Outreach, Education and Training

Science Café

Science Café features expert speakers and discussions on timely conservation topics on select Thursdays, May - October. Current Science Cafe discussions are held through Zoom with a sign up link provided on respective event pages. See upcoming Science Café events below:

Mr. Philip Seaton | January, 21
Register today

2020 Past Presentations:

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 and on the web.

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.