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biology seminar

"Craniodental Covariation and the Evolution of Human Pregnancy"

SelfieDr. Tesla Monson | Monson Lab

Dr. Tesla Monson is an Assistant Professor of Anthropology at Western Washington University where she runs the Primate Evolution Lab. Her lab’s research focuses on the evolution of skeletal variation, life history, and reproduction in extant and fossil mammals. Dr. Monson recently published the first methods for reconstructing prenatal growth rates in the fossil record, one of which relies exclusively on teeth. Dr. Monson earned her PhD in Integrative Biology at UC Berkeley (2017), which is where she first became interested in science communication and research. Since then, she has developed and hosted a series of sci-comm projects, ranging from a science talk radio program called The Graduates, to a Twitter series highlighting the influence of women in early Washington State history (Washington Women).

The vertebrate fossil record is comprised almost entirely of the remains of bones and teeth. It is thus a key goal for evolutionary biologists to extract as much information as possible from these anatomical remains through morphological investigation. My research has demonstrated that there are significant phenotypic correlations between many anatomical traits, as well as between craniodental morphology and life history. These correlations both constrain and enable evolution, leading to the morphological diversity and disparity that we see today. In this talk, I will discuss our new research using cranial and dental morphology to reconstruct prenatal growth rates in

the hominid fossil record. Prenatal growth, or how quickly a fetus grows in utero, varies widely across primate species with the highest rate in humans. We recently demonstrated that prenatal growth rates increased throughout the Pleistocene, reaching ‘human-like’ rates just under 1 million years ago, before the evolution of our species. Prenatal growth is also key to healthy pregnancy and delivery. I will end by presenting some of our ongoing and future research investigating prenatal growth, and the evolution of encephalization and body size in primates.

"Fossil teeth reveal how brains developed in utero over millions of years of human evolution-new research"

Watch the seminar here!

THM 116

"Human Origins and Dispersals: Fossil and Genomic Perspectives"

SelfieHugo Reyes-Centeno HEVA (Human Evolution & Virtual Anthropology Lab) EduceLab

Dr. Hugo Reyes-Centeno is an evolutionary anthropologist specializing on the emergence of modern human anatomy and behavior over the last million years. In addition, he conducts inter-disciplinary research on human biocultural diversity and the study of natural and cultural heritage worldwide. Prior to joining the University of Kentucky in 2020 as Assistant Professor of Anthropology, he served as Scientific Coordinator and co-founder of the Center for Advanced Studies “Words, Bones, Genes, Tools” at the University of Tübingen (Germany), where he also completed a dissertation in the Institute of Archaeological Science and the Senckenberg Centre for Human Evolution and Paleoenvironments. His research has appeared in Cell, PNAS, Journal of Human Evolution, and PLoS Genetics, among other venues. He has performed paleontological and archaeological fieldwork in France, Italy, Peru, the Philippines, and Spain. Currently, he serves as Co-PI of the NSF-funded EduceLab: Infrastructure for Next Generation Heritage Science.

Abstract: Despite consensus on the emergence of anatomically modern humans in Africa and their subsequent dispersal into the rest of the world, the mode and timing of these processes remain controversial topics. In addressing them, data on human anatomical and genomic variation have sometimes generated conflicting inferences. Therefore, approaches that consider both lines of evidence under a common theoretical framework are important for reconciling competing evolutionary models. In this talk, I highlight research that tests competing models of human dispersal out of Africa, which applies quantitative genetic and population genetic methods to anatomical and genomic data. I discuss the caveats of these conclusions, including the influence of admixture between modern humans and other hominins. Furthermore, I examine how these findings align with the known human fossil record and a growing inventory of ancient genomes from archaeological and paleontological contexts. Finally, I review how ongoing field and laboratory projects in Eastern Africa, Southeast Asia, and South America shed light on human evolution, adaptations, and dispersals.

Group Map
THM 116

"Mechanisms of Regeneration and their Evolution"

SelfieDr. Mansi Srivastava Srivastava Lab

Abstract: Wound repair and regeneration are fundamental features of animal biology, yet little is
known about how these pathways compare across animal lineages. The goals of my research
program are: 1) to identify cellular and genetic mechanisms for whole-body regeneration, and 2) to
create a framework for rigorous cross-species comparisons to understand the evolution of
regeneration. In this talk, I will discuss how we utilize a diversity of approaches including functional
genomics, single-cell RNA-sequencing, and transgenesis to uncover the mechanisms of regeneration
and stem cell regulation in Hofstenia miamia, an acoel worm. In particular, I will highlight how
studying embryonic development informs these questions.

Bio: Mansi received her A.B. in Biological Sciences from Mount Holyoke College, where she became
fascinated by the process of regeneration and wrote her honors thesis on regeneration in
segmented worms. She studied animal evolution using comparative genomics for her Ph.D. in
Molecular and Cell Biology from the University of California at Berkeley. For her postdoctoral training
at the Whitehead Institute/MIT, Mansi returned to her interest in regeneration and developed the
acoel Hofstenia miamia a.k.a. the three-banded panther worm as a new research organism for
studying the evolution of regeneration. In 2015, Mansi joined the faculty of Organismic and
Evolutionary Biology at Harvard University and became a Curator in Invertebrate Zoology at the
Museum of Comparative Zoology. Mansi’s research group uses panther worms to develop new
approaches for studying both the mechanisms and evolution of regeneration.Graphics

THM 116

"Cold-blooded and Nowhere to Go: How Insects Survive the Winter"

Nicholas Teets

Insect species distributions are tightly linked to winter conditions. Surviving winter requires adaptations to cope with low temperatures and limited food resources, and much of our lab’s work focuses on the underlying mechanisms used by insects to survive extreme winter conditions. In this talk, I will primarily discuss our recent work on survival mechanisms of the Antarctic midge, which is the world’s southernmost insect and the only species endemic to Antarctica. This species can survive freezing of its body fluids for up to nine months a year, but it must also cope with considerable spatial and temporal variability in Antarctica’s unpredictable environments. Here, I will summarize how this impressive beast survives internal freezing, as well as the consequences of microhabitat variability and winter climate warming.


Larvae (left) and adults (right) of the Antarctic midge






THM 116

"Legacy Effects Shape the Evolutionary Ecology of Cities"

SelfieChristopher Schell ESPM Christopher Schell UC Berkeley


Dr. Chris Schell is an Assistant Professor in the department of Environmental Science, Policy, and Management at the University of California Berkeley. Dr. Schell’s research focuses on the behavior, physiology, and health of wildlife in cities. Specifically, he and his lab investigate how urban infrastructure, environmental stressors, and human-wildlife interactions shape the phenotypic traits of mammalian carnivores, mainly coyotes and raccoons. Because the distribution of such attributes is often governed by societal inequities (e.g., socioeconomic, racial, etc.), Schell and his team also spotlight the need to incorporate an environmental justice and One Health lens into urban ecological research. Further, he is committed to community engagement and science communication, collaborating with organizations like the Cal Academy of Sciences, Oakland Zoo, East Bay Regional Parks, Doris Duke Scholars Conservation Program, and California’s 30x30 initiatives.


Past ecological processes and phenomena often have broad implications for contemporary habitat conditions and ecosystem structure. Long-term ecological research, for instance, has provided extraordinary insight into the processes that influence primary and secondary succession, population growth rates, community assemblages, and nutrient cycling. Similarly, past societal legacies have profound impacts on current societal processes, with much of our current reality shaped by policies enacted decades past. These social and ecological legacies are often most apparent in cities, where humans and their constructed ecosystems coalesce. It is in these environments that we have a unique opportunity to interrogate how our past shapes our social-ecological present. Necessarily, understanding how past societal processes have contributed to shaping current ecosystem processes is key to building predictive models and resilient systems for our future. In this talk, Dr. Chris Schell will explore how one of those legacies in particular – residential segregation via redlining – stratified people and resources, influencing myriad biophysical properties of the city that we currently experience. In doing so, he will discuss how urban evolutionary ecology research can serve to amplify how inequities in society drive ecological disparities in and outside of urban landscapes.

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THM 116

"The Dark Side of Development: When Mentoring is Problematic & What to Do About It"


 Erin Dolan

Abstract: A graduate student’s relationship with their research advisor is considered to be the single-most influential factor in the quality and outcomes of their graduate training experience. Indeed, effective mentorship by research advisors promotes the development and success of graduate mentees. Yet, mentoring relationships, like any prolonged relationship, can have negative elements. Little research has examined the problematic elements of graduate research mentoring, even though prior research on mentoring in workplace settings suggests that negative mentoring experiences are common. This seminar will present findings from research on the negative mentoring that graduate life science researchers experience, including how their experiences differ from negative mentoring experienced in workplace settings. The session will offer insights on how mentor behaviors may be experienced as harmful or unhelpful and on how mentees and mentors can identify, avoid, and mitigate the impacts of negative mentoring.


THM 116

"Engaging in Science Policy"

 Erin Heath

Erin Heath is the Director of Federal Relations at the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the world’s largest general scientific society and publisher of the journal Science. The Office of Government Relations provides timely, objective information on science and technology issues to lawmakers, and it assists scientists in understanding and getting involved in the policy process.

Erin leads the federal policy team at AAAS and is heavily involved in efforts to empower scientists and engineers to engage with policymakers, the media and the public. She co-chairs the Coalition for National Science Funding, the Engaging Scientists and Engineers in Policy Coalition, and the steering committee of the Golden Goose Award. She played a key role in the launch of the Center for Scientific Evidence in Public Issues (EPI Center) at AAAS and serves on its internal advisory committee. She is also the inaugural chair of the Governing Board of the Journal of Science Policy and Governance.

Before joining AAAS, Erin worked for the American Institute of Biological Sciences, where she led the organization’s media training and outreach efforts and cut her teeth on science policy. Erin holds a Master of Science with Merit in Public Policy and Administration from the London School of Economics and Political Science. While in London, she served as a research assistant in Parliament. Prior to graduate school, she spent years as a journalist in Washington, most notably as a science policy reporter and columnist for the National Journal. She earned a B.A. in Journalism from the University of Maryland.

In 2017, Erin was awarded the AAAS Champion Award, given to an individual who has "championed" the mission of AAAS with a positive attitude and has inspired and motivated others to embrace and fulfill the AAAS vision.


THM 116
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