Indiana State University Newsroom

Science speaker series kicks off Jan. 13

January 9, 2009

Darwin, CSI, honeybees, bonobos and ulcers all combine for Indiana State University's From Molecules to Ecosystems spring semester biology seminar series.

"Anyone interested in science can come to these talks and take something away," said Rusty Gonser, assistant professor in the biology department, who recently discussed the series with local television personality Alexis King on the "WTWO Today" program.

The series, sponsored by the ISU department of biology and St. Mary-of-the-Woods College science and math department, brings in internationally, recognized research scientists to speak to students and community members. All seminars begin at 4 p.m. in Science Room 12 and are open to the public.

The series set a record in attendance last year, and Gonser hopes this year's series brings even more students and members of the community to hear these noted researchers from throughout the United States and Canada speak. There also is a new series speaker that will focus upon ecology -- the Robert H. MacArthur Ecology Speaker.

"It's to round out the areas in biology," Gonser said about the ecology speaker addition. "We have DNA, microbiology, Darwin, life science initiative, the Tri-Beta which is the honor society, women and diversity in science to represent minorities and Earth Day is global for everyone."

The series begins on Jan. 13 with the Diversity in Science Speaker, Scott Edwards from Harvard University, who is scheduled to speak on "Using Genomics to Study Evolution, Biodiversity and Diseases in the Wild." Edwards earned his undergraduate degree from Harvard before going on to earn his doctorate from the University of California, Berkeley. During his post-doctoral work at the University of Florida in Gainesville he began studying the evolution of genes involved with disease resistance in wild birds. Such genes play an important role in many aspects of avian biology, including parasite resistance, plumage color variation and mate choice.

Two speakers will take on forensics during the series. Richard Li with the John Jay College of Criminal Justice of the City University of New York plans to speak on forensic biology on Jan. 20 while the following week Roland Kohr, the Vigo County coroner, plans to give his "Top 10 reasons I Hate CSI" on Jan. 27.

In conjunction with Darwin Day, the movie "Inherit the Wind" about the Scopes trial is scheduled to be shown in the Cunningham Memorial Library on Feb. 9. Then on April 13, as part of Earth Day, the movie "The 11th Hour," which explores the ecological state of the planet, will be shown in the library.

Other speakers are:

- Feb. 3 -- Tri-Beta Speaker, Craig Nelson from Indiana University on "Evolution, Creation or Both' Big Macs, Double Elimination Tournaments, and Bowling Isn't Football: The Scientist's Lot Is Not a Happy One - Or Is It'"

- Feb. 10 -- Darwin Day, Tom Seeley from Cornell University on "Honey Bees and Effective Decision Making."

- Feb. 17 -- Tiffany Knight from Washington University - St. Louis on "Rodent Predation and Hybridization Increase Extinction Risk of the Endangered Plant."

- Feb. 24 -- Jennifer O'Connor of Rose-Hulman Institute on "Viruses in Amphibian Populations."

- March 3 -- inaugural Robert H. MacArthur Ecology Speaker, Jonathan Newman of the University of Guelph on "The Nature of Climate Change Impacts: Philosophical, Statistical and Ecological Considerations."

- March 17 -- Rosemary Knapp of the University of Oklahoma on "Behavioral Endocrinology of Alternative Reproductive Tactics in Bluegill: Correlated Characters in Physiological and Evolutionary Time."

- March 24 -- Life Science Initiative Speaker, Mervin Yoder of Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis

- March 31 -- Women in Science Speaker, Amy Parish of the University of Southern California on "Bonobos: A Female Dominated Society."

- April 7 -- Hans Christian Gram Microbiology Speaker, Stephen Blanke on "Helibacotor: Cause of Ulcers"

- April 14 -- Earth Day Speaker, John Bickham of Purdue University on how environmental pollutants affect genetics.

- April 21 -- Double Helix Speaker, John Avise of University of California - Irvine.

Funding for the series comes from the Lilly Endowment, ISU Office of Enrollment Management, ISU Library, College of Arts and Sciences, McNair Achievement, women's studies program, Center for Science Education, School of Graduate Studies, criminology department, and the Office of Diversity.

For more information, visit or call 812-237-2501.

Contact: Rusty Gonser, Indiana State University, assistant professor of life sciences, at 812- 237-2395 or

Writer: Jennifer Sicking, Indiana State University, assistant director of media relations, at 812-237-7972 or

Story Highlights

The series brings internationally, recognized research scientists to campus to speak to students and community members. The series set a record in attendance last year and organizers are gearing up for an expanded series in 2009.

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