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Science on Tap lecture series promotes scientific learning

The Kiggins Theatre plays host to many sorts of events, from film screenings to performances and seminars. One such event, Science on Tap, is a scientific lecture series that integrates research exhibition and evening entertainment. Science on Tap is produced in partnership with Washington State University Vancouver and features scientists from colleges and universities in the Pacific Northwest.

On April 17, the theme of the lecture was Tales from the Biology Lab and featured two local scientists who gave lectures on two very different, yet very interesting topics. First to present was biologist Sarah Shaack from Reed College. Shaack spoke about junk DNA and facts of the human genome that have been popularized in media outlets, yet have since been disproven.

Shaack added a drinking game aspect to her presentation by incorporating images of garden gnomes on various slides, prompting the audience to drink every time a gnome appeared. Shaack explained that the human genome is significantly smaller than the general public would think: “In fact, rice has more coding genes than a human being!”

Shaack went on to say that we are making new discoveries about junk DNA and encouraged audience members to take deeper looks into current research efforts and not rely on the media to get information.

Following Shaack’s presentation, Todd Rosenstiel gave his lecture entitled “Magnificent Mosses.” Rosentiel is a biology professor at Portland State University and also organizes the Center for Life in Extreme Environments.

Rosentiel stressed to the audience that moss is so much more than a rooftop nuisance. In fact, he said moss is nature’s toughest survivor and can thrive in many different environments. Rosentiel does a great deal of field research in Antarctica, where moss is growing in large quantities due to glacier melting as a result of climate change. “There are over 110 species of moss in Antarctica and over 20,000 species worldwide” Rosentiel said.

Rosentiel further explained the reproductive system of moss and that there are implications that moss-made pharmaceuticals are a possibility in the future. Rosentiel ended his lecture by explaining that curiosity and serendipity lead to scientific discovery, and to think twice before killing the moss upon your roof.

The next Science on Tap lecture will take place on May 13. The topic will be Parasites: A Global Health Problem and will be presented by Buddy Ullman from the Oregon Health and Science University.

Tickets are $8 in advance and $10 at the door and all proceeds fund future Science on Tap events. For more information about Science on Tap and past or future lectures, visit their website at www.viaproductions.org, or contact Amanda Thomas at amanda@viaproductions.com or Michelle Herrmann at michelle@viaproductions.com

Science on Tap logo from Kiggins Theatre website.

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