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All lectures will be presented virtually on Zoom. Zoom meetings will open 30 minutes before the scheduled lecture time. Zoom registration links are posted below. 


Molecular Adaptation to Environmental Stress: Intrinsic versus Extrinisc Solutions

George Somero

Stanford University
Somero Website

Zoom Recording - Somero   Passcode:1C7EE%2L

Monday, Feb.8 
Event Flyer (.pdf)

This talk will focus on the question of how molecular systems adapt to environmental stressors like temperature and hydrostatic pressure during long-term evolutionary periods and during shorter bouts of stress where phenotypic plasticity is critical.  I’ll illustrate how adaptive molecular responses include changes in macromolecular structure (e.g., protein amino acid sequence) and alterations of the milieu in which macromolecules function.  I term the former type of adaptation “intrinsic adaptations” to denote that they are changes in the inherent properties of macromolecules; the shifts in composition of the milieu (“micromolecular adaptations”) are termed “extrinsic adaptations.”


Chewing it Over: Why What and How We Eat Has Shaped Primate and Human Evolution

Claire Terhune

University of Arkansas
Terhune Website

Zoom Recording - Terhune  Passcode: uX*KN31J

Tuesday, Feb. 9 
Event Flyer (.pdf)

Repeated adaptations in the chewing system have continually redefined how vertebrates interact with their environment. Today, humans experience high rates of dental pathologies, and in comparison to other primates we have small jaws and teeth and a radically reorganized skull. This talk will explore patterns in the chewing apparatus in primates and humans, and how we can better understand how what we eat (and how we chew) has driven our evolution.

Claire Terhune grew up in Charleston and attended the College of Charleston, graduating with a BS in Anthropology and BA in Biology in 2002. She received her PhD from Arizona State University in 2010 and is now an Associate Professor of Anthropology at the University of Arkansas. She has worked in museum collections throughout North America and Europe, excavated dinosaurs in northern Mexico, worked on Paleolithic sites in France and Spain, done bioarchaeological fieldwork on the island of Cyprus, worked at the paleoanthropological locality of Hadar in Ethiopia, and observed howler monkeys in Costa Rica. Her research focuses on how the primate and human chewing system works and why human and primate skulls look the way they do.


Mathematics of Evolution: Mutations, Selection, and Random Environments

Natalia Komarova

University of California, Irvine
Komarova Website

Zoom Recording - Komarova  Passcode: U@MC4g$J

Wednesday, Feb. 10 
Event flyer (.pdf)

Evolutionary dynamics permeates life and life-like systems. Mathematical methods can be used to study evolutionary processes, such as selection, mutation, and drift, and to make sense of many phenomena in life sciences. I will present two very general types of evolutionary patterns, loss-of-function and gain-of-function mutations, and discuss scenarios of population dynamics  ‒ including stochastic tunneling and calculating the rate of evolution. I will also talk about evolution in random environments.  The presence of temporal or spatial randomness significantly affects the competition dynamics in populations and gives rise to some counterintuitive observations. Applications include origins of cancer, passenger and driver mutations, and how aspirin might help prevent cancer.



Sigma Xi Distinguished Lecturer: 

The Satellite Record of the Pale Blue Dot: The Late 1970s to Now

Compton Tucker

NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center
Tucker Website

Zoom Recording - Tucker  Passcode: B9%0R6eV

Lecture Slides - Tucker (50 mb)

Thursday, Feb. 11
Event Flyer (.pdf)

From imagery from NASA’s Voyager-1 mission to the outer solar system, Carl Sagan described our planet as the “Pale Blue Dot” when viewed beyond the orbit of Neptune in 1990. The Pale Blue Dot has maintained life for the past 3.5 billion years and it’s here we make our stand. As Carl Sagan said: “It’s here, it’s home, it’s us”. The Earth’s climate is determined by irradiance from the Sun and by properties of the atmosphere, oceans, and land that determine the reflection, absorption, and emission of energy within our atmosphere and the Earth’s surface. Since the 1970s, Earth-viewing satellites have provided an unprecedented understanding of the Earth’s coupled ocean-land-atmosphere system. Satellite observations show a constant Sun, a global sea level rise of 3 to 4 cm/decade, increasing temperatures in the lower atmosphere, decreasing Arctic Ocean sea ice, decreasing glacier extent, and continuing ice mass loss from Greenland and Antarctica. The presenter will also delve into the Age of Reptiles, the transition of Earth’s climate from the Cretaceous to the present, and our tendency moving toward a Cretaceous-like climate.



Coloring the Conservation Conversation

Presented in partnership with The College of Charleston's Center for Sustainable Development 

J. Drew Lanham

Clemson University
Lanham Website

Zoom Recording - Lanham  Passcode: %SPRp63Y

Friday, Feb. 12
Event flyer (.pdf)

Dr. Lanham will discuss what it means to embrace the full breadth of his African-American heritage and his deep kinship to nature and adoration of birds. The convergence of ornithologist, college professor, poet, author and conservation activist blend to bring our awareness of the natural world and our moral responsibility for it forward in new ways. Candid by nature — and because of it — Dr. Lanham will examine how conservation must be a rigorous science and evocative art, inviting diversity and race to play active roles in celebrating our natural world.

A native of Edgefield, South Carolina, J. Drew Lanham is the author of The Home Place: Memoirs of a Colored Man’s Love Affair with Nature, which received the Reed Award from the Southern Environmental Law Center and the Southern Book Prize, and was a finalist for the John Burroughs Medal. He is a birder, naturalist, and hunter-conservationist who has published essays and poetry in publications including Orion, Audubon, Flycatcher, and Wilderness, and in several anthologies, including The Colors of Nature, State of the Heart, Bartram’s Living Legacy, and Carolina Writers at Home. An Alumni Distinguished Professor of Wildlife Ecology and Master Teacher at Clemson University, he and his family live in the Upstate of South Carolina, a soaring hawk’s downhill glide from the southern Appalachian escarpment that the Cherokee once called the Blue Wall.