Are genetic technologies changing what it means to be human?
Advances in genetic technologies, especially synthetic biology, promise such things as eternal life, “super-intelligence,” and designer babies, but can and do they deliver on their promises? More importantly, should they? This talk will introduce some of the most cutting-edge genetic technologies being undertaken in the United States and will explore the ethics, politics, and economics of pursuing them. As a result of this discussion, participants will have a better sense of the ways in which “life itself” is being altered and for what/whose purposes. Participants will also be better informed about how ideas regarding what it means to be human and what is the purpose of healthcare are changing in the “biotech century.”
All programs are held at the Blacksburg Community Center at 725 Patrick Henry Drive in Blacksburg, VA unless otherwise noted below.
The recent pollinator crisis exemplifies how public interest in scientific issues can be a mixed blessing, simultaneously raising awareness of pollinator decline, while generating rallying cries for untested solutions. Lack of forage is a factor contributing to bee declines. This stressor can act directly, where bees are unable to meet nutritional needs, or indirectly, where nutritional stress reduces the bees’ ability to cope with stressors like diseases and pesticides. Coverage has been wide: everyone wants to feed hungry bees. Such help is offered with best intentions, but efficacy is undermined by two crucial knowledge gaps: first, we do not know when and where bees lack forage. Providing flowers indiscriminately is common practice because current methods of surveying and cataloging floral abundance at landscape-scale are intensely time-consuming. Second, nutritional stress is often studied either in honey bees (Apis mellifera spp.) or non-honey bees, creating a dichotomy that limits the usefulness of results. There is a critical need to develop new methods to survey Apis forage on a landscape scale and to determine if non-Apis bees also prefer these areas. Without these data, it is not possible to implement a best management strategy for improving availability of forage that would benefit overall pollinator health.
Here we explore how waggle dance, a behavior in which a honey bee forager communicates to her nestmates the vector from the hive to an important resource, usually food, may also be a powerful tool for ecology. Because honey bees perform dances only for the most profitable resources, these data provide spatial information about the availability of good quality forage for any given time. We argue that waggle dance decoding may inform on a range of ecological, conservation, and land management issues. Thus, one species and methodology gives a novel measure of a landscape’s profitability that may be relevant not just for honey bees, but also for other flower-visiting insects. The audience will learn the background on the honeybee waggle dance; how we know what we know with the waggle dance and using waggle dances in research; and what we can still find out, the current state of the field, and future directions.
Dancing bees bioindicate habitats’ ability to feed pollinators
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AARP Blacksburg Chapter