Invite to Dr. Miles Zhang Seminar - March 21, 11am, KN132
You are invited to Dr. Y. Miles Zhang' Seminar on March 21, 2023, from 11am-12pm, KN132
Zoom link: https://utoronto.zoom.us/j/82007907182
Dr. Zhang is a Marie Curie Fellow, University of Edinburgh.
Fantastic Tiny Critters and How to Identify Them: Resolving Dark Taxa in the Genomic Age
The vast diversity of insects and other invertebrates in all its forms mirrors the numerous vital roles they play across ecosystems and society. However, the lack of information on these understudied but ultra-diverse ‘dark taxa’ limits our understanding of their diversity, ecology, and evolution. Recently, scientific studies in systematics have been transformed by the wealth of data from massively-parallel sequencing and new analytical methods. In my research, I used state-of-the-art molecular data along with ecological methods to resolve evolutionary relationships within taxonomically challenging groups such as ants, parasitoid wasps, and nematodes. The results of these studies not only deepen our understanding of the tree of life, but also benefits applied research in biocontrol and invasion biology. In the age of ‘big data’, systematics that implements a multidisciplinary approach, harnessing traditional taxonomic techniques in addition to the molecular, bioinformatics, and data science approaches, has the potential to answer questions that were previously not possible. With increasing threats to biodiversity (e.g. climate change, mass extinction), pursuing classification, ecological, and evolutionary questions with natural history collections, taxonomy, and systematics is more relevant than ever.
Miles completed his BSc at the University of Guelph, and MSc at Laurentian University focusing on rose gall wasp parasitoids. He then started his PhD at the University of Manitoba before moving with his supervisor to the University of Central Florida and completed the degree on parasitoid taxonomy, systematics, and evolution. Miles then worked as a postdoc at the University of Florida on ant phylo- and population genomics, before moving to the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History to work on parasitoid wasp taxonomy and phylogenomics. He is currently a Marie Curie fellow at the University of Edinburgh, where he is reunited with his beloved rose galls to work out their tritrophic interactions between plant, herbivore, and natural enemies. To date Miles has discovered 37 species of wasps new to science, but finds himself spending more time fitting Bayesian models and assembling genomes lately.