Wed 11 Aug 2010: 3pm @ NUS DBS CR2 – Dianne Brunton on “The role of song in the life history strategies of the New Zealand Bellbird”

“The role of song in the life history strategies of the New Zealand Bellbird”

By Dianne Brunton
Ecology & Conservation Group
Institute of Natural Sciences
Massey University, Albany
Auckland New Zealand

Wed 11 Aug 2010: 3.00 pm – 4.00 pm
NUS DBS Conference Room 2
[map]
Block S2, Level 3 Mezzanine
(walk up the stairs towards the ridge after the aquarium)
Department of Biological Sciences
National University of Singapore

Host: Navjot Sodhi

About the Speaker – Dr. Brunton currently oversees a thriving Postgraduate research group at the Albany Campus of Massey University, where she supervises more than 25 projects primarily focused on the ecology and evolutionary biology of New Zealand native species. Her research interests include the evolution of song in endemic songbirds (a completed Marsden project), sexual selection in NZ bellbirds, and modeling foraging ecology using stable isotopes.

She has a number of collaborations with researchers at the New Zealand Centre for Conservation Medicine (Auckland Zoo), Department of Conservation, Landcare, Berkeley, University of Colorado and Cornell University. These involve exploring the links between behaviour and conservation biology and the role of diseases and parasites in the evolution and ecology of NZ¹s fauna. These collaborations have lead to numerous postgraduate research projects and exciting interactions with researchers in a variety of fields related to conservation, behaviour and ecology.

About the talk – The bellbird (Anthornis melanura) is a honeyeater endemic to New Zealand, which uses song to defend breeding territories and/or food resources year round. Compared to almost all studied passerines, female bellbirds exhibit significant singing behaviour and sing a variety of complex songs. This intriguing behaviour warranted further investigation and I tested the “dear enemy” hypothesis for female bellbirds.

This hypothesis proposes that the level of territorial aggression toward conspecific neighbours is lower than that shown toward strangers primarily because of differences in ‘threat’. I experimentally tested the dear enemy hypothesis for territorial females using female neighbour­stranger playback. I found clear evidence that individual females discriminate between conspecific female neighbour and stranger song. Aggressive responses were strongest during the courtship and chick-rearing stages and involved rapid counter-singing responses and movement toward the speaker.

Most importantly, females were more aggressive toward the songs of neighbouring females. This result is opposite to the dear enemy phenomenon and suggests that neighbouring females pose a greater threat than strangers. We predict that these higher levels of aggression may play a role in sexual selection and polygny prevention and that neighbouring females are the greatest threat to the loss of a mate. It appears the more we learn about bellbirds the more intriguing they become.

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Thurs, 29 Jul 2010, 4pm @ NUS DBS SR1 – Ken Krauss on Stress Physiology and Water Use of Tidal Freshwater Forested Wetlands and Mangroves of the Southeastern United States

Stress Physiology and Water Use of Tidal Freshwater Forested Wetlands and Mangroves of the Southeastern United States

By Ken W. Krauss

U.S. Geological Survey, National Wetlands Research Center,
Lafayette, Louisiana USA

29 July 2010, 4pm

Seminar room 1 (S2-04-11) (see map)
Block S2, Level 4
Department of Biological Sciences
National University of Singapore

https://i0.wp.com/www.nwrc.usgs.gov/images/ken_krauss.jpg

About the speaker – Dr. Ken W. Krauss is a Research Physiological Ecologist for the U.S. Geological Survey. Ken’s current research focuses on the effects of different climate change phenomena on mangroves and tidal freshwater forested wetlands in the southeastern United States. Ken focuses on whole-tree physiological stress with flooding and saltwater intrusion, and the consequences of that stress on stand-level water budgeting. Ken also focuses on the vulnerability of coastal swamp forests to sea-level rise, and on how science can inform management of wetlands within the coastal zone. Research ranges from the influence of crabs in structuring coastal forested wetland ecosystems to discerning the relative balance of greenhouse gas emissions from tidal freshwater swamps.

Ken’s talk today will focus on differential vulnerability of mangroves to sea-level rise and disturbance, contrast two different types of mangrove ecosystems (i.e., high island versus atoll), and describe studies that attempt to understand the local effects of root and plantation density in affecting sedimentation and elevation change.

About the talk – Sea-level rise and anthropogenic activity promote salinity incursion into tidal freshwater forested wetlands, while hydrological modifications have altered the structure and function of many mangrove wetlands along sub-tropical coastlines of the Americas.  Most of our understanding of the stress physiology of these ecosystems comes from decades of research on seedlings and saplings, often within controlled environments.  While these data are important, scaling responses to mature trees and stands is decidedly more difficult without measuring trees within targeted field settings.

In this seminar, I will describe a series of studies from two tidal ecosystems along the southeastern United States coast that attempt not only to relate stress responses to individual trees, but also to relate the consequences of that stress to stand-level water budgeting.  These data are important to consider for engineers charged with budgeting water resources, and are useful for furthering our general understanding of the interface between the ecology of a forest and water movement through an ecosystem

Tue 25 May 2010: 4pm – “Do apes really not get the point of human communicative behaviour?”

“Do apes really not get the point of human communicative behaviour?”

By Dr Nick Mulcahy

Tue 25 May 2010: 4pm
Seminar room 1 (S2-04-11) (see map)
Block S2, Level 4
Department of Biological Sciences
National University of Singapore

Host: Ahimsa Campos-Arceiz,
Research Fellow, Terrestrial Ecology Lab

About the talk – Understanding others’ communicative intent is one of the hallmarks of human behaviour. Whether other animals also share this ability has attracted a great deal of research activity. Key to this research is the so-­called object-­choice task in which subjects are required to locate a hidden reward by observing a human’s communicative cue, such as pointing towards the correct location. Dogs can easily use the cue to locate the hidden reward whereas apes typically fail.  One popular explanation for this finding is that the domestication process allowed dogs to evolve a specialized set of cognitive skills for understanding human communicative behaviour.   

I will propose an alternative, albeit prosaic, theory to explain the differences between the dog and ape object-choice data. In support of this theory, I will present new findings from studies conducted with orangutans housed at Singapore Zoo.   

About the Speaker – Nick studied evolutionary psychology before gaining his PhD in ape cognition at the Max-­Planck Institute, in Leipzig, Germany. He has published research in areas of future planning, causal understanding, communicative behaviour and  insightful tool use. Nick is currently a Research Fellow at the University of Queensland, Australia.

Tue 11 May 2010: 3pm @ DBS – William Laurance on “Strategies for writing and publishing scientific papers”

How to be more prolific: Strategies for writing and publishing scientific papers

By William F. Laurance
School of Marine & Tropical Biology,
James Cook University, Cairns, Australia

Tue 11 May 2010: 3.00pm – 4.00pm
DBS Conference Room
(see map)
Block S3, Level 5
Department of Biological Sciences
National University of Singapore

Host: Professor Navjot Sodhi.

About the talk – Why do some scientists struggle to write whereas others publish prolifically? In this talk I reveal a lifetime of hard-won secrets for increasing your scientific productivity. I explain how to put yourself in the mood for writing, detail dozens of tricks for writing effective papers, and highlight strategies for dealing with prickly editors and hostile reviewers. Such tricks can literally double or triple your scientific productivity.

About the speaker – William Laurance is Distinguished Research Professor in the School of Marine & Tropical Biology at James Cook University. Laurance received his Ph.D. from the University of California, Berkeley in 1989 and then held research positions with the CSIRO and Wet Tropics Management Authority in north Queensland, before joining the Smithsonian Institution where he was , based in Brazil and Panama. After 14 years there, he joined JCU He is also a research associate at Harvard University.

Professor Laurance’s research focuses on the impacts of intensive land-uses, such as habitat fragmentation, logging, and wildfires, on tropical forests and species. He is further interested in climatic change and conservation policy. He works in the Amazon, Africa, Southeast Asia, and tropical Australia, and has published five books and over 300 scientific and popular articles. A leading voice for conservation, Dr Laurance believes that scientists must actively engage policy makers and the general public, as well as other scientists.

He is a fellow of the American Association of the Advancement of Science and former president of the Association for Tropical Biology and Conservation, the world’s largest scientific organization devoted to the study and preservation of tropical ecosystems. He has received many scientific honors including the prestigious BBVA Frontiers in Ecology and Conservation Biology Award, regarded by many as the ‘Nobel Prize’ for environmental conservation.




Mon 10 May 2010: 3pm @ LT20 – William Laurance on “Long-term changes and threats in the world’s tropical protected areas”

“Islands of Survival: Long-term changes and threats in the world’s tropical protected areas”

By William F. Laurance
School of Marine & Tropical Biology,
James Cook University, Cairns, Australia

Mon 10 May 2010: 3pm-4pm
Lecture Theatre 20
(see map)
Block S3/S4, Level 1
Department of Biological Sciences
National University of Singapore

Host: Professor Navjot Sodhi.

About the talk – Many of the world’s leading tropical protected areas are now fragments or man-made islands surrounded by drastically modified landscapes. Even some of the historically most-remote sites suffer from hunting and other forms of human encroachment. Will these protected areas function as arks to help conserve tropical biodiversity, or are the arks sinking? Moreover, does each protected area face a unique suite of threats, or do they suffer from common drivers of change?

Using data from >240 expert interviews, I will assess long-term shifts in biodiversity and ecosystem processes and identify their potential drivers in 60 key protected areas across the American, Asia-Pacific and African tropics. These findings have potentially vital implications for the future of tropical biodiversity.

About the speaker – William Laurance is Distinguished Research Professor in the School of Marine & Tropical Biology at James Cook University. Laurance received his Ph.D. from the University of California, Berkeley in 1989 and then held research positions with the CSIRO and Wet Tropics Management Authority in north Queensland, before joining the Smithsonian Institution where he was , based in Brazil and Panama. After 14 years there, he joined JCU He is also a research associate at Harvard University.

Professor Laurance’s research focuses on the impacts of intensive land-uses, such as habitat fragmentation, logging, and wildfires, on tropical forests and species. He is further interested in climatic change and conservation policy. He works in the Amazon, Africa, Southeast Asia, and tropical Australia, and has published five books and over 300 scientific and popular articles. A leading voice for conservation, Dr Laurance believes that scientists must actively engage policy makers and the general public, as well as other scientists.

He is a fellow of the American Association of the Advancement of Science and former president of the Association for Tropical Biology and Conservation, the world’s largest scientific organization devoted to the study and preservation of tropical ecosystems. He has received many scientific honors including the prestigious BBVA Frontiers in Ecology and Conservation Biology Award, regarded by many as the ‘Nobel Prize’ for environmental conservation.

Seminar (28 Apr 2010: 4pm) – Takayama on “Global phylogeography of pantropical plants”

Global phylogeography of pantropical plants with sea-drifted seeds: The case of Hibiscus and Rhizophora

By Dr Koji Takayama,
Post-Doctoral Research Fellow,
Plant Systematics and Taxonomy Lab,
Chiba University, Japan

Wednesday, 28 April 2010: 4.00pm
Seminar Room 2 (S2-0410)
Department of Biological Sciences
National University of Singapore
Map: http://tinyurl.com/map-nusdbs

Host: Dr Edward Webb
Applied Plant Ecology Lab, NUS DBS

Abstract: “Pantropical plants with sea-drifted seeds” are widely distributed plants in the littoral areas of the tropics worldwide whose seeds can drift in sea water. The species integration throughout the amazing distribution range has been explained by their enormous capacities of seed dispersal. However, there is no empirical data to indicate if dispersal by sea-drifted seeds is sufficient to maintain the genetic unity of these species throughout such a wide distribution range.

To address the importance of sea-drifted seed dispersal for the speciation and integration of the pantropical plants, I and a few collaborators collected several thousands of samples from about 30 countries. I performed phylogeographic analyses and population genetics to investigate genetic structures in Hibiscus tiliaceus and its allied species (Malvaceae), and genus Rhizophora (Rhizophoraceae).

The phylogenetic tree of cpDNA sequences in Hibiscus tiliaceus suggested the possibility that recurrent speciation from H. tiliaceus has given rise to all of its four allied species (Takayama et al. 2006). These results impliy that widely distributed plants could be the source of speciation for ones with limited distributed. Both the distribution of cpDNA haplotype and population analysis using microsatellite markers suggested that substantial gene flow via long distance seed dispersal has occurred among populations within the Pacific and Indian Ocean regions (Takayama et al. 2008). Gene flow by long-distance seed dispersal is actually responsible for species integration of H. tiliaceus in the wide distribution range.

On the other hand, clear genetic structures of cpDNA haplotypes were observed between populations over American continent in Hibiscus pernambucensis. The presence of the cpDNA haplotype largely shared in Atlantic region by H. tiliaceus and H. pernambucensis indicate the occurrence of cpDNA introgression between these two species across the Atlantic Ocean.

Clear genetic diversifications between populations over American continent were also found in Rhizophora mangle and R. racemosa. The common patterns of genetic differentiation indicated that the American continent could be a clear geographic barrier that prevents gene flow by sea-dispersal for pantropical plants with sea-drifted seeds.

Other recent results obtained from nuclear gene analyses will also be introduced in the seminar.

About the Speaker: – Koji Takayama received his Ph.D. from the University of Tokyo, Japan where he investigated the phylogeopraphy of pantropical plants with sea-drifted seeds, Hibiscus tiliaceus and its allies. The plants have an extremely wide distribution that may be achieved by dispersal of their sea-drifted seeds. During this period he carried out field surveys over five continents and molecular work using cpDNA and microsatellite loci, and revealed the global genetic structure of these plants. He then became a post-doctoral research fellow in Chiba University, Japan and is working on a phylogeographic study of widely distributed plants, especially in mangroves.