Open to public

  • New Directions in Research on the Natural History of Human Aging

    Thu, Dec 13, 2018, 12:30 pm

    Human aging in contemporary industrialized populations focuses largely on chronic diseases of aging, including heart disease, diabetes and dementia. These three account for a third of all deaths in the US and UK, and are increasing throughout the rest of the world. To what extent do these characterize what aging might have looked like in our evolutionary past? For example, atherosclerosis has been identified in ancient mummies, leading some to claim that heart disease is a "serial killer that has been stalking mankind for thousands of years".

  • Chemical and Cognitive Ecology: Lessons from poison frogs

    Thu, Dec 6, 2018, 12:30 pm

    How do animals come up with new ways to deal with challenges and opportunities in their environment? My research focuses on understanding how evolutionary innovations in behavior and physiology arise using amphibians as a model clade, as they show tremendous diversity in behavioral and physiological adaptations. I will first discuss our work on chemical ecology and show how poison frogs have evolved the ability to sequester toxins from their diet of ants and mites. Then I will discuss the evolution of parental behavior within the clade.

  • Social Butterflies: Simple cues & rules, complex behavior and life-history consequences

    Thu, Nov 15, 2018, 12:30 pm

    In 10 summers of field studies, I documented male mate-searching behaviors in 5 species of butterflies that span a range familiar among vertebrates: … vagrant encounter, site-fidelity, running a trapline, defending a territory, and “hanging out” at a literal singles’ bar.  The different behaviors produce varied patterns of disappearance from the local population.  In recent years, I have explored vision, flight, and details of behavior to propose simple cues and rules of interaction sufficient to produce the complex behaviors.

  • Olfactory information in ecology and disease diagnosis

    Thu, Oct 25, 2018, 12:30 pm

    Work in our group is broadly focused on the role of biological communication in ecology and more specifically on the role of chemical signaling in mediating interactions among plants, insects, and other organisms. In this talk, I will discuss recent work on the communicative functions of volatile cues and signals. Much of our work in this area has explored the ways in which changes in plant odors induced by herbivory or pathogen infection convey ecologically relevant information to other organisms, including insect herbivores and their natural enemies.

  • Tree cover variation in African savannas: bottlenecks, constraints and niche partitioning

    Thu, Oct 18, 2018, 12:30 pm

    Studies of tree cover dynamics and tree-grass ratios in savannas have progressed along two parallel trajectories: the demographic/trophic perspective emphasizes the role of disturbance and herbivory, while the mechanistic/ecophysiological perspective focuses on tree-grass competition for water. I draw on research in the Serengeti ecosystem of East Africa to demonstrate the importance of the top-down processes highlighted by the first approach while exploring some of its limitations.

  • The Origin and Maintenance of Chemical Diversity in a Species-Rich Tropical Tree Lineage

    Thu, Oct 11, 2018, 12:30 pm

    Generalist herbivores are important consumers of most plant species, yet evolutionary and ecological theory has mainly focused on the importance of interactions between  specialized natural enemies and host plants. Consequently, the vast majority of studies on the evolution of plant chemical defenses have typically included one plant, a few metabolites, and a small set of handpicked herbivores.

  • Limits to predictability in community ecology

    Thu, Oct 4, 2018, 12:30 pm

    Prediction of community dynamics remains challenging, but important for a range of conceptual and applied ecological contexts (e.g. species invasions, sustainable harvesting, restoration planning). Functional traits offer a potential solution via their often-strong linkages with environmental variables – perhaps community dynamics can be predicted by determining the species with appropriate traits for a given environment. But do the conceptual arguments hold up, and does the approach work in practice?

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