Nerd Nite East Bay #31: Nudibranchs, NEOs, and Microbes

Poster designed by Cindy Wang.

Poster designed by Cindy Wang.

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Please join us for June’s Nerd Nite East Bay. Vanessa Knutson will discuss sex, slugs, and rock & roll. Chabot’s Gerald McKeegan will tell us why relatively small asteroids may pose a threat to us. Finally, JGI’s Esther Singer will share what we know about the microbes that surround us.

There will be food that you can purchase from The Lumpia Company and Shades of Sugar.

As usual: Rick, Rebecca, DJ Citizen Zain, and the Oakland Public Library will taste the moon rocks (that are a little meteor than the earth rocks).

Be there and be square.

This event is 21+. Any door tickets will be $10, though we’ll likely limit the capacity once again.

Monday 6/29/2015
Doors (+food,drink) at 7 pm, show starts at 8 pm and ends at 10:30 pm
Club 21, 2111 Franklin St, Oakland
(two blocks from the 19th St BART)
$8 in advance/$10 at the door
21+
tickets
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Sex, Slugs and Rock & Roll by Vanessa Knutson

Once you discover what a nudibranch is, it’s difficult not to love these beautiful, crafty creatures. Come learn about these naked snails and their relatives. We’ll cover a bit about their sex life and eating habits (which may overlap a bit), how they hijack defenses from their food to protect themselves, and how biologists find and study these enigmatic creatures.

A self-proclaimed nerdibranch, Vanessa Knutson is broadly interested in the evolution and diversity of invertebrates. For her master’s degree, she studied diversity and diet in the notorious nudibranch genus Gymnodoris, at SFSU and the California Academy of Sciences. She will begin a PhD program this fall in the Organismic and Evolutionary biology program at Harvard University.

Finding NEO: The Challenge of Defending Earth from Killer Asteroids by Gerald McKeegan

The Earth orbits in a shooting gallery of millions of asteroids and occasional comets. In 1998, Congress directed NASA to find all near-Earth objects (NEO) larger than 1-kilometer, and in 2005 Congress amended that mandate to all objects larger than 140 meters. To date we have found more than 90% of the kilometer sized asteroids, but there are still thousands of undiscovered near-Earth objects larger than 140 meters. And we now realize that asteroids in the 15 – 140 meter size range pose a significant local threat, and their numbers could be in the millions. But finding smaller asteroids is a major challenge, especially since we currently rely almost exclusively on a few ground-based survey telescopes. This talk will explore how near-Earth objects are found, and why finding smaller — yet still deadly — asteroids is becoming increasingly difficult.

Gerald McKeegan is an astronomer at the Chabot Space & Science Center in Oakland. Gerald holds a M.S. degree in Space Studies, and has worked in the aerospace industry for more than 30 years. In addition to hosting public telescope observing nights at Chabot, Gerald leads Chabot’s asteroid observing program, confirming and following up on new NEO discoveries, and contributing hundreds of observations each year to the IAU Minor Planet Center.

Living in a Microbial World. And I am a Microbial Girl. by Esther Singer

During two thirds of Earth’s history, microorganisms dominated our planet. Evolving from the oceans to the inland waters over an estimated 3.8 billion years, prokaryotes – Bacteria and Archaea – have developed a complexity in metabolic diversity that has allowed for vast population sizes, extensive migration and dynamic lifestyle adaptation to diverse niches. Attempts to describe bacterial diversity and abundance often yield impressive numbers: for example, there are estimates that there is one billion times more individual bacterial on Earth than there are stars in the universe, that the number of prokaryotic species exceeds that of all other species, that prokaryotic cells comprise the majority of all biomass, and that even the most hostile habitats are inhabited by bacteria. I will provide little impressions of how microbes affect us anywhere anytime and show you that the world, we are living in, is a microbial world.

Just like the microorganisms she has been studying for 10 years, Esther uses functional diversity and adaptation strategies to conduct research projects. She obtained her Ph.D. in Earth Sciences and currently works as a Postdoc in Bioinformatics at the Joint Genome Institute. Her search for interesting microbial life forms has taken her from hydrothermal vents, oil-polluted seawater, Arctic lakes, Mediterranean grassland, all the way to switchgrass plants. At the JGI, she mainly studies the role of microbes in soil carbon sequestration and biofuel crop productivity.

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