Provost's Lecture Series

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Darwin Day 2016
February 12: David Jablonski 

jablonskiMass Extinctions and Evolution: What We’ve Learned Since Darwin
David Jablonski is the William R. Kenan, Jr. Professor in the Department of the Geophysical Sciences and the Committee on Evolutionary Biology (a multi-institutional PhD program) at the University of Chicago. He combines data on living and fossil marine organisms to ask large-scale evolutionary questions about origins, extinctions, and geographic distributions. He grew up in New York City a few blocks from the American Museum of Natural History; he knew he wanted to be a paleontologist by the age of five. He was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2000 and the National Academy of Sciences in 2010. He has published more than 140 scientific papers and book chapters on topics ranging from mass extinctions to the origin and maintenance of the diversity gradient from poles to tropics and the role of multilevel processes in evolution. Co-sponsors: Department of Ecology and Evolution, Department of Anatomical Sciences, Department of Geosciences

Co-sponsor: Department of Ecology and Evolution 

Abstract: The fossil record is punctuated by extinction events at all scales, from the loss of one or two fish species with the drying of a lake, to the wholesale disappearance of dinosaurs (birds aside) 65 million years ago. The handful of events that are global in scale and bring down a wide spectrum of species are termed mass extinctions, which account for less than 10% of all the extinction over life’s long history, but have been pivotal in shaping the world’s biota. Because most research has centered on the causes of mass extinctions, we are just beginning to understand their evolutionary roles. Growing evidence points to a change in the rules of survival during mass extinctions, so that evolution is re-channeled during these rare but intense episodes. The evolutionary bursts that follow the extinctions may be just as important as the extinctions themselves, as new or previously obscure lineages take advantage of the opportunities opened up by the demise of dominant groups. However, a closer look at recovery intervals shows that survival alone does not guarantee evolutionary success: not all survivors are winners. The implications of this new understanding of extinction for present-day biodiversity are complex but wide-ranging.

Friday, February 12, 7:30 pm, Earth and Space Sciences 001

 Previous Lectures

October 8, 2015: Josh Levs

josh levsThe Myth of the Modern Dad: What the New York Times, Pew Research, and Everyone Else Got Wrong
Josh Levs is an investigative journalist, expert on issues facing modern families and author of All In: How Our Work-First Culture Fails Dads, Families, and Businesses–And How We Can Fix It Together. After 20 years of reporting for NPR and CNN, Levs, a father of three, focuses his book on dispelling myths about today's dads and moms, and explaining the necessity of new policies such as paid family leave. All In shows that men and women gain from these changes. Levs follows the money, detailing how and why the best family-friendly programs benefit businesses and the economy. He tells his own story of taking on a policy at Time Warner that prevented him from being able to care for his newborn, preemie daughter and sick wife. As a result of his legal action and the publicity surrounding them, the company revolutionized its policy, making it much better for dads and moms. The change made the company better and stronger. Levs has received six Peabody Awards and two Edward R. Murrow Awards. A scholarship was awarded in his name at Yale University and he was named a Journalist of the Year by the Atlanta Press Club. 

Co-sponsor: The Center for the Study of Men and Masculinities

Abstract: False claims about modern dads are everywhere. They're in headlines of alleged "surveys," shared in popular blogs, even published by the most prestigious news organizations. In this talk, Josh Levs shows the disastrous effects these lies have on families and businesses. They propagate the laws, policies and stigmas that maintain a sexist infrastructure and keep the American workplace stuck in the "Mad Men" era. Women and men are hurt equally by these myths, he says, and it's up to the current generation of parents to end them once and for all, he argues. Levs offers simple steps and pragmatic solutions to bring the United States into the 21st century, allowing men and women the chance to build real work-life balance.

Thursday, October 8, 4:00–6:00 pm, Simons Center Auditorium, Room 103 


October 16, 2015: Carl F. Hobert

carl hobertRaising Global IQ
Carl F. Hobert directs Boston University's Global Literacy Institute and is the author of the bestseller Raising Global IQ: Preparing Our Students for a Shrinking Planet. He is the founder and executive director of the Axis of Hope Center for International Conflict Management and Prevention, a Boston-based nonprofit organization that offers conflict-resolution simulation workshops for public and private school students, educators, parents and for executives around the world. Over the last 30 years, Hobert has served as a negotiation adviser and mediator in issues ranging from intergroup conflicts in the workplace, to the US–Mexico drug war, and ethnic struggles in Rwanda, Chad, Malaysia and the Middle East. He has taught negotiation to hundreds of government leaders, corporate executives, academic administrators, professors and teachers, and college students around the world.

Co-sponsor: Linguistics Department

Abstract: This generation of college students is increasingly interested in learning about international crises, from the war in Syria to global warming and beyond. But in order to teach students how to devise solutions to these often-complex problems, Hobert argues that they need both in-class and in-the-field experience. Hobert explores how he does this effectively in his "Educating Global Citizens" course. In this seminar, Hobert uses what he calls the "Intellectual Outward Bound case study approach" to conflict resolution, in order to teach students how to play roles on many different sides in a host of conflicts in order to raise their Global IQ, and to hone their personal conflict analysis, management and prevention skills. 

Friday, October 16, 12:00 pm, Wang Center, Lecture Hall 2 

Presentation of the Rohlf Medal 
October 26, 2015: Benedikt Hallgrímsson  

hallgrimssonMorphometrics and the Middle-Out Approach to Complex Traits
Benedikt Hallgrímsson is Professor of Cell Biology and Anatomy at the University of Calgary's Alberta Children's Hospital Research Institute and the McCaig Institute for Bone and Joint Health. He is a biological anthropologist and evolutionary biologist who combines developmental genetics and bioinformatics with 3D imaging and morphometrics to address the developmental basis as well as evolutionary significance of phenotypic variation and variability. His work has focused on the mammalian craniofacial complex, craniofacial dysmorphology in humans, and skeletal biology and disease and has employed both experimental and comparative approaches.   

Co-sponsors: The Rohlf Medal Fund and the Department of Ecology and Evolution 

Abstract: How development translates genetic into phenotypic variation is one of the hardest questions in biology. This issue is central to understanding how selection acting on phenotypic variation produces evolutionary change. It is also a key challenge that must be overcome to enable precision medicine for structural birth defects. My collaborators and I blend morphometrics and advanced imaging with developmental biology and genetics to create and analyze large sets of 3D image data from animal models and humans to study how genes relate to variation in facial shape. This allows us to identify patterns of variation that correspond to particular developmental mechanisms or genetic pathways. We then manipulate those mechanisms experimentally in animal models in order to determine how they generate variation in the facial form including birth defects. Finally, we apply our understanding of facial genetics and development to determine how disruption of growth, either by nutrition or syndromes influences facial shape. This approach is innovative because, rather than focusing on individual genes, we focus on pathways or processes that correspond to the effects of many genes on the development of the face. In this way, we break down the complexity of the genetics of complex traits such as facial shape. This results in explanations of variation that have significant implications for how organismal form evolves. Our hope is that such "middle-out" explanations will eventually also help inform individualized treatment for patients.   

Monday, October 26, 4:00 pm, Wang Center, Lecture Hall 2 

November 17, 2015: Paul M. Arfin, MSW

paul arfinSocial Action in Suburbia: Post World War II Long Island as a Case Study
Paul Arfin has served as executive director for Long Island nonprofit organizations since 1967. He was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Colombia during JFK’s presidency. He returned to the US committed to a career in social change. During his Long Island career, Paul Arfin founded Suffolk County’s first youth center; established Long Island’s first interpersonal dispute resolution center; and its first corporate-supported intergenerational day care centers. He founded the YMCA of Long Island’s Family Services Division and the Community Programs Center of Long Island, where he served as CEO for twenty-two years. Arfin served as president of the New York State Adult Day Services Association and is a recipient of the Association’s Pioneer Award. He was inducted into the Long Island Volunteer Hall of Fame and received an An Art of Caring Award from former Governor George Pataki. He was also recognized by the Long Island Business Partnership with a Sixty-over-Sixty award for his community service. After retiring from full-time employment in 2002, Arfin founded Intergenerational Strategies, the intergenerational studies center at Dowling College, and Long Island chapter of the Social Enterprise Alliance. In addition, he assisted the Family Service League and Family and Children’s Association in establishing HomeShare Long Island, matching older adult homeowners with people needing affordable housing. He also served as New York State coordinator for Generations United’s Seniors4Kids and as an instructor at Hofstra University and Dowling College, where he designed and taught courses on nonprofit employment and volunteerism. Over the years, Arfin has written numerous articles published in Newsday and The New York Times on family, aging, and intergenerational and social enterprise issues.

Co-sponsors:  Department of History, Department of Sociology

Abstract: As Long Island emerged as a major suburb after World War II, there were few social welfare services available to its residents. What policies and programs were needed? Who were the social change advocates for these services and programs? What challenges did they face and what changes resulted from their actions? And, what is the current state of social welfare programs on Long Island? These are the issues that Paul Arfin will address.

Tuesday, November 17, 4:30 pm, Wang Center, Lecture Hall 2 

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