School seminar series: Adventures in nutrient space

7 June 2013

Presented by Prof. David Raubenheimer, School of Biological Sciences, Faculty of Veterinary Science, and Charles Perkins Centre, University of Sydney.

At face value, the challenge of eating sensibly is relatively straightforward: put enough of the right foods in your mouth and you've done the job. But scratch the surface, even lightly, and you will unearth a staggeringly complex tangle of interrelated questions. What, for example, are the right foods, and why these and not others? How much is enough of each, and how does this change with recent eating experiences and with other circumstances? How can you minimise the consequences of eating the wrong foods or too little or too much of the right foods? Such problems are solved on a daily basis by animals from insects to humans, but big challenges remain for researchers to understand how this done. In this seminar I will introduce a simple geometric device, the nutrient space, which has been invented as an aid to dealing with the complexities of nutrition. After discussing the basic concepts surrounding the nutrient space, I will provide "proof of concept" from tightly controlled laboratory experiments. Using studies of wild baboons, giant pandas, spider monkeys and mountain gorillas, I will then demonstrate that the nutrient space concept can help us to understand foraging not only in the lab, but also in the much more challenging setting of the field. Along the way I will show that the nutrient space can also help to understand the bizarre nutritional ecology of our own species.

Time: 1-2pm

Location: DT Anderson Lecture Theatre, A08