Fall 2021 New Professors Lecture

When: December 16, 2021 at 2 pm
Where: Virtual

Speakers & Abstracts

Chilling out: What can Antarctic green algae teach us about photosynthetic life in extreme environments?

By Marina Cvetkovska, Department of Biology

Marina Cvetkovska

Abstract: Green algae from the order Chlamydomonadales, including the flagship species Chlamydomonas reinhardtii, have fascinated biologists for decades. Important developments in major life science areas trace their origin in Chlamydomonas research, spanning diverse fields from plant and algal biology (e.g., photosynthesis), evolution (e.g., multicellularity) and medical research (e.g., optogenetics). In the Cvetkovska lab, we work with extremophilic Chlamydomonas species from Antarctic and Arctic ice-covered aquatic habitats. These obligate cold extremophiles (psychrophiles) are some of the best studied polar algae and are a largely untapped resource for identifying cold adaptation traits, novel metabolites, and cold-active enzymes. Psychrophiles are exceptionally adapted to thrive at a plethora of extreme conditions but are sensitive to environmental change and typically cannot survive even moderate temperature increases. Today, with rapid climate change upon us, studying psychrophiles is more important than ever. We are broadly interested in two questions: (1) How do polar algae adapt to an extreme environments characterized by permanently low temperatures, high salinity, and low light? (2) How do psychrophilic algae respond to climate-induced environmental stress that threatens the sensitive polar ecosystems? In my presentation, I will discuss our recent advances in these fields, and some of the future opportunities and challenges that still await us.

Biography: Professor Marina Cvetkovska joined the Department of Biology at the University of Ottawa in 2019. She obtained her PhD at the University of Toronto (2006-2012) specializing in plant responses to biotic and abiotic stress, followed by an NSERC-funded Postdoctoral position at Western University centered on algal adaptation to extreme environments (2014-2018). At uOttawa the Cvetkovska group is focusing on elucidating the mechanisms behind stress tolerance and adaptation in plants and algae using a combination of physiology, molecular biology, and bioinformatics.


Higher algebra

By Simon Henry, Department of Mathematics and Statistics

Simon Henry

Abstract: "Higher algebra" is what you obtain when you try to study algebraic structures in situations where "equality" needs to be replaced by a more flexible notion, typically where the type of elements you are looking for might have more than one way to be "equals". These types of "Higher structures" have appeared in many different areas of mathematics: originally in topology as early as the 1960s-1970s, quickly followed by homological algebra, in category theory in the 1980s, in algebraic geometry in the 2000s, and more recently in differential and symplectic geometry, in combinatorics, in (some branches) of logic, etc... However, “higher structures” are still very difficult to work with, and this has considerably slowed down their development. I will provide a quick and informal introduction to what these higher structures are, why they are hard to work with and how we hope to improve our tools to study them.

Biography: After his undergraduate and master’s studies at the École Normale supérieure of Paris, Prof. Simon Henry finished his PhD in 2014, under the supervision of Alain Connes. His PhD research was on topos theory and operator algebras. He then moved to Nijmegen (Netherlands) for a postdoc at Radboud University, within Ieke Moerdijk’s algebraic topology research group, where he started working on Higher algebra and model categories. He did two other postdocs — one at the college de France in Paris between 2015 and 2017 and the second at Masaryk University in Brno (Czech republic) between 2017 and 2019 — before joining the logic group in the University of Ottawa Department of Mathematics and Statistics in 2019.


Life-history evolution in a changing environment using long-term studies of vertebrates in the wild

By Julien Martin, Department of Biology

Julien Martin

Abstract: Explaining the remarkable diversity of species and variation between individuals within a species requires understanding how evolution shapes organisms in their natural environments. In natural systems, energetic resources are limited in abundance, scattered in space and restricted in time availability, thus forcing organisms to adjust their energy allocation among traits and their time budget among activities. Life history theory seeks to explain the trade-offs made by individuals to optimize their reproduction and survival as a function of the environmental conditions. To understand how species adapt and evolve to changing conditions, we need study them in their natural environment under existing fluctuation and changes. My research is based on 2 long term studies of marked individuals of yellow-bellied marmots (+60 years) and alpine swifts (+20 years). Using long-term data on morphological, physiological and behavioural traits of wild vertebrates and cutting-edge statistical analyses (e.g. animal model, double hierarchical models, path analysis), my research focuses on three main aspects: 1) testing key hypotheses of life-history and quantitative genetic theories; 2) evaluating the evolutionary consequences of changing environments; and 3) implementing and assessing the performance of new statistical analyses in ecology.

Biography: Prof. Julien Martin completed his undergraduate in France before moving to Montreal to do a MSc with Denis Réale at UQAM (Montreal), on animal personality. He then got his PhD in 2010 at the University of Sherbrooke with Marco Festa-Bianchet on bighorn sheep life-history. After 2 years of postdoc with Dan Blumstein at UCLA (Los Angeles, USA), on yellow-bellied marmots, he got a position at the University of Aberdeen, Aberdeen, UK, in 2013. After 6 years in Scotland, he joined the biology department on a quantitative ecology position in 2019.

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