Next Science Workshop: Professor Andrea Grottoli

Andrea Grottoli

Coral Reefs and Climate Change: How Will Reefs Survive?

Please join us at our next Science Workshop as we welcome Professor Andrea Grottoli of the School for Earth Sciences at The Ohio State University. You can access a pdf of a relevant publication here.

Science Workshop is 1:00, Friday October 7 in Dickinson 232.

Refreshments will be served.


That is right, it is maybe the most exciting time of the semester. This Friday, we will have Sciencepalooza where research from across the sciences (and math) will be on display. Put it on your calendars, and invite your friends and faculty members to the party. There will be food and lots of interesting big-time science. It is also your chance to ask poster creators questions so that you can be in the know about all the research on the walls of Dickinson next term.

When: May 29, 2014. Food: 12:00 pm, Posters: 12:30 – 2:00 pm
Where: Dickinson Hall

Science workshop this friday: Can you fish better than a robot?


Matthew Holden will talk about his research on the management of renewable resources, using fish as an example. Can mathematical models be used to improve the management of fisheries? As a baseline for comparison, we will play an interactive web-game, where you fish a hypothetical sockeye salmon population (so bring your laptops/tablets!). We will discuss the strategies you use and I will demonstrate some of the quantitative tools economists, fishery scientists and mathematicians have developed to maximize revenue and keep a sustainable number of fish in the ocean. How well can you manage the fishery using your intuition compared to a robot using only math? Come to Science Workshop this friday and find out!

Science workshops are fridays from 1 pm – 2 pm in Dickinson 148.

Science Workshop: Why Fattest Phosphines Flourish, While Famished Phenyls Fail

Do you like fit phosphines? 

Just add some phenyl rings.

And for fitter phosphines

Fatten those phenyls with isopropyl things.

Because the fittest phosphines

Are the fattest phosphines - 

The gist of my truthful tale,

“Why fattest phosphines flourish,

While famished phenyls fail.”



This talk will describe my research on the electrochemistry of severely congested phosphines. If you prefer an Aseussian version of the abstract, see the article link at The Journal of the American Chemical Societywhich published the work earlier this year.


As always, delicious and thematically appropriate snacks will be served.

Biodiversity Conservation in Coffee Agroecosystems

Dr. Katie Goodall will be presenting her doctoral research at Science Workshop this Friday, Oct 4, at 1pm in Dickinson 225.   katie

Katie is currently a post-doctoral Botany Fellow at Wellesley College. Her research focuses how shade tree and avian biodiversity is shaped by farmer decision making in smallholder coffee farms in northern Nicaragua. Katie’s work follows a Participatory Action Research (PAR) approach, in which farmers and coffee cooperative administrators helped to develop research questions, were an active part of the systems data collection process, and receive final results of the study. Incorporating empirical social science and natural science data into one study, Katie hopes that her work can be a model for analytically encapsulating the inherent transdisciplinarity of agroecosystems. She completed her doctoral with University of Vermont’s Agroecology and Rural Livelihoods Group. 


Work by Carlos Mendez (’15) Published in JBC

jbc coverCarlos Mendez (’15), an undergraduate who has been working in the lab of Professor Amie McClellan, is co-author on a just-published paper in the Journal of Biological Chemistry. The paper, A Biochemical Analysis Linking APOBEC3A to Disparate HIV-1 Restriction and Skin Cancer, describes work examining the pH-dependence and regulation of human deoxycytidine deaminase (Apo3A) and, as described in the abstract, provides insight into “an alternative molecular basis for the initiation events in skin cancer”

This research was performed in the laboratory of Professor Myron Goodman of the University of Southern California Department of Chemistry. Carlos contributed to the work during his first Field Work Term position and last summer. He will also be giving a Science Workshop presentation on September 20th. Don’t miss it.

Science Workshop, 19 April – Forest invasions of Eastern North America: a case of pre-adaptation?

Jason Fridley

Dr. Jason Fridley (Bennington class of ’97), Associate Prof. in the Biology Department at Syracuse University, has quickly established himself as an influential researcher on several of the ‘hot’ questions in ecological science, including the effects of biodiversity on ecosystem function, interactions between successional dynamics and climate change, and the ecology and biogeography of invasive species.  He’ll be presenting recent work on this last theme in his workshop talk at 1:00 pm, 19 April, in Dickinson 225.  You can find background material  here in an about-to-be-published article for the Annals of the New York Academy of Science.

Common garden experiment, with native and invasive shrubs, at Syracuse University — photo by Jason Fridley

Jason is a 2012 recipient of the Academy’s Blavatnik Award for Young Scientists). He also has the  unusual distinction of having papers published in both Nature and Science in 2012.  Also in 2012, two graduate students in Jason’s lab received prestigious National Science Foundation fellowships.  It was a good year.  (Another of Jason’s grad students, Catherine Ravenscroft, is also a Bennington alum.)

Science Workshop, 5 April: Before Animals: The Co-Evolution of Earth and Life in Deep Time

Fieldwork in the Neoproterozoic

Professor Phoebe Cohen of the Geology Department at Williams College will speak at Science Workshop on Friday, 5 April, at 1:00 pm in Dickinson 225.

Her work combines microscopic and microchemical techniques with field-based stratigraphy and sedimentology to reconstruct ancient organisms and ecosystems.  She will discuss her research in the context of our current knowledge about the evolution of life during the Neoproterozoic time period — the ~500 million years of Earth history before the rise of animals. While the sudden appearance of animals in the fossil record is dramatically demonstrated in the Cambrian radiation, the groundwork for animal evolution, and the co-occurring changes in marine ecosystems and ocean chemistry, were laid during the Neoproterozoic. Studies of the dynamic earth-life system in deep time present special challenges, but are transforming how we think about biology and geology.

Here are links for a) a paper for background on evolution in the Neoproterozoic, and b) a paper presenting some of Dr. Cohen’s research.

Students interested in having lunch with Dr. Cohen before her talk should be in touch with Kerry Woods.

Science Workshop 29 March — Long-term studies, ecological baselines, and the way things ought to be:


A high-biomass old-growth stand of eastern hemlock in northern Michigan

After decades of studying ancient forests, we’re less confident of what we know about them than we were thirty-five years ago.  For the last 20+ years I’ve been working with long-term permanent study plots in old-growth forest in Michigan.  I began with the hope that an exceptionally deep data-record would allow me to test hypotheses about mechanisms behind equilibrial dynamics.  Now I’m convinced that our initial assumption — that these ecosystems represented a sort of steady-state, climax ‘baseline’ — was flawed, and the natural landscape is much more dynamic than we imagined.  If that’s the case, what are the implications for concepts of nature conservation and ecological restoration?  What is to be conserved or restored if there’s no detectable natural baseline condition?

I will review about the findings of my old-growth research with a focus on new results, talk about  some new work using new technologies to try to understand whether these forests are carbon sources or sinks, and wind up with some exploration of what this all means for forest conservation priorities under climate change, Pleistocene rewilding, and the cloning of extinct species.

Scenes from the Fall Poster Session

The hallways of Dickinson were abuzz with science students and faculty, along with friends and supporters from across the College, on Friday December 7 for the Fall Term Poster Session. The building was a hive of activity as students discussed their work, asked questions, and generally enjoyed the challenge of substantively engaging with each other and the broader community about their projects.

Faculty member David Edelman talks to students Katie Giarra and Marilee Goad about the Animal Physiology poster “The Effects of Serotonin on Aggression in Subordinate Crayfish” (photo: Julia Evanczuk)

Roughly thirty posters were presented by students from Physics I, Comparative Animal Physiology, and Foundations of Physical Science. These courses range from introductory to advanced levels and the nature of the work reflected this diversity, featuring experiments of students’ own design, literature reviews, laboratory measurements of physical phenomena, and investigations of alternative energy possibilities for the campus and beyond. Selections of posters from each class will be posted on this site in the near future.

Top: Emily Mikucki (’13) discusses her poster “Fitness Consequences Associated with Variation in Developmental Temperature in Cabbage Butterflies” with dance and environmental studies student, Kaya Lovestrand (’14). (photo: Betsy Sherman)
Middle: (left) Chemistry faculty member Janet Foley asks Evan Braun (’13) about his animal physiology research; (right) Evan’s poster “Survey of Worker Ant Plasticity as Mediated by Classical Conditioning” is displayed along with his subject ants in the foreground (both photos: Julia Evanczuk)
Middle: Caroline Barnhart (postbac ’13) describes her work on the impact resistance and force transmission of different helmet designs (photo: Julia Evanczuk)










Several students gave demonstrations to help explain or place their work in context. For example, Carl Johanson (below) arranged for a  live performance from Lance, a five-year old American Cream horse, a nearly extinct breed of draft horse, for his demonstration of “Horsepower, the Other Way of Getting Energy from Biomass.”

Foundations of Physical Science student Carl Johanson (’14) introduces Lance, an American Cream draft horse, to onlookers as part of his presentation on animal power. (photo: Mike Goldin)


Biology faculty member Amie McClellan discusses recent work from her lab with Computing faculty member Andrew Cencini and others. (photo: Betsy Sherman)

Honorary student (and actual faculty member) Amie McClellan, enjoying the last full week of her sabbatical, also presented a poster as a sort of trial run for her upcoming presentation “EMC2 Encodes a Putative Novel Hsp90 Co-chaperone in Saccharomyces cerevisiae“, co-authored with Tambu Kudze (’10), at the 2012 Annual Meeting of The American Society for Cell Biology (ASCB) in San Francisco, CA.

photo: Mike Goldin



Finally, good food made the event even more enjoyable. Faculty and staff brought in homemade breads and dishes such as Vegetable Lo Mein and Beef Vindaloo, as well as delicious desserts for all to enjoy.


The view from the second floor. (photo: Mike Goldin)