Seminar series

The Annual Margaret Savigear Lectures

The Margaret Savigear Lectures acknowledge the importance of role models to the next generation of scientists by explicitly increasing the visibility of women biologists and celebrates the importance of mentors.

The format is to invite inspirational female academics representing an early and a later career stage. This year we have two fantastic speakers: Dr Susan Johnston from the University of Edinburgh and Professor Barbara Mable from the University of Glasgow.

Margaret Savigear received her BSc from what was then the Department of Zoology in 1939, and was awarded an MSc in 1949. Her pursuit of a postgraduate degree was unusual at the time and supported by the then Head of Department, Leonard ES Eastham.

In recognition of Professor Eastham's inspiration and mentoring, Mrs Savigear donated to the department to establish the Leonard Eastham prize for final year undergraduates to undertake a Zoology research project.

The lectures will be followed by a frank and illuminating Q&A session. This is a fantastic opportunity to ask the speakers about their research, career and get advice. Our aim with this event is to offer inspiring role models for our researchers, especially those early in their careers. There will be plenty of opportunity to ask questions during the event but if you already have a question you would like answered, please submit it here.

Monday 25th March 2019, 1pm-4.30pm

Alfred Denny Building, Lecture Theatre 1 and Conference Room


1.00-1.10pm: Introduction by Rob Freckleton, ADLT1 (Head of Animal and Plant Sciences, University of Sheffield)

1.10-2.00pm: Susan Johnston (University of Edinburgh), ADLT1

2.10-3.00pm: Barbara Mable (University of Glasgow), ADLT1

3.00-3.30pm: Refreshments and informal discussions, Conference Room

3.30-4.30pm: Q&A with ECR, Conference Room

Please submit your questions using this Google Form.

About the speakers

Dr Susan Johnston

University of Edinburgh

Dr Susan Johnston

Biography: Susan Johnston received her PhD from the University of Sheffield, after which she went on to do postdoctoral research at the University of Turku and the University of Edinburgh. She is currently a Royal Society University Research Fellow at the University of Edinburgh. Her research interests centre on using genomic information to understand selection and evolution in wild and domesticated populations. Common themes include determining the genetic architecture of traits using genome scans, understanding why genetic variation persists in traits despite strong selection, and most recently, the evolutionary importance of recombination rate variation at different evolutionary timescales. She answers these questions using data from various vertebrate species, including domestic sheep, red deer, Atlantic salmon and house sparrows.

Visit Dr Susan Johnston's website

Lecture title: The good, the bad and the variable: the evolution of chromosomal crossover rates in the wild.

Abstract: Crossing-over between chromosomes during meiosis can bring together favourable combinations of alleles and is often essential to proper chromosome segregation. However, it can also break apart favourable allele combinations and generate mutations at the crossover sites. The relative costs and benefits of crossing-over can vary from population to population; if crossover rate has a genetic basis, then it has the potential to evolve over time.

My research investigates the evolution of crossover rates in wild populations in Soay sheep and Red deer by identifying the underlying genes and their relationship with reproductive success and survival. I will also present collaborative work investigating how and why crossover rates vary to such a large degree across taxa.


Professor Barbara Mable

University of Glasgow

Professor Barbara Mable

Biography: Barbara Mable is Professor of Evolutionary Genetics in the Institute of Biodiversity, Animal Health and Comparative Medicine (IBAHCM) at the University of Glasgow in Scotland. Barbara has general interests in understanding processes that control genetic variation and has worked on a wide range of organisms, including bacteria, fungi, oomycetes, algae, plants, nematodes, trypanosomes, trematodes, mites, tsetse flies, snails, amphibians, birds, fish, mammals and reptiles. She has a specific interest in understanding processes that involve regulating interactions between organisms (e.g. mating systems, immune systems, host-pathogen-vector dynamics) but is more broadly interested in how changes in genetic variation affect adaptation to changing environments (both abiotic and biotic). Her recent research has been focused on conservation genetics of African wild dogs and Eastern black rhinoceros, population genetics of vector borne pathogens (schistosomes and trypanosomes), and evolution of resistance to pathogens in both plants and animals.

Visit Professor Barbara Mable's website

Lecture title: Phyto-herpetology, phylo-population genetics, crop-livestock-wildlife management: growing up at the interface of disparate fields.

Abstract: I was very honoured to be selected to give a talk in recognition of Margaret Savigear by the Athena Swan committee of the Animal and Plant Sciences Department. The aim stated in the invitation was “to acknowledge the importance of role models to the next generation of scientists by explicitly increasing the visibility of inspiring women biologists.” While this isn’t a light in which I have really considered myself, it made me think about the people who have been influential in shaping the type of scientist that I have become.My speciality has been in questioning dogma, while crossing boundaries between fields that traditionally are not known for effective communication: zoologists and botanists; systematicists and population geneticists; economic entomologists, livestock parasitologists and wildlife conservationists. This has lead to what might seem like a rather chaotic research career but I have been fortunate to have had excellent role models at every stage.

In this talk I will reflect on the evolution of my academic development, focusing on the people who have inspired me along the way and the opportunities that have allowed me to develop such a wide portfolio of research interests.