Fall '23 / Winter '24 Departmental Seminar Series

trees through the seasons

Seminars are held Thursdays  from 11:30 a.m. - 12:30 p.m, in SSC 2315. All interested are welcome to attend.

Fall 2023

September 28, 2023 - Elena Choleris, Professor, Department of Psychology, University of Guelph

Topic: Neuroendocrinology of social cognition in male and female mice

October 5, 2023 -  Kiyoko Gotanda Assistant Professor, Gotanda Lab,  Brock University 

Topic:Adaptation in a changing world: human influences on evolution

Abstract: Evolutionary biology studies the origins of biodiversity, how it evolved and, importantly, how it is maintained. In today's world, patterns of selection (and therefore evolution) are being altered by humans, strongly influencing the generation and maintenance of biodiversity. Humans can alter evolution and adaptation through a variety of mechanisms. For example, the increase in urbanization (development of villages, towns, and cities) has a strong effect on ecological and evolutionary processes. Another example is the introduction of non-native predators, an impact known to be closely correlated with local extinction events. Here, I present examples of humans altering selective pressures, and what the consequences of this are.

October 12, 2023 - Kathleen Clark Assistant ProfessorFaculty of Education, University of Laurier


October 19, 2023 - Dr. Kaia Tombak Rothman Laboratory, Hunter College of the City University of New York

Topic: Cracking the code of conduct: understanding the many selection forces driving social behaviour and examining some long-held assumptions in evolutionary biology

Abstract: The striking diversity in animal societies – from pair- to group-living, from egalitarian to hierarchical, from monogamous to polygamous – has captivated naturalists for centuries. Still, fundamental questions like ‘what determines group size?’ and ‘what structures relationships in a group?’ remain largely unanswered. The multiple selection forces acting on the scale and structure of a society must be studied together to understand social diversity, and this is what I aim to do, with a focus on mammals. I will describe my doctoral work on a large-scale natural experiment to uncover how group size responds to four key selection forces in zebras in Kenya. I will then detail my comparative literature-based studies on intra- and intersexual relationships and sexual size dimorphism, probing how sexual selection operates in mammals. Throughout, I have discovered that strong assumptions in animal behavior research have not been supported by the data, opening up new questions and points of emphasis in how we explore the fundamental rules governing animal societies.

October 26, 2023 - Dr. Joanna Rifkin LSA Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of Michigan

Topic: Function, Form, and Content in Plant Genome Evolution

Abstract: The evolution of plant traits interacts complexly with the structure of plant genomes. How traits are localized in the genome can affect their evolutionary trajectories, and selection can impact the structure and arrangement of the genome itself. This talk will explore the interaction between natural selection, plant traits, and genomic structure across three species with diverse reproductive systems.

November 2 , 2023 - Philip Greenspoon University of Edinburgh 

Topic:  Evolution with epigenetics and parasites: models of non-genetic transmission

Abstract: Evidence that traits can be transmitted to future generations through non-genetic means has generated interest in epigenetic inheritance. Yet evidence for epigenetic changes, such as methylation states, being both adaptive and heritable is scarce. What conditions would make a species most likely to evolve a system of adaptive epigenetic inheritance? In the first part of my talk, I will present a theoretical model investigating this question. Next, I will turn to the consequences of having adaptive epigenetic inheritance on the rate of speciation. Finally, I will shift my attention to a different form of non-genetic transmission, familial transmission of parasites, such as from parent to offspring. I will present on a model of the evolutionary consequences of parasites being transmitted preferentially within families, focusing on Red Queen dynamics.  

November 9, 2023 - Jess Clausen Lakehead University

Topic: Context in Learning

An award-winning educator and scholar, Dr. Jess Clausen has produced community-based action research studies and resources that provide practical guidance and support for educators and presented her work at national and international forums. Since working as an Outdoor Education Program Specialist with the Toronto District School Board, she has earned a Masters degree in Education from Nipissing University, and a PhD from the Social Justice Education Department at OISE University of Toronto. Claussen has worked as a Curriculum/Public Engagement Specialist with the David Suzuki Foundation where she created a national curriculum for connecting youth with nature from kindergarten to grade 8. Her SSHRC funded post-doctoral fellowship allowed her to work with a Northern First Nations community to develop a land-based school, and most recently, Clausen participated in the development of a field school in IIkalutuuttiaq (Cambridge Bay, Nunavut), focused on experiential learning, with Dr. Shoshanah Jacobs and Dr. Tad MacIlwraith of the University of Guelph. Clausen has over 20 years of experience in education and she is currently an Adjunct Professor with the Faculty of Education at Lakehead University in Orillia, and a Lecturer at the University of Waterloo. She is also actively teaching within the Upper Grand District school board. Clausen’s work investigates contextually-based learning experiences, which this talk will address.

November 16, 2023 - Matt Barbour  Universite` de Sherbrooke 

Topic: Eco-evolutionary dynamics in plant-insect food webs

Abstract: Global change is reshaping biodiversity across scales — from the genetic makeup of populations to the composition of species in ecological communities. These cross-­scale changes often unleash an array of indirect effects that make it difficult to predict ensuing ecological and evolutionary responses due to the complex network of interactions species are usually embedded in. In this seminar, I will share a series of field and lab experiments with plant-insect food webs that seek to better understand the interconnected nature of biodiversity across scales. I will begin by showing how genetic variation within species can scale up to influence food-web structure and species coexistence. I will then discuss how the diversity of species in a community can feedback to shape genetic and phenotypic variation in interacting populations. Throughout, I will argue that understanding these eco-evolutionary processes is critical for predicting how biodiversity will be reorganized by environmental change. 


November 23, 2023- Liam McGuire  University of Waterloo

Topic: Migration Ecophysiology: The Influence of Heterothermy in Migratory Bats and Birds.

Abstract: Migration has long fascinated biologists and the public alike. There are many examples of small-bodied bats and birds that make amazing migratory journeys each year, leading to the inevitable question- How do they do it? As a graduate student studying bat migration, there was little literature that I could rely on and instead I used migratory birds as a model. I published a review titled “What can birds tell us about the migration physiology of bats?” in which I outlined the many aspects of migration that I hypothesized would be similar in the two groups, and a few key differences. As I continued to study bat migration, it quickly became clear that the ability to use daily torpor to reduce energetic costs during non-flight periods has a dramatic effect on nearly all aspects of bat migration, from body composition, to stopover duration, landscape scale movement patterns, and possibly even survival likelihood. I continue to study bat migration, but I’ve started to turn the question around, asking “What can bats tell us about the migration physiology of birds?”. We are now studying heterothermic migration strategies in birds, which may be more common than previously appreciated.


November 30, 2023-  Dr. Douglas Fudge Comparative Biomaterials Lab, Chapman University 

Topic: Hagfish Biophysics, Biomimetics, and Biodiversity

Hagfishes are an ancient group of jawless fishes that are best known for their heroic defensive sliming abilities, which make them essentially immune to predation from fishes, including sharks. I will provide an update on our understanding of how hagfishes create liters of fiber-reinforced slime in a fraction of second, the genes involved in the biogenesis of the slime, how slime components scale with body size, and how the slime likely evolved from modification of epidermal cells. I will also discuss current collaborations with engineers to produce bio-inspired materials that mimic the properties of hagfish slime. Burrowing is known to be an important part of the hagfish lifestyle, but until now, it has been impossible to observe how the submerged parts of a hagfish behave during a bout of burrowing. I will discuss new research on burrowing in hagfishes and the biomechanical strategies they appear to be using to move through sediments. I will end with a discussion of new research on hagfish biodiversity, with a focus on hagfishes of the Galápagos Islands, Ecuador.


December 7, 2023-  Dr. Andrew Crump  Royal Veterinary College University of London


Winter 2024

February 1, 2024 - 


February 8, 2024  - 


February 15, 2024 - 


February 29, 2024 - 


March 7, 2024 -  


March 14, 2024 - 


March 21, 2024 - 


March 28, 2024 -


April 4, 2024-


April 11, 2024-