Annual Plymouth Linnean Lecture series

Annual Plymouth Linnean Lecture series

The Annual Plymouth Linnean Lecture series serves to bring high-level scientists in conservation, ecology and natural history to the South West.

Our lectures are free to attend, but you will need to register using the online form. They are suited to anyone of any background and you do not need any background or experience in biology to understand them.

Annual Plymouth Linnean Lecture

The 2018 invited speaker is Professor Nathalie Seddon (Professor of Biodiversity and NERC Knowledge Exchange Fellow in the Department of Zoology, University of Oxford). Professor Seddon's talk is entitled 'The value of nature in a warming world'.

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The fourth Annual Plymouth Linnean Lecture was held on Wednesday 15 2017. It was jointly organised by the School of Biological Sciences and the Linnean Society of London.

This year’s invited speaker was Dr Sandra D. Knapp, Head of Algae, Fungi and Plants Division, Department of Life Sciences, Natural History Museum, London.

Just the name nightshade conjures up images of witches and warlocks, poisons and dangers. But the nightshade family Solanaceae is a paradox – some of its members are laden with deadly poisons like the mandrake and the deadly nightshade, while others, like the potato, help feed the world, and still others, like the petunia, beautify our gardens in summer. No other flowering plant family can boast such a range of human use; nightshades epitomise the power of human domestication to manage and exploit the diversity of plant life. But Solanaceae are much more than just the foods we eat or the poisons we don’t. The family comprises some 3,000 species distributed worldwide, almost half of these in the mega-diverse genus Solanum. The most diverse part of the world is South America, but Solanaceae have radiated in other areas as well.

In this talk Dr Knapp explored the diversity of the family, both in terms of patterns and origins, sharing new data from taxonomic and phylogenetic studies, coupled with analyses using the tools of macroecology and evolution show that diversification of the family at the generic level does not mirror that in the large and complex genus Solanum – where diversification rates are highest not in South America, where species numbers are greatest, but in the arid zones of Australia and Africa, where long-distance dispersal at just the right time from perhaps just the right lineage led to an absolute explosion in species diversity.

Solanaceae diversity is truly paradoxical, just like the nightshades themselves, and there is still a lot to be discovered in these most fascinating of plants.

About the speaker

Dr Sandra D. Knapp holds a BA Botany from Pomona College, California and a PhD from Cornell University, New York State, and in 2016 she was awarded the Linnean Medal by the Linnean Society of London for her work on botanical taxonomy and systematics. She is a trustee of the International Commission on Zoological Nomenclature (ICZN) and a member of the Advisory Board for National Geographic’s Global Exploration Fund. She is Head of the Algae, Fungi and Plants Division at the Natural History Museum in London. In the 1990s, she oversaw the cataloguing of Central American plants for the Flora Mesoamericana, a collaboration between the NHM, the Missouri Botanical Garden and the National Autonomous University of Mexico. Her principal area of research is the genus Solanum, which contains potatoes, tomatoes, aubergines, and boasts over 1,000 species. She is recognised in botanical nomenclature by the standard author abbreviation “S.Knapp” on taxa she has named.

Annual Plymouth Linnean Lecture 2016

Professor Nick Davies - Cuckoo: Cheating by Nature

covering the continuing arms race of host defences versus the cuckoo’s parasitic habits.

Annual Plymouth Linnean Lecture 2015

Professor Dave Goulson – Bees, Pesticide and Politics: the impact of neonicotinoids on UK bumblebees

Annual Plymouth Linnean Lecture 2014

Professor Camille Parmesan – Biodiversity and Climate Change: Connecting the Past to the Future.