2016-17 Scientist Lecture Series

Delve deeper into the issues and conditions that impact the world around us. These free academic lectures allow you to step back into the classroom and learn from the experts.

 

Each lecture is free and open to the public, but registration is required. All programs are held at 7pm.

 

 

 

Thursday, Nov. 3 - Too Dry: Structure and Function of Southwest U.S. Ecosystems During Drought

Erik Hamerlynck, PhD, Plant Physiologist with the USDA Agricultural Research Service

 

The arid and semi-arid ecosystems of the southwestern United States encompass an astonishing range of diverse plant communities, the structure and function of which are closely linked to the seasonal timing and total amount of annual precipitation, as well as fairly predictable prolonged seasonal dry periods. Even in these already water-limited systems, infrequent, multi-year to multi-decadal droughts can have profound and long-lasting effects on plant community structure. In this talk, Hamerlynck will illustrate the challenges in determining just how recent drought effects have unfolded across the southwestern United States, and how these are affecting ecosystem functional processes in the region.

Register

 

Thursday, Jan 12 - Genes Behaving Badly: How Male Sterility Can be Maintained in Natural Plant Populations

Andrea Case, PhD, Associate Professor of Evolutionary Biology at Kent State University

 

Natural selection is, by definition, a process that acts to increase individual fitness in populations of organisms. The common occurrence of traits that reduce fitness presents an interesting evolutionary puzzle. This talk will explore how one costly trait in plants—male sterility—can be evolutionarily maintained in natural populations despite reducing individual fitness. Case will present her ongoing research on male sterility showing that the genes causing male sterility evolve selfishly, and that genes that can suppress male sterility are costly.

 

Thursday, Feb 9 - Tiny Ants and the Big Job of Moving Plants

Katie Stuble, PhD, scientist at The Holden Arboretum.

 

Plants have developed numerous ways to get around. Seeds are dispersed by wind, water, birds, and even by ants. Ants are important dispersers of numerous plant species around the world and play a big role in shaping the composition of plant communities, including in local deciduous forests where they move many of our spring ephemeral flowers. Exotic ant species threaten native ant populations around the world, and also provide us with natural experiments through which we can study how much our plants really depend on ants. Stuble will discuss what we know about ant-mediated seed dispersal and the things we’ve learned by studying exotic ants and seed dispersal in areas that have lost their native dispersers.

 

Arbor Day Lecture

Kay Havens, PhD, Medard and Elizabeth Welch Director, Plant Science and Conservation at the Chicago Botanical Garden

 

 

Thursday, May 11 - The End of Gondwana at the End of the World: Patagonia’s Fossil Rainforest and the Trans-Antarctic Lost Fossil Freeway to Asia

Peter Wilf, PhD, Professor of Geosciences and Adjunct Professor of Biology at Penn State University

 

The outstandingly rich, little-sampled fossil beds of Patagonia, Argentina, have unrivaled importance for understanding the evolution of Southern Hemisphere biodiversity and biogeography. Dr. Wilf’s international, long-term project in Patagonia has yielded significant paleo-botanical discoveries, providing a massive infusion of primary data for testing evolutionary and biogeographic scenarios. For example, the extremely diverse, Eocene paleorainforest sites at Laguna del Hunco (52.2 million years) and Río Pichileufú (47.7 million years) produced many first South American records of Eucalyptus (gums) and Agathis (kauris), along with the world’s first fossil flowers of the daisy family (Asteraceae). The striking biogeographic history of living lineages found as Patagonian fossils, often thousands of kilometers away from their extant ranges, provides a historical baseline for understanding and conserving the threatened, biodiverse, Old World rainforest areas where many of them live today.

 

Thursday, July 13 - Climate driven change in Himalayan Rhododendrons: insights from history, ecology and traditional knowledge

Robbie Hart, Assistant Curator of High Elevation Ethnobotany and GLORIA at the Missouri Botanical Garden

 

Phenology – the seasonal timing of life-history events – is a critical dimension of natural history. Phenology is also one of the earliest and most noticeable traits by which organisms respond to climate change. However, these responses are complex, and only beginning to be understood, especially in the montane and alpine environments that are among the ecosystems most vulnerable to climate change. Dr. Hart will describe how climate affects phenology in rhododendrons at one of their centers of diversity – Mt. Yulong, in the mountains of Southwest China. Mt. Yulong is home to a suite of species that are diverse, dominant, and ecologically and culturally salient, and also an area extraordinarily well represented by a unique set of historical plant collections. This provides an extraordinary opportunity to elucidate the connections between climate and phenology in Himalayan rhododendron, beyond simple models of warming driving an 'earlier spring’.