Biology Seminar: Spring 2019

1/31 – Introduction
2/7 – Jennifer Dean. New York Dept of Environmental Conservation. Prioritizing Invasive Species Efforts: Working Smarter with NYS Tools and Data
2/14 – Zion Klos. Marist College. Water and Climate in Social-Ecological Systems: Collaborations in Research, Art, and Science Communication
2/21 – Sonya Auer. Williams College. Energetic Mechanisms for Coping with Environmental Change
2/28 – Seeta Sistla. Hampshire College. Unexpected Impacts of Land-based Solar Arrays: Novel Habitat Heterogeneity Formation and Its Influence on Plant-soil Interactions.
3/7 – Elise McKenna Myers. Columbia University. The Impact of Microbial Particle Association on Pathogen Persistence in the Hudson River Estuary
3/14 – Sarah Mount, ‘10. New York Dept of Environmental Conservation. The Hudson River Eel Project: . Fish Conservation Through Citizen Science
3/28 – Leroy Cooper. Vassar College. Inter-relations of Aortic Stiffness, Microvascular Function, and Cardiovascular Disease and Cognition
4/4 – Dorothy Beckett. University of Maryland. Regulating Vitamin Biotin Distribution:. Implications for Health and Biotechnology
4/11 – Swapan Jain. Chemistry Program, Bard College. Regulation of RNA Using Synthetic Small Molecules
4/18 – Brian McGill. University of Maine. Global Change and Biodiversity: Understanding Our Future Through the Past
4/25 – Cathy Collins. Biology Program, Bard College. Title TBD
5/2 – Senior Project talks: Lucy Christiana, Rachael Mendoza, and Melissa Yost-Bido

Keesing lab: Blood meal effects on tick microbiome

Ticks are parasites that ingest blood from their hosts. During their blood meals, they can also ingest microbes, such as bacteria, from their host’s blood, which could influence the microbial community, or “microbiome”, of the tick itself. Using high-throughput sequencing, Felicia Keesing and her colleagues sampled the microbiomes of ticks that had fed on individuals of five different host species — raccoons, Virginia opossums, striped skunks, red squirrels, and gray squirrels. They found that ticks that had fed on different host species had significantly different microbiomes. This is important because some of the microbes that ticks can acquire during their blood meals are pathogens of humans, including the bacterium that causes Lyme disease.

Publication link:

Full citation:  Landesman, W. J., Mulder, K., Allan, B. F., Bashor, L. A., Keesing, F., LoGiudice, K., & Ostfeld, R. S. (2019). Potential effects of blood meal host on bacterial community composition in Ixodes scapularis nymphs. Ticks and tick-borne diseases.

Dueker lab: Fog in Urban Environments

The urban environment is complex and often highly contaminated. This paper from prof. Eli Dueker’s lab takes a close look at how this contamination influences bacteria in urban air.  The bacteria present in urban waterways were compared with the bacteria present in urban air, showing that there are many sources for atmospheric bacteria in an urban environment, including sewage contaminated waterways and polluted terrestrial areas. We also observed a ubiquitous distribution of sewage-associated bacteria, in water and air at several urban sites, highlighting the prevalence of of sewage contamination in crowded urban centers and underscoring the complexity of managing this form of pollution in water and air.  Surprisingly, we also found that, despite the absence of obvious ecological structures, the air harbored a much more diverse bacterial community than that found in urban waterways. This provides evidence for the possibility of an atmospheric “ecology” and is a step towards understanding the role of megacities in determining the quality of urban air.

Citation: Dueker, M. E., French, S., & O’Mullan, G. D. (2018). Comparison of Bacterial Diversity in Air and Water of a Major Urban Center. Frontiers in Microbiology9.


Keesing lab: livestock and wild animals can coexist

The savannas of East Africa are renowned for their abundant and diverse wildlife. But wildlife populations in this region are declining dramatically, in part because of conflicts with humans and their livestock. Felicia Keesing and her colleagues studied the ecological, economic, and social consequences that arise when livestock and wildlife co-occur versus when the two groups live separately. They found that when livestock, particularly cattle, are kept at moderate densities, they actually improve vegetation quality for wildlife, reduce the abundance of parasites, and provide economic and social benefits to people living in the area.

Keesing discussed the research, and its implications, with Scientific American.