2014

31 October l Dr Menna Jones l University of Tasmania
Room 139 Goddard Building (8) 3pm

Dr Menna Jones Devils, disease and diversity: can we restore keystone ecological function within current and prehistoric range?
The Tasmanian devil is undergoing severe and sustained decline across its range from a novel contagious cancer. As devil numbers decline, feral cats appear to be increasing and smaller species, the eastern quoll and the New Holland mouse, are disappearing. In this talk, I will explore the nature of the disease, and the long-term prognosis for the devil and for the Tasmanian ecosystem. Will the devil become extinct or will evolution of tumour or devil save the species in the wild? Can reintroduction of the devil to mainland Australia help with the control of feral predators?

 

24 October l Professor David Lamberts l Griffith University
Room 139 Goddard Building (8) 3pm

Professor David Lamberts Bursting the Limits of Time: Ancient Genomics in Antarctica
Ancient evolutionary genomics will inevitably progress from individual to population level analyses. The latter are likely to involve a large numbers of modern and ancient genomes from a single species, giving rise to a better understanding of evolution in space-time. Such an approach may lead to the discovery of general evolutionary and ecological principles and would have been impossible only a few years ago. I will present the results of the first detailed population genomic study spanning a significant period of geological time (to ~40,000 yrBP). I will also present details of 22 complete modern and 50+ ancient genomes of the Adélie penguin (Pygoscelis adeliae). Modern samples were collected from around the entire Antarctic continent, representing the complete distribution of the species. Ancient samples date from the Holocene to the late Pleistocene. I will present data on the levels of endogenous DNA from these samples and compare these to the level of sequence coverage of mitochondrial and nuclear genomes. My colleagues and I are in the process of estimating molecular rates, identifying changes in population sizes over time and to investigating the mutational processes that underlie short tandem repeat evolution.

 

17 October l Dr Matt Phillips l Queensland University of Technology
Room 139 Goddard Building (8) 3pm

Dr Matt Phillips Geomolecular dating the evolution of mammals
Major recent studies on the origins of mammals reinforce divisions between fossil-based estimates (small-bodied ancestors, originating in the north, diversifying 65 mya) and molecular-based estimates (larger-bodied ancestors, originating in the south, diversifying 80+ mya). I re-evaluate the interplay between fossil calibrations and models of molecular rate evolution, and present an analysis that unites the molecular and fossil signatures for the major diversifications of mammals. In addition I will discuss some preliminary results on modelling ecospace differentiation and maintenance, and implications for understanding apparent competitive differences between placental and marsupial mammals.

 

10 October l Dr Terry Ord l University of New South Wales
Room 139 Goddard Building (8) 3pm

Dr Terry Ord Evolution on the edge: the invasion of land by fish, and other evolutionary oddballs
The colonization of novel environments has been of special interest to evolutionary biologists because of the opportunity it brings to study natural selection in the wild. Whenever animals invade new habitats they will invariably experience new selection regimes and must adapt or otherwise fail to flourish in those habitats. On remote tropical islands throughout the Pacific and Indian Oceans there are examples of animals that have made one of the most extreme ecological transitions possible: fish that have colonized land. These fish offer a unique opportunity to study the adaptive process from a variety of angles: social behaviour, communication, predator avoidance, life history and genetics. I will provide an overview of some of our recent studies on these fish, as well as touch-on some other animals that have made a different type of transition in lifestyle, the gliding dragons of Southeast Asia.

 

26 September l Dr Vincent Careau l Deakin University
Room 139 Goddard Building (8) 3pm

Dr Vincent Careau Energy Expenditure and Animal Behaviour: Insights from the Quantitative Genetics, Comparative, and Artificial Selection Approaches
In this talk, I use a variety of approaches (quantitative genetics, comparative method) applied on different study models (in the laboratory and in the field) to test the relationship between and selection on energetics and behaviour. I show that the relationship between metabolic rate and activity/exploration is inconsistent across study models and levels of biological variation (genetic and inter-specific correlations). I will also present recent work on the effect of selection on the genetic architecture of behaviour. I will that directional selection increased initial multivariate constraints present within genetic variance-covariance matrix (G), which considerably slowed subsequent evolutionary change.

 

19 September l Dr Tim Connallon l Monash University
Room 139 Goddard Building (8) 3pm

Dr Tim Connallon Predicting the relationship between sex-specific selection and adaptation
Most traits are expressed by both sexes, yet the orientation and strength of selection on such traits often differs between males and females. Recent experiments imply an association between adaptation -- the fit between a population and its environment -- and opposing selection between the sexes, yet it is currently unclear how general such associations are expected to be. I explore the theory of adaptation over time and geographic space in order to identify evolutionary and genetic factors that generate predictable associations between adaptation and patterns of sex-specific selection. The theory is discussed in light of current data.

 

12 September l Professor Frank von Hippel l University of Alaska, Anchorage
Room 139 Goddard Building (8) 3pm

Professor Frank von Hippel Ecotoxicology of freshwater fishes in Alaska: endocrine disruption, food web dynamics, and effects on the health of indigenous people
This seminar examines the ecotoxicology of mercury, PCBs, PBDEs, PFCs, and pesticides in Alaskan freshwater fishes. Formerly used defense sites (FUDS) and global distillation of contaminants are considered in the context of exposure pathways and health threats to Alaska Native communities. This work takes advantage of fish as model organisms to investigate bioaccumulation, biomagnification, endocrine disruption and altered gene expression in contaminated sites.

 

5 September l A/Prof Mark Vellend l Université de Sherbrooke, Quebec
Room 139 Goddard Building (8) 3pm

A/Prof Mark Vellend Integrating ecology and genetics: patterns, experiments, and ideas
Ecology, genetics and evolution have been sister disciplines for essentially their entire histories, but a major resurgence of interest in synthesis has occurred over the past 15 years or so. I explore several ways in which this can be done: (1) Testing the hypothesis that patterns of species diversity and genetic diversity are correlated in nature due to common processes acting at the two levels; (2) Asking how genetic diversity within plant populations influences their ecological dynamics; (3) Assessing the utility of using ecological analogues of the “big four” processes in population genetics (mutation, drift, selection, migration) to conceptually organize the bewildering array of theoretical ideas in community ecology; (4) Considering traits as a common currency with which to quantify evolutionary and ecological contributions to community-level responses to environmental change.

 

29 August l Professor Raymond Cloyd l Kansas State University
Room 139 Goddard Building (8) 3pm

Professor Raymond Cloyd Integrating Biological Control And Pesticides In Horticultural Production Systems
Pesticides are widely used to suppress insect and mite populations in greenhouse horticultural crop production systems. However, due to issues associated with pesticide resistance and harmful residues there is interest in using pesticides in conjunction with biological control agents such as parasitoids and predators. Pesticides may directly or indirectly affect biological control agents. Direct effects are associated with mortality due to direct toxic effects or exposure to a given pesticide. Indirect effects are those that impact physiology and behavior such as development, prey consumption, longevity, fecundity, sex ratio (female: male), foraging behavior, and reproduction. This presentation will highlight how pesticides can impact biological control agents and present research from studies conducted with a number of biological control agents including the rove beetle, Dalotia coriaria.

 

22 August l Professor Catherine Hill l Purdue University, Indiana
Room 139 Goddard Building (8) 3pm

Professor Catherine Hill Rational design of new mode-of-action insecticides for vector control
Diseases transmitted by blood feeding arthropod vectors remain a major threat to public health throughout the world. The World Health Organization has established a roadmap to eradicate multiple vector-borne diseases by 2020. New, safer public health insecticides are urgently required for this purpose as continued vector control is threatened by increasing insecticide resistance. We have created an insecticide discovery pipeline to bring new mode of action products to the vector control market. The pipeline is focused on discovery of small molecule antagonists that disrupt the signaling of invertebrate G protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs) in vitro and in vivo. We have identified multiple chemical scaffolds with potential for development of “next generation” insecticides. An overview of discovery efforts will be provided, with an emphasis on rational approaches for design of highly potent and insect-selective insecticide leads.

 

15 August l Dr John Orcutt l Cornell College, Iowa
Room 139 Goddard Building (8) 3pm

Dr Matthew Goddard Building a carnivore guild: predatory mammal ecomorphology in Australia and North America
Carnivorous mammals are important members of terrestrial ecosystems. Due to their top-down influence on the communities they occupy, understanding the pressures that shape carnivore guilds is crucial to predicting the impacts of environmental change. However, research on Northern Hemisphere carnivorans has not established whether these guilds are primarily shaped by the physical environment, interactions with prey animals, competition with other predators, or by phylogenetic constraints. My research compares modern carnivoran guilds in North America with dasyuromorph guilds in Australia in order to decouple phylogenetic and ecological effects. I also track guild structure through time in order to assess whether changes in the physical and biotic environments correlate with changes in guild structure.

 

8 August l Professor Yves Roisin l Université Libre de Bruxelles, Belgium
Room 139 Goddard Building (8) 3pm

Dr Matthew Goddard Caste evolution and ecological diversification in termites
It is now established that termites are originally wood-eating cockroaches living in family units. The early evolution of a sterile soldier caste made them definitely eusocial. Yet beyond the eusociality threshold, termite social units nowadays range from wood-confined groups of barely 100 individuals to huge mound-building colonies numbering millions and foraging over extensive territories for organic matter of diverse quality. I will emphasize how the social organisation of termites evolved in concert with their ecology and behaviour, leading to their high present diversity in tropical ecosystems.

 

1 August l Dr Matthew Goddard; l The University of Auckland
Room 139 Goddard Building (8) 3pm

Dr Matthew Goddard The origin and maintenance of sex
Sex has been called the queen of problems in evolutionary biology as, on the face of it, it is more costly than asexual reproduction. Yet sex is popular in the natural world. Why? Dr Matthew Goddard will present his studies employing experimental evolution that have examined some of the major theories attempting to explain why sex is maintained, and why sex may have arisen in the first place.

 

6 June l Dr Peter Vesk; l University of Melbourne
Room 139 Goddard Building (8) 3pm

Dr Peter Vesk Plants, traits and models
There are many species in the world. We have good ecological knowledge about relatively few of them and rather less about the great majority. The ability to generalise our knowledge is a central feature of science. Moreover, generalisation is crucial to ecological management when we seek to manage species with scant knowledge. In this talk I will describe the way my colleagues and I have been working through the problem of generalising ecological knowledge and in particular the use of statistical models for species responses involving species traits.

 

30 May l Dr Karl Flessa  l University of Arizona
Room 139 Goddard Building (8) 3pm

Dr Karl Flessa Putting the dead to work: Conservation paleobiology of the Colorado River Delta
Ever since major upstream dams and diversions, the Colorado River’s flow to its delta and estuary has been greatly diminished. Significant societal impact began in the 1930s, well before the advent of environmental surveys, laws and policies. We have estimated impact by using shelly accumulations, stable isotopes, growth rings in otoliths and marine mammal remains in the estuary of the river. Stable isotopes in carbonate hard parts also provide a guide to estimating river flows needed for restoration. Putting the dead to work in this way has been a small part of the efforts to secure environmental flows to the delta, the first of which occurred this year.

 

2 May l Dr Morgan Pratchett  l James Cook University
Room 139 Goddard Building (8) 3pm

Dr Morgan Pratchett Climate change and directional shifts in the structure of coral reef assemblages
Scleractinian corals are fundamental to the functioning of coral-reef ecosystems and are the primary habitat-forming species. Removal or destruction of corals will profoundly alter the structure and dynamics of coral-reef habitats, with potentially significant effects on species that associate with coral reefs. It is predicted reef systems that are devoid of corals will support 60-70% fewer fishes than those with healthy coral growth. In the short-term it is unlikely that climate change will in itself cause wholesale loss of scleractinian corals. More likely is that coral ecosystems will become dominated by a restricted suite of coral species that are either resistant to coral bleaching, or capable of rapid recovery. This talk will consider contrasting shifts in structure of coral assemblages and considers the effects of these changes to habitat structure on reef associated fishes.

 

11 April l Dr Chris McGrath  l The University of Queensland, School of Geography, Planning and Environmental Management
Room 139 Goddard Building (8) 3pm

Dr Kevin Morris One-stop-shop for environmental approvals a messy backward step for Australia  
The new Australian Government is establishing what it calls a “one-stop-shop” for environmental approvals. This principally involves entering approval bilaterals with State and Territory governments to accredit their decisions as satisfying any approval requirements under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act (EPBC Act). The Federal Environment Minister claims “the one-stop-shop will slash red tape and increase jobs and investment, whilst maintaining environmental standards.” Whether the claimed benefits are achievable is an open question and there are serious potential problems with the proposed system. There is remarkably little evidence to support the claim that significant time and costs savings will be achieved. It also undermines one of the key functions and benefits of the EPBC Act in practice – to provide an appropriate level of oversight for State government decisions. This problem will be exacerbated if the Australian Government breaks its pre-election commitment to retain power for decisions on State government projects.

 

4 April l Dr Kevin Morris  l University of New South Wales
Room 139 Goddard Building (8) 3pm

Dr Kevin Morris Genomic dark matter: the complexity of Non-Coding RNAs from mechanism to therapeutic  
Observations over the past decade have demonstrated that exogenously introduced non-coding RNAs can transcriptionally modulate gene expression in human cells by recruiting silent state epigenetic marks to target loci. The research from our group now shows a distinctly different picture for gene regulation than has previously been appreciated. Notably, we find that an underappreciated RNA directed mechanism of gene regulation is operative in humans, including various diseases ranging from cancer to HIV to cystic fibrosis. The mechanism can be taken advantage of to either transcriptionally silence a genes expression in a long-term manner, or activate a genes transcription by the targeted degradation of regulatory antisense lncRNAs.

 

28 March l Dr Peta Clode  l University of Western Australia
Room 139 Goddard Building (8) 3pm

Dr Peta Clode Marine systems under the microscope  
This presentation will provide an overview of microscopy and imaging data from a selection of collaborative marine research projects, including nutrient metabolism (nitrogen and sulphur-based), biomineralisation (iron and calcium-based), coral growth under environmental stress, and coral associated viruses and micro-organisms. In addition, opportunities for scientists to access and utilise key expertise and infrastructure at the Centre for Microscopy, Characterisation & Analysis at UWA for their research will be briefly highlighted.

 

21 March l Dr Bob Warner l Ecology, Evolution, and Marine Biology, University of California
Room 139 Goddard Building (8) 3pm

Dr Bob WarnerFear and longing: Predator changes and the role of behavior in marine conservation 
In marine systems, many of the spatial and temporal changes in predator numbers are human-induced. These changes are occurring at both global and local scales. Indirect effects are known to be important in structuring ecosystems. Changes in predation risk can change the way prey reproduce, feed, communicate and interact with both conspecifics and other species. Changes in predator size and number have been documented to affect their own reproduction and diet breadth, and to indirectly influence the survival of young colonists to local habitats. Indirect effects can be profoundly important in ecology and conservation, and understanding them is critical for improving ecosystem-based management.

 

14 March l Dr Dorrit Jacob l Macquarie University
Room 139 Goddard Building (8) 3pm

Dr Dorrit JacobBiomineralization of bivalve shells - the mineral perspective 
Biominerals such as bivalve shells are increasingly used as proxy archives for environmental and paleoclimatological reconstruction. Due to the metabolic activity of the organisms that form the minerals, these reconstructions often deviate from the physical-chemical behaviours described in the study of inorganic compounds. By exploring the composition of bivalve shells at high resolution, we can better understand the physiological effects that organisms have on the biominerals they produce. This talk will highlight the inorganic composition and structure of bivalve shells and pearls, pointing out some of the unique characteristics of minerals formed by organisms.

 

7 March l Dr Anna Metaxas l Dept. of Oceanography, Dalhousie University, Nova Scotia, Canada
Room 139 Goddard Building (8) 3pm

Dr Anna MetaxasWhat drives larval transport: from the beaker to the ocean
Population connectivity is one of the criteria in the design of networks of MPAs. For marine benthic invertebrates, most of which are sessile or near sessile, larval transport is a significant driver of population connectivity. However, the prediction of larval transport presents a major challenge because larvae cannot be tracked in the field. Our research measures larval behaviours in tractable laboratory experiments that can explain larval distributions observed in the field and can be included in biophysical models to predict larval transport.