EvoS Seminar Series

EvoS Seminar Series

Important information regarding 2021 Seminars: Due to restrictions on in-person instruction to limit the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus, our speakers will be joining us at our regularly scheduled seminar time (5:15 pm) for a recurring Zoom presentation by the speaker of the week!

For community guests, contact Barry Brenton (bbrenton@binghamton.edu) for a link to the seminar.

  • Spring 2021 Schedule

    *Schedule (subject to change) 

    MARCH 1 - (5:15 -7:15 pm)

    Abstract: Humpback whales (Megaptera novaeangliae) are a globally distributed baleen whale species well known for their diverse acoustic behavior. Breeding age male whales produce ‘song’, a highly complex acoustic display associated with reproduction, while whales of all age and sex class produce ‘calls’ throughout their migratory range. Despite decades of research into the field of humpback whale acoustics, investigation into the role of calls in the ecology of humpback whales is relatively new. In this presentation, I will discuss research focused on calling behavior of humpback whales on Southeast Alaskan foraging grounds. I will address drivers of humpback whale call use (innate vs. learned calls), call function, and shifts in the acoustic habitats of Alaskan whales associated with the Covid-19 pandemic.

    Speaker Bio: Dr. Michelle Fournet is a postdoctoral researcher with the Cornell Center for Conservation Bioacoustics and the Director of the Sound Science Research Collective. As an acoustic ecologist, Dr. Fournet uses sound to investigate how manmade perturbations, including anthropogenic noise and climate change, alter ocean soundscapes in critical marine mammal habitats. She received her MS and PhD from Oregon State University where she was a SeaGrant Fellow and National Park Scholar. Dr. Fournet has studied humpback whales for over 10 years and is a globally recognized expert in humpback whale social communication. Her research portfolio is complimented by a commitment to science education and public engagement –  highlighted by an extensive list of presentation awards, general audience articles, and public lectures. Her current research focuses on ice seals, bowhead whales, and humpback whales in Arctic and sub-Arctic ecosystems.

    MARCH 8 - (5:15 -7:15 pm)

    Abstract: In our current global food system there is a conundrum about the origins and continuity of a very narrow range of seed plants and other leguminous plants that underlie human diets at a time when the disruptive effects of climate change are facilitating an even greater dependence on a plant-based food system.  Right now, about half of all the calories that over 7.8 billion humans now consume are from three monocot grass seeds, and a combination of a total of 17 plants provides well over 90% of our total diets.  Although domestication processes have resulted in plants whose natural defenses are slowly lowered by human selection over time, the plants we still consume retain many naturally evolved defenses in the form of chemicals that make it nearly biologically impossible for predators (us) to consume and digest them raw without serious adverse short and long-term health consequences. These plant defenses consist of various toxic and/or anti-nutrient compounds that prevent and otherwise thwart digestive and metabolic processes. While the vast majority of plant predators have evolved the "genetic capacity" to consume the plants, humans have primarily evolved various "cultural/behavioral capacities" through their recipes and cuisines that are shared from one generation to the next to adapt to the plant defenses. The cause and effect relationship between the evolved traditional "knowledge" concerning plant defense and the human response is critical to understanding the evolutionary dynamics of the Biocultural Evolution of Cuisine. Dr. Katz’s presentation will illustrate these dynamics with work he began 50 years ago.  He is currently investigating and addressing these evolutionary problems through the “World Recipes Project”

    Speaker Bio: Professor Solomon H. Katz is Professor Emeritus (Orthodontics) at the University of Pennsylvania, and Director, Krogman Center for Research in Child Growth and Development.  Trained as a biological anthropologist he has written, presented and organized symposia resulting in over 200 major scientific papers, chapters, and books in a wide range of topics including molecular biology and genetics, cybernetics, nutrition and biocultural evolution. He has conducted extensive field studies on neuroendocrinology, diet, physical and mental health in children and adults; and on the biocultural evolution of cuisine and nutrition in many regions of the world. Dr. Katz also served to redefine the biological concept of race and chaired the task force for the American Association of Physical Anthropologists that informed the UNESCO statement on race. Dr. Katz has been elected fellow, officer, and president of many professional organizations and the recipient of many awards and grants (e.g., NIH, NSF, MacArthur Foundation, Wenner-Gren Foundation, Smithsonian Institution, Kellogg Foundation, and the John Templeton Foundation). His most recent project is the World Recipes Project, seeking to leverage what we know about the evolutionary significance of human diets in ways that are sensitive to and respectful of the needs of indigenous peoples around the globe. 

    MARCH 15 - (5:15 -7:15 pm)

    • Seminar Title: The Cheating Cell: How cancer evolves inside us and how we can keep it under control
    • Speaker: Athena Aktipis, Arizona State University, Anthropology
    • Zoom Link: https://binghamton.zoom.us/j/96085934899

    MARCH 22 - (5:15 -7:15 pm)

    • Seminar Title: The evolutionary ecology of monument construction: a Rapa Nui (Easter Island) case study
    • Speaker: Robert “Beau” DiNapoli, Binghamton University, Anthropology
    • Zoom Link: https://binghamton.zoom.us/j/96085934899

    MARCH 29 - (5:15 -7:15 pm)

    • Seminar Title: Ecological Adaptation and the Origin and Maintenance of Biodiversity
    • Speaker: Thomas Powell, Binghamton University, Biology/EvoS
    • Zoom Link: https://binghamton.zoom.us/j/96085934899

    APRIL 12 - (5:15 -7:15 pm)

    APRIL 19 - (5:15 -7:15 pm)

    APRIL 26 - (5:15 -7:15 pm)

    MAY 3 - (5:15 -7:15 pm)

About the seminar series

EvoS Seminars are held on Mondays from 5:15 pm - 7:15 pm throughout the semester when classes are in session. The seminars are open to the campus and local community.

The EvoS seminar series brings distinguished speakers and alumni to campus each semester to share their work on all aspects of humanity and the natural world from an evolutionary perspective.

While visiting campus, the speakers meet with faculty and researchers to share ideas and explore opportunities for collaboration. In many respects, the seminar series is the hub of EvoS, both as an educational program and a pathway for interdisciplinary research.

Every semester, a 2-credit course titled "Current Topics in Evolutionary Studies" (EVOS451/ANTH 481/BIOL451/580S) is based on the seminar series. Every week, students read scholarly articles and write a commentary to prepare for the seminar and discussion. This course is frequently rated among the students' best intellectual experiences at Binghamton.

  • Archived Seminar Series (by semester)

    Spring 2020 Seminar Series


    • January 27: Introductory lecture by David Sloan Wilson, Binghamton University
      Tinbergen's four questions and others


    • February 3: Introductory lecture by Barrett Brenton, Binghamton University
      Biocultural Evolution of Cuisine
    • February 10: Darwin Day Panel discussion with Binghamton faculty
    • February 17: Noreen von Cramon-Taubadel, University of Buffalo:
      Modern human cranial variation: An evolutionary morphology approach


    • March 2: Daniel T. O’Brien, Northeastern University
      The Urban Commons: How Data, Technology, and Behavioral Science Can Help Us Rebuild Our Cities
    • March 9: Glenn Branch, National Center for Science Education (NCSE)
      Twists and Turns in Teaching Evolution over the Years  
    • March 16: Rolf Quam, EvoS Director, SUNY Binghamton
      The Evolution of Language: Part 1 
    • March 23: Rolf Quam
      The Evolution of Language: Part 2 
    • March 30: David Sloan Wilson
      Nothing about the Coronavirus Pandemic Makes Sense Except In the Light of Evolution


    • April 6: Spring break - No Classes
    • April 13: Adam van Arsdale, Wellesley College
      Race, Ancestry, and Populations in the Pleistocene and the Present
    • April 20: Robert Pennock, Michigan State University
      An Instinct for Truth: Curiosity and the Moral Character of Science
    • April 27: Mark Urban, University of Connecticut
      Eco-evolution in communities