Rattlesnakes, Newts, and Toads: Chemical Defenses in California Reptiles and Amphibians

Please join us Monday March 4, 2019 at 7PM for an informative session on defense mechanisms of some of California’s fauna.

How is it that a single Rough-skinned Newt contains enough toxin in its skin to kill 58 humans? Why can some garter snakes feast on newts without any ill effects? Finding food and avoiding becoming somebody else’s meal are powerful forces for natural selection. This is certainly true if we examine how some of California’s snakes, salamanders, and frogs survive and thrive. Many of our native species employ powerful toxins in defense against predators. In some cases, the toxins are fairly mild and work by making the potential prey merely distasteful. However, in other species the toxins are incredibly powerful, capable of causing death.

Robert Hansen has a long-standing interest in the amphibians and reptiles of the American Southwest and Mexico. His research has included studying the ecology and systematics of salamanders, work that has led to descriptions of three new species in California. He is also keenly interested in desert snake communities, and in an ongoing study begun in 1982, he and collaborators have examined the local distribution, relative abundance, and activity patterns of snakes at the interface of the southern Sierra Nevada and Mojave Desert of California. An accomplished photographer, his photos of herpetological subjects have appeared in numerous books and journal articles. Since 1991, he has been Editor of Herpetological Review, a quarterly journal published by the Society for the Study of Amphibians and Reptiles. In 2015, he received the SSAR Presidential Award for Lifetime Achievement in Herpetology.

Who: Robert Hansen

When: March 4, 2019 at 7PM

Where: Santa Fe Basque, 3110 N Maroa Ave., Fresno, CA 93704

Cafe Scientifique RWHansen March2019 promo

Advertisements

Jurassic Frankenstein: A Discussion About Maintaining Ethical Research

Please join us on Monday, February 4, for a panel discussion on the ethics of research.

The first genetically engineered human babies were born in China this year, kicking off another debate about scientific ethics.  How do we make sure that scientific research is ethical, in particular research involving humans or animals?  How can we test if a drug is safe to give to pregnant women? How are research animals protected? Can a step-parent give consent for their child to participate in a clinical trial? This month we ask the experts about how scientists and institutions police their research to ensure that scientific work is ethical.  Our panel members serve on the ethics boards of local research institutions or train early-career scientists in research ethics.

Who: Dr. Jones (Dept. Psychology, Fresno State University), Dr. Ozeran (UC San Franscisco Fresno Extension, and Valley Children’s Hospital), Dr. Telemeco, and Dr. Ross (both Dept. Biology, Fresno State University).

When: February 4, 2019 at 7PM

Where: Santa Fe Basque, 3110 N Maroa Ave., Fresno, CA 93704

unnamed

Bigfoot Meets the Loch Ness Alien Space Ghosts: The Cognitive Genesis of False Observation in Superstition and Science

Ring in the new year with Cafe Scientifique! Dr. Matthew Sharps from Fresno State will be speaking to us about some of his research into perception and cognition.

Eyewitness memory in the criminal justice system is notoriously unreliable.  Less well-recognized is the fact that the same perceptual and cognitive principles operate in other areas as well, notably in the false observation of “paranormal” phenomena such as Bigfoot, UFO aliens, and ghostly apparitions. My students and I have published a number of articles on this subject.  We’ve demonstrated that not only can we distinguish, psychologically, people who believe in different aspects of the paranormal, but that specific psychological processes can literally induce normal people to see them, to interpret everyday sights as paranormal entities and objects.  We have also shown that these principles can apply in the sciences themselves, most famously in the case of Percival Lowell and the Canals of Mars.  Understanding these principles of interpretation and misinterpretation is increasingly important in a world in which science and pseudoscience are frequently confused.

Who: Dr. Matthew Sharps, California State University, Fresno.

When: January 7, 2019 at 7PM

Where: Santa Fe Basque, 3110 N Maroa Ave., Fresno, CA 93704

Picture1