Outreach, Education and Training

Science Café

Science Café features expert speakers and discussions on timely conservation topics. This event is held monthly on select Thursdays. Current Science Café events are held over Zoom and attendees are encouraged to register beforehand. Start your registration by clicking on ‘LEARN MORE’ for upcoming events.

2022 Upcoming Events:

Dr. J. Hill Craddock | UC Foundation Professor in Biology, Department of Biology, Geology and Environmental Science, University of Tennessee at Chattanooga | July 21, 6 p.m. EST | Location: Mershon Hall
Discussion Title: Conservation of Castanea Genetic Resources in The Southeast

Description of Presentation: The major focus of the chestnut research at UTC is the restoration of Castanea dentata to its former position as a component of the southern Appalachian hardwood forest ecosystem.  The return of the American chestnut requires a multidisciplinary effort.  Since 1996, the project has been actively engaged in all aspects of this major restoration attempt, including research on biological control of the chestnut blight disease and the study of restoration ecology.  The objective of the UTC chestnut breeding program, in affiliation with The American Chestnut Foundation and other partners, is to select locally adapted, genetically diverse blight-resistant chestnuts trees.  We plan to reintroduce the trees into the forest in an ecologically acceptable manner.  The project began large-scale testing, using truly blight-resistant American-type trees, in 2009.  Recent advances in plant pathology and molecular biology, especially new recombinant DNA technologies, allow us to confidently predict a successful outcome for our endeavor.  We maintain an archive of folklore, historical, artistic and scientific material on American chestnut that is open to scholars and researchers.  We strive to educate the general public and hope to contribute to scientific knowledge by conducting research, fostering science-based learning and sharing among disciplines. The project currently supports graduate research assistants and provides opportunities for undergraduate research as well.  The Chattanooga Chestnut Project is supported in part by the Summerfield Johnston Endowment for the Restoration of the American Chestnut and by the Robert M. Davenport Professorship of Biology at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. 

Speaker Bio: Dr. James Hill Craddock is the UC Foundation Davenport Professor in Biology at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, Department of Biology, Geology and Environmental Science. He grew up in Woods Hole Massachusetts, on Cape Cod, son of a Marine Biologist father and an Emergency Room Nurse mother and went to sea for the first time at age 16, working summers on commercial fishing boats.  He grew his first chestnut tree from a seed he planted at age 15 and he is still a chestnut enthusiast.  He moved to Italy in 1987 where he and his wife Paola helped run her family's restaurant business.  They moved with their son Emilio to Tennessee in November of 1994.

Dr. Craddock completed doctoral and postdoctoral research on hazelnut and chestnut biology at the Universita’ di Torino in Turin, Italy before conducting postdoctoral research on anthracnose-resistant dogwood cultivars at the Tennessee State University/USDA-ARS Nursery Crops Research Station in McMinnville, TN.  He holds a master’s degree in Horticulture from Oregon State University, in Corvallis, OR, and a bachelor’s degree in Fine Arts and Biology (double major) from Indiana University, Bloomington, IN.

LEARN MORE


2022 Past Events:

Dr. Donna McDermott | (Incoming) Assistant Teaching Professor of Science Writing, Emory University | PhD in Population Biology, Ecology and Evolution | June 16, 6 p.m. EST | Location: Day Hall
Discussion Title: Peer Pressure and Pesticides: How Bees Choose Flowers in Complicated Ecosystems

Description of Presentation: Feeding on flowers is complicated work. Bees venture out of the colony over and over again, collecting nectar and pollen for themselves and their nest-mates, learning how to identify and manipulate flowers that change throughout the season while dodging predators and parasites. How do bees manage it all? One option is to follow around other bees and copy what they do. However, sometimes bees can’t—or won’t—use the information they learn from watching other bees. In this talk, we discuss Dr. McDermott's research on how social cues and neonicotinoid pesticide exposure influence how bees choose flowers and what bees learn from their choices.

Speaker Bio: Donna McDermott studies the behavioral ecology of foraging bumble bees. She recently completed a PhD in Population Biology, Ecology, and Evolution at Emory University. This fall, she begins a faculty position in Emory’s English Department as an Assistant Teaching Professor, teaching science writing. She has previously taught courses in animal behavior, science communication, interdisciplinary writing, and pedagogy. In addition to her work as an educator, she has worked as a journalist through the AAAS Mass Media Fellowship, a wildlife biologist, a program coordinator for ScienceATL’s community science outreach, and a ghost tour guide.


Georgann Eubanks | Writer, University of North Carolina Press | May 19, 6 p.m. EST | Location: Day Hall
Discussion Title: Saving the Wild South: The Fight for Native Plants on the Brink of Extinction

Description of Presentation: Writer and popular speaker Georgann Eubanks will share stories from her trek across six states to write “Saving the Wild South,” a new book from the University of North Carolina Press. In her research Georgann studied the history and status of a dozen rare and federally endangered plants and interviewed dozens of botanical professionals and volunteers. These present-day heroes are working daily against the effects of global climate change, toxic pollution, and disruptive development across Alabama, Georgia, Florida, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Tennessee. Along the way, the author also affirmed the many ways that the extraordinary biodiversity of the region has shaped our sense of place—through the stories we tell and the landscapes we love. Georgann cautions us not to take for granted the fragile ecosystems that contribute to the region’s longstanding appeal to visitors and confirms our cultural identity.

Speaker Bio: Georgann Eubanks is a writer, Emmy-winning documentarian, and consultant to nonprofit groups across the country. “Saving the Wild South” is her fifth book for The University of North Carolina Press. In reviewing her latest book, Science editor Holden Thorp writes: “A big hurdle to instilling a greater appreciation of the environmental crises facing the world—climate change first among them—is getting our hands on engaging stories about how we know what we know about Science. Georgann Eubanks, with the help of magnificent photographs by Donna Campbell, has solved that problem for twelve fascinating native plants under threat in the South. This book is just what we need to get folks more engaged.” A book signing will take place following the event. 


Dr. Amy Iler | Assistant-Level Conservation Scientist, Chicago Botanic Garden | April 21, 6 p.m., EST
Discussion Title: Drivers and Consequences of Earlier Flowering Under Climate Change

Description of Presention: Earlier flowering is one of the most widespread biological responses to climate change, and these shifts in the timing of flowering are especially pronounced at high elevations and high latitudes, places where climate change is occurring rapidly. We will take a virtual trip to the Colorado Rocky Mountains to examine why plants are flowering earlier. What is driving these changes in flowering dates? And then we will examine some of the ecological consequences of earlier flowering in the lab. In particular, we will think about the consequences of earlier flowering for plant populations and for interactions between plant species for pollination.

About Dr. Iler: Amy Iler graduated from Muskingum University in 2005 with a bachelor’s degree in Conservation Science and went on to complete a Ph.D. in Evolution, Ecology, and Organismal Biology at The Ohio State University in 2010.  Her dissertation investigated how an invasive honeysuckle plant affects the pollination of native plants. After this she started studying the plants and pollinators at the Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory in Colorado as a postdoc with the University of Maryland. From 2014–2016, she continued her research on how climate change affects the timing of biological events as a Marie Curie research fellow at the Aarhus Institute of Advanced Studies at Aarhus University in Denmark. In 2016 Amy started a permanent research position at the Chicago Botanic Garden and Northwestern University, where she conducts research, teaches ecology courses, does science outreach, and mentors undergraduate, Masters, and Ph.D. students. She still returns to the Rocky Mountains of Colorado every summer to study how climate change is affecting plants and pollinators serves on the Board of Trustees for the Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory.


Dr. Christine FolchAssistant Professor, Cultural Anthropology Duke University | March 17
Discussion Title: 
Unearthing Hidden Stories of Yaupon, North America’s Native Caffeinated Plant: Or, why don’t we drink it? We totally should.

Description of Presentation: For millennia, Indigenous communities have wielded the stimulating leaves of caffeinated hollies native to the Americas for their social and psychoactive potency. With European Contact, yerba mate (Ilex paraguariensis) became the beverage of choice in the southern region of the Spanish empire and has spread to the Levant and to a café near you. But its lesser-known and equally delightful caffeinated cousin yaupon (the unfortunately named Ilex vomitoria) flourishes across southern North America, where it is at best still a curio. Yet in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, serious attempts were made to put yaupon on a commercial stage equal to coffee and tea by introducing it to a broader North Atlantic public. Today’s talk untangles these failed attempts and explores why now yaupon has started to gain traction as an eco-responsible, earthy alternative to mass-produced caffeinated drinks.

About Dr. Folch: Christine Folch is Assistant Professor of Cultural Anthropology at Duke University and has a secondary appointment at the Nicholas School of the Environment as Assistant Professor of Environmental Science and Policy. (And she just received tenure!)

Folch is a scholar of energy politics, natural resources, and environment in Latin America, with an attention to how nature is intertwined with power struggles, national identities, and history. She holds a Ph.D. in Cultural Anthropology from the City University of New York and a B.A. in History from Harvard College.

She is currently drafting a cultural history of yerba mate, the stimulating beverage popular in southern South America and its lesser-known but equally delightful caffeinated Ilex/holly-family cousins guayusa (Amazonia) and yaupon (southern North America). Her writings on cuisine, culture, and history have appeared in The Atlantic, Slate, andScalawag.


Namrata Pradhan | Ph.D. student. Guangxi Key Laboratory of Forest Ecology and Conservation | Feb. 17
Discussion Title: Seed Viability Testing for the Research and Conservation of Epiphytic and Terrestrial Orchids.

Description of Presentation: Seed viability tests are used to assess if a seed is alive, metabolically active, and possesses the enzymes needed for germination. These tests are essential to determining the success of ex-situ conservation efforts such as seed banking, but vary in their reliability. For orchids, the Tetrazolium test (TTC) is the most commonly used seed viability test, but has been reported to be inconsistent and inaccurate. We need to identify an appropriate and reliable seed viability test for orchids, especially when conducting comparative studies on their different lifeforms. To achieve this, we evaluated the suitability of three seed viability tests: Evans blue test (EB), Fluorescein diacetate test (FDA) and TTC test, with and without sterilization, on seeds of 20 orchid species, which included five epiphytes and fifteen terrestrials, using fresh seeds and seeds stored at -18 ºC for six to eight years. We found that the lifeform of the species and seed sterilization prior to testing are important and influential factors in orchid seed viability testing. In addition, we found that the EB test was reliable and we recommend it over the less reliable, but commonly used TTC and FDA tests, which both require more expensive and sophisticated instrumentation. The recommendations of this study can be used for both fresh as well as long-term stored orchid seeds.

Speaker Bio: Namrata Pradhan was born and raised in India. She obtained her M.Sc. in Zoology from Loyola College, Chennai, India. She worked on the “Synergistic efficacy of three plant extracts Bergenia ciliata, Acorus calamus and Dioscorea bulbifera for antimicrobial activity” for her M.Sc. dissertation. She is currently pursuing her Ph.D. from Guangxi University, China. She received the Junwu Scholarship from Guangxi University to do her Ph.D. Her Ph.D. research focuses on improving orchid seed conservation efficiency using various ex-situ conservation tools such as cryopreservation, seed viability testing, germination and morphology. She also serves as the editorial assistant of Journal of Sustainable Forestry.


Nick DiLuzio, CF | Vice President, Georgia Forestry Foundation | January 20
Discussion Title: Fire in the Forest: The Importance of Fire to Georgia’s Forests

Speaker Bio: Nick DiLuzio is a Certified Forester and serves as the Vice President of the Georgia Forestry Foundation, where he leads the Foundation’s growth efforts as it continues to expand its body of work that will ensure the long-term success of Georgia’s 22 million acres of private working forests. Nick has a B.S. in Biology with a focus on Ecology from Davidson College and a Master’s degrees in environmental management and forestry from the Nicholas School of the Environment at Duke University. While at Duke, Nick’s thesis work focused on longleaf pine management and restoration of the Red-Cockaded Woodpecker population in coastal North Carolina. As part of his graduate work, Nick earned his red card (wildland firefighting certification) and fell in love/became obsessed with fire.

Description of presentation: Fire plays a vital role in many ecosystems in Georgia, especially in its forest lands. As Georgia is the #1 state in the country for forestry, fire is an important tool in maintaining the health and longevity of Georgia’s forests but is not without controversy. This presentation will focus on the critical role fire plays in Georgia’s forests while also highlighting how differences in forest management practices have led to the extreme wildland fires observed out west in recent years.    


2021 Past Events:

Dr. Ricardo Holdo | Associate Professor, University of GeorgiaOct. 21
Discussion Title: The Challenge of Being a Savanna Tree

Discussion Title: The Challenge of Being a Savanna Tree

Dr. Holdo was born and raised in Argentina. He obtained his B.A. degree in Biology from Harvard University, his M.Sc. in Zoology at the University of Florida, and his Ph.D. from Princeton University. After completing postdoctoral work at the University of Florida, he was hired as an Assistant Professor in the Division of Biological Sciences at the University of Missouri, and moved to the Odum School of Ecology at the University of Georgia in 2016. Dr. Holdo is a broadly trained ecologist, and has worked on various aspects of savanna ecology throughout his career, including herbivore behavioral ecology, plant-animal interactions, fire dynamics, tree-grass interactions, climate change and disease ecology. He has conducted most of his field work and research in East and Southern Africa, including Zimbabwe, Tanzania and South Africa.

Description of the talk: A big challenge in savanna ecology is understanding why savannas exist at all. Savannas combine a mix of grasses and scattered trees, somewhere in the region between grassland and forest. Why don’t trees or grasses take over, given how different these two life forms are? A big part of the explanation resides in the demography of trees. To reach the canopy and shade out grasses, trees need to move through all of their life stages without being killed or cut back to a smaller life stage. This means running a gauntlet of challenges, from overcoming competition for water with grasses to surviving drought, frost, fire, and persistent herbivory, especially by elephants. Dr. Holdo will draw on 20 years of research to show examples of these challenges and how, in combination, they help explain the persistence of the savanna state.


Dr. Elizabeth Hermsen | Research Scientist, Paleontological Research Institution, Sept. 16
Discussion Title: The diversity of the Neogene Gray Fossil Site paleoflora and its importance to understanding the modern flora of eastern North America

Speaker Bio: Elizabeth Hermsen received her B.S. in botany and geology from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and her Ph.D. from Cornell University. She held postdoctoral positions at the University of Kansas studying fossil plants from Antarctica and Cornell University studying fossil plants from Patagonia, Argentina. She later worked at Ohio University in Athens, Ohio, as a faculty member. Today, she is a Research Scientist at the Paleontological Research Institution (PRI) in Ithaca, New York. In addition to research, she helps edit PRI’s journal Bulletins of American Paleontology. She also contributed to the development of PRI’s Daring to Dig: Women in American Paleontology temporary exhibit and companion website.

Description of the Talk: Gray Fossil Site is an ancient lake deposit located in eastern Tennessee. It preserves a diverse fossil assemblage that is about 4.9 to 4.5 million years old. The site is one of only a few from eastern North America that yields plant macrofossils from the Neogene period (about 23 to 2.6 million years ago), and it is the only major Neogene macrofossil flora from the Appalachian region. Thus, Gray Fossil Site is very important to understanding the evolution of the vegetation of eastern North America. Plant macrofossils at the site include fruits, seeds, leaves, wood, and other structures. Many of the plant macrofossil genera so far identified from the site still grow in eastern North America, although some occur only in Asia today, and at least one is extinct. The Gray Fossil Site flora illustrates the relationships between the flora of the eastern North America and other regions of the world, as well as the selective extinction of plants in eastern North America between the time that the flora was preserved and today.


Kendal Jackson | PhD Candidate, Department of Anthropology, University of South Florida
Palynologist, Institute for the Advanced Study of Culture and the Environment (IASCE), USF,
 August 19
Discussion Title: Invisible Things Forgotten: A Multi-Proxy Study of Wetland Plant Use at an Ancient Native American Village on the Gulf Coast of Florida

Discussion Title: Invisible Things Forgotten: A Multi-Proxy Study of Wetland Plant Use at an Ancient Native American Village on the Gulf Coast of Florida

Kendal is an archaeologist specializing in the study of historical and ancient environments. He works in research and compliance settings, integrating methods from sedimentary geology, and paleobiology to understand how past peoples interacted with and influenced ecological processes. He has recently published research from study sites on the Florida Gulf Coast on Native American paleoethnobotany, and on anthropogenic drivers of 20th century marsh-to-mangrove wetland conversion. His ongoing dissertation research is focused on understanding the roles that ancestral Native American societies played in the establishment and transformation of nearshore estuarine ecosystems across the late-Holocene.

Description of the talk:
Herbaceous wetland plants have been widely cultivated and utilized by Indigenous peoples throughout North America since at least the early Holocene. Archaeologists and ethnographers, along with traditional knowledge holders, have documented and reconstructed deep histories of interaction between human communities and coastal plants that provide dietary carbohydrates, medicinal compounds, and craft-fiber. On the Florida peninsula, as elsewhere, paleoethnobotanical researchers face challenging preservation conditions and, despite the ubiquity and vastness of coastal wetlands, the resident flora are conspicuously underrepresented in the archaeological record. This talk presents recent research that uncovered evidence for the processing and use of coastal wetland plants by ancestral Native Americans on the Gulf Coast of Florida. The research involved analyses of archaeo-molluscan, microfaunal, and fossil-pollen assemblages from stratified shell midden deposits at a village and civic-ceremonial center that was occupied across the first millennium of the common era (ca. 2000 to 1000 years ago). When placed into regional context, the results suggest that coastal wetland flora may have played key roles within maritime resource intensification, civic-ceremonial aggregation, and the coalescence of villages during the late-Holocene.


Dr. Caitlin Conn | Faculty of Berry College in the Department of Biology, July 15
Discussion Title: Parasitic Plants and the Search for the Host with the Most



Dr. Caitlin Conn grew up in Central Pennsylvania, where she developed an early love for nature on her family’s farm and forests. As a biology major at Penn State, she conducted research on lizards from Caribbean islands and earned her Bachelor of Science degree in 2011. Next, she moved to the University of Georgia, where studied the genetics of parasitic plants and earned her PhD in 2017. After two postdocs (at Spelman College and Emory University), Caitlin joined the faculty of Berry College in the Department of Biology, and she runs a research lab there that focuses on local parasitic plants (such as false foxglove and bear corn) and American chestnut trees.

Parasites are found throughout the tree of life, but for most people, the word “parasite” doesn’t conjure up an image of a plant. Even though the most famous (or notorious) parasites are those that cause disease in humans and other animals, parasitic plants are fascinating because of their diversity, their impact on farming, and their sometimes bizarre morphology. This talk presents a broad view of parasitism among plants, and then focuses on one amazing group: the Orobanchaceae. Some unique characteristics of parasitic plants – like a complete lack of chlorophyll, and the ability to eavesdrop on other plants’ messages to beneficial fungi – will be introduced, and the ecology, evolution, genetics, and agricultural impact of parasitic plants will be explored. 


Bashira Chowdhury | Researcher in pollination ecology, June 17
Discussion Title: Pollination Puzzles in the South

Bashira is a researcher in pollination ecology with a specific interest in how knowledge about pollination can serve rare and threatened plants in the Southeastern U.S. She works with entomologists to study the ecology and conservation of Alabama’s endangered Spigelia (or pinkroots) along with two federally-listed threatened pea plants, Apios priceana and Dalea foliosa.


Dr. Karolina Heyduk | Assistant Professor, University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa, May 20
Discussion Title: Variations and evolution of plant photosynthesis

Karolina Heyduk is a plant evolutionary biologist who brings together plant physiology and genomics to understand how plant traits evolve. She received her Ph.D. from the University of Georgia in 2015, remained there for postdoctoral work, and completed a second postdoc position at Yale University as a Donnelley Postdoctoral Fellow at the Yale Institute for Biospheric Studies. She began her position as Assistant Professor at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa in January 2020, where she also serves as the Director of the Joseph F. Rock herbarium.



Dr. Karen DeMatteo | Senior Lecturer, Washington University in St. Louis
Adjunct Research Associate, WildCare Institute at the Saint Louis Zoo, April 15
Discussion Title: Using a multi-pronged, bottom-up approach to conserve an endangered biodiversity hotspot: the Atlantic forest of Misiones, Argentina

Karen DeMatteo is a biologist that has used a broad range of techniques to understand basic biology and ecological interactions that occur at both the species and community level. For the majority of the year, she can be found at Washington University in St. Louis teaching courses on the applications and use of GIS (Geographic Information System) for the Environmental Studies Program.

The rest of the year, she can be found applying these spatial mapping techniques and genetic analyses to data collected with conservation detection dogs in Misiones, Argentina, as a co-Director of Proyecto Zorro Pitoco. In addition to this research focused at conserving the largest fragment of Atlantic forest, she is involved with directing hands-on training courses with Argentinean students, securing the participation of private landowners in the biological corridor, and supporting the anti-poaching efforts of provincial park guards.



Loy Xingwen | Ph.D. candidate, Department of Environmental Science
Emory University, March 18
Discussion Title: Challenges of conserving plant communities in a changing world 

Loy is a community ecologist at Emory University. His research examines how human-induced change threatens plant diversity by altering species interactions. Loy’s research includes not only the ecology of plant communities but also their relationships with pollinators such as bees. Loy has worked with plants and pollinators for over ten years, and his experience spans three continents. Loy trained as a horticulturist in Singapore, where he was born.

After conscription, Loy pursued a Bachelors in Botany at the University of Queensland in Australia, and upon graduation he worked as a lab manager for plant ecologist, Dr. Margie Mayfield. Loy then moved to the U.S. to work with pollinator ecologist, Dr. Berry Brosi at Emory University. Last month, Loy successfully defended his Ph.D. research, which was focused on how climate change affects pollination by altering plant flowering time. He conducted this research at the Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory in Colorado. Loy will be conferred his doctorate degree in May this year, and he will then be joining ABG Conservation & Research as Conservation Ecology Coordinator.


Dr. Marcela Serna Gonzalez | Professor of Botany
Antioquia Institute of Technology, February 18
Discussion Title: The Conservation of Colombian Magnolias at a Glance

Marcela Serna has worked as a forest engineer sampling flora across a wide range of ecosystems in Colombia as a part of Environmental Impact Studies and Watershed planning. She began working with magnolias as a researcher at Medellin Botanical Garden (1999 to 2005). For her master’s research, she used an index of phylogenetic diversity to establish the highest priority areas in Colombia to conserve, and her doctoral research focused on the ecological interactions of Colombian Magnolias.

She has taught courses in Ecology, Botany, Dendrology, and Conservation Biology and her research focuses on urban trees and endangered plants. Currently, she is a full time Professor of Botany at the Antioquia Institute of Technology in Medellín, Colombia. She has been a lifetime member of Magnolia Society International since 2014, and is also a member of the Asociación Colombiana de Botánica, the Asociación Latinoamericana de Botánica and the Association for Tropical Biology and Conservation.


Mr. Philip Seaton | Biology Lecturer and Orchid Grower
Project Manager of OSSSU,  January, 21
Discussion Title: Orchid Conservation: Where do we go from here?

A biology lecturer by profession and an amateur grower. In my spare time I earned a research degree for my investigations into the problems of the long-term storage of orchid seed. I took early retirement to work full-time in orchid conservation, and in 2007 I became Project Manager of Orchid Seed Storage and Sustainable Use (OSSSU). OSSSU began as a Darwin Initiative project based at the Millennium Seed Bank (MSB) of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, with the aim of establishing a global network of orchid seed banks. A past editor of The Orchid Review, I regularly write pieces for popular orchid journals on a wide range of subjects, and have written (and illustrated) a four books published by Kew: Growing Orchids from Seed (with Margaret Ramsay), Growing Hardy Orchids (with Margaret Ramsay, Phillip Cribb and John Haggar), Growing Windowsill Orchids and Growing Orchids. An educator by nature, I regularly give talks to both UK and International audiences.

I open with a look at the problems facing orchid conservation today, This is followed by a consideration of a range of possible solutions, with a particular focus on involving amateur growers and the wider community. I have been fortunate in that I have travelled the world looking at various orchid conservation projects over the past few years. I will examine a number of these in my talk, and discuss some possible ways forward.

2020 Past Events:

Dr. Jill Anderson | Associate Professor, Department of Genetics and Odum School of Ecology,
University of Georgia, October 15
Discussion Title: Adaptive evolution in a rapidly changing climate

Jill Anderson is an evolutionary ecologist who studies plant responses to global change. She obtained her Ph.D. from Cornell University, where she studied local adaptation in a southeastern species of blueberry (Vaccinium elliottii) and seed dispersal by fruit-eating fishes in the Peruvian Amazon. After her Ph.D., she completed a postdoc at Duke University with Tom Mitchell-Olds, then began a faculty position at the University of South Carolina before moving to the University of Georgia in 2015.

The abiotic and biotic environment varies across the landscape, exposing local populations to different selective pressures. Over evolutionary time, divergent selection can favor the evolution of local adaptation, wherein ecotypes have elevated fitness in their home environment and depressed fitness in the contrasting environment. Human activities are simultaneously modifying multiple abiotic and biotic agents of selection, decoupling linked cues like photoperiod and temperature that contribute to local adaptation, and likely leading to growing discrepancies between current and optimal phenotypes. We hypothesize that novel selection imposed by climate change shifts fitness landscapes, disrupting local adaptation. As a consequence, local populations could contract.

Climatic variation across mountains affords the opportunity to test hypotheses about the evolution local adaptation to continuous environmental variation. We predict that in future climates, local ecotypes will have reduced fitness in their home sites relative to low elevation families, whose modern climates are similar to projections for higher elevations. We test this prediction in the mustard Boechera stricta, which is native to the Rocky Mountains, where it inhabits elevations as low as 1500m and as high as 3500m. In this region, warming winter temperatures reduce snowpack and warming spring temperatures cause the remaining snow to melt early. We can simulate these climate change dynamics effectively via snow removal experiments. We have found clear evidence for adaptation to local environments over short geographic distances in Boechera stricta. Poor performance of high elevation families at lower sites foreshadows future maladaptation as temperatures warm. Furthermore, lower elevation families outperform local families even under control conditions, suggesting that climate warming has already disrupted local adaptation.

Dr. Anderson can be found on twitter.


Dr. Shumei Chang | Professor, Department of Plant Biology, University of Georgia, September 17, 2020
Discussion Title: Flowers – more than meets the eye

Shu-Mei Chang is a Professor in the Plant Biology Department at the University of Georgia. She currently serves as the Coordinator for the Plant Biology Graduate Program, a member of the UGA Mentoring Academy, and a trainer for the NIH T32 Genetics Training Grant.

Flowers are the most striking features of many plants that attract the attention of both pollinators and people. They are key to a plant’s reproduction and long-term success in nature. Beyond their beautiful appearances, flowers contain features not easily detectable by human eyes but that are equally important to their genetic and ecological success. In this talk, I will share some research on floral variation in two plants that can be found in GA, tall morning glories and wild geraniums, to bring attention to the intriguing and wonderful variation present in natural systems.


Dr. Jennifer Leavey | Director, Georgia Tech Urban Honey Bee ProjectAugust 20, 2020
Discussion Title: How to REALLY save the bees

Jennifer Leavey is a Principal Academic Professional in the School of Biology and the College of Sciences. She is the Director of the Georgia Tech Urban Honey Bee Project, an interdisciplinary educational initiative with the goal of recruiting and retaining students in STEM careers through the study of how urban habitats affect honey bee health and how technology can be used to study bees.  She is also the faculty director of the Science and MAth Research Training (SMART) and Scientific Health And Related Professions (SHARP) Living Learning Communities which are funded in part by NSF S-STEM award #1356577

When people think about bees, they almost always think about honey bees. In this lecture, learn all about native bees in the Atlanta area and ways you can support their health (and honey bee health) in your own yard by planting pollinator-supporting plants and limiting pesticide usage. Also learn how to collect data on pollinators in your neighborhood to support research efforts.


Dr. Thomas RaShad Easley | NC State University, June 25, 2020
Discussion Title: Relationships, Hip Hop and Forestry: Thinking about Diversity and Inclusion


Dr. Thomas R. Easley has spent most of his career as a diversity professional and a forester. As a diversity professional he has focused on the recruitment, retention and diverse talent in natural resource disciplines. As a forester he has worked with landowners and citizens on land management and stewardship. Easley served as the Diversity Director of the College of Natural Resources at NC State University where he taught courses, advised students, and supported faculty and staff on programming ensuring they are inclusive to all populations.

Now as the Assistant Dean of Community and Inclusion at the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, he combines his professions along with his passions of art and ministry to lead the diversity efforts in the school.

Also with all of Easley’s academic experience he is also an Eagle Scout (Boy Scouts of America) and he is a forester. Lastly, Dr. Easley is also a musician and is known by RaShad in the world of music. His art is called “Save Your Life Music” because he puts a message of love, embracing self and helping others in his music.