Lab News

Zamudio Lab Condemns Racism and Proposes Action

Graphic by Maria Akopyan.

We, the members of the Zamudio lab, are horrified by the continued violence against Black people that has yet again made it to the forefront of the news cycle. We recognize that racism and white supremacism are pervasive both within academia and in society at large. Antiracism requires action and education. We stand in solidarity with our Black students, and those of us who are not Black recognize that we have an immense amount of work to do.

Cornell’s President Martha Pollack issued a statement announcing immediate actions to strengthen unity and support our community. We applaud our president for her active response. Our lab agreed that for highest impact, antiracist actions need to happen at all levels of organization, from individual labs, departments, colleges, to the entire university. 

Given the recent murders of Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade, George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and the countless others who have lost their lives to racism, and the violence that continues against BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color), we as a lab group commit to taking the following steps:

  1. We will read ‘How to Be an Antiracist’, by Ibram X. Kendi, as a lab, and members of the lab (especially our white members, but welcoming all) will meet every two weeks to discuss and reflect. Thereafter we will continue devoting time each month to reading works and engaging in exercises to self-educate about the history of racism in our country, the practice of anti-racism, and dismantling white privilege.
  2. We will as a group read the research papers on what works and what does not work to curb police violence, to inform our own advocacy efforts (e.g., we will take action by calling our local representatives in Ithaca and demand that the police department be reformed according to our research).
  3. We will work toward clarity in action and expectations, and training in communication across differences, and in educational practices so that BIPOC students and trainees feel safe, welcome, and supported.
  4. We will continue to support Diversity Preview Weekend and advocate for its full institutionalization at the Graduate School level.
  5. We will center the voices of, advocate for, and learn from Black and other POC in evolutionary organismal biology by promoting their work on our website, providing mentorship, and disseminating their work on social media.
  6. In collaboration with the Cornell Herpetological Society, we will host at least one event per semester devoted to the intersection of herpetological research, inclusion, safety in outdoor spaces, and equity/diversity.
  7. We will provide support to groups at Cornell working to diversify STEM including SACNAS-Cornell.

We recognize that this is just a start to dismantling the systemic racism that has resulted in low diversity in STEM, and we look forward to continuing to improve our response.

Signed by all members of the Zamudio lab:

Jordan Garcia

Maria Akopyan

Cinnamon Mittan

Lina Arcila Hernandez

Cait McDonald

Megan Barkdull

David Chang van Oordt

Nicole Chodkowski

Anat Belasen

Kelly Zamudio

Repeated evolution of terrestrial breeding in Atlantic Coastal Forest frogs

Our paper on the evolution of terrestrial breeding in frogs is out in Evolution! This was a fun one to write, and also the first chapter of Fabio de Sa’s PhD thesis.

Using comparative analyses and a multilocus phylogeny for the genera Cycloramphus and Zachaenus, our paper shows that terrestrial breeding has evolved three times in the clade, from a stream breeding (saxicolous) ancestor. Each time that happened, we see a correlated “shrinking” on the part of males, but not females, resulting in larger degree of sexual size dimorphism between the sexes.

Our conclusion is that by moving onto land, and breeding in concealed terrestrial chambers, or in leaf-litter, males are released from costly male-male competition that is typical for males defending territories and females in exposed stream breeding environments.

New approaches to teaching revolutionize the classroom

Cornell University has invested in new pedagogical methods through their Active Learning Initiative (ALI). The ALI funds departments to work on transforming their courses to include active and engaged methods. EEB has received two of these grants, the first to transform our large gateway courses (Evolutionary Biology and Biodiversity and Introduction to Ecology and the Environment) and adopt active learning methods in these large classrooms. The second grant is to study the feasibility of incorporating active learning in online courses.

We now have abundant data showing that active and team-based learning methods improve classroom climate, and make learning more accessible to all students. A recent article published in Ezra Magazine shows that students benefit from working together to solve problems, and this in turn positively affects learning and student performance.

Our Evolution course is highlighted in the active learning video. It is an exciting time to teach at Cornell!

Zamudio Lab featured @CornellResearch site

We gathered all the Zamudio lab bodies that were on campus in late August for a photoshoot to accompany our lab profile… those of you who have done one of these before know how awkward it is to be photographed “acting normal” in front of the camera. We had fun – and here are some rockstar images of some of the members of the Zamudio Lab (Summer 2019). Photocredit: Dave Burbank

Riddell et al. (2019) paper published in Nature Communications

Eric Riddell visited our lab a few years ago to work up the gene expression data in salamanders from different elevations kept at different temperatures, to test for the underpinnings of plasticity and response to thermal change. His paper was just published in Nature Communications.

This paper is a great example of integrative organismal biology, pairing field translocations, with gene expression, and predictive thermal susceptibility. Congrats to Eric for leading all the co-authors!

Figure 1 from From: Thermal cues drive plasticity of desiccation resistance in montane salamanders with implications for climate change