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CBER Research Talk - Dr Alessandro Cini - 2 October 2017

Title: Keys to the kingdom: how to eavesdrop on social parasite-host relationships to better understand the evolution and regulation of sociality in insects
Speaker:  Dr Alessandro Cini (research profile)
Venue:
TBC
Abstract: Insect societies represent one of the most intriguing phenomena in the natural world, and while social insects constitute just a tiny percentage of all insect species, they play a crucial role in the functioning in most ecosystems. Their complex societies have fascinated humans for thousand of years, but we are still far from fully understanding how sociality evolved, is maintained and especially how complex insect societies are regulated. Social parasite present an interesting shortcut to our understanding of sociality. These are social insect species that exploit the brood care of other social insects in order to rear their own offspring. In this talk I will draw examples from my research on social parasites of paper wasps to show how we might eavesdrop on the intricate relationship between social parasites and their social host in order to better understand the functioning of insect societies. By addressing topics such as sensory deception, conflicts of interest over reproduction and the molecular basis of phenotypic evolution, I hope to convince the audience that social parasites are the key to the kingdom of insect societies.

Starts: Oct 2, 2017 1:00:00 PM

CBER Research Talk - Dr Nick Isaac - 16 October 2017

Title: Modelling biodiversity change from messy and biased data
Speaker: Dr Nick Isaac (Centre for Ecology & Hydrology)
Venue: TBC
Abstract: We have entered a new geological epoch, the Anthropocene, reflecting the pervasive impact of humans on our planet. One feature the Anthropocene is what ecologists refer to as the biodiversity crisis, or the “Sixth Mass Extinction”. Monitoring and understanding biodiversity change is critical in order to enact effective mitigation strategies, but there is a dearth of high quality data for this purpose. Occurrence records, such as those collected by Citizen Science projects, are a rich source of information: the Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF) database now contains over 600 million records. However, occurrence records were not gathered in a systematic manner, leading to numerous biases. I will describe the application of hierarchical Bayesian occupancy-detection models to unstructured occurrence records, and show using computer simulation that the resultant trends are robust to known biases in the data. I will illustrate the use of these models using a suite of examples, including biodiversity indicators and measuring the impact of pesticides on beneficial insects.

Starts: Oct 16, 2017 1:00:00 PM

CBER Research Talk - Adam Devenish - 6 November 2017

Title: Are Argentine ants leaving a mark beyond biodiversity loss?
Speaker: Adam Devenish (research profile)
Venue: TBC
Abstract: Mutualistic interactions between ants and plants play a major role in shaping our landscape. One such mutualism is ant mediated seed dispersal (myrmecochory), whereby plants produce seeds with a nutritional elaiosome (the reward), which elicits a behavioural response in the ants to carry the seeds back to the nest (the service). While these mutualisms are thought to be vital for maintaining biodiversity and plant community structure, not all ant species interact with seeds in the same way. This specificity between ant and plant species means that this mutualism is potentially sensitive to perturbations by the global spread of non-native invasive ant species, as these invaders have a potentially different ‘palate’ to that of the native ant species.
In this talk I will explore how the ant invader, Linepithema humile (Argentine ant) is modifying the native ant and floral community structure, in the Cape Floristic Region (South Africa) and Iberian Peninsula (Spain), and the long-term consequences these invasions could be having on phenotypic seed traits.

Starts: Nov 6, 2017 1:00:00 PM