Cafe Scientifique: “Assuring Urban Forest Health and Sustainability via Tree Genetic Diversity”

October 7, 2014

Dr. Cynthia Morton

Carnegie Museum of Natural History
Curator of Botany

 

Assuring Urban Forest Health and Sustainability via Tree Genetic Diversity

Follow along with the slide show here!

As a botanist, Dr. Cynthia Morton, curator of botany at Carnegie Museum of Natural History, has worked locally and internationally to collect specimens for phylogenetic analysis of molecular and morphological data. The range of projects include redefining the citrus family, constructing genomic maps, cleaning ground water, and investigating park and nursery tree genetics.

Her work in 2008 compared the level of genetic variation in London Plane trees already existing in the Pittsburgh area with trees of the same species currently available from three commercial nurseries. The genetic diversity was far greater in the older urban tree samples compared to the nursery samples, indicating that the nursery industry has been selectively cloning to produce new trees. While cloning trees is in itself a benign practice, doing so on a mass scale without a proper understanding of the implications of drastically reducing the genetic diversity of urban forests is ill-advised. A greater understanding of urban tree genetic diversity will allow policy makers, city planners, environmental agencies, and the nursery industry to make informed decisions and recommendations to improve practices for maintaining a robust tree landscape for the future.

An urban environment rich with trees is highly valued for its aesthetic qualities as well as its environmental benefits, such as reducing summer cooling costs, carbon sequestration, intercepting airborne pollutants, and reducing storm water runoff. In the United States, urban forests are estimated to contain about 3.8 billion trees, with an estimated structural asset value of $2.4 trillion. Billions of federal, local and private dollars are spent annually on management, labor, and the trees themselves as part of tree revitalization projects, and millions more are spent by individual homeowners to improve their environment and property values. Despite this multi-billion dollar urban tree economy, little work has been done to understand urban tree genetic diversity as an issue of vulnerability, or to examine the long-term impacts of urban tree genetic diversity on the sustainability of the urban environment.

Morton's research has been featured in newspapers, videos, and in peer-reviewed scientific articles.

Recorded Monday, October 6, 2014 at Carnegie Science Center in Pittsburgh, PA.

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Cafe Scientifique Q&A: “Assuring Urban Forest Health and Sustainability via Tree Genetic Diversity”

October 7, 2014

This is the Q&A portion of Dr. Morton's presentation.

Dr. Cynthia Morton

Carnegie Museum of Natural History
Curator of Botany

 

Assuring Urban Forest Health and Sustainability via Tree Genetic Diversity

As a botanist, Dr. Cynthia Morton, curator of botany at Carnegie Museum of Natural History, has worked locally and internationally to collect specimens for phylogenetic analysis of molecular and morphological data. The range of projects include redefining the citrus family, constructing genomic maps, cleaning ground water, and investigating park and nursery tree genetics.

Her work in 2008 compared the level of genetic variation in London Plane trees already existing in the Pittsburgh area with trees of the same species currently available from three commercial nurseries. The genetic diversity was far greater in the older urban tree samples compared to the nursery samples, indicating that the nursery industry has been selectively cloning to produce new trees. While cloning trees is in itself a benign practice, doing so on a mass scale without a proper understanding of the implications of drastically reducing the genetic diversity of urban forests is ill-advised. A greater understanding of urban tree genetic diversity will allow policy makers, city planners, environmental agencies, and the nursery industry to make informed decisions and recommendations to improve practices for maintaining a robust tree landscape for the future.

An urban environment rich with trees is highly valued for its aesthetic qualities as well as its environmental benefits, such as reducing summer cooling costs, carbon sequestration, intercepting airborne pollutants, and reducing storm water runoff. In the United States, urban forests are estimated to contain about 3.8 billion trees, with an estimated structural asset value of $2.4 trillion. Billions of federal, local and private dollars are spent annually on management, labor, and the trees themselves as part of tree revitalization projects, and millions more are spent by individual homeowners to improve their environment and property values. Despite this multi-billion dollar urban tree economy, little work has been done to understand urban tree genetic diversity as an issue of vulnerability, or to examine the long-term impacts of urban tree genetic diversity on the sustainability of the urban environment.

Morton's research has been featured in newspapers, videos, and in peer-reviewed scientific articles.

Recorded Monday, October 6, 2014 at Carnegie Science Center in Pittsburgh, PA.

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Cafe Scientifique: “The Cosmic Cocktail: Three Parts Dark Matter”

September 4, 2014

Dr. Katherine Freese

George E. Uhlenbeck Professor of Physics
University of Michigan

Author
The Cosmic Cocktail

 

Cosmic Cocktail: Three Parts Dark Matter

Dr. Katherine Freese, a pioneer in the study of dark matter, discusses her book, "The Cosmic Cocktail," which documents the inside story of the epic quest to solve one of the most compelling mysteries of modern science – what is the universe made of?

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Cafe Scientifique: “The Age of Radiance”

August 7, 2014

Craig Nelson, Author "The Age of Radiance: The Epic Rise and the Dramatic Fall of the Atomic Era"

With a biographer's penchant for detail, author Craig Nelson will chronicle the historical figures of the atomic age, including its "Forgotten Women." His lecture will keep visitors guessing at every turn. Nelson is the author of "The Age of Radiance: The Epic Rise and Dramatic Fall of the Atomic Era," "Rocket Men" (a New York Times bestseller), "Thomas Paine: Enlightenment, Revolution, and the Birth of Modern Nations," among other works.

Nelson, a historian, will offer new understanding of the era, focusing on its forgotten heroes and heroines who have impacted all of our lives. For example, Albert Einstein called Lise Meitner, the first female university professor in the history of Germany, "our Curie." The Viennese head of the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute's Physics department made one of the great discoveries of modern science on Christmas in 1938: Nuclear fission. But she was written out of history, first by the Nazis for being a Jew, and then by the post-war Germans for being a woman. Heisenberg called her nothing more than an assistant. Her worktable was mounted at Munich's German History Museum and labeled as being the desk of her great antagonist. She was denied the Nobel prize. But the physics community would enact a precise form of eternal vengeance – giving her a spot on the periodic table – while ensuring that her great foe could never achieve this honor.

Learn more about Craig Nelson at www.craignelson.us

Recorded on Monday, August 4, 2014 at Carnegie Science Center in Pittsburgh, PA.

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Cafe Scientifique Q&A: “The Age of Radiance”

August 7, 2014

This is the Q&A portion of Craig Nelson's talk, "The Age of Radiance."

With a biographer's penchant for detail, author Craig Nelson will chronicle the historical figures of the atomic age, including its "Forgotten Women." His lecture will keep visitors guessing at every turn. Nelson is the author of "The Age of Radiance: The Epic Rise and Dramatic Fall of the Atomic Era," "Rocket Men" (a New York Times bestseller), "Thomas Paine: Enlightenment, Revolution, and the Birth of Modern Nations," among other works.

Nelson, a historian, will offer new understanding of the era, focusing on its forgotten heroes and heroines who have impacted all of our lives. For example, Albert Einstein called Lise Meitner, the first female university professor in the history of Germany, "our Curie." The Viennese head of the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute's Physics department made one of the great discoveries of modern science on Christmas in 1938: Nuclear fission. But she was written out of history, first by the Nazis for being a Jew, and then by the post-war Germans for being a woman. Heisenberg called her nothing more than an assistant. Her worktable was mounted at Munich's German History Museum and labeled as being the desk of her great antagonist. She was denied the Nobel prize. But the physics community would enact a precise form of eternal vengeance – giving her a spot on the periodic table – while ensuring that her great foe could never achieve this honor.

Learn more about Craig Nelson at www.craignelson.us

Recorded on Monday, August 4, 2014 at Carnegie Science Center in Pittsburgh, PA.

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Cafe Scientifique: “The Persistence of Memory: How Experience Changes the Brain”

June 9, 2014

Dr. Alison Barth Associate professor Carnegie Mellon University Department of Biological Science

How do our experiences change us? How are memories stored and retrieved?

Scientists believe the answers lie in how connections between neurons, called synapses, can be strengthened or weakened over time. The brain contains about 100 billion neurons and 1 quadrillion synapses, so figuring out which ones are changed during learning is the ultimate needle-in-the-haystack problem. Learn how contemporary neuroscientists are tackling this age-old question, using sophisticated, state-of-the-art techniques for neuronal imaging as well as the recording of tiny electrical impulses from task-related neurons. Figuring out what regulates learning promises new methods to boost memory and improve perception or performance.

Alison Barth, associate professor in Carnegie Mellon University's Department of Biological Science, will give an introduction to brain plasticity, explaining how molecules become linked to the mind. Dr. Barth studies the organization of and plasticity of neocortical circuits in rodents. Her work centers on how synapses are altered by behavioral experience. She's the recipient of numerous awards, and she holds a patent for the fosGFP transgenic mouse. She is an inventor on multiple applications for other neuroscience-related methods and treatments.

Recorded Monday, June 2, 2014, at Carnegie Science Center in Pittsburgh, PA.

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Cafe Scientifique Q&A: “The Persistence of Memory: How Experience Changes the Brain”

June 9, 2014

This is the Q&A portion of Dr. Barth's presentation.

Dr. Alison Barth Associate professor Carnegie Mellon University Department of Biological Science

How do our experiences change us? How are memories stored and retrieved?

Scientists believe the answers lie in how connections between neurons, called synapses, can be strengthened or weakened over time. The brain contains about 100 billion neurons and 1 quadrillion synapses, so figuring out which ones are changed during learning is the ultimate needle-in-the-haystack problem. Learn how contemporary neuroscientists are tackling this age-old question, using sophisticated, state-of-the-art techniques for neuronal imaging as well as the recording of tiny electrical impulses from task-related neurons. Figuring out what regulates learning promises new methods to boost memory and improve perception or performance.

Alison Barth, associate professor in Carnegie Mellon University's Department of Biological Science, will give an introduction to brain plasticity, explaining how molecules become linked to the mind. Dr. Barth studies the organization of and plasticity of neocortical circuits in rodents. Her work centers on how synapses are altered by behavioral experience. She's the recipient of numerous awards, and she holds a patent for the fosGFP transgenic mouse. She is an inventor on multiple applications for other neuroscience-related methods and treatments.

Recorded Monday, June 2, 2014 at Carnegie Science Center in Pittsburgh, PA.

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Cafe Scientifique: The Origin of Modern Birds

May 6, 2014

Matthew C. Lamanna, Ph.D.

Assistant Curator Section of Vertebrate Paleontology Carnegie Museum of Natural History

Birds are today's most diverse group of land-living backboned animals. They comprise more than 10,000 species. But their origins remain poorly understood. Lamanna's expeditions have unearthed dozens of exquisitely-preserved avian fossils – many of them including soft-tissues such as feathers and skin – from ~120 million-year-old sediments in the Changma Basin of northwestern Gansu Province, China. More recently, Lamanna and his team have conducted expeditions to latest Cretaceous exposures in the James Ross Basin of the Antarctic Peninsula in search of what may be the world's most ancient neornithines.

Dr. Lamanna studied at Hobart College and the University of Pennyslvania. He serves as an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Geology and Planetary Science at University of Pittsburgh. Dr. Lamanna has extensive paleontological field experience in Antarctica, Argentina, Australia, China, Egypt, and the United States. In 2000, he co-led a research team that unearthed Paralititan stromeri, one of the largest dinosaurs yet discovered, in Egypt's Bahariya Oasis. More recently, Lamanna served as chief scientific advisor to Carnegie Museum of Natural History's $36M dinosaur exhibition, Dinosaurs in Their Time, which opened in 2008.

Recorded on Monday, May 5, 2014 at Carnegie Science Center in Pittsburgh, PA.

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Cafe Scientifique Q&A: The Origin of Modern Birds

May 6, 2014

This is the Q&A portion of Matthew Lamanna's talk, The Origin of Modern Birds.

Matthew C. Lamanna, Ph.D.

Assistant Curator Section of Vertebrate Paleontology Carnegie Museum of Natural History

Birds are today's most diverse group of land-living backboned animals. They comprise more than 10,000 species. But their origins remain poorly understood. Lamanna's expeditions have unearthed dozens of exquisitely-preserved avian fossils – many of them including soft-tissues such as feathers and skin – from ~120 million-year-old sediments in the Changma Basin of northwestern Gansu Province, China. More recently, Lamanna and his team have conducted expeditions to latest Cretaceous exposures in the James Ross Basin of the Antarctic Peninsula in search of what may be the world's most ancient neornithines.

Dr. Lamanna studied at Hobart College and the University of Pennyslvania. He serves as an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Geology and Planetary Science at University of Pittsburgh. Dr. Lamanna has extensive paleontological field experience in Antarctica, Argentina, Australia, China, Egypt, and the United States. In 2000, he co-led a research team that unearthed Paralititan stromeri, one of the largest dinosaurs yet discovered, in Egypt's Bahariya Oasis. More recently, Lamanna served as chief scientific advisor to Carnegie Museum of Natural History's $36M dinosaur exhibition, Dinosaurs in Their Time, which opened in 2008.

Recorded on Monday, May 5, 2014 at Carnegie Science Center in Pittsburgh, PA.

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Cafe Scientifique: “Why We Enjoy Fear”

April 10, 2014

Margee Kerr, "Scare-ologist" at ScareHouse

Using her background in sociology, Margee Kerr will explain why we enjoy fear. She will focus on the biological, psychological, and sociological reasons we can, and do, enjoy thrilling and scary activities and material. From roller coasters and haunted attractions to scary movies and video games, her talk will explain the many upsides to fear and how our consumption of and engagement with scary material has changed over the last 100 years.

Margee Kerr currently lives in Pittsburgh, PA where she teaches courses in sociology for the University of Pittsburgh. She grew up outside of Baltimore and attended Hollins University in Roanoke, VA where she earned her Bachelor's Degree in 2002. Moving to Pittsburgh for graduate school, she studied Sociology at the University of Pittsburgh completing her Masters degree in 2004 and her PhD in 2009. Margee has extensive experience in research, co-authoring scholarly articles on the history of medicine and doctor/patient communication. She is also a nationally recognized expert on professional haunted houses. She was a featured presenter at The American Sociology Association's annual meeting in 2005, HauntCon (National Haunted Attraction Convention) in 2012, and at TransWorld (the largest national haunted attraction convention in the world) in 2013.

Margee works year-round for ScareHouse consulting with the creators and owners on how to be scientifically scary and in developing, implementing, and analyzing data on customers and employees. In 2012 Margee helped to create, write, and host the Scare U web series with the ScareHouse which aired in October of 2012. Scare U presents fast-paced and entertaining lessons all about fear, covering everything from the evolution of the fight or flight response to the fear of zombies and clowns, to why people love to be scared. Margee is turning her research into why people enjoy fear into a book with PublicAffairs Press, tentatively titled SCREAM: Adventures in the upside of fear due for publication in 2015.

Follow Margee's adventures researching fear on her blog at www.margeekerr.com.

Recorded Monday, April 7th, 2014 at Carnegie Science Center in Pittsburgh, PA.

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