From CSIROscope: “Home and array: Investigator shedding light on the EAC”

CSIRO bloc

From CSIROscope

1 October 2019
Dr Thomas Moore

CSIRO RV Investigator. CSIRO Australia

Our RV Investigator leaves the shelter of Moreton Bay, steaming for the core of the East Australian Current. Photo: Dr Thomas Moore

Australia is an ocean nation – we’re girt by 10 million square kilometres of water. Whether you live near the coast or far from the shore, there’s no doubt the oceans are central to your life. From our weather and climate, to our food and energy, right down to our overall lifestyle and wellbeing.

But much of our surrounding ocean and our four major currents, including the East Australian Current (EAC) remain a mystery. Therefore, scientists are getting out there to see what it’s all about.

Deepening our understanding of these colossal currents is core business for the Integrated Marine Observing System (IMOS) and its Deep Water Moorings Facility, led by our very own Dr Bernadette Sloyan.

Wait – what exactly is the EAC?

Bernadette and her science and engineering team have been continuously observing a key slice of the EAC since 2015. We chatted to the Bernadette to break down what the EAC is all about. She’s just returned from a three-week voyage aboard our research vessel Investigator in the Coral Sea.

“The EAC is the largest ocean feature off Australia’s east coast,” Bernadette said.

“Changes in the EAC just beyond our beaches impact our coastal industries and communities. Over in Australia’s regional and rural centres, life beats to a drum of climate conditions that is partly influenced by our dynamic ocean and its relationship with the atmosphere.”

From Queensland to Tasmania, the powerful EAC is up to 100 kilometres wide, 1.5 kilometres deep. And it can carry up to 40 million cubic metres of water each second. That’s 70 billion pint glasses, refilled at sixty times a minute – it’s HUGE!

Bernadette explained that the EAC serves an important role beyond its powerful flow.

“It also acts as a kind of salty delivery van. Transporting warm water and nutrients that fertilise our ocean ecosystems,” she said.

“The EAC is also very fickle, hugging the coast one day and then flowing hundreds of kilometres out to sea the next. This unstable behaviour renews fish stocks, impacts water quality and weather, and sets the water temperature for swimmers and surfers.”

Dr Bernadette Sloyan, a Chief Research Scientist with our Oceans and Atmosphere team and leader of the IMOS Australian Bluewater Observing System facility, explains her voyage plans to Drs Océane Richet and Violaine Pellichero. Photo: Dr Thomas Moore

Keeping tabs on the EAC

In order to monitor how the EAC is changing over time, we use an array of deep-water moorings.

Deep water mooring at Totten Glacier. Image credit: Steve Rintoul, CSIRO and ACE CRC.

Consequently, IMOS has established a network of advanced marine equipment that tracks changes in the EAC. It’s currently lined up, across and down the slope of seabed near Moreton Bay, Queensland. This underwater observatory continuously monitors the EAC’s complex and highly energetic nature, discovering links to changes in our climate and coastal ecosystems.

But, nothing lasts forever. Like a new smartphone, their advanced sensors and tiny computers working away under the waves need to be recharged. As a result, the mooring’s “batteries” go flat about every year and a half.

The good news is that Bernadette and her team recovered the six deep-water moorings on this latest voyage. They boosted their batteries, downloaded their data, and have put the gear back to work for Australian science.

Blue-water deck work is a unique and critical capability of CSIRO’s Mooring Sensor Systems team. Jamie Derrick directs the winch driver as a syntactic float with current sensor is recovered from the ocean. Photo: Dr Thomas Moore

Biologists and oceanographers, unite!

Our oceanographers were also accompanied on board by biological specialists – collaborators from both University of New South Wales and Griffith University.

The ecologists were exploring how the EAC and ocean eddies (big ocean whirlpools) that weave their way through it can support abundant and diverse communities of larval fish and sea jellies.

Paloma, one of the ecologists, examines larval fish. The IMOS Larval Fish & Deep Water Mooring programs link ocean physics to ecosystems driven by a dynamic East Australian Current.

The voyagers deployed scientific equipment and net systems off Investigator in order to sample the ecology of this ever-changing region off the shore of Brisbane.

This cooperation between ocean physics and marine biology boffins will help connect the dots between the apparent chaos of a mammoth ocean current and its often-unappreciated impact on our lives.

See the full article here .


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Stem Education Coalition

SKA/ASKAP radio telescope at the Murchison Radio-astronomy Observatory (MRO) in Mid West region of Western Australia

So what can we expect these new radio projects to discover? We have no idea, but history tells us that they are almost certain to deliver some major surprises.

Making these new discoveries may not be so simple. Gone are the days when astronomers could just notice something odd as they browse their tables and graphs.

Nowadays, astronomers are more likely to be distilling their answers from carefully-posed queries to databases containing petabytes of data. Human brains are just not up to the job of making unexpected discoveries in these circumstances, and instead we will need to develop “learning machines” to help us discover the unexpected.

With the right tools and careful insight, who knows what we might find.

CSIRO campus

CSIRO, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, is Australia’s national science agency and one of the largest and most diverse research agencies in the world.

#biology, #csiroscope, #earth-observation, #ecology, #oceanography

From CSIROscope: “About last night: multiple coral spawning in the Great Barrier Reef”

CSIRO bloc

From CSIROscope

14 August 2019
Natalie Kikken

Did you know that the Great Barrier Reef is made up of more than 3,800 coral reefs? New research on coral spawning could help coral health, particularly in areas that have suffered coral disturbances. Credit: Shella Dee

It’s been described as “the most spectacular events in our oceans.” And no, it’s not the gnarly waves you caught surfing on the weekend.

It’s coral spawning, which is when corals release tiny egg and sperm bundles into the water. It generally happens only once a year, after a full moon, for a few hours, over one to two nights.

But our scientists along with the University of Queensland have discovered something for the first time. When coral colonies spawn more than once a year, it can lead to better health for our coral reefs. The more larvae that set off into the water, the more chances they have to find new homes to help establish coral recovery. This even includes travelling to neighbouring reefs hundreds of kilometres away. This is good news for strengthening the resilience of the Great Barrier Reef.

Multiple coral spawning: Larvae in numbers

The corals that spawned over multiple months were successful in spreading their offspring across different parts of the Great Barrier Reef. This is exciting news for Dr Christopher Doropoulos, from our Oceans and Atmosphere team. He’s been studying coral spawning events, and what drives the successful recruitment of coral larvae, for the last 10 years.

“Spawning over successive months helps corals synchronise their reproduction to the best environmental conditions,” he said.

“Reproductive success during split spawning may be lower than usual, because it can lead to reduced fertilisation. But we found that the release of eggs in two separate smaller events gives the corals a second and improved chance of finding a new home reef. We call this ‘split spawning’ and it could help the coral communities of the Great Barrier Reef.”

Larvae larvae! Coral spawning is when coral release egg and sperm bundles into the water.

Multi-skills for a mega-reef

To understand the impacts of this spawning, we applied modelling, coral biology, ecology, and oceanography. This meant we could simulate the dispersal of coral larvae during these split spawning events across the whole of the Great Barrier Reef. That’s more than 3800 individual reefs!

To do this we enlisted the expertise of our researchers Rebecca Gorton and Scott Condie, who have developed online tools such as eReefs and CONNIE. eReefs provides a picture of what is currently happening on the reef and what will likely happen in the future. CONNIE is used to calculate the movement and dispersal of almost any substance or planktonic organism in the ocean.

The team looked at whether the split spawning events were more reliable at supplying larvae to the reefs. They also looked at whether connectivity (the ability to exchange larvae) among the reefs was improving.

About last night: corals release egg and sperm bundles into the water, at the same time! They can then be fertilised and will turn into larvae.

Reef recovery and resilience

The results showed an increase in diversity of larvae, and better reliability for the larvae to reach different areas of the Reef.

These findings explain the higher chances of recovery for reefs in the region during split-spawning years. The extra spawning events provide a more robust supply of coral larvae to reefs. This is particularly important for areas of the reef that have suffered disturbances, such as coral bleaching and unpredictable environmental conditions.

The Great Barrier Reef providing ecosystem services worth more than $6 billion per year in Australia alone. So, this research highlights the importance of coral recovery to sustainably manage the Reef.

This research was published in Nature Communications and was a collaborative project with University of Queensland and the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies.

See the full article here .


Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

Stem Education Coalition

SKA/ASKAP radio telescope at the Murchison Radio-astronomy Observatory (MRO) in Mid West region of Western Australia

So what can we expect these new radio projects to discover? We have no idea, but history tells us that they are almost certain to deliver some major surprises.

Making these new discoveries may not be so simple. Gone are the days when astronomers could just notice something odd as they browse their tables and graphs.

Nowadays, astronomers are more likely to be distilling their answers from carefully-posed queries to databases containing petabytes of data. Human brains are just not up to the job of making unexpected discoveries in these circumstances, and instead we will need to develop “learning machines” to help us discover the unexpected.

With the right tools and careful insight, who knows what we might find.

CSIRO campus

CSIRO, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, is Australia’s national science agency and one of the largest and most diverse research agencies in the world.

#about-last-night-multiple-coral-spawning-in-the-great-barrier-reef, #applied-research-technology, #biology, #coral-biology, #coral-spawning-which-is-when-corals-release-tiny-egg-and-sperm-bundles-into-the-water, #csiroscope, #did-you-know-that-the-great-barrier-reef-is-made-up-of-more-than-3800-coral-reefs, #ecology, #it-generally-happens-only-once-a-year-after-a-full-moon-for-a-few-hours-over-one-to-two-nights, #oceanography, #spawning-over-successive-months-helps-corals-synchronise-their-reproduction-to-the-best-environmental-conditions, #when-coral-colonies-spawn-more-than-once-a-year-it-can-lead-to-better-health-for-our-coral-reefs

From University of North Carolina Endeavors: “Artifacts of Alteration” A Photo Study

From University of North Carolina

UNC Endeavors

May 9th, 2019
Megan May

Ayla Gizlice looks for physical materials to include in her thesis project.

Walking along the elevated shoreline of Jordan Lake, something catches Ayla Gizlice’s eye. She slides down the eroded bank, crouching with her weight on her heels, and navigates over a massive tangle of tree roots. Delicately picking up a large piece of clay, she inspects its texture and color. After putting a few hunks of the sediment into a bag, she stands and scans the shoreline ahead. The search continues.

Last year, Gizlice studied the history and environmental issues of Jordan Lake during a capstone course. Since then, she has returned to the reservoir countless times to find objects to incorporate into her senior thesis art project.

“I feel like, with environmental issues, there’s a tendency to either deny or disassociate,” she says. “I want people to look at the problems head on and consider how they might play a role in the environment and how the environment might affect them.”

Gizlice untangles a plastic bag from a tree branch along the shore of Jordan Lake. With a plant pathologist as a mom, a dad with a PhD in plant genetics, and multiple extended family members who are artists, Gizlice’s choice to double-major in both environmental science and studio art was almost a given. “I came into the environmental science major most excited about advocacy,” she says. “I think that’s something I can definitely pursue through the lens of art.”

Over the past six months, Gizlice has spent hours at the lake and surrounding streams collecting materials like clay, fish bones and carcasses, plastic bags, and large rocks.

Development of Jordan Lake began in 1963. Called the New Hope Project, the man-made lake was created in the wake of several flooding disasters. The goal was to build a dam and create a reservoir that would prevent future flooding — a controversial decision that required the movement of entire communities. These days, scuba divers can still explore structural remains of the towns that once existed there, including the foundations of former homes and barns.

Gizlice uses a ribbon tool to create a clay vessel to hold her accumulated fish bones and carcasses. In total, she made 27 vessels for the project. “I realized how uniquely pliable the clay around the lake is, and I kind of wanted to put those two things together — the fish bodies and the clay,” she says.

A fish spine sits on Gizlice’s work table in her studio. Although litter is a big issue at Jordan Lake, Gizlice thinks the more troubling concern is water pollution. For decades, excessive discharge of nitrates into the water has caused algal blooms that lead to low oxygen levels and poor water quality, according to the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality.

Gizlice hopes that including actual bones and carcasses will send a stronger message than abstract depictions of dead fish. “I think there is a degree of separation that happens when you have a representation of an object or an issue,” she says. “By having the actual bodies that resulted from these environmental issues there’s a more immediate reaction.”

Sticking to the organic nature of her project, Gizlice shaped the clay vessels according to the natural shape of the fish bones and carcasses, but sometimes branched out from this idea. “If the fish body wasn’t really apparent, I tried to take it in the direction of letter forms so that when it’s all laid out in a line its sort of like a hieroglyphic or cryptic text,” she says.

Gizlice prepares to weld a flag stand for the plastic she found at the lake and surrounding streams. She calls her approach a “performative ecological proposition.”

“It’s really wordy,” she says while laughing. “But it means forcing me to work a lot harder for the materials. Rather than creating something from materials that don’t really hold meaning on their own, these objects had meaning and existed perfectly outside of my project.”

Gizlice welds a metal rod around a rock as the base of a flag pole.

For the project, Gizlice specifically honed in on white plastic bags. Gathering them not only served as a functional component, she says, but the act of collecting the litter was also a way for her to undo negative human impact on the local environment. “It’s a white flag which seems a little bit like a surrender,” she says. “It’s the environment surrendering to human intervention.”

Gizlice named her piece “Natura Naturans” — a Latin term that roughly translates as “to nature,” implying that the environment is always in flux. “I wanted to focus on the prospect of change,” she says. “I think that’s much more hopeful.”

A large part of Gizlice’s research looked at the Army Corps of Engineers’ environmental impact statements and letters from concerned citizens prior to the lake’s development. “It seemed like a really good primary source to draw inspiration from, but it was also just interesting to me because of how different their predictions about the lake were from reality,” she says. One of those predictions stated that the reservoir’s water level would only vary by about three feet — but after the 2018 hurricane season, the water level was about 16 feet higher than normal.

Gizlice chats with guests during a reception for her project. Having just graduated with her bachelor’s degree, she strives to continue her education and advocacy — potentially through a combined art and ecology grad program.

Ayla Gizlice is a senior double-majoring in environmental science and studio art within the UNC College of Arts & Sciences.

See the full article here .


Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

Stem Education Coalition

U NC bloc

U NC campus

UNC-University of North Carolina

Carolina’s vibrant people and programs attest to the University’s long-standing place among leaders in higher education since it was chartered in 1789 and opened its doors for students in 1795 as the nation’s first public university. Situated in the beautiful college town of Chapel Hill, N.C., UNC has earned a reputation as one of the best universities in the world. Carolina prides itself on a strong, diverse student body, academic opportunities not found anywhere else, and a value unmatched by any public university in the nation.

#applied-research-technology, #ayla-gizlice-thesis-project-combining-environmental-science-and-studio-art, #earth-observation, #ecology, #gizlice-hopes-that-including-actual-bones-and-carcasses-will-send-a-stronger-message-than-abstract-depictions, #jordan-lake-the-new-hope-project, #over-the-past-six-months-gizlice-has-spent-hours-at-the-lake-and-surrounding-streams-collecting-materials, #photo-study, #the-man-made-lake-was-created-in-the-wake-of-several-flooding-disasters-the-goal-was-to-build-a-dam-and-create-a-reservoir-that-would-prevent-future-flooding, #unc-endeavors

From UCSC: “Two UCSC biologists receive Howard Hughes Medical Institute Professor awards”

UC Santa Cruz

UC Santa Cruz

December 13, 2017
Tim Stephens

Beth Shapiro (photo by C. Lagattuta)

Erika Zavaleta (photo by Matt Kroll)

With funding from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI), biologists at UC Santa Cruz will be using biodiversity surveys and field research to get more students engaged in science.

Beth Shapiro and Erika Zavaleta, both professors of ecology and evolutionary biology, are among a select group of innovators in science education chosen this year for funding through the HHMI Professors Program.

Zavaleta’s proposal won her a five-year, $1 million grant to create an inclusive and coordinated pathway that will engage students in ecology and conservation biology and support them all the way through to graduation. The program will provide increased access to research-based field courses and internships, along with sustained mentoring and a supportive community.

“We have so many awesome field courses at UCSC, and I want to make sure they’re accessible to a full range of students and link them together into a pathway that will launch a diverse new generation of conservation leaders,” Zavaleta said.

Environmental DNA

Shapiro teamed up with Robert Wayne, a molecular ecologist at UCLA, to win a collaborative award of $1.5 million for a program to get large numbers of students involved in biodiversity surveys using environmental DNA. Environmental DNA (eDNA) is a highly sensitive molecular approach for cataloging biodiversity in any ecosystem by analyzing the DNA fragments found in soil and other environmental samples.

“Environmental DNA is both a powerful tool for doing cutting-edge science and a great way to get people interested in science,” Shapiro said. “It’s fairly easy for a first experience, and yet the range of questions you can address is incredibly broad. It’s a gateway to all kinds of different science.”

Shapiro and Wayne spearheaded the UC Conservation Genomics Consortium, which Wayne directs, and their HHMI project builds on the consortium’s work. Called Environmental DNA for Science Investigation and Education (eSIE), the three-tiered program starts with getting thousands of students involved in initial sampling efforts, either independently, with guidance from online instruction modules and mobile apps, or through organized sampling campaigns called “bioblitzes” at UC Natural Reserves and other sites throughout California. The consortium has been running bioblitzes through its CALeDNA project, and recruitment efforts are already under way to broaden the participation of students, including under-represented groups.

“We want them to go out and have a positive first experience participating in actual field work and collecting samples and data that will be used by scientists, including themselves if they want to keep doing it,” Shapiro said.

The second tier of the program will be a biodiversity course designed for both science majors and non-majors, using eDNA as a springboard for increasing science literacy and introducing students to some of the many ways science is relevant to important issues in society. Finally, the program includes funding to support students who want to do independent research projects with faculty mentors.

Field courses

Zavaleta’s program aims to build existing field research courses into a more coherent pathway that will guide students interested in ecology and conservation from their freshman or transfer year to graduation. Large introductory lecture courses required early in science majors are often blamed for attrition, and under-represented groups and disadvantaged students drop science majors at much higher rates than other students. Zavaleta said inquiry-based field courses and research opportunities provide experiences that can keep students engaged and inspired.

“By combining the emotional rewards of nature and friendship, shared experience and co-creation, field courses provide the kind of experience that led many, including me, to careers in ecology and conservation biology,” she said. “They also create the kind of immersive experience that is so important to learning and is a big part of forming an understanding of the natural world.”

Zavaleta wants to lower the barriers that can keep some students from participating in field courses by offering scholarships to cover course fees and building more capacity and diversity among the faculty and graduate students who teach the courses. She also wants to increase opportunities for undergraduates to get research experience through paid internships. A new staff mentorship position will help students take advantage of opportunities such as scholarships and research internships and will provide guidance throughout the program. These efforts will be coordinated and funded through a new Center to Advance Mentored, Inquiry-based Opportunities (CAMINO).

“The idea is to provide wraparound support and build a community for all kinds of students, so we avoid the situation where they get inspired by a great course and then fall of a cliff when they face the big lecture courses required before they can move on,” Zavaleta said. “It’s also important that we measure and communicate the outcomes of this effort so that we understand what works and can sustain it and scale it up.”

The HHMI Professors Program began in 2002, and Manuel Ares, professor of molecular, cell, and developmental biology at UCSC, was among that first cohort of HHMI Professors. This year, out of 177 proposals, only 12 were chosen for funding. In addition to producing two of the funded proposals, UC Santa Cruz submitted four of the 26 finalist proposals that made it through the first two rounds of peer review.

See the full article here .

Please help promote STEM in your local schools.


Stem Education Coalition

UCO Lick Shane Telescope
UCO Lick Shane Telescope interior
Shane Telescope at UCO Lick Observatory, UCSC

Lick Automated Planet Finder telescope, Mount Hamilton, CA, USA

Lick Automated Planet Finder telescope, Mount Hamilton, CA, USA

UC Santa Cruz campus
The University of California, Santa Cruz, opened in 1965 and grew, one college at a time, to its current (2008-09) enrollment of more than 16,000 students. Undergraduates pursue more than 60 majors supervised by divisional deans of humanities, physical & biological sciences, social sciences, and arts. Graduate students work toward graduate certificates, master’s degrees, or doctoral degrees in more than 30 academic fields under the supervision of the divisional and graduate deans. The dean of the Jack Baskin School of Engineering oversees the campus’s undergraduate and graduate engineering programs.

UCSC is the home base for the Lick Observatory.

Lick Observatory's Great Lick 91-centimeter (36-inch) telescope housed in the South (large) Dome of main building
Lick Observatory’s Great Lick 91-centimeter (36-inch) telescope housed in the South (large) Dome of main building

Search for extraterrestrial intelligence expands at Lick Observatory
New instrument scans the sky for pulses of infrared light
March 23, 2015
By Hilary Lebow
The NIROSETI instrument saw first light on the Nickel 1-meter Telescope at Lick Observatory on March 15, 2015. (Photo by Laurie Hatch) UCSC Lick Nickel telescope

Astronomers are expanding the search for extraterrestrial intelligence into a new realm with detectors tuned to infrared light at UC’s Lick Observatory. A new instrument, called NIROSETI, will soon scour the sky for messages from other worlds.

“Infrared light would be an excellent means of interstellar communication,” said Shelley Wright, an assistant professor of physics at UC San Diego who led the development of the new instrument while at the University of Toronto’s Dunlap Institute for Astronomy & Astrophysics.

Wright worked on an earlier SETI project at Lick Observatory as a UC Santa Cruz undergraduate, when she built an optical instrument designed by UC Berkeley researchers. The infrared project takes advantage of new technology not available for that first optical search.

Infrared light would be a good way for extraterrestrials to get our attention here on Earth, since pulses from a powerful infrared laser could outshine a star, if only for a billionth of a second. Interstellar gas and dust is almost transparent to near infrared, so these signals can be seen from great distances. It also takes less energy to send information using infrared signals than with visible light.

UCSC alumna Shelley Wright, now an assistant professor of physics at UC San Diego, discusses the dichroic filter of the NIROSETI instrument. (Photo by Laurie Hatch)

Frank Drake, professor emeritus of astronomy and astrophysics at UC Santa Cruz and director emeritus of the SETI Institute, said there are several additional advantages to a search in the infrared realm.

“The signals are so strong that we only need a small telescope to receive them. Smaller telescopes can offer more observational time, and that is good because we need to search many stars for a chance of success,” said Drake.

The only downside is that extraterrestrials would need to be transmitting their signals in our direction, Drake said, though he sees this as a positive side to that limitation. “If we get a signal from someone who’s aiming for us, it could mean there’s altruism in the universe. I like that idea. If they want to be friendly, that’s who we will find.”

Scientists have searched the skies for radio signals for more than 50 years and expanded their search into the optical realm more than a decade ago. The idea of searching in the infrared is not a new one, but instruments capable of capturing pulses of infrared light only recently became available.

“We had to wait,” Wright said. “I spent eight years waiting and watching as new technology emerged.”

Now that technology has caught up, the search will extend to stars thousands of light years away, rather than just hundreds. NIROSETI, or Near-Infrared Optical Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, could also uncover new information about the physical universe.

“This is the first time Earthlings have looked at the universe at infrared wavelengths with nanosecond time scales,” said Dan Werthimer, UC Berkeley SETI Project Director. “The instrument could discover new astrophysical phenomena, or perhaps answer the question of whether we are alone.”

NIROSETI will also gather more information than previous optical detectors by recording levels of light over time so that patterns can be analyzed for potential signs of other civilizations.

“Searching for intelligent life in the universe is both thrilling and somewhat unorthodox,” said Claire Max, director of UC Observatories and professor of astronomy and astrophysics at UC Santa Cruz. “Lick Observatory has already been the site of several previous SETI searches, so this is a very exciting addition to the current research taking place.”

NIROSETI will be fully operational by early summer and will scan the skies several times a week on the Nickel 1-meter telescope at Lick Observatory, located on Mt. Hamilton east of San Jose.

The NIROSETI team also includes Geoffrey Marcy and Andrew Siemion from UC Berkeley; Patrick Dorval, a Dunlap undergraduate, and Elliot Meyer, a Dunlap graduate student; and Richard Treffers of Starman Systems. Funding for the project comes from the generous support of Bill and Susan Bloomfield.

Please help promote STEM in your local schools.


Stem Education Coalition

#beth-shapiro, #caledna-project, #ecology, #edna-environmental-dna, #erika-zavaleta, #esie-environmental-dna-for-science-investigation-and-education, #evolutionary-biology, #two-ucsc-biologists-receive-howard-hughes-medical-institute-professor-awards, #uc-conservation-genomics-consortium, #ucsc-uc-santa-cruz

From NSF: “NSF selects first Long-Term Ecological Research network communications office”

National Science Foundation

August 4, 2015
Media Contacts
Cheryl Dybas, NSF, (703) 292-7734,
Julie Cohen, UCSB, (805) 893-3071,

Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis receives $3.5 million award for support of multi-site efforts

Scuba diver measures giant kelp biomass at the NSF Santa Barbara Coastal LTER site. Credit: NSF SBC LTER Site

The National Science Foundation (NSF) has selected the University of California Santa Barbara (UCSB) as the site for the first national Long-Term Ecological Research (LTER) network communications office.

The largest and longest-lived network in the U.S. that focuses on ecological research, LTER scientists conduct studies that can continue for decades and span extensive geographic areas.

The communications office will be operated by UCSB’s National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis (NCEAS).

New challenges, new opportunities

“The LTER program faces new challenges as it enters its fourth decade: the increasing multi-disciplinarity of ecological research, increased value of synthesizing heterogeneous data, and rapid changes in the needs for, and modes of, science communication, among others,” said James Olds, NSF assistant director for Biological Sciences.

“The Biological Sciences Directorate welcomes a new office that brings an international reputation in ecological synthesis, strong partnerships with programs for science communication and outreach, and a dedication to consolidating education programs across the network.”

Added Roger Wakimoto, NSF assistant director for Geosciences, “The NSF Directorate for Geosciences, which supports the LTER program through its Ocean Sciences and Polar Programs Divisions, is excited about the synergies that will arise from linking the LTER team with an experienced NCEAS team.

“This aligns well with our commitment to long-term environmental and ecological observations, and we expect the new communications office to advance internal and external synthesis as well as education efforts.”

Building on experience

The new office will take advantage of NCEAS’ experience in supporting multi-site collaboration and synthetic research, graduate training and environmental science communication.

“We want the communications office to be the linchpin that nourishes and strengthens the LTER network both nationally and internationally,” said NCEAS Director Frank Davis, principal investigator for the $3.5 million NSF grant.

Established in 1980, the NSF LTER program currently supports 25 sites representing ecosystems from deserts to forests to coral reefs, urban areas to the open sea to the polar regions, in the continental U.S., Alaska, islands in the Caribbean and the Pacific, and Antarctica.

UCSB’s Marine Science Institute has led the Santa Barbara Coastal LTER site since 2000, and the Moorea Coral Reef LTER site since 2004.

“Over the past 20 years, NCEAS has had a transformative effect on the way ecological information is organized, synthesized and applied,” said Peter Groffman, chair of the LTER Science Council and Executive Board. “It is exciting to apply that experience and expertise to the LTER network.”

Office supports network across sites

The LTER network includes research on population and community ecology, ecosystem science, evolutionary biology, phylogenetic systematics, social and economic sciences, urban ecology, oceanography, mathematics, computer science and science education.

A network across sites allows for continental-scale questions to be addressed, while enabling sharing of ideas and information to facilitate integrative scientific insights. Thousands of scientists and graduate students work through LTER sites to pursue research in diverse topics and disciplines.

“These sites are doing important work that’s relevant for natural resource management, environmental restoration, climate change adaptation, public health and many other important areas,” said Davis.

The value of long-term data extends beyond use at any individual site, so the LTER Network makes data collected by all LTER sites accessible to other investigators.

“The new communications office will build awareness and participation in the network by developing an effective and engaging web presence,” Davis said. “We will offer such tools and services as virtual collaboration, training in data synthesis and open science, online research forums and multimedia research highlights.”

The communications office will also support new programs and activities that encourage and promote diversity in education and training to enhance communication and outreach to the public and to local, regional and federal agencies as well as non-governmental and non-profit organizations.

See the full article here.

Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

Stem Education Coalition

The National Science Foundation (NSF) is an independent federal agency created by Congress in 1950 “to promote the progress of science; to advance the national health, prosperity, and welfare; to secure the national defense…we are the funding source for approximately 24 percent of all federally supported basic research conducted by America’s colleges and universities. In many fields such as mathematics, computer science and the social sciences, NSF is the major source of federal backing.


#applied-research-technology, #ecology, #nsf, #uc-santa-barbara

From NSF: “The ecology of the future and the future of ecology”

National Science Foundation

July 17, 2015
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Researchers working with underrepresented groups to study the ecological impact of climate change and to craft citizen science tools, aim to explore pressing scientific questions while recruiting a new generation of ecology researchers.

Shaliek Morgan, an REU student from Shaw University, checks on an ant colony. Credit: Lauren Nichols, Dunn Lab, NC State University

Biologists in North Carolina are trying to get a glimpse of the future through a project designed to shed light on how rising temperatures will affect the insects and microbial life that play critical roles in the environment. But the researchers are also hoping to shape the future, working with college students from underrepresented groups and designing citizen science tools to give middle-school students everywhere the chance to be involved in scientific discovery.

The research revolves around a patch of forest in North Carolina. Scattered among the trees are a dozen rooms with neither roofs nor floors. Ringed with plastic ductwork that pumps warm air, these “warming chambers” allow the researchers to manipulate the temperature of small sections of forest. And for the past five years, with support from National Science Foundation’s (NSF) Dimensions of Biodiversity program, researchers have been studying those patches of forest to see how life has responded to slight increases in temperature.

The goal of the study was to get insights into how forest ecosystems will change as a result of global climate change. And in 2014, the researchers took on a new goal: to help shape the future of ecology research itself.

Rob Dunn, a professor at North Carolina (NC) State University and primary investigator on the project, worked with two postdoctoral researchers in his lab to get a Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) grant from NSF. NC State undergraduates were already involved in the warming chambers research project, but the REU was designed to be a collaboration between NC State and Shaw University–a historically black university in Raleigh, N.C.–for the express purpose of engaging African-American undergrads in ecological research.

The funding, which supplemented the original biodiversity grant, allowed the NC State research team to support two Shaw undergraduates to do fieldwork on the warming chambers project during the summer of 2014.

The REU focused on a specific research question: what impact do warming temperatures have on ant immune function? The goal was to determine how insect-disease interactions may change as a result of climate change.

“We found that behavioral aspects of immunity in ants did change in warmer environments,” says Mary Jane Epps, one of the postdoctoral researchers in Dunn’s lab who collaborated on the REU. “For example, we found that ants spent more time grooming themselves and each other at higher temperatures. There are two papers coming out of that 2014 REU, and each of the students will be a co-author on one of them.”

But the results of that REU extend beyond the scientific findings.

“One of the reasons I pursued this REU is because African Americans are not well represented in the field of ecology–which is ironic, since it’s a field that studies diversity,” says DeAnna Beasley, another of the Dunn’s postdocs who collaborated on the REU.

“Many students have a very narrow view of what science is; they think it’s something you only do in a laboratory,” Beasley says. “We were able to expose these students to wildlife ecology, and now one of them is considering graduate studies in ecology–based on his experiences with us and with Eric Butler, his mentor at Shaw.”

The project was so successful that Dunn, Beasley and Epps were awarded a new REU for 2015, this time focusing on how insect pathogens respond to warmer temperatures. Specifically, the researchers are evaluating soil samples from the warming chambers to determine the presence and prevalence of fungal pathogens that attack insects and how that prevalence changes based on environmental temperatures.

“One Shaw student from 2014 returned this summer, and we’re working with a new Shaw student as well,” Epps says. The researchers also plan to extend the REU project into the fall semester so that another Shaw student can be involved.

“It’s important to note that these projects are not only about giving students from underrepresented groups a chance to get hands-on experience, or to get them excited about science. These projects are also about addressing significant questions about our environment.”

“And we expect to get another paper out of this summer’s work,” Beasley says.

In addition, Beasley, Dunn and the Shaw students will be working with three middle school teachers who are part of NC State’s Kenan Fellows Program to use the insect pathogens project as the basis for new teaching tools.

The teachers are working with Beasley and the Shaw students in field and lab research looking at ant immunity and insect pathogens at both urban and forest sites. Based on this experience, the teachers will develop a project-based science lesson plan to engage middle school students in authentic scientific research.

“We’ll work together throughout the school year to refine the curriculum, and next summer the teachers will teach the new lesson plan to 40 teachers at a professional development workshop hosted by NC State’s Friday Institute for Educational Innovation,” Beasley says.

This work, which is funded by a grant from NSF’s Division of Research on Learning, will allow middle school teachers and students anywhere in the country (or abroad) to collect and analyze soil samples for pathogens that harm insects. Ultimately, the goal is for those middle school classrooms to plug their findings into a national database that can track the diversity of pathogens in different environments.

“This project is not only creating opportunities for the undergrads at Shaw, but giving middle school students everywhere the chance to be part of a meaningful scientific inquiry,” Beasley says. “We’re talking about contributing to our understanding of the world around us, and hopefully inspiring future scientists while we’re at it.”

Research Experiences for Undergraduates projects take place each summer at universities around the country. Students interested in learning more about the program can find information on the REU website.
— Matt Shipman, North Carolina State University
— Maria C. Zacharias, (703) 292-8454

Robert Dunn
Julie Urban
Jenifer Corn
Angela Duncan
Ashlie Thompson
Margaret Lowman

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North Carolina State University

Raleigh , North Carolina

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The National Science Foundation (NSF) is an independent federal agency created by Congress in 1950 “to promote the progress of science; to advance the national health, prosperity, and welfare; to secure the national defense…we are the funding source for approximately 24 percent of all federally supported basic research conducted by America’s colleges and universities. In many fields such as mathematics, computer science and the social sciences, NSF is the major source of federal backing.


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From NYT: “Atlantic Corals: Colorful and Vulnerable”

New York Times

The New York Times

FEB. 9, 2015

Ecosystems of deep sea corals of various shapes and hues can be compromised by bottom-fishing. Squid fishing may be regulated in the mid-Atlantic.

A council that sets regulations for fishing off the mid-Atlantic coast will meet on Wednesday to consider protections for little known and fragile ecosystems of deep sea corals in and around 15 ocean sites.

Environmental groups and sport fishermen are pushing for protection of these canyons and other sites, which run from Block Canyon off New York to Norfolk Canyon off Virginia, from squid fishing. They also are lobbying for other restrictions on fishing in a much broader zone.

The squid-fishing industry is opposed to the broader restrictions and has proposed further study and more limited boundaries on four of the canyons, as well as further discussion on the other canyons.

Some of the corals could also be affected by oil and gas drilling in the Atlantic, after President Obama said last month that he would open up the region to oil and gas leases. However, different agencies are involved in that process.

The canyons are distributed from New York to Virginia, while the drilling leases would be granted from Virginia on south, an area that would include Norfolk Canyon, and perhaps part of another.

Temp 0 West Atlantic Stony Corals
West Atlantic Stony Corals

Temp 1 Atlantic and Eastern Pacific
Atlantic and Eastern Pacific Corals

Temp 2 Tropical West Atlantic
Tropical West Atlantic Corals

Temp 3 South Atlantic
South Atlantic Corals

Scientists and fishermen have known about the corals for at least a century. They live hundreds of yards below the ocean surface and support diverse communities of life. The areas attract all sorts of marine animals at different times of year, including squid.

Researchers and the fishing industry have steadily learned more about the corals since the 1950s, and particularly in the last decade or so as the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has used submersibles and remotely operated vehicles to probe the depths and capture new information, images and video.

Peter J. Auster, a marine biologist who is an emeritus professor at the University of Connecticut and senior research scientist at Mystic Aquarium, has studied the corals for 30 years and said that they had been found on steep slopes of seamounts and in canyons that were cut into the continental shelf.

“These are incredible landscapes,” he said.

Because the corals grow slowly, bottom-fishing for squid and fish could knock them over and the communities would not recover for many years. The canyons that are being considered for protection are, Dr. Auster said, refuges for organisms that used to be more widespread. “The choices are what we do with what’s left,” he added.

The group that makes the choices is the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council. It is meeting in Raleigh, N.C., and the amendment under discussion would affect its regulations for mackerel, butterfish and squid fishing.

The amendment includes a complex variety of provisions that cover depth, type of fishing and boundaries, but the main items for discussion are protection of the canyons and a set of restrictions for a broader zone.

Brad Sewell, a senior lawyer with the Natural Resources Defense Council’s oceans program, said, “If both of these protection zones are approved and go into effect, it would be the largest protected area on the Atlantic Seaboard.”

Squid fishermen say the restrictions would damage an industry that has been responsible and is sustainable. Greg DiDomenico, the executive director of Garden State Seafood Association, which represents New Jersey commercial fishing businesses, said his group supported protecting the corals. “There’s no denying that these creatures are extremely important,” he said.

But he argued that the proposed amendment was not based on sound evidence. “We don’t really know what’s down there,” he said. And so he is asking for further study, and his group has recently submitted new proposals.

The prospect of a delay disturbs some of the advocates for strong protection, including John McMurray, a sport fisherman who is a member of the fisheries council.

The council has been working on the amendment for almost three years, he said, adding: “We’ve had multiple comment periods. The public clearly wants these corals protected.”

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