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Speaker Series by Semester Darwin Day 2016

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“Light Will Be Thrown: What New Fossils from South Africa Are Revealing About Human Evolution.”“Light Will Be Thrown: What New Fossils from South Africa Are Revealing About Human Evolution.”jeremy-m--desilva-revealing-human-evolution-2016<img alt="" src="/darwin-day-sub-site/PublishingImages/Darwin%20Day%202016/Jeremy%20DeSilva.jpg" style="BORDER:0px solid;" /><p>The Darwin Day International guest keynote speaker is Professor Jeremy M. DeSilva from Dartmouth College.</p><p>He is one of the key scientists involved with recent discoveries of major finds of fossil human ancestors in South Africa as celebrated in the PBS NOVA and National Geographic specials <a href="">Dawn of Humanity </a>and <a href="">Cave divers uncover new humanlike species in South Africa.</a></p><p><br></p>2016-02-11T05:00:00Z<p>​See the PBS Newshour coverage entitled: “<a href="">Trove of fossils from a long-lost human ancestor is greatest find in decades</a>” Also see Jeremy DeSilva on the "<a href="">Discovery of 'Homo naledi</a>'” and “<a href="">Understanding Our Newly Discovered Ancestor</a>”.</p>
“What Does Evolutionary Biology Teach Us About Race”“What Does Evolutionary Biology Teach Us About Race”what-does-evolution-teach-robin-andreasen<img alt="" src="/darwin-day-sub-site/PublishingImages/Darwin%20Day%202016/Robin_Andreasen.jpg" style="BORDER:0px solid;" /><p>Robin Andreasen, Associate Professor of Linguistics and Cognitive Science and Research Director, UD-ADVANCE</p>2016-02-11T05:00:00Z<p>​Abstract: Evolutionary biology has been used to underwrite racist ideas and practices since Darwin first introduced his revolutionary idea. Today, it is commonplace to retort that there is no biological basis to race. Therefore, there is no biological basis for racism. This talk takes a somewhat different approach. I argue that, contrary to popular belief, an evolutionary conception of race does nothing to support scientific conceptions of racism. Indeed, it provides further support to the idea that everyday racial thinking, and associated racist practices, are socially constructed. Bio: Robin Andreasen is an Associate Professor of Linguistics and Cognitive Science at the University of Delaware. She earned her PhD in philosophy and specializes in philosophy of science, philosophy of social science, and in science and policy. She is a co-PI of UD’s ADVANCE-IT grant, which is a grant to improve the representation of women and faculty of color in the fields of science and engineering. A race and gender scholar, Dr. Andreasen is research director for UD ADVANCE.</p>
“Darwin’s Camera”“Darwin’s Camera”darwins-camera-jon-cox<img alt="" src="/darwin-day-sub-site/PublishingImages/Darwin%20Day%202016/Jon_Cox.jpg" style="BORDER:0px solid;" /><p>Jon Cox, Assistant Professor of Art and Design and National Geographic Explorer</p>2016-02-11T05:00:00Z<p>​Abstract: Darwin’s Camera, a book published by Phillip Prodger is “a fascinating account of the influences, scientific and aesthetic desires, and practices through which Charles Darwin engaged with photography … – this book’s focus is especially on the search for photographic and other forms of visual evidence which could be used in his evolutionary study of emotion and its physiological manifestations. This, of course, resulted in Darwin’s last great book of evolutionary theory, The Expressions of the Emotions in Men and Animals (1872), one of the first photographically illustrated books of science … It explores Darwin’s exposure to painting whilst a student at Cambridge, his use of family photographs, Darwin’s experience as a photographic subject and celebrity, his expeditions around the photographic dealers of London, looking for images, his correspondence around images with scientists and artists alike, including clear connections to the photographic canon in the persons of Julia Margaret Cameron and Charles Dodgson (Lewis Carroll). It also explores the way Darwin focused on what he saw as key elements of analytical relevance, such as ears, infant expressions, and so forth. All this is fascinating material and rebuffs the idea that Darwin was ‘non-visual.’” Professor Cox will share this history as well as ramifications of this work that appear in contemporary photography. Bio: An active explorer/photographer, Professor Cox has traveled to all seven continents. He has been a University of Delaware faculty director of more than twenty photography based study abroad programs. Besides being named to two prestigious distinctions, namely a National Geographic Explorer and a New York Exploer’s Club Explorer, Professor Cox is the author of three books: Hadzabe, Light of a Million Fires, a 250-page documentary book on the Hadzabe, one of Tanzania’s last Hunter/Gathering Peoples; Close-up Digital Nature Photography; and, Digital Nature Photography. He currently is working on a fourth book on a community on the brink of extinction in Peru, the Ese'Eja who live outside of Bahuaja-Sonene National Park in Peru.</p>
“The Role of Evolution in Management of Insect Pests and Crops”“The Role of Evolution in Management of Insect Pests and Crops”role-of-evolution-in-management-keith-hopper<img alt="" src="/darwin-day-sub-site/PublishingImages/Darwin%20Day%202016/Keith_Hopper.jpg" style="BORDER:0px solid;" /><p>​Keith R. Hopper, USDA Agricultural Research Service</p>2016-02-11T05:00:00Z<p>Abstract: Evolution plays a critical role in the management of insect pests of crops. Mankind has molded the genomes of a limited number of plant species to suit our needs for nutritious, highly productive crops. Some species of herbivorous insects have evolved to exploit these crops, while close relatives have not. Evolution to feed on plants that produce various protective chemicals has enabled insects to rapidly evolve resistance to insecticides. Parasitic wasps have evolved to attack herbivores on crops, and such parasitoids are being introduced to control exotic pests, like soybean aphid and Russian wheat aphid. However, these parasitoids may evolve to attack non-target aphid species. The likelihood of such evolution depends on the genetic architecture of host specificity. Bio: Dr. Keith R. Hopper received his B.A. in Biological Sciences from the University of California, Santa Barbara, and his Ph.D. in Ecology from the University of California, Davis. After teaching as a visiting lecturer at the University of California, Davis, Dr. Hopper went to work for the Agricultural Research Service, United States Department of Agriculture, first in Stoneville, Mississippi, then in Behoust and Montpellier, France, and now in Newark, Delaware. Throughout his career, Dr. Hopper has worked on the ecology and evolution of parasitic wasps and their use in biological control of pest insects.</p>
“Scars of Evolution”“Scars of Evolution”scars-of-evolution-karen-rosenburg<img alt="" src="/darwin-day-sub-site/PublishingImages/Darwin%20Day%202016/Karen_Rosenberg.jpg" style="BORDER:0px solid;" /><p>​Karen Rosenberg, Professor of Anthropology, President of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists, and Co-Organizer of this symposium</p>2016-02-11T05:00:00Z<p>​Abstract: In an evolutionary sense, humans are by far the most successful primate on the planet, with the world population close to 7 billion. We owe this success to a number of well-known adaptations that contribute to human uniqueness: bipedalism; large, complex brains and cognitive adaptations permitting abstract thought; slow life histories coupled with high fertility and longer lifespan; and scores of other adaptations that constitute our evolutionary legacy. There are, however, costs to this inheritance; many of our adaptations have produced negative consequences that affect our quality of life today. Some of these affect only a small portion of the population; others affect most of us at some time in our lives. In 1951, in a Scientific American article by the same name, Wilton Krogman referred to these negative outcomes as "the scars of human evolution." This research has important consequences for understanding present-day health. This talk focuses on negative consequences of our evolutionary legacy. I will examine the scars of human evolution in a number of areas, including orthopedics, obstetrics, dentistry, gerontology, diet, and nutrition. Far from a product of intelligent design, it is clear that human biology and behavior is the consequence of an evolutionary process that involved a number of trade-offs, which result in many of the problems associated with the current human condition. Bio: Professor Karen Rosenberg is a paleoanthropologist with specialties in human evolution, women’s evolution, and Neanderthals. She conducts research into the evolution of women and childbirth practices, and is the co-editor of the journal PaleoAnthropology. She is studying how the evolution of the human brain influenced how humans give birth compared to other species. The American Association of Physical Anthropologists (AAPA) is a 1,700-member association that is the world's leading professional organization for physical anthropologists, who are biological scientists dealing with the adaptations, variability and evolution of human beings and their living and fossil relatives.</p>
“Milk--- it does a body good: No LI(e)?”“Milk--- it does a body good: No LI(e)?”milk-it-does-a-body-good-melissa-melby<img alt="" src="/darwin-day-sub-site/PublishingImages/Darwin%20Day%202016/Melissa_Melby.jpg" style="BORDER:0px solid;" /><p>Melissa Melby, Assistant Professor of Anthropology</p>2016-02-11T05:00:00Z<p>​Abstract: What insight does an evolutionary perspective offer into the phenomenon of LI? Is this a condition that should be treated to improve health and allow all people to derive the benefits of milk? Humans are the only mammals that drink the breast milk of other mammals – and to do so some of them have evolved to be able to produce the enzyme lactase into adulthood. People with lactose intolerance experience uncomfortable gastrointestinal symptoms after ingestion of lactose, due to a lack of lactase. What happens in public and global health when we think that lactose intolerance is abnormal? What would happen if we shifted our perspectives to think of lactase impersistence as the evolutionarily normal state?Biosketch: Melissa Melby is a biological/medical anthropologist who also happens to have LI herself. Her interest in LI turned from personal to professional when she taught a series of milk labs in Nutritional Anthropology to allow students to explore biological and cultural aspects of humans’ complicated relationship with milk. She has worked extensively in Japan.</p>
"Cancer and Evolution""Cancer and Evolution"cancer-and-evolution-john-jungck<img alt="" src="/darwin-day-sub-site/PublishingImages/Darwin%20Day%202016/John_Jungck.png" style="BORDER:0px solid;" /><p>John R. Jungck, Professor of Biological Sciences and Mathematical Sciences, and Director, Interdisciplinary Sciences Learning Laboratories​</p>2016-02-11T05:00:00Z<p>​Abstract: Just as the overuse of antibiotics, pesticides, and herbicides has led to the evolution of resistance to each of them, so it is with cancer chemotherapy. Unfortunately, the “War on Cancer” with the use of chemotherapy has ignored that the remission after treatment leads to death of many cancer patients due to evolution of resistance to the chemotherapeutic chemical. The progression of cancer satisfies all three criteria of an evolutionary process: VARIATION: cells mutate and vary over the course of their rapid proliferation, INHERITANCE: genes are transmitted from parent cells to progeny cells; and, SELECTION: cancer cells are under selective pressure of the chemotherapeutic chemical as well as competing with one another for nutrients, oxygen, space, antibodies, etc. Recently, we have been able to build phylogenetic trees of cancer cell lines as they evolve over the course of tumorigenesis. With advance in gene sequencing technologies, evolutionary medicine hopes to be able to better detect cancer mutations occurring in individuals that may lead to personalized treatments that may not kill off cancers but control the sufficiently that our immune systems better keep than in check, that the very harmful symptoms that many patients experience due to harsh treatments with chemotherapy can be diminished or avoided, and change the prognosis for much longer patient survival.Bio: Professor Jungck is the Director of the Interdisciplinary Science Learning Laboratories at the University of Delaware. He is a tenured Professor of Biological Sciences and holds joint appointments in the Department of Mathematical Sciences, the Bioinformatics/Computational Biology Program, and the Delaware Environmental Institute. He is the former Editor of Biology International, Bioscene: Journal of College Biology Teaching, and the American Biology Teacher. He currently serves on the Editorial Boards of several journals including the Bulletin of Mathematical Biology, Evolutionary Bioinformatics, the American Journal of Undergraduate Research, and several others. He has also been the Editor of a special issue of Mathematical Modelling of Natural Phenomena and CBE Life Science Education on Bio 201. He is the immediate past Vice President of the International Union of Biological Sciences, immediate past President of the IUBS Commission on Biology Education, and former Chairperson of the U. S. National Academy of Science’s National Committee of IUBS. His international commitments include long- term relations with NECTEC in Thailand, the Allan Wilson Centre for Molecular Evolution and Ecology in New Zealand, and BIOMAT – a consortium of South American mathematical biologists. He is the founder of the BioQUEST Curriculum Consortium ( His awards/honors/offices include AAAS Fellow, Honorary Doctorate from the University of Minnesota, ASCB Bruce Alberts Award, AIBS Education Award, EDUCOM Educational software, SICB John A. Moore Lectureship, former Chairperson of the Education Committee of the Society for Mathematical Biology, former president of the Association of College and University Biology Educators, former president of Phi Beta Kappa and Sigma Xi chapters, and a Fulbright Scholar in Thailand.</p>
“Tiny Engines of Evolution: Phytoplankton and the Fossil Record of Marine Biodiversity”“Tiny Engines of Evolution: Phytoplankton and the Fossil Record of Marine Biodiversity”tiny-engines-ron-martin<img alt="" src="/darwin-day-sub-site/PublishingImages/Darwin%20Day%202016/Ron_Martin.jpg" style="BORDER:0px solid;" /><p>​Ron Martin, Professor of Geological Sciences</p>2016-02-11T05:00:00Z<p>​Abstract: The quantity and, especially, quality of food were critical to marine biodiversification. During the Meso-Cenozoic eras, rising oxygen levels, continued nutrient input from land into shallow seaways, and increasing rates of bioturbation (and nutrient recycling) all enhanced nutrient availability, increasing the macro- and micro- (trace element) nutrient content of phytoplankton. Consequently, marine metazoans had to expend less energy to “burn off” (respire) excess carbon to obtain inorganic nutrients necessary for growth, leaving more energy available for reproduction and, potentially, micro- and macroevolution. By contrast, the absence of well-developed terrestrial floras (and presumably decreased weathering rates) and low bioturbation rates may have limited nutrient availability during the early-to-middle Paleozoic Era. Diversification of early-to-middle Paleozoic metazoans would have been limited by having to expend energy to “burn off” the excess carbon of more nutrient-poor phytoplankton. Limited nutrient availability may have delayed the appearance of more advanced and “energetic” taxa such as advanced carnivores until the later Paleozoic, when widespread mountain building, falling sea level, the spread of forests and greater weathering rates, enhanced ocean circulation resulting from glaciation, oxygenation, and upwelling all combined to increase nutrient availability in the photic zone. Bio: Professor Martin investigates the formation and preservation of fossil assemblages on different scales of time, ranging from the modern to very ancient. He received a Ph.D. in protozoology from the University of California at Berkeley and then worked as a micropaleontologist and industrial biostratigrapher for Unocal in Houston, where he examined microfossils in well cuttings and “sat” drilling rigs to prevent blowouts (like those of the TransOcean rig). He came to the University of Delaware in 1985, where he is now Professor of Geological Sciences. He has served as Editor of the Journal of Foraminiferal Research , Associate Editor of Palaios, and as President of the North American Micropaleontology section (NAMS) of the Society for Sedimentary Geology. The first edition of his textbook, Earth’s Evolving Systems: The History of Planet Earth, was published by Jones and Bartlett in February, 2012, and a second edition is in preparation. His talk is partly based upon his 2013 cover article of Scientific American.</p>
“Culture and the genetics of obesity”“Culture and the genetics of obesity”culture-and-obesity-mia-papas<img alt="" src="/darwin-day-sub-site/PublishingImages/Darwin%20Day%202016/Mia_Papas.jpg" style="BORDER:0px solid;" /><p>Mia Papas, Assistant Professor of Behavioral Health and Nutrition</p>2016-02-11T05:00:00Z<p>Abstract: Obesity is a critical global health problem for the 21st century. Worldwide, 1.5 billion adults over the age of 18 years are either overweight or obese, and this number is expected to increase to 3 billion by 2030. Once thought to be a disease of the affluent, obesity has increased rapidly in low-and middle-income countries over the past several decades. Currently, there are over 42 million children under the age of 5 years old who are overweight or obese, with rates of childhood obesity in low and middle-income countries 30% higher than those of high-income countries. Attributable population health impacts expected to increase with the rising prevalence of obesity include elevated risk of chronic diseases, such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and cancer; all of which account for extensive healthcare utilization and cost. Since obesity has become common among children, many projections estimate decreased life expectancy for future generations due to the higher rates of lifelong obesity. In the United States, obesity accounts for nearly 20% of premature mortality (i.e., death prior to average life expectancy). Research into the cause of the rapid global increase in obesity has examined a multitude of theories that include both genetic and environmental factors. I will focus on several leading causal theories positing a genetic contribution to the obesity pandemic including the thrifty gene hypothesis, natural selection in favor of fat storage, and the interaction of hormones and endocrine disruption with socio-environmental shifts that have occurred. I will discuss the contributions that advanced data analytics can provide to understanding how excess energy intake, sedentary lifestyles, environmental exposures, and underlying genetic selection combine to create the obesity pandemic. Bio: Mia Papas is an Assistant Professor of Behavioral Health & Nutrition. Her research interests include: Dietary Intakes and Obesity Across the Lifespan; Obesity and the Built Environment; Maternal and Child Health; Congenital Hearing Loss; Cancer Screening and Cancer Prevention in Populations.</p>
“Evolving evolution: how have genomes, climates and man formed our food?”“Evolving evolution: how have genomes, climates and man formed our food?”evolving-evolution-randy-wisser<img alt="" src="/darwin-day-sub-site/PublishingImages/Darwin%20Day%202016/Randy_Wisser.jpg" style="BORDER:0px solid;" /><p>​Randall Wisser, Associate Professor of Plant and Soil Science</p>2016-02-11T05:00:00Z<p>​Abstract: Humans have radically transformed plants from species fit for survival in the wild into formula one crops fit to maximize the allocation of energy for mass production in managed environments. How did this happen? Studies on domestication, adaptation and population improvement reveal key insights into the evolution of crop species. These insights along with transformative technologies of genome science are enabling the prediction of unobserved phenotypes. Still, there is much that remains to be understood, and current trends in plant science are bringing the role of the environment into focus. Through a Dr. Wisser five-year grant from USDA’s Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI), Dr. Wisser teamed up with researchers from universities in Wisconsin, Iowa, Missouri, North Carolina, and Texas. Together, they are combining genome science with field studies of tropical corn varieties and breaking new ground on the genetic barriers that hinder crop adaptation in the United States. Bio: Dr. Randy J. Wisser received his B.S. in Biological Sciences while studying fungal biology at Florida International University, Miami; this was followed by a stint as a USDA-ARS research technician in Miami, FL where he characterized molecular genetic diversity of sub/tropical crop species, including chocolate! He then earned his Ph.D. in Plant Breeding and Genetics at Cornell University followed by a postdoctoral position in quantitative plant genetics and pathology at North Carolina State University. He is currently an Associate Professor in Plant and Soil Sciences at UD. His work is centered on understanding the genetics of naturally-occurring variation in environmental adaptation and host resistance.</p>

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