Joseph Parker, Ph.D.Assistant Professor of Biology and Biological Engineering, California Institute of Technology
The theme of the 2023 lecture series in biology is “Microbiomes.” Microscopic lifeforms live just about everywhere on Earth — in the deep ocean, suspended in the atmosphere and even in our planet’s interior. Microbial communities can even thrive within plants and animals, affecting the biology and biochemistry inside their hosts. On the environmental scale, microbial communities profoundly impact food chains, biogeochemical cycling and climate. This series of talks will explore microbiomes and their roles in specific hosts and environments.
2023 Lecture Series Themes
Presidential Lectures are free public colloquia centered on four main themes: Biology, Physics, Mathematics and Computer Science, and Neuroscience and Autism Science. These curated, high-level scientific talks feature leading scientists and mathematicians and are intended to foster discourse and drive discovery among the broader NYC-area research community. We invite those interested in the topic to join us for this weekly lecture series.
The biosphere is a network of interacting species that connects organisms across all scales, from microbes to mammals. Knowledge of the mechanisms underlying these relationships, and the evolutionary forces that shape them, is fragmentary.
In this lecture, Joe Parker will describe how his lab pioneered the study of rove beetles as a model clade to break open basic problems in organismal interactions. While most of the 66,000 rove beetle species are free-living predators, hundreds of lineages have transformed into symbiotic organisms specialized for life as imposters within the complex societies of ants. The widespread, convergent evolution of this form of symbiosis, combined with the experimental tractability of both free-living and symbiotic rove beetles, provides a virtuoso system for understanding both how and why novel ecological relationships are forged by evolution. Parker will discuss how his lab’s work on rove beetles is creating an integrated picture of how species recognize and interact with each other, illuminating the conditions that predispose such interactions to emerge, and pinpointing forces that shape the evolutionary path towards obligate and highly intimate relationships between species.