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After Dark: Genetic Ghosts

Strand of DNA
After Dark: Genetic Ghosts

Parents share more than just DNA with their children; they pass down biological information from past lives: genetic ghosts. These ghosts come in many forms, from cells to antibodies to bits of ancient DNA. Children inherit cells from their mothers—actual cells that persist through their lives. Offspring can inherit echoes of their parents’ individual histories: hard-won immunity to infections, survival tricks against drought, and even their propensity for fear. Tonight at After Dark, gather ’round for genetic ghost stories about all sorts of species. Hear from scientists at the frontlines of this emerging research and artists inspired by these biological puzzles.

This program was designed in partnership with Amy Boddy, Seth Barribeau, and Tiffany Pan.

Realm of an Inner Child
On a continuous loop
Osher Gallery 1: Human Phenomenon

By Jeannette Louie

Jeannette Louie’s Realm of an Inner Child (2017, 10 min.) is a tale about fetal microchimerism—the persistence of fetal cells in the mother after pregnancy—that explores the complexity of genetic identity. Inspired by the research of Dr. Amy Boddy (UC Santa Barbara) and Morgan Firestein (Columbia University), the short film tells the story of a woman whose child died in utero many years ago. Her sadness is eased by the knowledge that she and her child will forever be united by a molecular bond. Realm of an Inner Child was commissioned by Imagine Science Films as part of Chimera Experiments, a science-driven anthology film.
Jeannette Louie is an award-winning Asian American filmmaker and visual artist whose experimental films and installations delve into the netherworld of consciousness.

Can We Inherit Acquired Traits?
6:30–9:30 p.m.
Osher Gallery 1: Human Phenomenon

With Sharma Lab

How can the environment you experience impact your descendants? Scientists are finding evidence across a number of species that one generation’s environment can influence the next generation’s phenotypes (the observable traits determined by genetic makeup and environmental influences). Tonight, join Sharma Lab to dig into this emerging field of research. Learn about the tools they use to study and trace this transgenerational inheritance. And hear about what the implications may be for basic biology and public health.

Led by Dr. Upasna Sharma, Sharma Lab is based at UC Santa Cruz in the Department of Molecular, Cell, and Developmental Biology.

Genetic Ghosts: Understanding Microchimerism
7:30 p.m.
Kanbar Forum

With Amy Boddy, Tiffany Pan, and Kristina Yu

Join researchers Amy Boddy and Tiffany Pan as they share their work on microchimerism, the exchange of cells between mother and child during pregnancy. These “cells from another” can persist through the lifetime of the individual. Amy and Tiffany will explore whether such cellular lineages really boost host fitness and translate information across generations—or if they replicate their genetic material at the cost of the host.

Amy Boddy is a human biologist and evolutionary theorist in the Integrative Anthropological Sciences Unit at UC Santa Barbara. Her work uses evolutionary and ecological approaches to help understand human health and disease.

Tiffany Pan is an evolutionary anthropologist by training and director of the Biodemography Lab at the University of Washington. Their research investigates how the health of individuals and populations is shaped by environmental factors.

Moderated by Kristina Yu, Exploratorium Senior Director of Science Research and Development.

Inherited Memories
8:30 p.m.
Kanbar Forum

With Seth Barribeau

Across the tree of life, there is evidence that offspring inherit more than their parents’ genes; they can also inherit their memories—at least, their immunological memories. Join evolutionary biologist Seth Barribeau to explore when, why, and how immune memories might be transferred, and what these inherited memories mean for the evolution of hosts and their pathogens.

Seth Barribeau is an evolutionary ecologist working to understand how insects are able to do complicated things with allegedly simple immune systems. He was faculty at East Carolina University and the University of Liverpool, and is currently the Principal Data Scientist for Ozette Technologies. 

DJ Dance Party
6:30–9:30 p.m.
Bechtel Gallery 3

With DJ Sake One 

Get ready to dance your way through the night as DJ Sake One sets the vibe and keeps the party moving!

DJ Sake One is a native San Franciscan and remains deeply rooted as one of the foundational building blocks of the Bay Area DJ community. He is a founding member of the Local 1200 and is responsible for curating celebrated parties like PST and Art of Storytelling.  

Food and drinks will be available for purchase at our Seaglass Restaurant and additional bar locations.

Curious about what to expect during your visit? Check out our current safety protocols and guidelines.