Scripps Lecture: Harvard Scientist Digs for Genetic Connections to Behavior


Burrowing mice and how such animal behavior can shed light on the genetics of human behavior will be the subject of the 10th Richard H. and Glenda G. Rosenblatt Lectureship in Evolutionary Biology at Scripps Institution of Oceanography, UC San Diego.

The event featuring Harvard University’s Hopi Hoekstra is scheduled for 3 p.m. on April 22, 2015, at the Robert Paine Scripps Forum for Science, Society, and the Environment (Scripps Seaside Forum) on the Scripps Oceanography campus (8610 Kennel Way, La Jolla, CA 92037). The event is free (seating is available on a limited basis) and the public is invited.

Hoekstra, the Alexander Agassiz professor of zoology and curator of mammals in Harvard’s Museum of Comparative Zoology, focuses on uncovering the genetic basis of morphological and behavioral traits that affect the fitness of individuals in the wild.

Her Rosenblatt presentation, “Digging for genes that affect behavior,” will cover science’s understanding of which genes affect important behaviors and how they work in the brain, which remains a major challenge in biology. Hoekstra’s research capitalizes on natural variation in behavior within and between species of deer mice.

During the lecture Hoekstra will focus on burrowing, an innate behavior, to explore the genetics and neurobiology of behavioral evolution and discuss how studying natural variation in mice can provide valuable insights on the genetics of human behavior.

The lectureship is named after Richard Rosenblatt, the renowned ichthyologist and curator emeritus of the Scripps Marine Vertebrates Collection who passed away in October 2014, and his wife Glenda, who died in April 2014.

Hoekstra received a BA from UC Berkeley and a PhD from the University of Washington. In 2013, Hoekstra was named a Howard Hughes Investigator, gave the commencement speech at Berkeley’s integrative biology department, and was profiled in The New York Times. She has received Young Investigator awards from the American Society of Naturalists and the Beckman Foundation, and, most recently, the Richard Lounsbery Medal from National Academy of Sciences.

Hoekstra teaches an introductory course, “Genetics, Genomics and Evolution,” to approximately 500 freshmen each year at Harvard, and has been awarded the Fannie Cox Prize and a Harvard College Professorship for teaching excellence.

To learn more about the Rosenblatt Lecture:

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