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Public lectures to address themes from science advocacy to climate change impact in Arctic: WCSU to offer spring semester series on biology research topics

DANBURY, CONN. — The Western Connecticut State University Department of Biological and Environmental Sciences will offer a spring semester series of research seminars beginning Feb. 21, 2019, that will cover diverse topics including science advocacy, the evolution of Arctic lake ecosystems, and neuroscience and human behavior.

All seminars will be at 4 p.m. in Science Building Room 125 on the university’s Midtown campus, 181 White St. in Danbury. Admission will be free and the public is invited; a reception will be held in the Science Building Atrium immediately after each presentation.

In the opening seminar on Thursday, Feb. 21, WCSU Assistant Professor of Biological and Environmental Sciences Dr. Rayda Krell will present “Beyond the Laboratory: How to be a Science Advocate and Why It’s Important.” Other seminars will be Thursday, March 28, “Secrets from an Early Eocene Arctic Lake: Global Warming, Biogeography and Evolutionary Stasis,” presented by Connecticut College Professor of Botany and Environmental Studies Dr. Peter Siver; and Thursday, April 25, a discussion of topics in neuroscience and behavioral research, presented by Wesleyan University Professor of Psychology and of Neuroscience and Behavior Dr. Matthew Kurtz.

image of Rayda Krell
Rayda Krell

Krell is the research study coordinator for the WCSU Tickborne Disease Prevention Laboratory, where she has worked with TDPL Director and Associate Professor of Biological and Environmental Sciences Dr. Neeta Connally on a four-year, $1.6 million project funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to study effective means to reduce exposure to Lyme disease and other tick-borne diseases in residential settings. Krell and Connally also are collaborators with the Ridgefield Health Department in the “Spray Safe, Play Safe” program, supported by an Environmental Protection Agency grant, that seeks to provide community education about chemical spraying for tick management.

Krell earned dual B.A. degrees in Biology and Russian at Middlebury College and her M.S. and Ph.D. in Entomology at Iowa State University. A member of the Entomological Society of America, her research interests include arthropod ecology and application of this ecology as a basis for prudent pest management. She has taught the Modes of Scientific Communication course at WCSU and has worked in areas of science policy, editing and public outreach.

image of Dr. Peter Siver
Dr. Peter Siver

Siver has received several National Science Foundation grants to pursue study since 2005 of an Arctic lake estimated to have formed about 48 million years ago during the Eocene Epoch, a period of rising greenhouse gas levels and global warming. Analyses of microscopic algae fossil specimens from the lake have provided the basis to determine the chemical conditions of the ancient lake and the evolution of its ecosystems over time, providing a useful model to understand the effects of a warming climate on Arctic lake ecosystems today.

Recipient of a Ph.D. from the University of Connecticut and a Connecticut College faculty member since 1990, Siver holds the Charles and Sarah P. Becker ’27 Professorship in Botany and Environmental Studies and serves as director of the college’s Environmental Studies Program. His research specializations include the study of the biology and chemistry of lakes and other fresh-water bodies, and the study of algae with specific interest in microorganisms. He is the author of four books, two edited volumes and more than 130 peer-reviewed articles, and is credited with the description of new microorganism species. Professional recognitions include the Darbaker Prize from the Botanical Society of America and the Prescott Award from the Phycological Society of America.

image of Dr. Matthew Kurtz
Dr. Matthew Kurtz

Kurtz is the director of the Schizophrenia Cognition Laboratory at Wesleyan, which investigates issues related to cognition and rehabilitation in schizophrenia and related types of severe mental illness. Recipient of a Ph.D. in Psychology and Neuroscience from Princeton University, he took post-doctoral training in the neuropsychiatric aspects of schizophrenia at the University of Pennsylvania. Prior to joining the Wesleyan faculty, he worked for seven years in the Schizophrenia Rehabilitation Program at the Hartford-based Institute of Living, appointed in 2005 as senior research scientist. He has served since 2001 as an adjunct professor of psychiatry in the Yale School of Medicine, and is a consulting neuropsychologist for Connecticut Valley Hospital and the Greater Bridgeport Mental Health Center.

Kurtz is the author or co-author of more than 50 peer-reviewed articles and eight book chapters. He is a licensed psychologist with a specialty in clinical neuropsychological assessment, and a member of several professional organizations including the American Psychological Association, the Schizophrenia International Research Society and the Society for Research in Psychopathology.



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