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Durham University

Department of Biosciences


Seminar series

The Biosciences department runs two seminar series: Departmental seminars that cover a wide range of biological topics, and EEE seminars that cover topics related to Ecology, Evolution and Environment. Please scroll down to find information about these seminars and also recordings of some of the previous talks.


Departmental Seminars

Departmental Seminars are held during term time, on Thursdays from 13.00 - 14.00, currently via Zoom. All undergraduate and postgraduate students and staff are encouraged to attend the talks and are welcome to join afterwards for less formal discussions after the seminar. If you would like more time to talk with the speaker, please contact the host listed for that seminar. Recognising that our audience is likely to be broad, speakers have been asked to make their talks accessible, focusing a substantial part of their material on general issues and background to their work. If you have suggestions for additional speakers or would like to know more about the program, please email:

To attend a seminar, please register by clicking here. You will only need to register once, and it will allow you to attend all seminars in the series. You will receive an email with a Zoom link that you will need to click in order to join a seminar.

The measurement of macroevolutionary causes

29th October 2020, 13:00, Via Zoom, Dr Josef Uyeda, Virginia Tech, USA

Host: Dr Jonathan Drury

About the speaker: Josef Uyeda is an Assistant Professor in Biological Sciences at Virginia Tech. Josef's research stands at the cutting edge of comparative biology, not only due to the role he has played in developing advances in phylogenetic comparative methods, but also because of his contribution toward the development of conceptual links between macro-scale patterns and micro-scale processes. For more information, visit Josef's website.

The measurement of macroevolutionary causes

Phylogenetic comparative methods enable the study of patterns across the tree of life, and the statistical toolkit available to researchers interested in asking macroevolutionary questions has grown immensely over the past few decades. However, even as these methods have become more statistically sophisticated, fundamental challenges to interpretation of the results of these approaches persist - leading to sometimes acrimonious debates. In this talk, I will argue that the missing piece of the puzzle is carefully considering cause and effect. Of course, the vast majority of macroevolutionary data is observational, and since experimentation is largely impossible, proving causation from observed correlations is impossible. Nevertheless, I will argue that this accepted statistical truth has also resulted in the unfortunate side effect of widespread failure to consider the nature of causation in our methods and interpretations; despite such considerations being essential to good inference. I will examine a series of case studies in my own work where carefully considering cause and effect fundamentally has changed my approach to asking macroevolutionary questions, and has lead to greater clarity on how statistical comparative methods can be profitably used to understand evolutionary processes.

Contact for more information about this event.

Ecology, Evolution and Environment (EEE) seminar series

These seminars will take place online via Zoom, and the joining links have been emailed to all Biosciences students and staff. Links to recorded seminars will be also posted here after each seminar. If you have any questions, please contact the EEE seminar organiser Dr Jonathan Drury (

13 October, 12 PM: Dr Richard Fuller (The University of Queensland, Australia), “Experiencing nature in a post-biodiversity world”

27 October, 4PM: Dr Jenn Baltzer (Wilfrid Laurier University, Canada), “Fire and the decline of fire-adapted black spruce in the boreal forest”

10 November, 4PM: Dr Yann Bourgeois (University of Portsmouth, UK), “A population genomics perspective on transposable elements dynamics”

24 November, 4PM: Dr Yusan Yang (Washington University, USA), “Color polymorphism, divergent mating behavior, and the evolution of reproductive isolation”

8 December, 12PM: Dr Annette Fayet (University of Oxford, UK), “Drivers of seabird migration movements and their fitness consequences”

Seminar recordings

8th October 2020, Dr Rich Roberts, "Bacterial Methylomes":

13th October 2020: Dr Richard Fuller, “Experiencing nature in a post-biodiversity world” :

15th October 2020, Dr Vivek Nityananda, "Stereo vision and prey detection in the praying mantis":

22nd October 2020, Dr Rashmi Sasidharan, "Life aquatic: signalling networks mediating flooding stress survival":