rachel Iwaasa, violinist Annette-Barbara Vogel, viola d’amorist Thomas Georgi and viola da gambist Karin Preslmayr. 

She was born in Nova Scotia in 1972 and educated at Dalhousie University, the Koninklijk Conservatorium in the Hague, Indiana University and Princeton University. In 2008 she moved to Seattle, where she is currently an Associate Professor of Composition and Theory at Cornish College of the Arts. In addition to her academic pursuits, she plays fiddle in the Seattle-area French Canadian traditional music and stepdance band Podorythmie.

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Jason Castro, Bates College: "Data-driven Approaches for Cracking Olfaction"

February 19, 2015 4:00 PM  – 5:00 PM
Druckenmiller Hall, Room 020

With a simple sniff and not a moment's thought, you do something that can take chemists weeks using closet-sized equipment. You detect specific chemicals from the unfathomably large space of 'possible' chemicals, correctly identify them, and then decide whether they come from something worth pursuing or best avoided. How does the brain pull of this trick? 

In his presentation, Jason Castro will talk about two approaches to this question. First, he will summarize results from perceptual work in which candidate organizing dimensions of olfaction that may be analogous to pitch or color have been identified. Next, he will discuss work using neuroinformatic and physiological approaches to catalog the functional heterogeneity of olfactory brain circuits.

Castro is assistant professor of psychology at Bates and a neuroscientist who researches the biology behind our senses. Analyzing neural electrical patterns and chemical imaging that reveals cellular activity, he investigates the relationships between the properties of neurons and sensory capabilities, such as the ability to distinguish between odors. He also works from the perceptual perspective, bringing statistical techniques to bear on such questions as how many basic odor categories there are.

Prior to joining Bates, Castro was a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center and received his doctorate in neuroscience in 2008. In addition to a 2002 liberal arts diploma from the European College of Liberal Arts, Berlin, Germany, he earned bachelor’s degrees in biology and English literature at the University of Rochester.

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Christina Richards: "Exploring Implications of Genome Function in Complex Environments Using Model and Non-Model Plants"

February 26, 2015 4:00 PM  – 5:00 PM
Druckenmiller Hall, Room 020

Studies on genotype by environment interactions illustrate that the rapidly escalating amount of genomic data and tools applied to model systems in controlled conditions must be tried in more biologically relevant conditions and in a broader array of wild organisms.

Christina Richards examines how incorporating genomics and systems biology into robust experimental design and statistical analysis on model and non-model organisms will be a critical component of fleshing out the relationship between genotype and phenotype. Her research integrates several disciplines to explore how plants respond to natural selection in stressful or novel environments.

Christina Richards is assistant professor of integrative biology at the University of South Florida. Her research interests include natural selection, local adaptation, evolutionary ecology, and ecological genomics, among others. 

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Kerry Whittaker: "International Relations? Exploring Global Population Structure, Succession, and Dispersal in a Marine Diatom Species"

March 5, 2015 4:00 PM  – 5:00 PM
Druckenmiller Hall, Room 020

Marine diatoms exhibit astounding levels of diversity; the extent and distribution of this diversity over space and time plays an important role in determining their contribution to ocean productivity and potential to adapt to environmental change. 

Using molecular tools, Kerry Whittaker studies the extent and distribution of diatom diversity across the globe. Diatoms are the most diverse group of algae, with an estimated 100,000 species thought to exist. Yet, the factors of the marine environment driving and supporting this high level of diversity are little understood. Exploring the ways in which diatom populations are connected across large spatial scales, and over time, provides important insight into the interactions between diatoms, their evolution, and the marine environment. 

Kerry Whittaker currently teaches marine science at Coastal Studies for Girls in Freeport, Maine, and is an adjunct professor at Bowdoin this semester where she teaches Evolution. Kerry recently moved to Maine after spending a year as a Knauss Fellow in Washington D.C. working with NOAA on the ESA listing of marine species and the conservation policy behind marine populations. In 2014, she received her PhD in Oceanography from the Graduate School of Oceanography, URI, and is interested in environmental selection, phytoplankton evolution, geneflow in the ocean, and the adaptive potential of marine organisms.

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POSTPONED, FALL 2015 - Sarah Schaack: "Understanding Mutational Dynamics Over Short and Long Time Scales"

March 26, 2015 4:00 PM  – 5:00 PM
Druckenmiller Hall, Room 020

Despite the importance of understanding the mechanisms and consequences of mutation, few parameters related to the rate, spectrum, and effects of spontaneous mutation have been estimated. In this talk, Sarah Schaack discusses the dynamics of mutation at small and large scales, within and between lineages, over short and long time periods of time (e.g., empirically-derived estimates of base substitution rates to reports of frequent horizontal transfer among eukaryotes).

She presents a few short vignettes to highlight the utility of using a variety of study systems and approaches to tackling questions related to understanding the accrual, maintenance, and loss of genotypic and phenotypic mutational variance genome-wide. She also highlights her recent work on the dynamics of mobile DNA (transposable elements and endogenous viruses) which constitute a very significant portion, and in many cases the majority, of the genome in most plants and animals.

Schaack is assistant professor of Biology at Reed College in Portland, Oregon

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Ian Davison: "Neural Codes and Plasticity in the Olfactory System"

April 2, 2015 4:00 PM  – 5:00 PM
Druckenmiller Hall, Room 020

Odors carry a wealth of information about the world in both the animal kingdom and in humans. Mates, food, dominance, and predators are all evaluated using smell. However, it is not clear how the brain translates the chemical properties of odorants into patterns of neural activity that can be used to guide behavior.

In his lecture, Ian Davison explains the two main goals of his work on the olfactory system. The first is to understand how sensory perception emerges from neural computations in cortical circuits.  Natural odors comprise dozens to hundreds of chemical components, which the brain fuses of to form a single, unified sensory percept. Second, he examines how pheromone processing circuits are changed by social learning. In mice, mating drives rapid and robust pheromonal memory formation that alters the flow of sensory information to higher brain centers. To better understand the neural bases of sensory perception and plasticity, olfactory circuits are probed with a combination of physiology, imaging, and behavior.

Davison is assistant professor of biology at Boston University. He earned his Ph.D. in neurobiology at Simon Fraser University, Vancouver, Canada and was a postdoctoral research associate in the department of neurobiology, Duke University Medical Center, Durham, North Carolina.

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Paul Rawson: "Larval Responses to Salinity Stress in the Blue Mussel, Mytilus Edulis"

April 9, 2015 4:00 PM  – 5:00 PM
Druckenmiller Hall, Room 020

The blue mussel, Mytilus edulis, is considered a foundational species that plays a key role in structuring intertidal and subtidal communities in the North Atlantic. Environmental stress, including stress from anthropogenic climate change, can have a profound impact on the distribution and abundance of foundational species and thus on
the resilience of intertidal community structure. Among other impacts,
increases in greenhouse gases are expected to result in temperature extremes, ocean acidification and altered patterns of precipitation. With respect to the latter, the northeastern U.S. has already seen a large increase in very heavy precipitation events; such events can have a measurable impact on coastal salinity and productivity. The phenotypic response of adult mussels to reduced salinity or hypoosmotic stress has been relatively well characterized. Blue mussels are osmoconformers and during osmotic stress they regulate intracellular free amino acid pools to remain isosmotic to the environment. Mussels, however, have a life history that includes a protracted period of larval development and the osmotic stress response in larval stages has received much less attention. Larvae are generally more sensitive to environmental stress and an increased frequency of stress events can lead to increases in larval mortality, ?recruitment failure?, and declines in population stability. Research in our lab has investigated whether phenotypic
changes, in particular changes in the intracellular concentration of free amino acids, are correlated with changes in gene expression. I will present results from some of our on-going work exploring whether the transcriptomic and phenotypic response to osmotic stress differs for larval and post-metamorphic mussels.

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Mark Patterson, Northeastern University "Perforate and imperforate body plans in scleractinian corals: implications for coping with environmental stress"

April 16, 2015 4:00 PM  – 5:00 PM
Druckenmiller Hall, Room 020

The physical biology of invertebrates (sponges, cnidarians, squid), plants (macroalgae, sunflowers, seagrasses), and fishes is another area in which I am broadly interested. The allometry of metabolism is an area where I apply chemical engineering theory to lower aquatic invertebrates and algae. Contrary to the predictions of “universal scaling laws” that have appeared in the literature, e.g., the West, Brown, Enquist (WBE) theory, these taxa do not follow 3/4 power scaling of metabolic rate with body mass. Instead they exhibit a diversity of scaling exponents for which I have developed a predictive theory based on first principles from fluid transport and mass transfer. This “flow modulated allometry” model is now being tested in my laboratory and in the field using the NOAA underwater habitat Aquarius. Since 1984, I have used saturation underwater habitats to conduct research in situ on corals and their allies. Recent work using Aquarius has examined how reef corals respond to water motion during bleaching episodes by altering their photobiology and expression of stress proteins. Our lab has recently developed a predictive electrical network model of the gastrovascular system of corals of the two types of coral bauplan, perforate (where an extensive plumbing connects the polyps) and imperforate (where polyps are not connected directly). This model will help us understand how corals respond to environmental stress including that posed by global warming and ocean acidification.


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Ron Peck, Colby College "Maintaining Balance in the Extreme: How the Salt-Loving Microbe Halobacterium salinarum Responds to Stress"

April 23, 2015 4:00 PM  – 5:00 PM
Druckenmiller Hall, Room 020

Halobacterium salinarum is a prokaryote that lives in very salty water such as the Great Salt Lake and commercial salt ponds.  In these environments, Halobacterium cells grow so dense that available oxygen is soon depleted and the cells cannot obtain usable energy by aerobic respiration.  In response to this lack of oxygen, Halobacterium makes a complex called bacteriorhodopsin that catalyzes the conversion of light energy into usable biological energy. However, this same sunlight also is potentially harmful as ultraviolet (UV) light causes mutations in DNA.  To guard against UV light, Halobacterium makes a molecule called bacterioruberin that acts as a ?sunscreen? to soak up the UV rays.  My research focuses on a novel molecular mechanism that Halobacterium
employs to balance its needs for energy production and protection from

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Brad Davidson, Swarthmore College: "Mitotic Tuning: Cell Division Modulates Inductive Signals During Early Heart Development"

April 30, 2015 4:00 PM  – 5:00 PM
Druckenmiller Hall, Room 020

About 40,000 children are born with heart defects every year. In order to treat these conditions we must gain a comprehensive understanding of heart formation, including the very first steps taken by heart cells in early embryos.

Currently, our research is focused on revealing the precise function of FGF in early heart development. We have demonstrated that FGF signaling causes a group of four founder cells to undergo an asymmetric division. The smaller daughters of this division respond to continued FGF signaling by activating heart genes and migrating towards the site of future heart formation while the larger daughter form tail muscle. Through transgenic manipulations, we can disrupt FGF signaling specifically in these four cells, blocking heart development. Conversely, we can activate downstream factors and cause the entire group of cells to migrate and form extra heart tissue. We are also able to isolate Ciona heart cells and examine lineage-specific gene expression. This analysis employs micro-arrays designed to probe all predicted coding regions in the Ciona genome. 

Through these techniques we have identified an extensive set of heart genes up-regulated by FGF. Future studies will focus on determining the role of these FGF target genes in heart development as well as identifying the precise transcriptional mechanisms by which FGF and downstream factors co-ordinate heart gene expression.

Davidson is assistant professor of developmental biology at Swarthmore College, Swarthmore, Pennsylvania.