15. Evolution and Ecology of Bird Diversity

Onychorhynchus_coronatus_coronatus_from_above_1841

Science: A Candle In The Dark
Episode 15: Evolution and Ecology of Bird Diversity
Airdate: 22 March 2016
Host: Dr. Madhusudan Katti
Guest: Dr. Christopher Trisos, Socio-Environmental Synthesis Center (SESYNC)

Transcript: Hello and welcome to “Science: A Candle In The Dark”- our monthly conversation about the wonders of science and how it illuminates our path in this astonishing universe. In association with the Central Valley Café Scientifique, we strive to make science a part of our public discourse, especially here in California’s Central Valley. 

I’m your host, Dr. Madhusudan Katti, from the Biology Department at Fresno State.

March is a month of madness, they say, from the madness of hares running around crazily in the English countryside on a surge of hormones, to the contests of sporting teams and their fans rooting for them in the annual March Madness of college basketball in America. If you’re the nerdy non-sporting type, like me, however, you might want to follow a different kind of March Madness competition with a science and nature flavor. 

I’m talking about March Mammal Madness, the new springtime competition created by anthropologist Dr. Katie Hinde four years ago. You may remember Dr. Hinde from our round table on Darwin Day when she was one of the panelists. Mammal March Madness pits a wonderful variety of mammal species, mostly real, but also some imaginary ones, against each other in brackets I’m told mirror the NCAA basketball version. The species are chosen by a team of biologists who use actual biological information about the mammals in a complex algorithm to determine the head-to-head winners. All the action takes place on Twitter, on weekday evenings and you can follow along using the hashtag 2016MMM. I believe we have just had the sweet sixteen round and are now down to 8 mammals, and you can join in to find out who is left standing as the champion by the end of the month. For more information, go to mammalssuck.blogspot.com or #2016MMM on Twitter.

Interview: My guest today is Dr. Christopher Trisos, a postdoctoral scholar at the Socio Environmental Synthesis Center in Annapolis Maryland. Dr. Trisos hails from South Africa where he got his undergraduate degrees in botany, ecology, and economics. He then moved to Oxford University in the UK as a Rhodes Scholar, and did his Ph.D. research on the evolutionary ecology of birds. Specifically, he used approaches from both evolutionary biology and ecology to test the importance of habitat type, dispersal, interspecific competition and speciation on patterns of species coexistence in South American birds. That will be the subject of his upcoming presentation at Peeve’s Pub next month when he is visiting Fresno and will speak at the Central Valley Café Scientifique. I should also mention that Chris and I have been collaborating over the past year, leveraging his expertise in analyzing the distribution of bird species diversity using evolutionary and ecological approaches to understand how urbanization and cities influence when and where we find birds now.

Outro: And that’s our show for today.“Science: A Candle In The Dark” will be back on Tuesday, April 26th. The Central Valley Café Scientifique will meet at Peeve’s Pub on Wed, April 6th, where you can join our guest today to learn more about why and where the diversity of birds are in Peru.

This show is produced by Madhusudan Katti and Vic Bedoian, and the theme music was composed by Scott Hatfield. 

With that, so long, listeners, and until next month, happy sciencing, because, remember: science is a verb!

For more information about the Café and announcements about upcoming events, please visit our website, or find us on Facebook and Twitter.

The Precarious Night Life Of An Ancient Primate In A Modern City – September 2015 Café

Portrait of a Slender Loris

Portrait of a Slender Loris, © Kalyan Varma.

Welcome back to another year of science conversations as the Central Valley Café Scientifique opens its 9th season on Monday, September 14th, at Peeve’s Pub.

This month, we will travel to the city of Bangalore in India, with one of our own founding members, Dr. Kaberi Kar Gupta, who has recently launched a new project to study one of that city’s tiny nocturnal denizens, the Slender Loris (pictured above). Dr. Kar Gupta studied this species in the wilds of Kalakad-Mundanthurai Tiger Reserve in southern India for her Ph.D. (in Anthropology from Arizona State University), documenting its social behavior and mating system for the first time. A sabbatical stint in Bangalore several years ago helped her discover that the species also occurs in urban forests! That unlikely realization led her to launch a new participatory research and conservation project involving a range of citizen scientists and stakeholders with an interest in the history of biodiversity in Bangalore’s past, and a commitment to making the “Garden City” re-earn and maintain that title in the future.

Dr. Kar Gupta will talk about how she came to study this unlikely little primate that continues to cling to the dwindling urban forest in Bangalore, and how citizen engagement with nature is crucial to conserving biodiversity. You can learn more about this work on the Urban Slender Loris Project website, read an interview with Dr. Kar Gupta in a recent Guardian article, and hear her discuss the project with Dr. Kelly Hills on Blog Talk Radio:

http://player.cinchcast.com/?platformId=1&assetType=single&assetId=7722649

Check Out Science Podcasts at Blog Talk Radio with Virtually Speaking Science on BlogTalkRadio

You can also hear her talk about urban ecology in Fresno and Chicago (and Kolkata and Bangalore) on the June podcast of our own radio show, Science: A Candle In The Dark, episode 5.

The Urban Slender Loris Project, as you will hear at the Café next week, is a research and conservation project that depends on public participation. You too might get an opportunity to participate—even from faraway Fresno—soon by contributing to a crowdfunding campaign Dr. Kar Gupta plans to launch in the near future. In the meantime, you can follow the project on tumblr, twitter, and Facebook for updates.

When: Monday, 14 September 2015, 7:00 PM

Where: Peeve’s Public House
, 1243 Fulton Mall, Fresno, CA 93721

Contact: 559-278-2460 (cafe inquiries) / 559-573-5735 (Pub’s number)

Here’s the full poster for this event – please feel free to download, print, and share with your friends and family:

5: Urban Ecology – Science: A Candle In The Dark

Grass breaks through concrete on an urban sidewalk in Chicago

Grass breaks through concrete on an urban sidewalk in Chicago

Science: A Candle In The Dark
Episode 5: Urban Ecology
Airdate: 
23 June
 2015
Host: Dr. Madhusudan Katti
Special Correspondent: Stephanie Slonka
Guests: Dr. Emily Minor, Dr. Kaberi Kar Gupta, Dr. John Marzluff, and Kim Eierman.

Topic: This special summer episode explores our growing understanding of urban ecology, of all the non-human species that inhabit and adapt to urban spaces, and what we can do in our own backyards to reconcile urban development with biodiversity conservation..