Lab News

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

Jordan Garcia, PhD candidate

Congratulations to Jordan Garcia, for completing his A-exam today! Jordan’s thesis focuses on thermal performance and local adaptation in spotted salamanders (Ambystoma maculatum) across its wide latitudinal range.

As is tradition in EEB, he dented a lab ceiling tile with a champagne cork!

the perfect dent…

Large classes reduce participation, especially by women

A new paper, led by Cissy Ballen (former active learning post-doc and now Assistant Professor at Auburn), just published in Bioscience! Data from a large number of classes across multiple institutions show that large classes reduce equity in classroom participation, especially by women. Active learning can make up some of that classroom deficit by making big classrooms feel smaller.

How can instructors promote equitable participation in science classrooms? Smaller classes and diverse teaching strategies play big roles.

Cornell Chronicle wrote an article about our paper.