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Ducks fly over rough water on the Bay of Green Bay.

Natural and Applied Sciences Seminar Series

The NAS seminar series returns for its second year with presentations on hormones in drinking water,biodiversity in the the Anthropocene, Physics, spiders in Panama, dinosaur behavior, the rational structure of the order of things, Great Lakes.

Seminars are held 3:30 - 4:30 pm in the Environmental Sciences Building Rm 328 every other Friday beginning September 7th. Refreshments are served at 3:00 pm in ES 317. All events are open to the public. Students are especially encouraged to attend.

The series is sponsored the Office of the Provost, Office of Grants and Research, and the NAS Heirloom Plant Sale Fund.

Fall Semester 2012

September 7, 2012 Dr. Angela Bauer
UW-Green Bay
Are there hormones in your drinking water?
September 21, 2012 Dr. Brian Wilsey
Iowa State University
Biodiversity and ecosystem functioning differences between native and novel exotic dominated ecosystems: Are we entereing the Anthropocene epoch?
October 5, 2012 Dr. Heidi Fencl
UW-Green Bay
The box and the boson: Reflections on teaching physics in an answers-oriented world.
October 19, 2012 Dr. Michael Draney
UW-Green Bay
What I'm trying to do in Panama
November 2, 2012 Dr. Joseph Peterson
UW- Oshkosh
Dinosores - injury and behavior in Cretaceous dinosaurs
November 16, 2012 Dr. Christopher Martin
UW-Green Bay
The rational structure of the order of things
November 30, 2012 Dr. Michael Zorn
UW-Green Bay
Environmental sensors for continuous, in-situ water monitoring on the Great Lakes

Presentation Descriptions

Angie Bauer.

Are There Hormones in Your Drinking Water?

Dr. Angela Bauer, Dept. of Human Biology, Special Assistant to the Provost, UW--Green Bay

Concern is emerging pver the presence of endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDSs) in aquifers used as a source of drinking water. Land application of dairy waste is likely a major route of groundwater contamination by EDCs, given that manure not only contains exogenous sex horones from cattle, but also synthetic hormones injected into the animals to induce growth, This presentation will include evidence that the aquifer in agricultural areas of northeast Wisconsin is particularly vulnerable to contamination with EDCs, given the geologic features of this area (carbonate bedrock areas, shallow soil depths, and karst features) that allow ready access to surface contaminants of groundwater. The potential health impact of exposure to EDCs at the levels detected in the study will be discussed.

Brian Wilsey.

Biodiversity and ecosystem functioning differences between native and novel exotic dominated ecosystems: Are we entereing the Anthropocene epoch?

Presented by Dr. Brian Wilsey, Department of Ecology, Evolution, and Organismal Biology, Iowa State University.

There is a current debate in ecology about the status of non-native species.  One group argues that invasion by non-native (exotic) species is so rampant, and the geological signature will be so great from invasions that we are entering a new epoch called the “Anthropocene”.  A second group argues that there are few important ecological differences between native and exotic species.  We addressed this debate in a series of experimental and observational studies that tested whether species diversity and ecosystem functioning differed between exotic and native dominated communities.  Niche overlap in time and space, as well as phenology and overyielding behavior (biomass production in mixture compared to what would be expected from monocultures) all differed between native and novel communities, and niche overlap was strongly correlated with species diversity decline in novel communities.  These results suggest that novel grasslands are fundamentally different from the native grasslands that they replaced, and that native-exotic status is important to consider when maintaining high diversity is a management objective.

Heidi Fencl.

The Box and the Boson:  Reflections on Teaching Physics Process in an Answers-Oriented World

Dr. Heidi Fencl, Associate Professor of Physics, Natural and Applied Sciences, UW--Green Bay

Physics in the news is about exciting questions:  What is dark energy?  Did we find the Higgs Boson?  The questions in an introductory classical physics class are much more mundane:  At what angle is the electron deflected? How fast is the box going at the bottom of the incline?  It is very hard for me as an instructor to convince my students who have grown up in a testing and answer-focused educational system that I don’t care about the speed of the box any more than they do!  I do care, however, that the very same processes that we use to understand the simple questions allow us to explore the more exciting and complex questions that do have interesting answers. This talk will explore the challenge of teaching physics process to answers-focused students.  Because so much learning happens through homework and practice, particular attention will be given to strategies for what happens outside the classroom.

Mike Draney and students.

What I am Trying to Do in Panama

Dr. Michael Draney, Associate Professor of Biology, Natural and Applied Sciences, UW--Green Bay

Rapid Assessment Protocols (RAP’s) are important tools to address the current biodiversity crisis.  We need to understand distribution and abundance of potentially threatened organisms in order to manage them. We also need ways to quickly estimate biological diversity in order to compare and prioritize sites for acquisition or management and to detect changes in ecosystems over time.   Developing an RAP involves finding an optimal balance between two antagonistic goals:  “Rapid” (ability to acquire information about organisms of interest efficiently in terms of both time and resources) and “Assessment” (ability to get accurate biodiversity information in such a way that sites can be compared to each other and over time). Recent opportunities to take UW-Green Bay students to Central America allowed me (with a number of colleagues) to develop and validate a protocol that improves current methods of sampling for spiders and millipedes.  The course faces constraints similar to those typical of tropical fieldwork:  Limited time at a location, limited resources available, and the need to use inexperienced personnel.   This project has provided a high quality, hands-on tropical field research experience for nearly 50 students on four trips to Panama and one to Costa Rica, with Panama trips planned for at least the next two years.  

Joseph Peterson

Dinosores -- Injury and Behavior in Cretaceous Dinosaurs

Dr. Joseph Peterson, Assistant Professor, Dept. of Geology, UW--Oshkosh


Over the last few years I have been studying various injuries in Cretaceous dinosaurs such as the mighty Tyrannosaurus rex, the horned Triceratops, and the thick-headed Pachycephalosaurus. These injuries, or "paleopathologies" provide insight into the paleobiology and behaviors of dinosaurs. Paleopathologies are essentially trace fossils, which record behavior and true paleoecology; the interaction of species and their ecosystem. By studying such injuries and comparing them with the injuries sustained in a variety of modern animals, a behavioral model can be established to correlate injury with behavior in dinosaurs.

Chris Martin.

The Rational Structure and Order of Things

Dr. Christopher Martin, Assistant Professor in Philosophy and Humanistic Studies, UW--Green Bay

I will discuss the natural-kind structure of the world.  "Natural Kinds" are the categories or concepts that each of the sciences use to classify some aspect of the world.  Physicists speak of "electrons" or "quarks", chemists of "cobalt" or "palladium", and biologists of various genera and species.  For each of these concepts or categories the philosopher will ask whether we ought to understand them merely as instruments employed in theories in order to explain our observations etc. or, alternatively, whether they are meant to capture objective truths about the world.  Are the "quarks" of physics real entities or mere interpretations of mathematical data?  Are the species and genera of biology meant to capture real entities or are they only references to which animals can produce offspring?  At the intersection of science and philosophy lie deep and important questions about the reality (or not) of these natural kinds. I will discuss and briefly defend one way of understanding natural kinds.  Metaphysics is the branch of philosophy that asks about the various kinds of beings, what they are and how they interact with other beings in existence.  Rationalism is one way of doing metaphysics.  Rationalists assume that the universe is intelligible and, as such, believe that it is amenable to a rational re-construction.  I will present and briefly defend a rationalistic understanding of the structure of natural kinds that understands them as entailments of the rational structure of the world.  I'll suggest that the ultimate aim of science is to re-create in our understanding the structure of natural kinds as it exists in nature.

Chris Martin.

Environmental Sensors for Continuous, In-Situ Water Monitoring in the Great Lakes

Dr. Michael Zorn, Associate Professor of Chemistry, Natural and Applied Sciences, UW--Green Bay

Environmental researchers routinely measure a variety of physical and chemical parameters in the Great Lakes, including: pH, temperature, dissolved oxygen, nutrients, conductivity, and chlorophyll, among others. Often with this type of research, scientists take a boat to the sampling site, physically collect the samples, preserve them to stop any biological activity from changing the chemical composition, transport the samples back to the laboratory, and analyze them using bench-top instrumentation. This type of sample collection typically has a low frequency and is limited to collection times that are convenient and safe for researchers to be on the water. Also, the process involved with getting the samples to the final analysis step has the potential for changing their chemical composition. Environmental sensors are being used more often in Great Lakes water monitoring. These sensors can be attached to a mooring or buoy to continuously monitor parameter levels in situ. By using these sensors, environmental researchers can collect much more data with no sample handling. In some cases, the real-time data collected by these instruments can be remotely accessed by researchers via satellite. It is certain that more frequent monitoring of relevant physical and chemical parameters will improve the ability of policy makers and water quality managers to better understand complex environmental systems and to develop effective management strategies. In this presentation a general background on the use of environmental sensors in the Great Lakes will be given, and specific recent work on Green Bay will be presented.