Fall 2012

The Evolution/Creationism Controversy: A Disgraceful Failure for Science Education

Dr. Leslie Jones
Valdosta State University

Hosting Dept: Biology


Abstract:  Over the years, it has become evident that the Evolution/Creationism controversy is being inadvertently perpetuated by the process of science education. Creationist challenges repeatedly demonstrate that science detractors do not understand the biological premise of evolution and have little or no understanding of the epistemological distinctions between science and religion. Strong creationist worldviews necessarily exclude the acceptance of biological evolution as an explanation for the history of life. Responsible pedagogy must address the fact that science teachers do not hold personal authority for many religious students. Therefore, science instruction must tackle the socio-cultural controversy in order to increase receptivity to even learning what evolution actually is, much less being open to the possibility that this science is true.

Thursday,  August 23, 2012 4pm

DNA Breathing and Country Size

Dr. Jonghoon Kang
Valdosta State University

Hosting Dept: Biology


Abstract:  There are currently 251 countries in the world. The sizes of countries vary greatly: the ratio of the largest to the smallest is more than seven orders of magnitude. One can easily predict that a country size depends on several factors: one is geographical such as ocean, mountains, and lakes and the other is artificial such as politics, economics, and warfare. However, it is virtually impossible to derive the size of a country from those factors. In this talk I will show that the distribution of country sizes can be described by generalized Boltzmann-Gibbs statistics with an assumption that it is a quantum mechanical vibration system. I will compare the energy associated with the distribution with that of “breathing” of a simple DNA molecule.

Thursday,  August 30, 2012 4pm

Journey into the history of cubic equations in Ancient Iraq, China, Persia, Italy, and a current geometric method

Dr. Iwan Elstak
Valdosta State University

Hosting Dept: Mathematics and computer Science


Abstract:  The quest for solving problems involving unknown numbers has taken mathematicians into the most diverse and ingenious methods to find answers for such problems. We start in ancient Iraq and study their methods for solving cubic forms. Then we move on to Persia where mathematics soared to unprecedented heights in solving cubic forms. The Arabs, Persians and Central-Asians reinvented the practice of mathematics and created its advanced forms. Around the 13th century Chinese mathematicians solved cubic forms to any degree of accuracy creating a whole new way of handling cubics. We follow the trail to Italy where traders learned from the North Africans adopting their mathematics and their numbers. After two centuries of trying to solve the cubic, Italians used the geometry from the Arabs and solved the cubic. Today the search for new methods of solving cubics is still strong. We present a fifth method to solve cubics, with innovative geometric methods different from those used by the Persians.

Thursday,  September 6, 2012 4pm

Future and Prospects of Hydrogen as an Alternative Fuel

Dr. S.A. Sherif
Professor of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering
University of Florida

Hosting Dept: Physics, Astronomy, Geosciences and Engineering Studies


Abstract:  The Hydrogen Energy System promises to be a global energy system in which electricity and hydrogen are produced from available energy sources and used in every application where fossil fuels are used today. In such a system, electricity and hydrogen are produced in large industrial plants as well as in small, decentralized units, wherever the primary energy source (solar, wind, nuclear) is available. Both hydrogen and electricity have the potential to complement renewable energy sources well by presenting them to the end user in a convenient form and at a convenient time. Depending on location, electricity may be used directly or transformed into hydrogen. For large-scale storage, hydrogen can be stored underground in ex-mines, caverns and/or aquifers. Energy transport to the end-users, depending on distance and overall economics, can either be in the form of electricity or in the form of hydrogen. Hydrogen may be transported, by means of pipelines or super tankers. It can then be used in the transportation, industrial, residential, or commercial sectors as a fuel. Some of it may be used to generate electricity (via fuel cells) depending on demand, geographical location, or time of the day. Fuel cells may be available in mega-Watt power-plant size or as individual devices (several kilo-Watts) suitable for distributed power generation. Together with renewable energy sources, such as solar and wind, electricity and hydrogen have the potential to form a clean and permanent energy system. This lecture presents an overview of the principles of a hydrogen-based economy and the Hydrogen Energy System and discusses the potential and prospects of hydrogen as an alternative fuel.

Thursday,  September 13, 2012 4pm

Where the wild things are…and aren’t: ethological and macroecological investigations of amphibian species distributions

Dr. Cy Mott
Valdosta State University

Hosting Dept: Biology


Abstract:  Species’ geographic ranges are considered the ultimate expression of their ecological niche, and range size is generally accepted as an accurate predictor of extinction risk. However, efforts to determine why species exhibit widely varying patterns of spatial distribution have only scratched the surface of why “species are where they are”. In addition, most efforts have focused on distributional patterns of birds and mammals, despite the fact that amphibians are one of Earth’s most imperiled vertebrate groups. In this presentation I will review individual, population, and species-level investigations that seek to identify the ecological and evolutionary processes creating and maintaining geographic range size and shape, as well as the conservation implications of such immense variation in spatial distribution.

Thursday,  September 20, 2012 4pm

Application of Biotechnology in Peanut Cultivar Improvement

Dr. Ye Chu
Ozias-Akins Horticulture Department, The University of Georgia

Hosting Dept: Biology


Abstract:  Peanut cultivation is challenged by biotic and abiotic stresses such as insects, viruses, fungi, salt and drought. In addition, improvement of peanut oil quality and the elimination of peanut allergens need to be addressed. Molecular biotechology was applied to these aspects of peanut cultivar improvement. Molecular markers tightly linked to a nematode resistant trait derived from wild diploid species and introgressed into allotetraploid peanut were developed using AFLP and SSR. Loss of function mutations in both alleles of oleoyl-PC desaturase (ahFAD2) leads to the production of high oleic peanut, which is preferred by the oil industry. Molecular markers targeting these mutations were developed. Markers for both traits were applied to an elite peanut breeding program and drastically shorten the time frame of breeding as compared to traditional methods. To improve tolerance to abiotic stress, an antiapoptotic gene, Bcl-xL, was integrated into peanut via biolistic bomobardment. Transgenic peanut lines were more resistant to stress as demonstrated by greater tolerence to herbicide than non-transgenic lines. Ara h 1, 2 and 6 are the most potent peanut allergens among the 11 identified allergen proteins. Using RNAi constructs for Ara h2, transgenic lines showing significant down regulation of Ara h 2 and 6 were identified. The growth, development and viability of these transgenic lines appear to be normal. The silenced allergen lines will also provide useful material for functional proteomics studies.

Thursday,  September 27, 2012 4pm

Nitric Oxide: Biochemistry and Detection

Dr. Yakov Y. Woldman
Valdosta State University

Hosting Dept: Chemistry


Abstract:  The presentation is an introduction to biochemistry of nitric oxide (NO) and methods of its detection in biological systems. Emphasized is chemiluminescent method for quantitation of NO generation in cell cultures proposed by author. The method is based on the reaction of soluble guanylyl cyclase, which is activated by NO; the product of the reaction is enzymatically converted to ATP, detected by chemiluminescence in luciferin-luciferase system. The method has been applied to the measurement of NO generation by activated murine macrophages and bovine aortic endothelial cells. For activated macrophages the rate of NO production is about 100 amol/(cell·min); the same rate was found from the measurements of nitrite, the final product of NO oxidation, for the same cells. For endothelial cells, the basal rate of NO generation is 5 amol/(cell·min); it is approximately doubles upon activation by bradykinin, Ca2+ ionophore A23187  or mechanical stress (shaking). For both types of cells the measured NO generation is strongly affected by inhibitors of NO synthase. The sensitivity of the method is about 50 pM/min, allowing to measure NO generated by 102 – 104 cells, depending on the rate of NO production. The direct comparison shows the chemiluminescent method to be two orders of magnitude more sensitive than fluorescent detection using NO-reactive dye DAF-FM.

Thursday, October 4, 2012 4pm

A morphological and molecular analysis of Crangonyx grandimanus and C. hobbsi (Amphipoda) as factors for the study of the biological interconnectedness of caves within the Floridan aquifer

Dr. Thomas Sawicki
Department of Natural Sciences and Engineering
Macon State College

Hosting Dept: Biology


Abstract:  The water filled caves of Florida have resulted in a complex, interconnected habitat within which numerous species have invaded and evolved. To date, only two species of stygobitic amphipods, i.e., species found exclusively in subterranean groundwater habitats, Crangonyx hobbsi and C. grandimanus have been formally described from the Floridan aquifer. Given the nature of the lifecycle, size and the wide distribution of these two species across the Floridan aquifer, Crangonyx hobbsi and C. grandimanus should act as a good proxy to the understanding of gene flow and thus biological interconnectedness of this incredibly large and diverse habitat.

Thursday, October 11, 2012 4pm

Computer Simulations to Elucidate Solvent Effects on Classical Organic Reactions

Caley Allen
Auburn University

Hosting Dept: Chemistry

Thursday, October 18, 2012 4pm

How we squandered glyphosate: The tragedy of the commons

Dr. Theodore M. Webster

Hosting Dept: Biology


Abstract:  Introduction of glyphosate resistance into crops through genetic modification has revolutionized crop protection. Glyphosate, the proverbial silver bullet, is a broad spectrum herbicide with favorable environmental characteristics and effective broad-spectrum weed control that has greatly improved crop protection efficiency. However, in less than a decade, the utility of this technology is threatened by the occurrence of glyphosate tolerant and glyphosate resistant weed species. Factors that have contributed to this shift in weed species composition in Georgia cotton production are reviewed, along with the implications of continued overreliance on this technology. Potential scenarios for managing glyphosate resistant populations, as well as implications on the role of various sectors for dealing with this purported “tragedy of the commons” are presented. While glyphosate susceptibility in Palmer amaranth (Amaranthus palmeri) is likely lost in Georgia, and perhaps in other cotton producing states in the Southern US, there are lessons to be learned. Improved understanding of how the technology was lost will allow us to avoid repeating these mistakes with the next herbicide resistant technology.

Thursday, October 25, 2012 4pm

The Creation of STUNT Cheer: A Story of Title IX, Cheerleading and the Gender Politics of Sport

Dr. Nancy Malcom
Georgia Southern University

Hosting Dept: Sociology


Abstract:  Is cheerleading a sport? Three years ago, Quinnipiac University disbanded its women’s volleyball team and declared that its female cheerleaders were varsity athletes. The following year, a federal judge declared that “Competitive cheer may, sometime in the future, qualify as a sport under Title IX. Today, however, the activity is still too underdeveloped and disorganized to be treated as offering genuine varsity athletic participation opportunities for students.” One year after this court decision, in 2011, USA Cheer sponsored the inaugural season of STUNT, a “new competitive team sport derived from cheerleading.” This research uses preliminary survey responses from STUNT participants to supplement evidence from primary documents in order to tell the story of STUNT. I argue that the creation of STUNT not only highlights how sport itself is a social construction, but does so in a way that brings into sharp focus the gender hierarchies embedded in the sporting world as well as the ambivalence surrounding our societal notions of what it means to combine femininity with athleticism.

Thursday, November 1, 2012 4pm

From genomics to cellular dynamics: ROS and Ca2+ signaling in drought response in Arabidopsis

Dr. June M. Kwak
Department of Cell Biology and Molecular Genetics, University of Maryland

Hosting Dept: Biology


Abstract:  The phytohormone abscisic acid (ABA) regulates diverse cellular processes including modulation of seed dormancy, seed maturation, stomatal movements, gene expression, and vegetative growth during plant development. Reactive oxygen species (ROS) are short-lived molecules and act as second messengers to mediate ABA signaling in stomatal guard cells. Previously, we showed that two NADPH oxidases AtrbohD and AtrbohF are responsible for ABA-triggered ROS production and act as positive regulators of guard cell ABA signaling. In addition, we have identified two MAP kinase genes, MPK9 and MPK12, that are highly and preferentially expressed in guard cells and act downstream of ROS to positively regulate ABA- and calcium-activation of anion channels and ABA-induced stomatal closure. Our preliminary results show that MPK9 an MPK12 are regulated by redox. Other novel molecular components of ABA signaling will be discussed. Plasma membrane Ca2+ channels are an essential component of cellular activities. However, the molecular identity of plasma membrane Ca2+ channels in plant cells remains elusive. Using Ca2+ imaging-based expression assays and patch clamp analysis in HEK293 cells, we systematically tested ion channel activity of seven Arabidopsis glutamate receptor homolog genes (AtGLRs) that have been proposed to function as calcium channels. We demonstrate that two AtGLRs form heteromeric Ca2+-permeable cation channels in the plasma membrane. We provide direct functional and genetic evidence that AtGLR-formed ion channels mediate calcium influx across the plasma membrane, regulate basal cytosolic calcium levels, and control calcium-mediated signaling and physiological processes. Further progress will be discussed.

Thursday, November 8, 2012 4pm

Blackflies and Whooping Cranes, a critically endangered species

Dr. Elmer Gray
Department of Entomology
University of Georgia

Hosting Dept: Biology


Abstract:  The Whooping Crane (Grus americana) is a critically endangered species with a population of approximately 530. The Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership was established in 1999 in an effort to develop an eastern migratory flock distinctly separate from the western flock that originates in the Northwest Territories of Canada. The eastern flock began nesting in Necedah, Wisconsin in 2005 and patterns of “nest desertion” were quickly observed. Nest desertions were precipitated by an environmental factor which was temperature related and affected numerous nesting pairs at about the same time. Black flies (Diptera:Simuliidae) were observed feeding in large numbers on the head and neck of numerous cranes. Black flies were also observed on the deserted nests and eggs. A study was conducted to determine if suppression of the local, bird feeding black fly population would result in improved first-time nesting success. Larvicide applications were conducted with Vectobac® 12AS. This larvicide consists of insecticidal proteins produced by Bacillus thuringiensis subsp. israelensis (Bti). Larvicide applications were conducted in 32 miles of river in 2011 and 53 miles of river in 2012. First time nesting success increased from 0% in 2005-2010 to 30% in 2011 and 41% in 2012.

Thursday, November 15, 2012 4pm

End of semester