In November 2017, Bard alum Silas Busch ’16 presented the work he did during his Bard senior project at a professional society meeting “Society for Neuroscience” in Washington DC. His poster won a travel award from the David Hubel Memorial Fund (distributed through the Faculty for Undergraduate Neuroscience society).
In his work, Silas studied how neural cells in the brain of frog tadpoles change their spiking properties when tadpoles experience different types of visual and auditory stimuli. To measure neuronal properties, Silas used a fancy electrophysiological technique, called Dynamic Clamp. He found that neurons become tuned to better process stimuli perceived by the brain, and that when visual and auditory stimuli are combined, it leads to interesting, and somewhat unexpected changes in neuronal tuning.
Presentation info: S.E. Busch, A.S. Khakhalin. Midbrain neurons show temporal retuning of intrinsic properties in response to patterned uni- and multisensory stimulation. Wed Nov 15, 2017. Washington DC.
The Biology Seminars (biosem) happen every Thursday at noon, in RKC 103 (large auditorium). The list of speakers and talks this semester:
- 9/7 INFORMATION SESSION
- 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
- 11/23 THANKSGIVING RECESS
- 11/30 Felicia Keesing. How to Plan a Meaningful Summer
- 12/7 Student talks
- 12/14 Student talks
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.