An Exploration of Biological Resilience

An Exploration of Biological Resilience, with Dr. Roger Hangarter (IU Biology)

All of our basic needs - the food we eat, the air we breathe, and the water we drink - are reliant on basic biological functions that serve as the core of well-functioning, biodiverse, and resilient ecosystems. We as human animals are members of local and global ecosystems. After years of observing and documenting our regional biodiversity through the lens of his camera, Distinguished Professor and Chancellor’s Professor, Dr. Roger Hangarter has come to see biodiversity as resembling a living tapestry that is constant weaving and reweaving threads spun from a multiplicity of life forms interconnected through basic fundamental processes. In this four-part series of presentations, Hangarter will use his photographs and videos to show how our own resilience hinges on the same fundamental processes that sustain biodiversity and to hopefully inspire audience members to explore local natural areas where they can see and learn more about the remarkable biodiversity we live among in Indiana.

Series schedule:

It Starts with the Sun
Tuesday, Oct. 12, 5:30 p.m.

Photosynthesis is the underpinning of nearly all life on our planet, including humanity. In this presentation, Dr. Hangarter will explain in simple terms what photosynthesis is, how that process fuels life and why it is the foundation of all ecosystems.  He will use the life cycle of a butterfly to illustrate how a herbivore (the caterpillar) transforms pant biomass into an entirely different organisms (the caterpillar) and how prey can then transform the caterpillar and/or the resulting butterfly into yet another entirely different organism. Besides what photosynthesis is, some of the basic take home messages include what food webs are and the importance of recycling.

Diversity is Essential
Tuesday, Oct. 19, 5:30 p.m.

Genetic diversity is essential for evolutionary adaptation. Diversity is also essential for individuals to communicate through visual, auditory and/or olfactory signals. In this presentation,  Dr. Hangarter will present examples of the diversity of species we can find in our local biodiversity using stories of how they are interdependent. He  will also address the role of within-species diversity (genetics) by focusing on the life of the common American Toad (Anaxyrus americanus).

The Woodland Pond
Tuesday, Nov. 2, 5:30 p.m.

Many woodland ponds are temporary bodies of water referred to as vernal or ephemeral ponds that when filled with water are inhabited by distinctive organisms. They typically lack fish, which allows for the development of a number of amphibians, insects, and protozoan species. Dr. Hangarter has photographed and filmed life in woodland ponds in Yellowwood Forest for the past dozen years. This presentation will cover how fallen leaves (photosynthesis) fuel life in the ponds and discuss the biology of the diverse, and to us exotic life forms, eke out a living in the pond ecosystem. He will also discuss how human activities threaten the woodland pond ecosystems and also how they contribute to the resilience of the larger woodland ecosystem they are part of.

Keys to Resilience
Tuesday, Nov. 9, 5:30 p.m.

As anyone who follows the real news about the current state of nature, it is in a precarious state. Since humans are part of nature, the future of humanity is also precarious. For many years now, scientist have documented so many instances of environmental devastation that would be painful to assemble a comprehensive list. In this presentation, Dr. Hangarter will use the story lines that thread through the first three presentations to illustrate the fundamental processes inherent in all natural systems that occur across all scales from the biochemistry of a single cell up to entire ecosystems. He will also discuss how humanity has unwittingly used fossil fuels to avoid abiding by the fundamental rules of nature to the point that we are now watching it collapse around us. In particular, He will focus on the role of recycling, which is central to resilience of all biological systems. He will discuss how by focusing on recycling, we may be able to turn the tide before the tapestry of life unravels and our thread in that tapestry becomes so frayed that nature omits us from future iterations. 


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