R.W. Moriarty Science Seminars
Interested in learning about scientific discoveries directly from scientists? Carnegie Museum of Natural History scientific research staff and invited speakers discuss their latest findings on a wide variety of scientific topics at the free R.W. Moriarty Science Seminar Series. Seminars are free and no registration is required. Each seminar begins at noon in Carnegie Museum of Natural History’s Earth Theater and lasts about an hour. Visitors attending solely for the seminar are asked to check in at the front desk.
Speaker: Mason Heberling, Carnegie Museum of Natural History
Natural history collections are receiving unprecedented attention due to recently developed tools, new perspectives, and perhaps most notably, their increased accessibility through widespread digitization. With nearly 390 million plant specimens collected by thousands of botanists over nearly five centuries in museums worldwide, herbaria (collections of preserved dead plants) comprise an enormous resource for understanding the world around us. These collections were historically established and maintained primarily for taxonomic study (the classification and naming of life) and related uses. Though their longstanding functions remain relevant, museum specimens are increasingly being used in novel and unanticipated ways by a diverse array of disciplines. Mason Heberling will discuss the past, present, and future of herbarium specimen use, highlighting examples from his latest research on invasive species and climate change. In addition to maximizing our use of existing collections, an open re-evaluation of the very collection event itself is needed to ensure we are effectively documenting our rapidly changing world. The use of digital observations and community science platforms, such as iNaturalist, provide a powerful approach to enhance the research value of specimens. As we enter the Anthropocene, a new geological epoch marked by global environmental changes, herbaria have likewise entered a new era with enhanced scientific, educational, and societal relevance.
Speaker: John Stoltz, Center for Environmental Research and Education at Duquesne University
Life has existed on Earth for over 3.5 billion years. We know this through the preserved remains of microorganisms, as microfossils and microbialites such as microbially induced sedimentary structures (MISS) and stromatolites. Over half of the elements in the periodic table have some biological role, many with complex biogeochemical cycles that are microbially mediated. The global microbiome encompasses a wide range of environments including deep in the Earth’s crust, with an estimated population of ~1030 cells and more than a trillion species. Deep sequencing projects have revealed hitherto unknown phyla and “microbial dark matter.” The discoveries of conductive pili and cable bacteria have shown that microbes can transfer electrons to and from external sources (a process known as electrotrophy), sometimes over significant distances. This talk focuses on John Stolz’s research on metal munching microbes and the microbial communities of living stromatolites from the Bahamas and Shark Bay, Australia. Stolz will discuss how the intimate interactions of microbes with their environment that started way back in the Archean has helped forge the world we know today.
About Richard Moriarty
Dr. Richard Moriarty is a retired pediatrician and a former associate clinical professor of pediatrics at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. For more than 40 years, Dr. Moriarty has been a vibrant member of Pittsburgh’s medical community. He has advanced knowledge in the fields of pediatrics and toxicology, contributing more than 20 journal articles with the fundamental goal of reducing childhood fatalities due to poisoning.
Moriarty founded the Pittsburgh Poison Center—nationally known for the development of the Mr. Yuk poison warning symbol—and the National Poison Center Network, organizations that both fostered the development of and supported existing poison centers nationally. He has been involved with a number of professional organizations such as the American Academy of Pediatrics, Pennsylvania Chapter as the Chairperson of the Poison and Accident Prevention Committee, and Pittsburgh Toxicology Club. In addition to volunteering his talents for a significant number of civic, community, and governmental organizations, he has served as a reviewer for the Journal of Pediatrics and the Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine.
Currently, Moriarty is President of the Carnegie Discoverers, a volunteer group that supports Carnegie Museum of Natural History in promoting its cultural, scientific, and educational missions and in developing new audiences for the institution.
The R. W. Moriarty Science Seminars program began in March 2010.