Invited Speaker

Dr. Stephen Mackessy

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Stephen P. Mackessy (Ph.D.) earned his B.A. and M.A. in Biology (Ecology and Evolution Section) at the University of California at Santa Barbara, Department of Biology (with Dr. S. S. Sweet), his Ph.D. (with a minor in Biochemistry) at Washington State University, Department of Zoology (with Dr. K. V. Kardong), and a postdoctoral Research Associate at Colorado State University, Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (with Dr. A. T. Tu) before joining the School of Biological Sciences at UNC. He is currently Professor of Biology in the School of Biological Sciences at the University of Northern Colorado. His research broadly encompasses the biology of venomous snakes and the biochemistry of their venoms, and he has published over 150 scientific papers, book chapters and natural history notes, two books (Handbook of Venoms and Toxins of Reptiles - CRC Press; The Biology of Rattlesnakes II – Eco Press) and two journal special editions (Journal of Toxicology-Toxin Reviews: Colubrid Venoms; Toxins: Proteomics of Venoms). His research has included many graduate and undergraduate students, as well as collaborations with colleagues from Singapore, Spain, Mexico, Argentina, Brazil, France and numerous other universities in the United States. Several ongoing projects are centered on understanding the evolution of venom systems in snakes and the biological significance of venom compositional variation, with a particular interest in the interface of snake ecology/evolution and venom biochemistry/pharmacology. An integrative approach is required in order to understand the many facets of venomous organisms, and so his lab utilizes proteomic, genomic, morphological and field methods. To this end, broad sampling of venoms from many species of rattlesnakes (Crotalus, Sistrurus), other vipers, elapids and numerous species of rear-fanged snakes has resulted in extensive fieldwork in the northwestern and southwestern United States, Mexico, Brazil, Argentina, Guam and southeast Asia. Recent projects have focused on the effects of hybridization/introgression on venom phenotypes, mechanisms of action of venoms and toxins on metastatic cell proliferation, and the investigation of toxins for new drug leads. His research program has been supported by many local, state and national funding agencies. Dr. Mackessy also teaches numerous graduate and undergraduate courses in biomedicine and vertebrate biology at UNC, where he has received awards in recognition of outstanding research and teaching. Personal interests include fieldwork with venomous snakes, music and motorcycles, as well as traveling and camping.

Talk title: The Enigmatic Venoms of Heloderma – Trophic Adaptation or Optimized for Defense?