'The concept of time in biology, and the unity of life' with Prof Brian J. Enquist

Past Event

08 May 2017, 6:00pm - 7:30pm

Lecture Theatre, Oxford Martin School
34 Broad Street (corner of Holywell and Catte Streets), Oxford, OX1 3BD

Adobe Stock Jaroslav Machacek
© Adobe Stock/Jaroslav Machacek

This is a joint event between the Oxford Martin School and the Oxford Centre for Tropical Forests

One of our biggest technological innovations is that of time keeping. From the atomic to the astronomical scales, our technology has enabled us to precisely measure time. Our timekeeping uses clocks that all tick along the same time scale – a time scale that is also relative to how we perceive the passage of time.

For biology, the passage of time, however, is not only different but reveals deep truths about life. Across the diversity of life, the passage of time from bacteria to humans to giant Redwood trees is perceived differently. Instead of a constant ticking of a clock – the pace of life is reflected in scaling laws that characterise the variation in the cycles of heartbeats, metabolism, growth and reproduction.

In this lecture Professor Brian J. Enquist, Oxford Martin Visiting Fellow, will introduce a second concept of time - physiological time. Physiological time enables us to better understand why we age, the emergence of disease and cancer, the functioning of ecosystems, and the diversity of life. Physiological time is one of the most significant characteristics of life and helps unite the study of biology. A deeper question is what ultimately sets the pace of life.

As will be discussed, the search for a universal biological clock that unites life’s cycles is the most intriguing Holy Grail of biology.

This event will be followed by a drinks reception, all welcome

About the speaker

Professor Brian J. Enquist is an Oxford Martin School Visiting Fellow at the Oxford Centre for Tropical Forests, Professor at the University of Arizona and an External Professor at The Santa Fe Institute. He is a broadly trained ecologist and biologist.

His research studies the origin, maintenance, and functioning of biological diversity. His lab group is developing novel tools and approaches to predict how climate and climate change has and will influence the functioning of the biosphere. A central focus is discovering the critical mechanisms operating throughout multiple scales of biological organisation. His lab group works in tropical & temperate forests and high alpine ecosystems. His research uses physiological, ecosystem, informatics, and theoretical methods.

He is a American Association for the Advancement of Science fellow. He was awarded a Fulbright Fellowship, the Ecological Society of America’s Mercer Award, a National Science Foundation CAREER Award, and a Popular Mechanics ‘Brilliant Top 10’ Young Researcher. He was also a Fellow at Charles University and the Center for Theoretical Study in Prague, Czech Republic and a CNRS (Centre National de la Recherché Scientifique) Research Fellow in France.