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Biology Seminar Fall 2021

The schedule of Biology Seminars for Fall 2021:

  • 9/2 Introduction and orientation
  • 9/9 Juliet Morrison; UC Riverside. A role for pleural macrophages in influenza resolution
  • 9/16 Kat Anderson; Bard College. Marine climate change ecology: How trying to predict the future helps us understand the world today
  • 9/23 Nsikan Akpan; NY Public Radio What is science journalism…and can it save us from ourselves?
  • 9/30 Danica Miller; Associate Professor of American Indian Studies University of Washington Tacoma. Self-determination and indigenous health
  • 10/7 Jane Lucas; Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies. Soil health in the age of antibiotics
  • 10/14 Shannon LaDeau; Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies. Vector-borne disease risk in cities influenced by social and ecological legacies of (dis)investment
  • 10/21 Chris Golden; Harvard University School of Public Health. The importance of wildlife declines to global food security
  • 10/28 TBD
  • 11/4 Gwenäelle Thomas; Duke University. Title – TBD
  • 11/11 TBD
  • 11/18 TBD
  • 11/25 Thanksgiving break
  • 12/2 TBD
  • 12/9 TBD
  • 12/16 TBD

Welcome professor Kaishian!

We are happy to report that Dr. Patricia Kaishian has joined our program as Visiting Assistant Professor of Biology.

Dr. Kaishian is a mycologist focused on taxonomy, biodiversity, and ecology of fungi, with a particular focus on lesser known groups such as the order Laboulbeniales and other species rich microfungal groups. Her current research is focused on new species discovery and exploring the potential use of certain fungi as indicators of environmental health. Dr. Kaishian is broadly trained in the taxonomy of macro and micro fungi, having conducted numerous mycological inventories in biodiversity hotspots around the world. She received her PhD Mycology from SUNY College of Environmental Science & Forestry, and subsequently served as a postdoctoral researcher and fungal curator in the Aime Lab at Purdue University. Dr. Kaishian is a founding member of the International Congress of Armenian Mycologists, a research organization composed of ethnically Armenian mycologists who seek to simultaneously advance mycological science and Armenian sovereignty and liberation.

Dr. Patricia Kaishian’s website: https://sites.google.com/view/patriciakaishian/home

Welcome professor Todd!

We are happy to welcome Dr. Rob Todd as a Visiting Assistant Professor at Bard Biology!

Dr. Robert (Rob) Todd is a microbiologist, educator, and avid proponent of science outreach. Rob obtained his B.S. in Biology from Iowa State University and a M.S. in Integrated Biology from the University of Iowa. He earned his Ph.D. in Medical Microbiology and Immunology from Creighton University in 2020 and went on to complete a postdoctoral position at the University of Minnesota – Twin Cities campus. On the micro-scale, his research focuses on genome instability and adaptation in the human fungal pathogen Candida albicans. However, he is generally interested in how organisms adapt to both acute and chronic environmental stresses. Beyond typical laboratory research, he is keenly interested in developing curricula and outreach opportunities that increase (and support) diversity and representation in science. He helped establish the Nebraska Science Booster Club during his doctoral work and developed hands-on, low-to-zero cost activities to promote science education and literacy. Rob has worked as a Citizen Science faculty member at Bard since 2020 and is beyond thrilled to continue working with all the talented and passionate students, staff, and faculty at Bard.

Keesing lab: Dilution effects in disease ecology

A new review paper from Felicia Keesing explores how diversity can affect disease transmission. For many diseases of plants and animals, including humans, the presence of low-quality hosts reduces the overall transmission of disease-causing parasites. People have used these “dilution effects” to manage diseases for over a century. More recent evidence demonstrates that dilution effects also occur naturally, protecting us from greater risk of being exposed to infectious diseases. When biodiversity declines, these natural dilution effects disappear, providing a powerful link between the conservation of biodiversity and the health of humans, wildlife, and plants.

Publication info: Keesing, F., & Ostfeld, R. S. (2021). Dilution effects in disease ecology. Ecology Letters.


Biology Seminars 2020-2021

This academic year all Biology Seminars are happening on Zoom, as Zoom Webinars, followed by a Q&A session. This allowed us to invite speakers from afar, including lots of Bard alums, which is definitely a silver lining for these weird times!

Speakers for the Spring 2021 semester:

  • Audrey Russel ’20, Isa Jones  – who both just finished their senior projects in December 2020
  • Prof. Tom Cech, Nobel Prize Laureate, University of Colorado Boulder
  • Molly McQuillan ’17, Brown University
  • Dr. Min Kyung Shinn ’14, Washington University in St. Louis
  • Dr. Caroline Bartman, Princeton U
  • Shailab Shrestha ’16, Tufts
  • Dr. Marta Shocket ’09, University of California, Los Angeles
  • Dr. David George Haskell, author of “The Forest Unseen”; Sewanee University
  • Dr. Carlita Favero, Ursinus College
  • Dr. Sully Fernandez, The Janssen Pharmaceutical Company of Johnson & Johnson
  • Liz Miller ’18, University of Hawaii at Manoa
  • sprojjes (tbc)

Speakers that we had the honor to host in the fall of 2020:

  • Georgia Doing ’15, Dartmouth
  • Nadia Russel ’20, Addie Finch ’20, Eli McClatchy ’20, Gabby Hartman ’20, who finished their senior project in May 2020
  • Silas Busch ’16, U Chicago
  • Dr. Erica Perez, Xavier U of Louisiana
  • Dr. Parris Humphrey ’06, Harvard U
  • Prof. Manu Prakash, Stanford
  • Dr. Sara Andreotti, University of Stellenbosch
  • Emma Kelsick ’17, AmeriCorps
  • Prof. Scott Loss, U Oklahoma
  • Prof. Mary Lou Guerinot, Dartmouth
  • Dr. Melanie McReynolds, Princeton U
  • Dr. Daniel Gonzales, Purdue

Lots of exciting news from the Keesing Lab

There were lots of exciting news in the Keesing Lab in 2020. Professor Felicia Keesing coauthored a whole sequence of papers, including “Species that can make us ill thrive in human habitats” that was published in Nature; “Spatial and temporal patterns of the emerging tick-borne pathogen Borrelia miyamotoi in blacklegged ticks (Ixodes scapularis) in New York” in a journal “Parasites & Vectors”, and a paper “A new genetic approach to distinguish strains of Anaplasma phagocytophilum that appear not to cause human disease,” in a journal named Ticks and Tick-borne Diseases.

In September 2020 professor Keesing was also the featured
scientist on BBC One documentary “Extinction: The Facts with David Attenborough”. Her statements as an expert were included in articles published in The Guardian, The Scientist, Smithsonian Magazine, Canada’s National Observer, and Inside Higher Ed.

Links to press-releases:

Prof. Dueker on Citizen Science and Environmental Justice

Citizen science sees a boom in participation by people motivated by cuts of environmental protections and Covid-19 impacts on data gathering and justice.

“There isn’t enough environmental monitoring to begin with, and it will only decrease,” said Eli Dueker, a professor of environmental and urban studies at Bard College. “So what we end up with is community scientists often working with research scientists to fill that gap. And that can be really effective because it allows communities to know the pollution hot spots with both air and water.”

Full text: https://insideclimatenews.org/news/23062020/citizen-science-coronavirus/

Perron Lab: New genome announcement

Several new genome sequences of Bacillus subtilis and Bacillus velezensis strains were published by the Perron lab. These beneficial bacteria are important for making of many traditional fermented foods, and these strains in particular were isolated from samples of Kimchee cabbage.

Two Perron lab alums, Tejaswee Neupane, and Rachael Mendoza, are coauthors on this paper, as most of the work was done by them as a part of their senior projects!

Full text: https://mra.asm.org/content/ga/9/23/e00085-20.full.pdf

Citation: Perron, G. G., Neupane, T., & Mendoza, R. A. (2020). Draft Genome Sequences of Bacillus subtilis Strains TNC1 (2019), TNC3 (2019), and TNW1 (2019), as Well as Bacillus velezensis Strains TNC2 (2019) and TNW2 (2019), Isolated from Cabbage Kimchee. Microbiology Resource Announcements, 9(23).

Image source: WIkipedia

We (temporarily) switched to remote instruction

To minimize the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, the faculty in the Bard Biology program switched to remote instruction as of March 16m 2020, and until the end of the Spring semester. We are running advising sessions by teleconference, and will handle moderations and senior projects remotely.

For those of you who have recently been admitted to begin studying at Bard in Fall 2020, congratulations! We know that this is a strange time, and that your decisions about college are especially challenging this year. We are happy to speak with you, to connect you with students, and to share some of our remote instruction if any of that would helpful to you in the coming weeks. We would love to have you join our community in the fall!

(Image sources: tapestry, style transform, virus)

Robertson lab: polarized light and bird-building collisions

Migratory birds facing a number of hazards during their journeys. Collisions with buildings have become a major conservation problem for them, but the exact reason why so many birds collide with buildings is unclear. Several studies suggest that birds are attracted to nighttime building lighting. Bruce Robertson helped discover a new kind of light pollution, polarized light pollution, that could also be responsible. The light that reflects from glass buildings gets polarized, which may cause it to look like a water body at a distance, instead of a large dangerous object approaching fast. This collaboration between Bruce Robertson at Bard College and Sirena Lao and Scott Loss at the University of Oklahoma asked whether polarized, or unpolarized light pollution was more strongly associated with bird collisions with buildings in downtown Minneapolis. We found that birds were most likely to collide with individual windows that were lit at night, but that there was little evidence that polarized light pollution was attracting birds. This suggests that turning out the lights in each room of office buildings can help migratory birds avoid collisions.

Lao, S., Robertson, B.A., Anderson, A.W., Blair, R.B., Eckles, J.W., Turner, R.J. and Loss, S.R., 2020. The influence of artificial night at night and polarized light on bird-building collisions. Biological Conservation, 241, p.108358.