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Powdermill Nature Reserve, SVC To Present Second Lecture in Series on Evolution, Ecology Feb. 28

Public Relations
Posted: Friday Feb 8, 2013

Feb. 8, 2013

Powdermill Nature Reserve, the environmental research center of Carnegie Museum of Natural History, and Saint Vincent College Herbert W. Boyer School of Natural Sciences, Mathematics, and Computing will jointly present “Singing Caterpillars and Sweet Symbiosis” by internationally recognized ecologist Dr. Philip J. DeVries as the second lecture in the Evolution and Ecology Lecture Series at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 28 at the Fred M. Rogers Center on the campus of Saint Vincent College. Admission is free and no registration is required.

DeVries will describe the fascinating communication system between caterpillars and ants and discuss their intricate symbioses. He will explain that in exchange for protection against predators, butterfly caterpillars give ants nutritive secretions. The caterpillars also “talk” to the ants through chemical and acoustical calls.

DeVries attended the University of Texas at Austin from 1980 to 1987 where he earned a Ph.D. in zoology. His doctoral work focused on the widespread symbioses between butterfly caterpillars, ants and plants which he popularized under the nickname “singing caterpillars.” In 1982, DeVries received a fellowship from the Fulbright Program to visit The Natural History Museum in London, where he spent a year preparing the first volume of his “The Butterflies of Costa Rica” book.

In 1988 DeVries received a MacArthur Fellowship (“genius award”) that allowed him to travel broadly in pursuit of tropical biology in Costa Rica, Panama, Ecuador and Argentina.

DeVries was a pre-doctoral and post-doctoral fellow at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, Panama, a visiting scholar at the University of Oxford, an associate of the Center for Conservation Biology at Stanford University and a Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation Fellow at Harvard University. He is a research associate of the American Museum of Natural History, Missouri Botanical Gardens, Museum of Comparative Zoology, Harvard University and the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County. He is a frequent contributor to popular science television programs.

Among other countries, DeVries has done field research in Costa Rica, Panama, Ecuador, Peru, Brazil, South Africa, Uganda, Tanzania, Madagascar, Bhutan, Australia, Borneo and Malaysia.

The Evolution and Ecology Lecture Series was developed to address topics of special interest regarding biodiversity, conservation, behavioral ecology and evolution. This joint venture – which capitalizes on Powdermill Nature Reserve’s global network of researchers and Saint Vincent College’s commitment to education for its students and the community – provides the opportunity to hear from some of the world’s leading figures in ecology and evolutionary biology.

The series is being coordinated by Dr. John Wenzel, director of Powdermill Nature Reserve, and Dr. Bruce D. Bethke, associate professor and chair of the biology department at Saint Vincent.

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Photo: Dr. Philip J. DeVries 

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