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The University of Alabama

Scientist to Discuss Reproductive Chemistry in UA’s ALLELE Lecture Series

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Dr. Rebecca Burch will present a lecture on the chemistry of mammalian semen at 7:30 p.m Thursday, Dec. 3, in the Ferguson Center Ballroom on The University of Alabama campus as part of the Alabama Lectures on Life’s Evolution, or ALLELE, series.

The lecture, “Semen Chemistry: Implications, Innovations, and Controversy,” is free and open to the public.

Burch is an associate professor in the department of human development at the State University of New York at Oswego. In her lecture, she will discuss the different compounds in the reproductive fluid.

She will also discuss her research from the past 15 years that covers possible effects of the fluid chemistry on behavior, endocrinology and cognition.

“Semen chemistry can be very important in sexual behaviors, mood and cognition,” Burch said. “Seminal fluid is used strategically in human reproduction, and this stems from competition between the human sexes. There is much more going on here than just a medium for sperm transport.”

Some of Burch’s research covers the morphology of genitalia, specifically the shape of male sexual organs and why they are shaped the way they are. She uses cross-species analysis to explain the evolution of genitalia and semen displacement. She said the seminal fluid composition is a result of intersexual evolution.

Burch was chosen to speak because of this tie to evolution in her research, said Dr. Christopher Lynn, co-chair of the Evolution Working Group and UA professor of anthropology. Lynn said she was also selected because of people’s reluctance to talk about sexuality at the biological level.

“We want to inspire and revile,” Lynn said. “We know little of the molecular level of sex because it’s taboo.”

Burch is the conference and programming coordinator for the Hart Global Living and Learning Center at SUNY Oswego. Her main research interests are the evolution of sexual behavior, sexual signaling and domestic violence.

Burch said she hopes to provide a better understanding of the molecular level of sex.

“I think it will change how people look at sex and the interactions between males and females,” Burch said. “It is very easy to walk away from the Internet with a very watered down, sensationalist view of the research, but I want people to realize just how complicated, and calculated, this phenomenon is.”

The ALLELE series brings speakers to the UA campus to discuss aspects of evolution.

The 2015-2016 ALLELE series is supported by UA’s College of Arts and Sciences, the Alabama Museum of Natural History, the Office of Academic Affairs, Honors College, the Blount Undergraduate Initiative, the Summersell Center for the Study of the South and UA’s departments of anthropology, biological sciences, chemistry, communicative disorders, education studies in psychology, research methodology and counseling, English, geological sciences, history, New College, philosophy, physics and astronomy, psychology, religious studies, and telecommunication and film.

Learn more about the series at evolution.as.ua.edu.

The ALLELE lecture series is part of UA’s College of Arts and Sciences, the University’s largest division and the largest liberal arts college in the state. Students from the College have won numerous national awards including Rhodes Scholarships and Goldwater Scholarships.

The University of Alabama, a student-centered research university, is experiencing significant growth in both enrollment and academic quality. This growth, which is positively impacting the campus and the state's economy, is in keeping with UA's vision to be the university of choice for the best and brightest students. UA, the state's flagship university, is an academic community united in its commitment to enhancing the quality of life for all Alabamians.

  • CONTACT: Stephanie Kirkland, communications specialist, College of Arts and Sciences, 205/348-8539, stephanie.kirkland@ua.edu
  • SOURCE: Dr. Christopher Lynn, assistant professor, 205/348-4162, cdlynn@ua.edu