Friday, 30 June 2017

Postgraduate Seminar Speakers 6th July 2017

Postgraduate Seminar Speakers 6th July 2017
1pm - Zoology Museum, Wallace 129

S P E A K E R   1
Detecting forest insect and disease outbreaks within the palaeoecological record

Matt Watkins  

Threats to tree health from insect pests and diseases are becoming an increasing environmental and economic concern throughout temperate forest ecosystems globally. Recent outbreaks of bark beetles, a damaging forest pest, throughout western North America and Europe have been described as 'unprecedented' and attributed to the impacts of global warming. But are present levels really unusual? Understanding the long-term interactions between forest tree species, insects and disease and changing climates requires a long-term ecological (palaeoecological) perspective. However, to date, palaeoecological assessments of forest pathogens have been largely based on inference - more scientifically robust measures are required to definitively identify and quantify past outbreaks and to examine associated environmental drivers and ecological consequences. The project will examine a novel combination of multidisciplinary analysis techniques to calibrate evidence of the presence and impacts of forest pests preserved in sedimentary archives (20 sites). Outbreak indicators (fossil pollen fluctuations, stomata, plant and insect macrofossils and, in a novel approach, analysis of preserved environmental DNA (eDNA) of insect pests) will be directly compared with detailed annual biological inventory data (USDA) of forest pathogens over 68 years (1947-2015) in the Pacific Northwest, USA.


S P E A K E R   2
FosSahul database and Megafauna extinctions in Australia

Marta Rodríguez-Rey

The fossil record has grown substantially over the last three decades, thus permitting more refined chronologies of major biological events and tests of their underlying causes. These chronologies provide palaeoecological insights into extinction and evolutionary processes that enable better predictions and management of factors driving biodiversity loss. However, more fossil data does not necessarily equate to higher information quality given uncertainties in dating that can lead to incorrect timing of ecological processes. FosSahul is the first quality-rated dataset of nonhuman vertebrate fossils for Sahul (Australia and New Guinea) through the Quaternary to the present (doi:10.1038/sdata.2016.53). Only 23% of the full set of fossil ages were rated as ‘reliable’, so available ages must be carefully scrutinised before they can be used for building chronologies or timing inferences. I will discuss multiple potential applications of this dataset for better understanding the past, present and future of Australia’s history of life.

S P E A K E R   3
Trade-offs between multiple ecosystem services in UK and US salt marshes

Kate Davidson 

Salt marshes - coastal grasslands regularly flooded by the tides - supply many and varied ecosystem services. They provide coastal protection, carbon storage, recreation, habitat for diverse wildlife, and livestock pasturage. Through a combination of observational study, experimental manipulation, and analysis of secondary data, I will examine how one of these services – livestock grazing – can impair or enhance the other services provided by salt marshes. In this presentation I will give an overview of my PhD research in both the UK and the US, covering topics as diverse as soil science, bee-hunting and fence-building!

Monday, 26 June 2017

BioMaths Colloquium - 30/06/2017

BioMaths Colloquium Series - 2016/17

30 June 2017 - 3pm Maths Seminar Room

(room 224 Talbot Building 2nd floor)

Taming Nature Inspired Evolutionary Optimisation Algorithms

Dr Sean Walton

(Department of Computer ScienceSwansea University, UK) 

Image by Sean Walton

Our last BioMaths Colloquium Series for the 2016/17 academic year will feature a seminar by Dr Sean Walton from the Department of Computer Science at Swansea University (UK). Jon is a computer science lecturer, interested in mesh generation and optimisation algorithms, evolutionary optimisation algorithms and intelligent design, web development, and computer games design - for the latter he even founded a company, Pill Bug Interactive. He is particularly interested in optimisation of computer design and in harnessing the power of evolution to do so. Sean is part of the visual computation research group and is passionate also about teaching, especially of web development.

Can a computer automatically design a car, a boat or an aircraft?  This is a driving question at the heart of design optimisation.  Increasingly researchers are looking towards nature for inspiration to achieve this goal, making a computer evolve a car instead of designing it.

By its nature evolution is hard to control, which causes some problems when trying to use it to do a specific task.  What seems like a simple solution to a complex problem can quickly become difficult to use.  The inherit randomness means you can never be completely certain you’ll get a good design quickly enough.  This has led to complex adaptive algorithms which try to control mutation and survival rates from generation to generation to get the best design in the shortest time.  

In this talk I will give a brief overview of evolutionary optimisation algorithms, discuss the problems with them and suggest some potential solutions. 

The discussions will continue over biscuits and tea/coffee after the seminar. 
Hope to see many of you!

Friday, 16 June 2017

Biosciences Science Club Events 16 June 2017

Biosciences Science Club Series - Spring 2017
16 June 2017 - 1pm - Zoology Museum

Marine renewables risk: so what?

Dr Simon Jude

We are excited to host this week Dr Simon Jude, Lecturer at the Cranfield Institute for Resilient Futures at Cranfield University. His research focuses on the development and application of interdisciplinary approaches to investigate and improve environmental decision-making.  Marine environmental risks and decision-making form a key component of this work, with recent research projects investigating issues ranging from marine vertebrate interactions with wave and tidal developments, to cumulative effects assessment, and risk frameworks for use in marine licensing processes.  Simon also has practical experience of working in the offshore wind industry, which you will hear more about during the seminar.

Legal carbon reduction targets have triggered ambitious plans for large-scale deployment of ocean energy, with numerous wind, wave and tidal technologies under development by companies ranging from SMEs to multinationals.  This seminar will report on how these new forms of emergent technologies are associated with highly uncertain technological and environmental risks, which are posing significant challenges for the wave and tidal technology sector, its investors and regulators. Case studies from Simon’s research and practical experience of the offshore renewable energy sector will illustrate the wide-ranging risk management challenges - from device and technology failures, to the complex forms of environmental interactions with offshore renewables developments, and organisational and risk governance - that are proving problematic.  The need for strategies for managing and mitigating risks and exploiting potential opportunities will be considered.

Hope to see many of you - everyone most welcome to attend!