Dr. Steve Mech to present on ecological genetics

By Zachary Gotthardt

SC Staff Writer

On Friday, April 18, Dr. Steve Mech of Albright College will be presenting his work on ecological genetics for the final biocolloquium of the spring semester.

The presentation will take place in Kurtz Lecture Hall in Moore Biology at 4:00 PM.

Dr. Mech is a population geneticist who examines how animal populations change over time.

As an ecosystem changes, its animals must change as well.

However, organisms cannot change themselves.

Instead, they reproduce, and the traits that allowed them to reach reproductive age are passed on.

Over long periods of time, populations can change dramatically.

This process of changing is more commonly known as evolution, and Dr. Mech examines this process over time.

Specifically, Dr. Mech studies how populations change in response to anthropomorphic effects.

Humanity has had a dramatic effect on global environments; we are the first species to alter the global climate, and we commonly exploit species to extinction.

With such influence, we have become a factor to which populations must adapt.

Evolutionary strategies for coping with human influence are very unique.

Species that we use as food resources experience problems that are contradictory to what they would normally experience.

For example, lobsters would normally evolve to be as big and muscular as possible to avoid being eaten by predators.

However, humans want to eat the biggest lobsters they can find.

Over time, we can see lobsters gradually decreasing in size, as the biggest lobsters are eaten by humans and fail to reproduce.

The preferred strategy is to instead stay small, all because of human exploitation.

Today, a grocery-quality lobster is around a foot long.

However, there is anecdotal evidence to suggest that the same species of lobsters exceeded six feet in length several hundred years ago.

Dr. Mech seeks to examine the unique set of challenges that these species face and how they can adapt to them.

Between the fairly recent breakthroughs in genetics and recognition of true anthropomorphic effects, population genetics is a relatively new field.

New technology allows biologists to examine the changes at the molecular level in DNA.

Some of Dr. Mech’s work includes examination of white-tailed deer populations, mate choice in bird species and introgression in tiger salamanders.

In introgression, a gene slowly transfers from one species to another with repeated hybridization events.

Students of all majors and ages are welcome to the biocolloquium.

Following the presentation, Dr. Mech will be willing to answer any and all questions on a more personal level.

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