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This seminar covers all aspects of population biology, broadly defined to include ecology, evolution and other aspects of modern organismal biology. It also encompasses studies of animal behavior in the field and laboratory, paleontology, theoretical and experimental biology, genetics and genomics.

Alison Cucco

Professor Kathleen A. Nolan


Meeting Schedule

6:00 PM
Ecological Restoration of Kuilei Cliffs, Oahu, Hawai'i
Ryo Kubata, University of Hawai'i, Manoa


In 2015, a group of surfers were concerned about the degradation of the Kuilei Cliffs around Diamnondhead Volcano in Oahu, Hawai'i and mounted a clean-up that led to a community-based ecological restoration project that is ongoing today. Invasive plants are continually being removed, while native species are planted. In this seminar, you will learn about the specific plant species of each type, and the current status of the restoration. Hopefully, once restored, the siltation of (through erosion of the cliffs) and health of the coral reefs that are the victims of this runoff will improve.

6:00 PM
Assessing biodiversity in Madagascar with leech-derived iDNA: Methodological advancements and ecological insights
Mai Fahmy, Fordham University


Global biodiversity is currently declining at unprecedented rates due to anthropogenic activities and interventions are needed to preserve remaining diversity. Baseline measures of biodiversity are needed against which to test the efficacy of such interventions in conserving species over time. Biodiversity inventories are used to establish these baselines, often relying on tools such as camera traps and Sherman traps, among others. With the advent of next-generation sequencing, targeting residual species DNA from environmental sources (eDNA) has emerged as an efficient means of taking inventory of biodiversity. Of these environmental sources, blood-feeding invertebrates have also been tested in their ability to preserve host DNA (invertebrate-derived DNA, iDNA). We test and optimize the use of terrestrial blood-feeding leeches of the family Haemadipsidae in sampling vertebrate biodiversity. We have developed a methodology for collecting leeches (Chtonobdella spp.), sequencing host DNA, and assigning taxonomic identity and I have implemented it in the forests of Madagascar, sampling some of the world’s most endangered biodiversity. We have shown that increasing barcoding loci increases taxonomic identifications, and that pooling individual blood meal DNA isolates for next-generation sequencing is more efficient than individually targeting blood meals with traditional Sanger sequencing and fewer loci. We show that iDNA complements conventional biodiversity surveying methods, detecting distinct vertebrate fauna. We also present evidence for a new species of terrestrial leech (Chtonobdella spp) and describe its morphology with micro-computed tomography (uCT) imaging. We have helped establish terrestrial leeches as valuable tools for biodiversity monitoring and have improved our understanding of their behavior as understudied organisms.