Biological Research at Pratt
Pratt’s Math and Science Department is home to a variety of biologists and is particularly strong in the fields of ecology and evolution. Professors Jeremy Tausch and Chris Jensen are involved in diverse research projects that find homes on campus and on four different continents. The research done by our biology faculty informs our rich biology curriculum.
Dr. Jeremy Tausch’s research is currently focused on the continental scale effects of climate change during the initial periods of human evolution. To this end, he has recently published work on 2 million year old Javanese Homo erectus molars using microwear as a proxy for dietary preference. Dr. Tausch is also interested in bringing nature education to the general public. In collaboration with Sunbird Images, he worked with a team of videographers and naturalists to film wildlife near Gamboa, Panama (2014) and in Khao Sok National Park, Thailand (2015). The team plans to market their work as a novel nature show aimed at educating a wider audience on biological topics such as organismal biology, biodiversity, conservation, and climate change. Dr. Tausch also participated in the survey and excavation of Miocene fossiliferous beds (ca. 17.5 to 19 mya) at Ngira and Kachuku, Karungu, Kenya in July of 2015. During this trip he was afflicted with malaria, which wasn’t very pleasant. A more full accounting of this research can be found here (English version appears after the German).
Dr. Chris Jensen is an evolutionary and ecological theorist with strong interest in public communication of science. As a scientific researcher, Dr. Jensen has worked on a variety of simulations that illuminate how the stability of systems can be influenced by variations in the environment. His work has explored how predators and their prey interact, possible causes of the Late Pleistocene extinction of North American megafauna, how prairie dogs form groups and defend territories, and the role that social asymmetry plays in tragedies of the commons. Dr. Jensen has also collaborated with several Pratt graduate students on several projects aimed at creating visual tools designed to make social dilemmas easier to understand. His latest public science communication outlet is the WmD Project, a character-driven video series about the big questions in ecology and evolution. You can learn more about Dr. Jensen’s work by visiting his website here.
Past Biology Researchers at Pratt
Dr. Aman Gill uses comparative genomic approaches to study evolution and ecology in diverse organisms, from insects to microbial species. Sequencing large numbers of genomic segments from many individual organisms (shotgun sequencing) allows Dr. Gill to investigate a variety of questions of both a basic and applied nature. Currently, he is using genetic data to quantify the genes involved in key ecosystem services—like sequestering atmospheric carbon or degrading pollutants in rainwater runoff—provided by soil microbial communities across NYC. This research will help us understand whether urban land management policies, like NYC's Green Infrastructure plan to use soils to absorb polluted stormwater runoff, can shape the diversity, composition and functional capabilities of urban soil microbial communities. Previously, Dr. Gill examined how variation in the diets of different populations of the same aphid species corresponded with differences in their genetic evolution. In currently developing research, Dr. Gill is teaming up with investigators at several other institutions to understand the genetic basis of chemical defense evolution in ground beetles, including the charismatic bombardier beetles. You can learn more about Dr. Gill’s work by visiting his website here. Aman Gill is now a post-doctoral researcher studying bombardier beetles at the University of California Berkeley.