Adelphi recently hosted the Northeast Regional Vertebrate Evolution Symposium (NERVES), where many Adelphi students and faculty got the opportunity to learn, speak and participate in a scientific community.
by Alia Danilo ’18
Have you ever wanted to learn about sniffing-catfish of the Congo Basin or giant monitor lizards from the Pleistocene period? On April 1, 2016, Adelphi students, faculty and staff had the opportunity to attend the fifth annual Northeast Regional Vertebrate Evolution Symposium (NERVES), hosted on campus, where they could do just that.
Symposia described an ancient Greek tradition of people coming together to eat, drink and share ideas. Today symposiums exist in a variety of forms for many different subjects. NERVES covers the broad topic of research in evolution.
NERVES was created in 2012 after Brian Beatty, Ph.D., and Matthew Mihlbachler, Ph.D., both associate professor at the New York Institute of Technology, noticed that many scientific research conferences were too far away for students, professors and researchers from the many institutions in the New York City and Long Island area to travel to and felt this conference was a crucial gathering that was missing from the area. NERVES was held at NYIT for two years and the Museum of Natural History for two years before Adelphi became the host.
The conference aims to be a place where professors, postdoctoratal students, graduate students, undergraduate students, and this year even a high school senior, can communicate in the scientific community. Participants are able to share their research, network, learn how to present and become comfortable presenting.
Unlike some conferences, NERVES focus is on the scientific work in progress. The day was comprised of short, 10-minute presentations describing hypotheses, methods, ongoing research, new findings and occasional conclusions, the whole time aiming to open a discussion about all of the facets of vertebrate evolution. The conference never has a specific theme, which explains why the topics range from sniffing-catfish and giant monitor lizards to the use of skull molds for studying brain shapes of extinct species.
Adelphi’s own Michael D’Emic, Ph.D., assistant professor of biology, presented his ongoing research on the problem of scale-dependence of vertebrate growth rates, while Alyssa Costa, a senior majoring in biology, presented research on the role of vertical substrate in movement for elongate fishes.
“It was very informative, and I enjoyed hearing ideas about proposed research and current research, as well as ways to improve quality of studies,” said Lauren Spiegel, a junior majoring in biology, who attended with the rest of Dr. D’Emic’s Honors colloquium course.
“It’s a very informal, friendly environment for everyone to share their half-baked ideas,” said Dr. Beatty quipped, adding that NERVES will continue to be a place where people can comfortably share in their love for evolution.
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