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 Recent News in Evolutionary Biology at SDSU

August 2014:

Kristen Hasenstab-Lehman, a former M.S. student in the Evolutionary Biology program, and Dr. Michael G. Simpson received the Grady Webster Award at the Botany 2014 meetings for the best paper in the journal Systematic Botany over the two year period 2012-2013: Hasenstab-Lehman, K. E. and M. G. Simpson. 2012. Cat’s eyes and popcorn flowers: Phylogenetic systematics of the genus Cryptantha s.l. (Boraginaceae). Systematic Botany 37: 738–757 (pdf). Their paper investigated the phylogenetic relationships of a group of plants with an American amphitropic distribution, occurring in temperate and desert regions in western North and South America but not in the intervening tropics. The authors investigated biogeographic history and the evolution of several morphological and life history features in this complex. In addition, two current M.S. students in the Simpson lab - Amanda Everett and Makenzie Mabry - received research awards from the American Society of Plant Taxonomists (ASPT) at these meetings.

September 2013:

Dr. Richard Etheridge, Emeritus Professor of Biology at SDSU, recently co-authored a paper:
   Lobo, Fernando and Richard Etheridge. 2013. The type locality of Phymaturus palluma (Molina, 1782) (Reptilia: Iguania: Liolaemidae) and the status of Phymaturus adrianae Pereyra, 1992 and other unnamed populations.
South American Journal of Herpetology 8(2): 89-101.

In this paper, they deduced the type locality of a lizard originally collected by Charles Darwin during his expedition on the HMS Beagle! Richard Etheridge explains here:

    In 1845 Thomas Bell of the British Museum of Natural History published descriptions of all of the reptiles that had been collected by Charles Darwin during his Voyage of the Beagle and later donated to the museum. There were many new species in the collection, and one specimen, a large lizard with a spiny tail, that Bell described as a new genus and species. Although the localities where Darwin  had collected his specimens were provided for most the other species, no locality was given for the spiny-tailed lizard. When I began my field work in Argentina in 1983, only one additional species had been described in his genus. Today there are 41 species, all of them found at moderate to high elevations and all of them viviparous. Most of Darwin’s specimens came from localities at or near the costs of Argentina and Chile. The only exceptions were those collected during his journey by horseback from Santiago, Chile eastward over the high Andes into Mendoza province in Argentina and return to Santiago by a different route.
    Fortunately the publication of his field notes by Chancellor and Van Wyhe is 2009 provided us with a day-by-day account of this trip. We found that on March  24, 1835, at a place called Cordon del Portillo, at an elevation of 2000 m., Darwin wrote that he had captured a viviparous lizard, with a brief description of its color pattern, and that it had been “killed by a blow of hammer” and that “young are soon protruded.” This is his only mention of having collected a lizard during this trip. At our request the Curator of Reptiles at the British Museum examined the specimen and replied that “I can confirm that there is indeed a definite break in the skin which may well have been caused by the strike of a hammer. There is quite a large hole in this position. I also can confirm that by feel the skull is quite cleanly broken.” Additionally, An adult male and female have recently been collected at the type locality and in all respects can be regarded as belonging to the same species as the types specimen in the British Museum. Thus we are quite confident that Cordon del Portillo, high in the Andes of Argentina is indeed the locality where Darwin collected the type specimen of this genus.

August 2013 :

The SDSU Herbarium (LS 267, Life Science South) joins the Southwest Environmental Information Network (SEINet), a consortium of numerous herbaria of the southwestern United States. This database allows searches of all (worldwide) records by scientific name, herbarium, county, locality, collector, date of collection, and accession number. All records are displayed, and those that are geo-referenced may be mapped in several different formats. Our herbarium has over 21,000 specimens of plants, all of which are databased, and 89% of which are from California. The California records are also accessible through The Consortium of California Herbaria (CCH), organized through UC-Berkeley.

November 2012:

We are saddened to report that Dr. Ted Cohn, Emeritus Professor of Biology at SDSU, died of complications from surgery on 25 November 2012 in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Ted was a valued member of our faculty. His academic research was focused on insect systematics, particularly of the western US and Mexico. He generously contributed to the Roger Carpenter Lecture in Comparative Biology over the years, and some time ago we named our graduate scholarship in his honor: the Ted Cohn Evolutionary Biology Scholarship. In his retirement, Ted and his wife Jean lived half the year, and later full-time, in Ann Arbor, Michigan, where Ted continued his research efforts at the University of Michigan Museum of Zoology. A synopsis of Ted's life there is written here.

Ted was a wonderful, delightful person. He will be sorely missed by all who knew him.

July 2012:

Sarah Keinle, and M.S. student in the lab of Dr. Annalisa Berta, was awarded a Sally Casanova Pre-Doctoral Scholar award for 2012-13. She was awarded $3000 for travel and other expenses to visit prospective Ph.D schools and professional meetings. Congratulations Sarah!

August 2010:

Nick Mason, an MS student in the lab of Dr. Kevin Burns, has been named a Sally Casanova Pre-Doctoral Scholar for the 2010-2011 academic year.  Nick was one of only 70 students across the state chosen for this honor.  Congratulations Nick!

April 2010:

Members of the Reeder lab (Dr. Tod Reeder, Jared Grummer, Peter Scott) and the Hedin lab (Dr. Marshal Hedin, Shahan Derkarabetian, Jordan Satler) recently traveled to the 57th Annual Meeting of the Southwestern Association of Naturalists, held in Junction, Texas. The meetings took place at a beautiful field station with glorious weather, offering plenty to opportunity for natural history ventures and relaxation. Jared, Peter, Shahan and Jordan all presented excellent talks covering various aspects of their respective MS theses.   Shahan was in the competition for the prestigious Wilks Award, which is presented to the student giving the best oral presentation at the annual meetings. We were all very excited at the banquet when Shahan was announced winner of the award.....way to go Shahan, making the SDSU EBPA proud!!

Congratulations to Elaine Klein, an MS student in the lab of Dr. Tod Reeder. Elaine was recently awarded an NSF Graduate Research Fellowship, for a project involving the evolutionary history of South Pacific skinks. (Elaine is the second EB MS student to have one of these fellowships. Allison Shultz is currently in her second year of this fellowship.) In addition to Elaine's award, Nick Mason, a student in the lab of Dr. Kevin Burns, received Honorable Mention for his application. Good work!

March 2010:

NEW! Our joint doctoral program in Evolutionary Biology with UC Riverside has been officially approved! We are accepting applications March 1-15 for Fall, 2010 on the web site CSU Mentor.
See our Ph.D. Program page for details on applying.

December 2009:

The current status of our joint doctoral program in Evolutionary Biology with UC Riverside is "Pending Expected Systemwide Approval." It is our expectation that final approval will be granted in January 2010. In anticipation of approval, prospective students should plan to provide the following items as soon as the program is approved: CV, Statement of Purpose, 3 Letters of Reference, Official Transcripts, and GRE scores (subject GRE suggested but not required). We will notify you immediately when our JD EB program is available on CSU Mentor.

October 2009:

SDSU Dept Biology adjunct professor Dr. Ted Cranford received an award for excellence in Science Communication at the Biennial meeting for the Society for Marine Mammalogy in Quebec City, Canada (Oct 12-16, 2009) . Ted's talk was titled: "Knocking on the door of the inner ear in Cuvier's beaked whale." A this same conference poster presentations were made by Annalisa Berta and graduate students Celia Barroso and Samantha Young.

Harvestmen research by Steven Thomas & Dr. Marshal Hedin was recently discussed in an American Scientist article, written by Dr. Bill Shear. More information can be found here:

September 2009:

Dr. Elizabeth Waters was recently awarded a National Science Foundation grant, "Evolutionary studies of the heat shock response and thermotolerence in Boechera: transcriptomics, physiology and gene evolution," $583,415. Congratulations, Liz!

May 2009:

Jared Grummer, a Master of Science graduate student working with Dr. Tod Reeder, received an award from the Theodore Roosevelt Memorial Grant, American Museum of Natural History ($1500.00). The title of his project is "Phylogenetic relationships and species limits within the Sceloporus scalaris species group (Squamata: Phrynosomatidae) as inferred from multi-locus nuclear DNA". Congratulations, Jared!

April 2009:

Casey Richart, a Master of Science graduate student working with Dr. Marshal Hedin, received three awards this spring: the Theodore Roosevelt Memorial Grant, American Museum of Natural History ($1000.00), the Vincent Roth Memorial Fund, American Arachnological Society ($500.00), and the IRA Student Travel Fund, SDSU ($150.00). The title of his project is "Testing phylogenetic and phylogeographic hypotheses in Acuclavella (Opiliones, Ischyropsalidoidea) from the Western Hemlock Zone of the Pacific Northwest". Congratulations, Casey!

Allison Shultz, a Master of Science graduate student working with Dr. Kevin Burns, received two grants this spring: the Ralph W. Schreiber Ornithology Research Award, from the LA Audubon Society ($1500), and an American Ornithologists' Union Research Award ($2125). The title of her project is "The relative role of different color production mechanisms in the evolution of avian sexual dichromatism". Congratulations, Allison!

December 2008:

Starting January 2009, a state-of-the-art Visionary Digital Imaging System will be hosted by the EB Program Area. This system includes an FX2 lighting system, Infinity Optics Long Distance Microscope, SolMate trans-illuminator, Precision Linear Camera Controller, 10 megapixel digital camera, and a devoted computer workstation with many imaging software options (e.g., Lightroom, Photoshop, Helicon Focus).
   Examples of images taken by others on a similar system can be found here:
   This Departmental resource will greatly facilitate all biodiversity research conducted in the program area and the Department. Thanks are due to Dr. Marshal Hedin for his efforts in acquiring this new imaging system!

November 2008:

One of our Master of Science alumni, Brad Hollingsworth (an adjunct in E.B.), and two of our Bachelor of Science alumni, Drew Stokes and Scott Tremor, were featured in a Quest article of the San Diego Union Tribune. These scientists surveyed (respectively) the snakes and lizards, bats, and land mammals of a region near the Salton Sea of Imperial County, California. The data obtained on animal wildlife diversity will be used to assess the need for protecting this land.

September 2008:

The Evolutionary Biology faculty have assumed a number of important administrative positions this fall. Dr. David Archibald continues as the Graduate Coordinator of Biology. Dr. Andy Bohonak begins his first term as Vice Chair of Biology. Dr. Annalisa Berta is serving as interim coordinator for the EB Program Area and is actively involved in planning our Joint-Doctoral Program with U.C. Riverside, for which she will be Coordinator beginning fall 2009.

July 2008:

The Plant Systematics Lab at SDSU presented 4 papers and posters at the Botany 2008 meetings in Vancouver, B.C., Canada, 26-30 July 2008. Dr. Michael Simpson and graduate students Matt Guilliams, Kristen Hasenstab, and Michael Silveira presented research findings on phylogenetic relationships in Calyptridum (Portulacaceae), Cryptantha (Boraginaceae), and Pogogyne (Lamiaceae), respectively, and research associate Nuri Pierce presented findings on pollen heteromorphism in Conostylis (Haemodoraceae). Good work by all!

June 2008:

Dr. Annalisa Berta, along with Dr. John Gatesy at University of California, Riverside and Dr. Tom Deméré of the San Diego Natural History Museum, will collaborate on a National Science Foundation funded research project addressing "Enduring Questions of Life." Their project, "How toothless giants feed," will study the origins and evolution of the feeding mechanism of the baleen whales, among the largest organisms on earth. Congratulations, Annalisa!

May 2008:

A joint-doctoral program in Evolutionary Biology between SDSU and the University of California at Riverside has recently been approved by the Senate on both campuses! We anticipate that recruitment for the first class of doctoral students will begin during the 2008-2009 academic year, with the first students beginning in fall 2009. Details of the program will be forthcoming on our Joint-Doctoral Program link.

Apr. 2008:

The SDSU Herbarium (LS 267, Life Science South) joins the Consortium of California Herbaria on 21 April 2008 (John Muir's birthday). Our herbarium has over 18,000 specimens of plants, all of which are databased, and 89% of which are from California. The California records will now be accessible through The Jepson Interchange, organized through UC-Berkeley. The Interchange allows searches of records by scientific name, herbarium, county, locality, collector, date of collection, and accession number. All records are displayed, and those that are geo-referenced may be mapped in several different formats. The Interchange has become an invaluable resource for plant systematists and ecologists.

Mar. 2008:

Megan McKenna, now at Scripps Institute of Oceanography and a former M.S. student of Dr. Annalisa Berta and Dr. Ted Canford, was a co-author of a research article that made the cover of The Anatomical Record: Cranford, T. W., M. F. McKenna, M. S. Soldevilla, S. M. Wiggins, J. A. Goldbogen, R. E. Shadwick, P. Krysl, J. A. St. Ledger, and J. A. Hildebrand. 2008. Anatomic geometry of sound transmission and reception in Cuvier’s beaked whale (Ziphius cavirostris). The Anatomical Record 291:353–378.

Feb. 2008:

Dr. Rulon Clark is senior author of a recent paper in Molecular Ecology - Integrating individual behaviour and landscape genetics: the population structure of timber rattlesnake hibernacula (Feb. 2008, vol. 17:719-730), which was highlighted in a Perspective of that issue.

Dr. Michael Novacek will be awarded the SDSU Alumni Association's Alumni of Distinction Award (the "Monty" award) for 2008! He will receive the award on 29 March 2008 at the annual Alumni Association banquet.
   Dr. Novacek received his M.S. degree in Biology at SDSU in 1974, his thesis entitled "Insectivora of the later Eocene (Uintan) of San Diego County, California". He subsequently received his PhD from
U. C. Berkeley, and was an assistant and associate professor in Biology at SDSU from 1976-1982. Shortly after his SDSU career, he obtained a position at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City, where he has been Vice President and Provost for science since 1994.
   Dr. Novacek is known both for scholarly works and popular books in paleontology, and has had numerous media appearances, including a PBS Nova series special.

Dec. 2007:

Dr. Elizabeth Waters and Tanya Renner (an SDSU undergraduate who studied under Dr. Waters) are two of the co-authors of a paper appearing in the journal Science, "The Physcomitrella Genome Reveals Evolutionary Insights into the Conquest of Land by Plants". This is the first, complete genome obtained for a bryophyte and will aid in our understanding of the transition from "algae" to land plants. See Science Express Abstract.

Josh Yonas, an MS student in the lab of Dr. Annalisa Berta, was awarded "Best Poster presentation by a Pre-Doctoral Student" at the Biennial Conference on the Biology of Marine Mammals in Cape Town, South Africa (29 Nov. - 3 Dec. 2007). Josh's poster "Limb Anatomy and Evolution of Locomotion in Walruses" was one of approximately 300 student posters judged at the meeting.

Matt Brandley, a former M.S. student from the lab of Dr. Tod Reeder, was recently recognized in The Scientist for a "hot paper in ecology": M.C. Brandley et al. 2005. Partitioned Bayesian analyses, partition choice, and the phylogenetic relationships of scincid lizards. Systematic Biology 54:373-90.

Oct. 2007:

Dr. David Archibald was recently elected as a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), for "distinguished contributions to our understanding of mammalian evolution during the Mesozoic and of the Cretaceous-Paleogene boundary extinction event". This is quite an accomplishment for David and an honor for SDSU.
Congratulations, Dave!  More information here.

Sept. 2007:

Dr. Marshal Hedin's research on trap door spiders was highlighted in the Fall 2007 issue of SDSU's 360 magazine (p. 12).

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