Greta Binford, professor, Lewis and Clark College
Spiders are a great vehicle for studying biodiversity. They are among the most conspicuous and abundant terrestrial arthropods, yet much about them remains to be discovered. They spend time eating insects, decorate our world with gorgeous webs, and males dance to court females (seriously!). As if that’s not enough, they make silk fibers with remarkable material properties, and venoms rich in peptides and proteins that are not found anywhere else. Very few spiders have venoms that can hurt people, and even fewer are aggressive to humans. Join us as Greta Binford, Lewis and Clark College, will help us better understand these animals and their venoms, and the many unseen ways these animals contribute to our world.
Greta Binford is a biology professor at Lewis and Clark College in Portland, Oregon. She says “I love biological diversity - particularly arachnids. From the moment I learned about how little we know about the living organisms that share our world, and I realized I could contribute to understanding it, I’ve been hooked! Issues of biodiversity are infused into all courses I teach, the public outreach I do, and are the central focus of my research program at Lewis & Clark College.”
Her research is focused on understanding patterns of diversity in spider venoms. In her lab, students participate in analyses of spider venoms at all levels of the process. This includes collecting a range of spiders in the field, doing protein analyses of the venoms, and using molecular approaches to study the genes that code for the venom proteins. Students also analyze the effects of venoms on insect prey and observe spider foraging behavior. These data help to better understand the role venom plays in immobilizing prey and how that varies across spider species.
*counts as 1 hour continuing garden education