Open to public

  • 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?

  • Evolution in the Anthropocene: Reptilian adaptation to a human-mediated environmental change

    Thu, Sep 20, 2018, 12:00 pm

    Human modifications to the natural world present extreme and novel environments for many species around the globe.  These drastic environmental changes provide contemporary experiments to test hypotheses regarding climate-mediated evolution and adaptation. Additionally, they help us to better understand, predict and mitigate deleterious effects of such events. Dr.

  • Estimating the distribution of fitness effects for deleterious mutations and implications for detecting adaptive introgression

    Thu, Sep 13, 2018, 12:00 pm

    Many mutations that occur in genomes are deleterious, resulting in a decrease in reproductive fitness. In this talk, I will present our recent work on estimating fitness effects of deleterious mutations using genetic variation data from natural populations. First, I will discuss our new computational approach, FitDadi, to estimate fitness effects and how this approach leads to improved estimates of the proportion of deleterious mutations in the human genome.

  • Social Behavior of Drosophila Larvae

    Thu, Dec 7, 2017, 12:30 pm

    Our lab studies behavior and circuits using Drosophila larvae as a model. One of our interests is in the social behavior of larvae.  We study two paradigms: learned visual recognition of the motion of adjacent larvae and visually guided cooperative movements.  We are taking both a neurobiological and more recently an ecological approach towards dissecting the mechanisms of these complex traits.

  • My Model Organism Eats Your Model Organism: The Evolution of Parasitism in Drosophila that Attacks Arabidopsis

    Thu, Nov 30, 2017, 12:30 pm

    The evolution of herbivory (plant parasitism) in insects is a textbook example of a key innovation. Although comprising one-quarter of eukaryotic species, herbivores are present in one-third of insect orders because plants present major evolutionary ‘hurdles’ that when overcome, allow for invasion of a new adaptive zone. However, the origin of the herbivorous form is unknown because of its ancient and sudden evolution.


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