SAAB Webinar Programme 2021

Please Note: Recordings of the webinars can be found here

20 January:   Dr. Blair Cowie (saab Bronze medal winner 2021):

Famine Weed: Understanding the invasion and controls

27 January:  Prof. Timm HofFman (SAAB silver medal winner 2021):

Rethinking catastrophe. Historical trajectories and modelled future vegetation change in southern Africa.

17 February:  Zaynab Shaik (SAAb best young scientist awardee 2020):

Unravelling the evolution of the Cape flora’s endless forms most beautiful: a next-gen approach.

21 April:  Prof. Bob Scholes:

Taking an ecosystems view.

26 MAY: Prof. Serban Proches

Global plant geography: Diversity patterns, kingdoms and biomes

23 June 16h00:  Prof. Dr. Jake Alexander:  

Plant range expansions in mountains

18 AUGUST: DR. KELSEY GLENNON (UNIVERSITY OF THE WITWATERSRAND)

Drakensberg confetti: what drives flower colour variation in a mountain endemic?

15 SEPTEMBER: PROF. JANNICE FRIEDMAN FROM QUEEN’S UNIVERSITY, ONTARIO, CANADA

Ecological genetics of reproductive variation in plants:  the seed to succeed across spatial scales

20 OCTOBER: DR. FLORIAN P. SCHIESTL (UNIVERSITY OF ZURICH) (17H00-FROM VANCOUVER)

The role of biotic interactions in plant evolutionary divergence

11 NOVEMBER 16h00: PROF STEPHEN KELLER (UNIVERSITY OF VERMONT)

Can genomics predict population vulnerability to maladaptation under environmental change? Concepts, case studies, and cautions

Abstract:

Global climate change has begun affecting the entire biosphere, with wide-ranging impacts on Earth’s biodiversity now being felt in real-time. There is a deepening appreciation for the role that local adaptation within a species may play in the response to abruptly shifting climate. With the growing availability of dense genomic and environmental data sets for many species, there are also new opportunities for integrating genomics into predictive models of short-term climate change response. Of particular interest is predicting the potential for short-term maladaptation as a result of disrupting local adaptation within a species range, and identifying areas within the range where populations may be most vulnerable to climate maladaptation. This problem is especially relevant for long-lived organisms, where the pace of environmental change may play out rapidly, relative to the generation time. In this talk, I’ll present recent work in my lab along with collaborators, in which we pair landscape genomic data sets with high-resolution climate forecasts to estimate gene~climate associations that putatively reflect current local adaptation. We then derive the expected shift in the gene~climate association between current and future climates, allowing  quantitative predictions about the degree of expected maladaptation — a metric we have termed “genetic offset”. Through a series of case studies highlighting empirical work and simulation testing, I’ll discuss the conceptual underpinnings of the genetic offset approach and the potential it has to be informative on the question of climate maladaptation. Central to this discussion is a frank assessment of assumptions and limitations behind genomic predictions of climate maladaptation, and how the interpretation and potential application of genetic offsets in conservation must be approached cautiously. I’ll close the talk highlighting the need for validation testing, and offer several recent, ongoing, and proposed approaches to “ground-truthing” genomic predictions of climate maladaptation.

About the speaker: Prof. Stephen R. Keller

Steve got his B.S. from Juniata College in Pennsylvania (USA) before working as a biologist for the National Park Service in Colorado. From there, he ventured northward to do a master’s in biology at the University of Alaska Fairbanks with Kent Schwaegerle, where he studied breeding system evolution in arctic-alpine plants. Steve got his Ph.D. at the University of Virginia with Doug Taylor on the population genetics of invasive species, followed by postdoc research at the University of Minnesota in Peter Tiffin’s lab working on population genomics in Populus. After three years (2011-2014) on the faculty at the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science, Steve joined the Department of Plant Biology at the University of Vermont.

His lab researches the interaction between genomic variation in natural populations and environmental change, focusing on how human impacts on the environment, such as climate change and biological invasions, can abruptly alter both the genetic and ecological context within which species evolve. His primary study is on the genetics of forest trees and invasive plants.