15. Evolution and Ecology of Bird Diversity


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.

Why we need Charles Darwin in 2016 – a #DarwinDay event


Once again, this February, we celebrate Darwin Day in the Café Scientifique with a special guest, a historian of science, speaking about the continuing relevance of Charles Darwin to science and to our lives in the 21st century. Join us for a conversation about “Why we need Darwin in 2016: Sustainability, Evolution, and the Global Environment.” Darwin’s 217th birthday will be celebrated a week after our Café event, on February 12th.

Headshot October 2015.jpgOur guest Dr. Dawn Mooney Digrius is the Senior Project Manager for the STEM Collaboratives Project at the California State University Office of the Chancellor. Prior to coming to the Chancellor’s Office, Digrius was Assistant Professor of History at Stevens Institute of Technology. Her research centers on the history of water, agriculture and sustainability in Latin America and beyond. While running an international project in Ecuador and El Salvador, she also served as Main Representative for the International Health Awareness Network from 2011-2014 to the United Nations. Digrius participated in the Rio+20 conference and the Open Working Groups for the Development of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. Her deep commitment to Sustainable Development is reflected in her scholarly work and in an upcoming short documentary film, Not Just Illegals, highlighting the plight of Salvadorans and their migration to the United States as a result of violence and limited economic opportunities. She has two grown children and lives in Long Beach, California.

Special note: Our host for the past two years, Peeve’s Public House’s owner Craig Scharton, recently made a heartfelt plea for all of our support and patronage to help his business survive in the tough downtown location. Craig is a rare businessman with a strong civic sense committed to reviving Fresno’s beleaguered downtown, and has run Peeve’s as a genuine Public House, not as a mere watering hole, but as a venue for the public to enjoy music, sports, the arts, and of course, science. We would love to continue this long-term relationship with Peeve’s as our permanent home, but can only do so if we can help keep the pub in business. So please do what you can to provide your patronage to the pub, and get your friends and family out there too, so we can show that such a pub can remain a viable business in Fresno.

So join us on the first Wednesday (note the change in day for our cafe) of February to enjoy a pint of the fine brews Peeve’s has on tap, with some food, and a hearty helping of science and history to celebrate another Darwin Day!

Speaker: Dr. Dawn M. Digrius, California State University

When: Wednesday, 3 February 2016, 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/or share with your friends and family:

9. A Biologist and a Sociologist talk about CRISPR! – #ScienceCandle


Science: A Candle In The Dark
Episode 9: A Biologist and a Sociologist talk about CRISPR!
October 2015
Host: Dr. Madhusudan Katti
Guests: Dr. Tricia Van Laar and Dr. Andrew Rhys Jones

Topic: The new DNA editing technique called CRISPR has been much in the science news feeds lately because of its exciting and perhaps frightening potential to enable the editing of genomes at levels of precision that may very well exceed the imaginations of some science fiction writers of yore who wrote about brave new worlds. In this edition of the podcast, you’re in for a treat with, with two very engaging speakers getting into it on the topic of DNA editing and what it means for biology and humanity. The conversation ended too soon for me, as the 30 minutes flew by and both Tricia Van Laar and Andrew Rhys Jones left my head is still aswirl with questions I meant to ask them. For the first time I wished the show was an hour long instead! But the great thing is that if you are able to attend the Café, you will get into it with them in person on Nov 2!

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