Science Drinks Nov. 19, 2013
Attendees: Claudia Santori, Tim Paine, Moha Abdelaziz Mohamed, Gregor Hogg, Lilly Herridge, Toby Hector, Luc Bussière, Nils Bunnefeld
After an unplanned relocation of the Nov 5 Science Drinks, we found ourselves back at the Wallace, where the smell of new varnish only somewhat made up for the lack of other renovation surprises. Spoiler: the newly renovated pub does not provide free house port on every table after all, at least not yet.
Before the whole crowd had assembled, the keen early arrivals started chatting about spatial autocorrelation, because why not? Both Gregor and Toby face this problem in different respects in their honours work: Gregor finds spatial autocorrelation in his geographic information about species distributions, while Toby faces similar problems when assessing morphological information from different positions on a single animal. As soon as they sat down, we asked Tim and Nils if and how they might have addressed similar issues involving transects (not trans sex) in their ecological work. They respectively pointed to couple of potentially helpful sources. Tim suggested consulting Mark McPeek‘s work on the evolution of dragonfly morphology, while Nils referred us to his better half Lynsey McInnes‘ work on geographic ranges. Very helpful pointers — we’ll expect a status update from Toby and Gregor in a few weeks once they have digested some of these papers.
Lilly’s contribution was recent paper by Dowling and colleagues, recently published in JEB, demonstrating trans-generational effects (not trans sex) of exposure to mates on offspring fitness in Drosophila melanogaster flies. They manipulated female exposure to sexual conflict by both manipulating access to males and by cauterizing the genitals of males in some treatments, so that while there were many males they could not mate and transfer ejaculate accessory gland proteins that are known to impose conflict. Intriguingly, the offspring of the cauterized multiple male treatment did worst of all. It seems like the mechanisms that might cause this are numerous, and worth further study.
Nils then provided a fascinating and long discussion involving both the humanities and sciences, both pure and applied, and which provoked some fairly nuanced philosophy as well as no small amount of depression in the author of this blog. However, because the exact topic is the subject of ongoing work that might just be subject to embargo, I have to write very little here (I know, the readership of this blog is hardly wide enough to pose a risk, but better safe than sorry!) This is a lesson in the benefits of experiencing science drinks in person! Some topics are too hot to summarize later on. Maybe we can link to the paper in due course….
Before anyone could escape for the evening, I asked the crowd for advice on a project proposal concerning cotton plants and Spodoptera caterpillars that a colleague from Bangladesh and I are writing for an upcoming travel grant. Tim and Moha both had some very good insight on the plant biology and herbivory that will be useful in refining our ideas, and suggested some references by Anurag Agrawal and Sharon Strauss that I need to follow up on.
So as you can see (at least for the unexpurgated components of this summary), Science Drinks is usually fun AND productive! Join us for the next session if you can…