Biology Seminar: Fall 2017

The Biology Seminars (biosem) happen every Thursday at noon, in RKC 103 (large auditorium). The list of speakers and talks this semester:

  • 9/14 Krishna Veeramah,  SUNY Stony Brook. Ancient European Dog Genomes Reveal Continuity Since the Early Neolithic
  • 9/21 Ilyas Washington, Columbia University.
  • 9/28 Wilfredo Colon, RPI. Degradation-resistant proteins: Biological, Disease, and Biotechnology Implications
  • 10/5 Helen Alexander, Kansas University. Effects of Viruses on Plant Fitness: A Plant Ecologist’s Foray into Plant Virus Ecology
  • 10/12 Dave Alexander, Kansas University. The Evolution of Animal Flight From a Biomechanics Perspective
  • 10/19 NO SEMINAR
  • 10/26 Pia-Kelsey O’Neill, Columbia University.
  • 11/2 Jessica Hua, SUNY Binghamton. Poisons, Predators, and Parasites: Integrating Ecological and Evolutionary Complexity into Toxicology
  • 11/9 Sarah Dunphy-Lelii, Bard College. The Chimpanzees of Ngogo
  • 11/16 Felicia Keesing, Bard College. Integrating Livestock and Wildlife in an African Savanna
  • 11/30 Felicia Keesing. How to Plan a Meaningful Summer
  • 12/7 Student talks
  • 12/14 Student talks

New paper: integrating wildlife and livestock in central Kenya

In this paper, Felicia Keesing and her collaborators explore the potential for positive interactions between livestock and wildlife in African savannas. Historically, the prevailing view has been that savanna landscapes should be managed for either livestock or wildlife, but not both. Keesing and her colleagues suggest that under some conditions, both groups — and the humans who share their habitat — could benefit ecologically and economically by sharing land.

Citation: Allan BF, Tallis H, Chaplin‐Kramer R, Huckett S, Kowal VA, Musengezi J, Okanga S, Ostfeld RS, Schieltz J, Warui CM, Wood SA, Keesing F. Can integrating wildlife and livestock enhance ecosystem services in central Kenya?. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment. 2017 Aug 1;15(6):328-35. Full text at Research Gate.

Student research: Daniella Azulai

In her senior project, Daniella Azulai ’17 studied antibiotic resistance of a bacterium Pseudomonas aeruginosa: a pathogen that plagues patients with compromised immune systems and people with cystic fibrosis. Daniella developed a new method to test how virulent (harmful) different strains of these bacteria are. Using larval zebrafish, she found that antibiotic resistance does not necessarily correlate with virulence, but rather that each strain showed a unique profile, pointing to differences in the evolution of these strains over time.

Hudson Valley Life Sciences Symposium 2017

14 students from Bard presented their posters at the yearly local science conference named “Hudson Valley Life Sciences Group Spring Research Symposium”, in SUNY New Paltz on April 28. Other schools that presented their work included SUNY New Paltz, Vassar College, and Marist College. The conference was clearly very productive (big thanks to the organizers!), and helped Bard seniors to hone their presentation skills, and practice their senior project elevator speeches!

Student research: Sydney Pindling

Sydney Pindling finished her senior project in the fall of 2016, under the supervision of professor Gabriel Perron. Sydney developed a promising new model to study the effects of antibiotics, such as streptomycin, on the animal microbiome.  She exposed larval zebrafish (Danio rerio) to very low concentrations of streptomycin; in fact, the concentrations Sydney used were similar to that observed in in environment: rivers and streams near human settlements. Sydney found that that even at these low concentrations streptomycin changed the microbiome in the larval fish, and increased larva mortality. She also observed that the microbes in the fish gut were selected for genes associated with antibiotic resistance. These results may have relevance both for studies of antibiotic effects in humans, and for the environmental research of fish populations.

Professor Cathy Collins Awarded NSF Grant to Study Plant-Pathogen Interactions

Bard biology professor Cathy Collins has been awarded a National Science Foundation grant to study how landscape fragmentation interferes with plant-pathogen interactions that maintain local plant diversity. Plant diseases are often thought of as backyard nuisances or crop destroyers, but they can also play beneficial roles in unmanaged ecosystems by maintaining plant diversity. Each plant species has its own unique cohort of specialist pathogens. By slowing the growth or increasing the mortality of plants they infect, these pathogens prevent any single plant species from dominating an area. Many ecosystems are being broken up into smaller fragments due to land-use changes such as suburban sprawl. Habitat edges and small habitat patches experience environmental extremes such as higher temperatures, more light, and lower soil moisture. These conditions, in turn, influence plant disease. Collins’s research, which includes work with Bard students, will explore if and how conditions in fragments change the way plants interact with their pathogens and the resulting impacts on local plant diversity. The project, which is in collaboration with Sarah Lawrence College biology professor Michelle Hersh, received a total of $600,000 from NSF.

Read full press-release here.

Student publication: Molly McQuillan

Biology senior Molly McQuillan and professor Arseny Khakhalin coauthored on a neuroscience paper published in the prestigious life sciences journal eLife.  The paper presents new research that explains how the developing brain learns to integrate simultaneous sensory cues—sound, touch, and visual—that would be ignored individually.

Read full press-release from Bard

Full citation: Truszkowski, Torrey LS, Oscar A. Carrillo, Julia Bleier, Carolina Ramirez-Vizcarrondo, Molly McQuillan, Christopher P. Truszkowski, Arseny S. Khakhalin, and Carlos D. Aizenman. “A cellular mechanism for inverse effectiveness in multisensory integration.” eLife 6 (2017): e25392.

Publications: Is biodiversity bad for your health?

Why should people protect biodiversity? Researchers from a number of disciplines have proposed ethical, aesthetic, and utilitarian reasons to do so. But recently some researchers have argued that ecosystems that support high diversity pose a danger to human health. They argue that because areas with high biodiversity are likely to support a high diversity of potential human pathogens, these areas should be hotspots for the emergence of infectious diseases.

In this paper, Felicia Keesing and Rick Ostfeld evaluate the evidence for three necessary links that are required by this argument. They found no support for one critical link—that high total diversity of pathogens correlates with high diversity of actual or potential pathogens of humans. This suggests that high biodiversity should not be expected to lead to more infectious diseases of humans. In contrast, there is now substantial evidence that high diversity protects humans against the transmission of many existing diseases.

Citation: Ostfeld, R. S., & Keesing, F. (2017). Is biodiversity bad for your health?. Ecosphere, 8(3).

Student project on Snow Leopards

This amazing photo of a Snow Leopard (Panthera uncia) was made by Bard biology senior Devin Fraleigh, who is now working with Panthera foundation, in collaboration with the American University of Central Asia in Kyrgzstan, to study populations of Snow Leopards in the Tien Shan mountains. This image of an adult leopard was captured using an automated camera in early March 2017 on a mountain pass in the Ala-Too mountain range, not far from Bishkek.

Biology Seminar: Spring 2017

The bio seminars happen every Thursday at noon, in RKC 103 (large auditorium). The list of speakers and talks this semester:

    • 2-Feb: Information session
    • 9-Feb: Cancelled because of a snowstorm
    • 16-Feb: Emma Rosi; Cary Institute; Our Rivers on Drugs
    • 23-Feb: Kirk Haltaufderhyde; University of RI; Characterization of Human T cell Response to Dengue
    • 2-Mar: Paolo Forni; SUNY Albany; Terminal differentiation of vomeronasal sensory neurons and GnRH-1 neuronal migration, from new models to new stories
    • 9-Mar: Jordan Ruybal; U Scranton; The influence of climate change and evolution on mosquito life history traits and pathogen transmission
    • 16-Mar: Cathy Collins, on the ecology of plant-fungal interactions
    • 23-Mar: Spring Recess
    • 30-Mar: Sarita Lagalwar; Skidmore; Ataxin1-pS776: Single site phosphorylation and its impact on neurodegenerative disease
    • 6-Apr: Chris Elphick; U Connecticut; Canaries in the saltmarsh: tidal marsh conservation in the face of sea level rise
    • 13-Apr: Cancelled
    • 20-Apr: Sarah Bowden; Cary Institute; The ecology of West Nile virus in the United States
    • 27-Apr: Charvann Bailey; Vassar; Molecular mechanisms of SLUG-induced chemotherapeutic resistance in triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC)
    • 4-May: Alexander Petroff; Rockefeller; tbc (mathematical dynamics of microbial cooperation)
    • 11-May: Michelle Hersh; Sarah Lawrence; tbc (ecology of fungal-plant interactions)
    • 18-May: Student talks:
      • Abiba Salahou: A Novel Approach for Exploring the Effects of Fluoxetine on Xenopus laevis tadpole Feeding Behavior.
      • Virginia Caponera: The Insectivore’s Dilemma: An assessment of the potential role of red-backed salamander predation on tick populations.
      • Biz Osborne-Schwartz: Attachment affinity of Vibrio cholerae to resistant starches: testing the benefit of adding resistant starches to an oral rehydration therapy.

Illustration: Scholars at an Abbasid library, House of Wisdom, Baghdad. A miniature by Yahyá al-Wasiti, 1237, from the Maqamat of al-Hariri manuscript.