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  • richardmitnick 11:36 am on November 8, 2022 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Study reveals how ancient fish colonized the deep sea", , , , Climate changes alone don’t explain how fish came to colonize the deep sea in the first place., , , , , Evolutionary Biology, , , , Scientists have long thought the explanation for this was intuitive — shallow ocean waters are warm and full of resources., The College of the Environment, The deep sea contains more than 90% of the water in our oceans but only about a third of all fish species., The earliest fish that were able to transition into the deep sea tended to have large jaws. These likely gave them more opportunities to catch food., The new study reveals that throughout Earth’s ancient history there were several periods of time when many fish actually favored the cold and dark and barren waters of the deep sea., The researchers found that much later in history fish that had longer tapered tails tended to be most successful at making the transition to deep water. This allowed them to conserve energy., The study identified three major events that likely played a role: the breakup of Pangea; the Cretaceous Hot Greenhouse period; the middle Miocene climatic transition., , There were periods lasting tens of millions of years when new species were evolving faster in the deep sea than in more shallow areas.   

    From The College of the Environment At The University of Washington : “Study reveals how ancient fish colonized the deep sea” 

    1

    From The College of the Environment

    at

    The University of Washington

    11.2.22

    1
    A lanternfish, which is a deep-water fish that gets its name from its ability to produce light. Credit: Steven Haddock/Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute.

    The deep sea contains more than 90% of the water in our oceans, but only about a third of all fish species. Scientists have long thought the explanation for this was intuitive — shallow ocean waters are warm and full of resources, making them a prime location for new species to evolve and thrive. But a new University of Washington study [PNAS (below)] led by Elizabeth Miller reports that throughout Earth’s ancient history, there were several periods of time when many fish actually favored the cold, dark, barren waters of the deep sea.

    “It’s easy to look at shallow habitats like coral reefs, which are very diverse and exciting, and assume that they’ve always been that way,” said Miller, who completed the study as a postdoctoral researcher in the UW School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences and is now a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Oklahoma. “These results really challenge that assumption, and help us understand how fish species have adapted to major changes to the climate.”

    The deep sea is typically defined as anything below about 650 feet, the depth at which there is no longer enough sunlight for photosynthesis to occur. That means there is far less food and warmth than in the shallows, making it a difficult place to live. But by analyzing the relationships of fish using their genetic records going back 200 million years, Miller was able to identify a surprising evolutionary pattern: the speciation rates — that is, how quickly new species evolved — flip-flopped over time. There were periods lasting tens of millions of years when new species were evolving faster in the deep sea than in more shallow areas.

    In some ways, this discovery raised more questions than it answered. What was causing fish to prefer one habitat over another? What made some fish able to move into the deep sea more easily than others? And how did these ancient shifts help create the diversity of species we have today?

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    A deep-sea bristlemouth fish. Credit: Steven Haddock/Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute.

    When Miller mapped these flip-flopping speciation rates onto a timeline of Earth’s history, she was able to identify three major events that likely played a role.

    “The first was the breakup of Pangea, which occurred between 200 and 150 million years ago,” said Miller. “That created new coastlines and new oceans, which meant there were more opportunities for fishes to move from shallow to deep water. There were suddenly a lot more access points.”

    Next was the Cretaceous Hot Greenhouse period, which occurred approximately 100 million years ago and marked one of the warmest eras in Earth’s history. During this time, many continents were flooded due to sea-level rise, creating a large number of new, shallow areas across the earth.

    “It was around this period that we really see shallow-water fishes take off and diversify,” said Miller. “We can trace a lot of the species diversity we see in the shallows today to this time.”

    The third event was yet another major climatic change about 15 million years ago, known as the middle Miocene climatic transition. This was caused by further shifting of the continents, which caused major changes in ocean circulation and cooled the planet — all the way down to the deep sea.

    “Around this time we see deep-sea speciation rates really speed up,” Miller said. “This was especially driven by cold-water fishes. A lot of the species you see today off the coasts of Washington and Alaska diversified during this time.”

    But climate changes alone don’t explain how fish came to colonize the deep sea in the first place. Not every species has the right combination of traits to survive in deeper water and make use of the relatively limited resources beyond the reach of sunlight.

    “To evolve into a new species in the deep sea, first you have to get there,” said Miller. “What we found was that not only were the speciation rates flip-flopping through time, but what the deep-sea fishes looked like was as well.”

    The earliest fish that were able to transition into the deep sea tended to have large jaws. These likely gave them more opportunities to catch food, which can be scarce at depth. The researchers found that much later in history, fish that had longer, tapered tails tended to be most successful at making the transition to deep water. This allowed them to conserve energy by scooting along the seafloor instead of swimming in the water column.

    “If you look at who lives in the deep sea today, some species have a tapered body and others have big, scary, toothy jaws,” Miller said. “Those two body plans represent ancestors that colonized the deep sea millions of years apart.”

    While these events might seem like ancient history, they may be able to teach us about how today’s changing climate will affect life in our oceans. Miller hopes that future research can build on these findings and investigate how modern deep-sea fish will respond to climate change, and potentially inform conservation efforts.

    “What we learned from this study is that deep-sea fishes tend to do well when oceans are colder, but with climate change, oceans are getting warmer,” she said. “We can expect that this is really going to impact fish in the deep-sea in the coming years.”

    Science paper:
    PNAS

    See the full article here .


    five-ways-keep-your-child-safe-school-shootings

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.
    Stem Education Coalition

    4

    The University of Washington College of the Environment

    Diversity, equity and inclusion at the Program on the Environment

    How do we accomplish change that lasts, especially with complex issues such as diversity, equity and inclusion? That question lies at the heart of conversations that have been occurring over the past two years in University of Washington’s Program on the Environment (PoE). PoE is an interdisciplinary undergraduate program where students study and reflect upon intersections of the environment and human societies, and the primary unit in the College of the Environment offering a Bachelor of Arts degree. Their unit’s size (5 core faculty, 2 staff, plus several pre- and post-doctoral instructors) allows everyone in PoE to meet as a whole and to focus regularly on discussions about diversity, equity and inclusion, rather than delegating DEI work to a committee.

    “One of the advantages of a small community is that we can all meet to talk about diversity initiatives at least quarterly,” said PoE Director Gary Handwerk. “The common university committee structure and bureaucracy itself can be impediments to real change.”

    Some of the changes so far have included major revisions to the curriculum that introduce new course requirements in sustainability and environmental justice, and embedding and threading DEI concepts throughout all courses, deeply weaving it into the fabric of environmental awareness.

    PoE also collaborated with Program on Climate Change’s Becky Alexander in creating a workshop for faculty to collaborate on integrating climate justice concepts into an array of courses across the College. These conversations among faculty from seven different units helped extend the “embed and thread” model across the College. Based on positive feedback from participants, this workshop will be offered again in winter 2022 and 2023, with participation expanded to faculty from across the University. Handwerk is “optimistic that this workshop will have long-term effects and create a framework for probing and transformative conversations across the College.”

    In fall of 2021, PoE members launched an annual Autumn Seminar Series focused on Environmental Justice. Students enrolled in an associated one-credit course and participated in live sessions with speakers on Zoom, while UW and community members could tune into a livestream (later archived on the PoE YouTube page). This dual format allowed students and attendees to converse beyond the walls of a classroom and university. Enrolled students also actively participated in an online discussion forum following each presentation. This year’s series, “Indigenous Perspectives on the Environment,” brought in Indigenous voices representing a number of tribes from across the United States and Canada.

    “I liked being able to hear different people’s experiences that I might not otherwise have been able to hear,” said student Tia Vontver. “The opportunity to hear from voices not through research papers or in a textbook, but directly from them was invaluable. Traditional ecological knowledge is passed down through stories, so I’ve been able to hear many different perspectives through these speakers.”

    Larger challenges, however, remain. It is one thing to feature marginalized voices weekly at a seminar, and quite another to shift the demographic diversity of the faculty or student body as a whole. Handwerk acknowledges that difficult and crucial goals like these remain ahead, but he is optimistic that efforts like those described above will help to create an infrastructure and climate conducive to recruiting and retaining a robustly diverse group of faculty and students.

    u-washington-campus

    The University of Washington is one of the world’s preeminent public universities. Our impact on individuals, on our region, and on the world is profound — whether we are launching young people into a boundless future or confronting the grand challenges of our time through undaunted research and scholarship. Ranked number 10 in the world in Shanghai Jiao Tong University rankings and educating more than 54,000 students annually, our students and faculty work together to turn ideas into impact and in the process transform lives and our world. For more about our impact on the world, every day.

    So what defines us —the students, faculty and community members at the University of Washington? Above all, it’s our belief in possibility and our unshakable optimism. It’s a connection to others, both near and far. It’s a hunger that pushes us to tackle challenges and pursue progress. It’s the conviction that together we can create a world of good. Join us on the journey.

    The University of Washington is a public research university in Seattle, Washington, United States. Founded in 1861, University of Washington is one of the oldest universities on the West Coast; it was established in downtown Seattle approximately a decade after the city’s founding to aid its economic development. Today, the university’s 703-acre main Seattle campus is in the University District above the Montlake Cut, within the urban Puget Sound region of the Pacific Northwest. The university has additional campuses in Tacoma and Bothell. Overall, University of Washington encompasses over 500 buildings and over 20 million gross square footage of space, including one of the largest library systems in the world with more than 26 university libraries, as well as the UW Tower, lecture halls, art centers, museums, laboratories, stadiums, and conference centers. The university offers bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees through 140 departments in various colleges and schools, sees a total student enrollment of roughly 46,000 annually, and functions on a quarter system.

    University of Washington is a member of the Association of American Universities and is classified among “R1: Doctoral Universities – Very high research activity”. According to the National Science Foundation, UW spent $1.41 billion on research and development in 2018, ranking it 5th in the nation. As the flagship institution of the six public universities in Washington state, it is known for its medical, engineering and scientific research as well as its highly competitive computer science and engineering programs. Additionally, University of Washington continues to benefit from its deep historic ties and major collaborations with numerous technology giants in the region, such as Amazon, Boeing, Nintendo, and particularly Microsoft. Paul G. Allen, Bill Gates and others spent significant time at Washington computer labs for a startup venture before founding Microsoft and other ventures. The University of Washington’s 22 varsity sports teams are also highly competitive, competing as the Huskies in the Pac-12 Conference of the NCAA Division I, representing the United States at the Olympic Games, and other major competitions.

    The university has been affiliated with many notable alumni and faculty, including 21 Nobel Prize laureates and numerous Pulitzer Prize winners, Fulbright Scholars, Rhodes Scholars and Marshall Scholars.

    In 1854, territorial governor Isaac Stevens recommended the establishment of a university in the Washington Territory. Prominent Seattle-area residents, including Methodist preacher Daniel Bagley, saw this as a chance to add to the city’s potential and prestige. Bagley learned of a law that allowed United States territories to sell land to raise money in support of public schools. At the time, Arthur A. Denny, one of the founders of Seattle and a member of the territorial legislature, aimed to increase the city’s importance by moving the territory’s capital from Olympia to Seattle. However, Bagley eventually convinced Denny that the establishment of a university would assist more in the development of Seattle’s economy. Two universities were initially chartered, but later the decision was repealed in favor of a single university in Lewis County provided that locally donated land was available. When no site emerged, Denny successfully petitioned the legislature to reconsider Seattle as a location in 1858.

    In 1861, scouting began for an appropriate 10 acres (4 ha) site in Seattle to serve as a new university campus. Arthur and Mary Denny donated eight acres, while fellow pioneers Edward Lander, and Charlie and Mary Terry, donated two acres on Denny’s Knoll in downtown Seattle. More specifically, this tract was bounded by 4th Avenue to the west, 6th Avenue to the east, Union Street to the north, and Seneca Streets to the south.

    John Pike, for whom Pike Street is named, was the university’s architect and builder. It was opened on November 4, 1861, as the Territorial University of Washington. The legislature passed articles incorporating the University, and establishing its Board of Regents in 1862. The school initially struggled, closing three times: in 1863 for low enrollment, and again in 1867 and 1876 due to funds shortage. University of Washington awarded its first graduate Clara Antoinette McCarty Wilt in 1876, with a bachelor’s degree in science.

    19th century relocation

    By the time Washington state entered the Union in 1889, both Seattle and the University had grown substantially. University of Washington’s total undergraduate enrollment increased from 30 to nearly 300 students, and the campus’s relative isolation in downtown Seattle faced encroaching development. A special legislative committee, headed by University of Washington graduate Edmond Meany, was created to find a new campus to better serve the growing student population and faculty. The committee eventually selected a site on the northeast of downtown Seattle called Union Bay, which was the land of the Duwamish, and the legislature appropriated funds for its purchase and construction. In 1895, the University relocated to the new campus by moving into the newly built Denny Hall. The University Regents tried and failed to sell the old campus, eventually settling with leasing the area. This would later become one of the University’s most valuable pieces of real estate in modern-day Seattle, generating millions in annual revenue with what is now called the Metropolitan Tract. The original Territorial University building was torn down in 1908, and its former site now houses the Fairmont Olympic Hotel.

    The sole-surviving remnants of Washington’s first building are four 24-foot (7.3 m), white, hand-fluted cedar, Ionic columns. They were salvaged by Edmond S. Meany, one of the University’s first graduates and former head of its history department. Meany and his colleague, Dean Herbert T. Condon, dubbed the columns as “Loyalty,” “Industry,” “Faith”, and “Efficiency”, or “LIFE.” The columns now stand in the Sylvan Grove Theater.

    20th century expansion

    Organizers of the 1909 Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition eyed the still largely undeveloped campus as a prime setting for their world’s fair. They came to an agreement with Washington’s Board of Regents that allowed them to use the campus grounds for the exposition, surrounding today’s Drumheller Fountain facing towards Mount Rainier. In exchange, organizers agreed Washington would take over the campus and its development after the fair’s conclusion. This arrangement led to a detailed site plan and several new buildings, prepared in part by John Charles Olmsted. The plan was later incorporated into the overall University of Washington campus master plan, permanently affecting the campus layout.

    Both World Wars brought the military to campus, with certain facilities temporarily lent to the federal government. In spite of this, subsequent post-war periods were times of dramatic growth for the University. The period between the wars saw a significant expansion of the upper campus. Construction of the Liberal Arts Quadrangle, known to students as “The Quad,” began in 1916 and continued to 1939. The University’s architectural centerpiece, Suzzallo Library, was built in 1926 and expanded in 1935.

    After World War II, further growth came with the G.I. Bill. Among the most important developments of this period was the opening of the School of Medicine in 1946, which is now consistently ranked as the top medical school in the United States. It would eventually lead to the University of Washington Medical Center, ranked by U.S. News and World Report as one of the top ten hospitals in the nation.

    In 1942, all persons of Japanese ancestry in the Seattle area were forced into inland internment camps as part of Executive Order 9066 following the attack on Pearl Harbor. During this difficult time, university president Lee Paul Sieg took an active and sympathetic leadership role in advocating for and facilitating the transfer of Japanese American students to universities and colleges away from the Pacific Coast to help them avoid the mass incarceration. Nevertheless, many Japanese American students and “soon-to-be” graduates were unable to transfer successfully in the short time window or receive diplomas before being incarcerated. It was only many years later that they would be recognized for their accomplishments during the University of Washington’s Long Journey Home ceremonial event that was held in May 2008.

    From 1958 to 1973, the University of Washington saw a tremendous growth in student enrollment, its faculties and operating budget, and also its prestige under the leadership of Charles Odegaard. University of Washington student enrollment had more than doubled to 34,000 as the baby boom generation came of age. However, this era was also marked by high levels of student activism, as was the case at many American universities. Much of the unrest focused around civil rights and opposition to the Vietnam War. In response to anti-Vietnam War protests by the late 1960s, the University Safety and Security Division became the University of Washington Police Department.

    Odegaard instituted a vision of building a “community of scholars”, convincing the Washington State legislatures to increase investment in the University. Washington senators, such as Henry M. Jackson and Warren G. Magnuson, also used their political clout to gather research funds for the University of Washington. The results included an increase in the operating budget from $37 million in 1958 to over $400 million in 1973, solidifying University of Washington as a top recipient of federal research funds in the United States. The establishment of technology giants such as Microsoft, Boeing and Amazon in the local area also proved to be highly influential in the University of Washington’s fortunes, not only improving graduate prospects but also helping to attract millions of dollars in university and research funding through its distinguished faculty and extensive alumni network.

    21st century

    In 1990, the University of Washington opened its additional campuses in Bothell and Tacoma. Although originally intended for students who have already completed two years of higher education, both schools have since become four-year universities with the authority to grant degrees. The first freshman classes at these campuses started in fall 2006. Today both Bothell and Tacoma also offer a selection of master’s degree programs.

    In 2012, the University began exploring plans and governmental approval to expand the main Seattle campus, including significant increases in student housing, teaching facilities for the growing student body and faculty, as well as expanded public transit options. The University of Washington light rail station was completed in March 2015, connecting Seattle’s Capitol Hill neighborhood to the University of Washington Husky Stadium within five minutes of rail travel time. It offers a previously unavailable option of transportation into and out of the campus, designed specifically to reduce dependence on private vehicles, bicycles and local King County buses.

    University of Washington has been listed as a “Public Ivy” in Greene’s Guides since 2001, and is an elected member of the American Association of Universities. Among the faculty by 2012, there have been 151 members of American Association for the Advancement of Science, 68 members of the National Academy of Sciences, 67 members of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, 53 members of the National Academy of Medicine, 29 winners of the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers, 21 members of the National Academy of Engineering, 15 Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigators, 15 MacArthur Fellows, 9 winners of the Gairdner Foundation International Award, 5 winners of the National Medal of Science, 7 Nobel Prize laureates, 5 winners of Albert Lasker Award for Clinical Medical Research, 4 members of the American Philosophical Society, 2 winners of the National Book Award, 2 winners of the National Medal of Arts, 2 Pulitzer Prize winners, 1 winner of the Fields Medal, and 1 member of the National Academy of Public Administration. Among UW students by 2012, there were 136 Fulbright Scholars, 35 Rhodes Scholars, 7 Marshall Scholars and 4 Gates Cambridge Scholars. UW is recognized as a top producer of Fulbright Scholars, ranking 2nd in the US in 2017.

    The Academic Ranking of World Universities (ARWU) has consistently ranked University of Washington as one of the top 20 universities worldwide every year since its first release. In 2019, University of Washington ranked 14th worldwide out of 500 by the ARWU, 26th worldwide out of 981 in the Times Higher Education World University Rankings, and 28th worldwide out of 101 in the Times World Reputation Rankings. Meanwhile, QS World University Rankings ranked it 68th worldwide, out of over 900.

    U.S. News & World Report ranked University of Washington 8th out of nearly 1,500 universities worldwide for 2021, with University of Washington’s undergraduate program tied for 58th among 389 national universities in the U.S. and tied for 19th among 209 public universities.

    In 2019, it ranked 10th among the universities around the world by SCImago Institutions Rankings. In 2017, the Leiden Ranking, which focuses on science and the impact of scientific publications among the world’s 500 major universities, ranked University of Washington 12th globally and 5th in the U.S.

    In 2019, Kiplinger Magazine’s review of “top college values” named University of Washington 5th for in-state students and 10th for out-of-state students among U.S. public colleges, and 84th overall out of 500 schools. In the Washington Monthly National University Rankings University of Washington was ranked 15th domestically in 2018, based on its contribution to the public good as measured by social mobility, research, and promoting public service.

     
  • richardmitnick 10:49 am on June 25, 2022 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "New DNA Technology Is Shaking Up The Branches of The Evolutionary Tree", , Ernest Haeckel, Evolutionary Biology, , , , ,   

    From The University of Bath (UK) via “The Conversation (AU)” and “Science Alert (AU)” : “New DNA Technology Is Shaking Up The Branches of The Evolutionary Tree” 

    From The University of Bath (UK)

    via

    “The Conversation (AU)”

    and

    ScienceAlert

    “Science Alert (AU)”

    25 JUNE 2022
    MATTHEW WILLS

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    A portion of Ernst Haeckel’s ‘tree of life’ sketch. (Ernst Haeckel)

    If you look different to your close relatives, you may have felt separate from your family. As a child, during particularly stormy fall outs you might have even hoped it was a sign that you were adopted.
    Skip advert

    As our new research shows, appearances can be deceptive when it comes to family. New DNA technology is shaking up the family trees of many plants and animals.

    The primates, to which humans belong, were once thought to be close relatives of bats because of some similarities in our skeletons and brains. However, DNA data now places us in a group that includes rodents (rats and mice) and rabbits. Astonishingly, bats turn out to be more closely related to cows, horses, and even rhinoceroses than they are to us.

    Scientists in Darwin’s time and through most of the 20th century could only work out the branches of the evolutionary tree of life by looking at the structure and appearance of animals and plants. Life forms were grouped according to similarities thought to have evolved together.

    About three decades ago, scientists started using DNA data to build “molecular trees”. Many of the first trees based on DNA data were at odds with the classical ones.

    Sloths and anteaters, armadillos, pangolins (scaly anteaters), and aardvarks were once thought to belong together in a group called edentates (“no teeth”), since they share aspects of their anatomy.

    Molecular trees showed that these traits evolved independently in different branches of the mammal tree. It turns out that aardvarks are more closely related to elephants while pangolins are more closely related to cats and dogs.

    Coming together

    There is another important line of evidence that was familiar to Darwin and his contemporaries. Darwin noted that animals and plants that appeared to share the closest common ancestry were often found close together geographically. The location of species is another strong indicator they are related: species that live near each other are more likely to share a family tree.

    For the first time, our recent paper [Communications Biology] cross-referenced location, DNA data, and appearance for a range of animals and plants. We looked at evolutionary trees based on appearance or on molecules for 48 groups of animals and plants, including bats, dogs, monkeys, lizards, and pine trees.

    Evolutionary trees based on DNA data were two-thirds more likely to match with the location of the species compared with traditional evolution maps. In other words, previous trees showed several species were related based on appearance.

    Our research showed they were far less likely to live near each other compared to species linked by DNA data.

    It may appear that evolution endlessly invents new solutions, almost without limits. But it has fewer tricks up its sleeve than you might think.

    Animals can look amazingly alike because they have evolved to do a similar job [National Library of Medicine] or live in a similar way. Birds, bats and the extinct pterosaurs have, or had, bony wings for flying, but their ancestors all had front legs for walking on the ground instead.

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    The color wheels and key indicate where members of each order are found geographically. The molecular tree has these colors grouped together better than the morphological tree, indicating closer agreement of the molecules to biogeography.(Oyston et al., Communication Biology, 2022)

    Similar wing shapes and muscles evolved in different groups because the physics of generating thrust and lift in air are always the same. It is much the same with eyes, which may have evolved 40 times in animals, and with only a few basic “designs”.

    Our eyes are similar to squid’s eyes, with a crystalline lens, iris, retina, and visual pigments. Squid are more closely related to snails, slugs, and clams than us. But many of their mollusk relatives have only the simplest of eyes.

    Moles evolved as blind, burrowing creatures at least four times, on different continents, on different branches of the mammal tree. The Australian marsupial pouched moles (more closely related to kangaroos), African golden moles (more closely related to aardvarks), African mole rats (rodents), and the Eurasian and North American talpid moles (beloved of gardeners, and more closely related to hedgehogs than these other “moles”) all evolved down a similar path.

    Evolution’s roots

    Until the advent of cheap and efficient gene sequencing technology in the 21st century, appearance was usually all evolutionary biologists had to go on.

    While Darwin (1859) showed that all life on Earth is related in a single evolutionary tree, he did little to map out its branches. The anatomist Ernst Haeckel (1834-1919) was one of the first people to draw evolutionary trees that tried to show how major groups of life forms are related.

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    (Ernest Haeckel)

    Haeckel’s drawings made brilliant observations of living things that influenced art and design in the 19th and 20th centuries. His family trees were based almost entirely on how those organisms looked and developed as embryos. Many of his ideas about evolutionary relationships were held until recently.

    As it becomes easier and cheaper to obtain and analyze large volumes of molecular data, there will be many more surprises in store.

    See the full article here.

    five-ways-keep-your-child-safe-school-shootings

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    The University of Bath (UK) is a public research university located in Bath, Somerset, United Kingdom. It received its royal charter in 1966, along with a number of other institutions following the Robbins Report. Like the University of Bristol (UK) and University of the West of England-Bristol (UK), Bath can trace its roots to the Merchant Venturers’ Technical College, established in Bristol as a school in 1595 by the Society of Merchant Venturers. The university’s main campus is located on Claverton Down, a site overlooking the city of Bath, and was purpose-built, constructed from 1964 in the modernist style of the time.

    In the 2014 Research Excellence Framework, 32% of Bath’s submitted research activity achieved the highest possible classification of 4*, defined as world-leading in terms of originality, significance and rigour. 87% was graded 4*/3*, defined as world-leading/internationally excellent. The annual income of the institution for 2017–18 was £287.9 million of which £37.0 million was from research grants and contracts, with an expenditure of £283.1 million.

    The university is a member of the Association of Commonwealth Universities (UK), the Association of MBAs, the European Quality Improvement System, the European University Association (EU), Universities UK and GW4 (UK).

     
  • richardmitnick 11:29 am on June 15, 2022 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Eating Plants", , Biodiverse cultivation, , Evolutionary Biology, The future of food belongs to plants.,   

    From The University of Zürich (Universität Zürich) (CH): “Eating Plants” 

    From The University of Zürich (Universität Zürich) (CH)

    15 Jun 2022

    Researchers at UZH are exploring sustainable agriculture and the future of food, from transforming our eating habits and growing our own greens to breeding crops with new techniques, distributing seeds more fairly and farming with biodiversity in mind. The latest UZH Magazine explores how we can eat and produce food in a way that benefits both our own health and the health of our planet.

    1
    UZH literary scholar Claudia Keller is an active member of the Pura Verdura farming cooperative. (Image: Ursula Meisser)

    The future of food belongs to plants. If we are to transform our eating habits to avoid depleting the planet’s natural resources, plants need to become the main event of our meals, rather than a side dish. Researchers at UZH are investigating how we can maintain healthier diets and increase sustainability in the food industry. The latest UZH Magazine (in German) focuses on what all of us can do to maintain healthier, more sustainable diets and make agriculture more eco-friendly and productive.

    It starts with breeding new plant varieties. Today this can be done faster than ever before thanks to novel genetic engineering methods such as the CRISPR/Cas9 gene scissors. This enables researchers to systematically modify plants to make them more resistant to diseases or pests, or to adapt them to difficult environmental conditions such as heat and drought. UZH plant biologists such as Ueli Grossniklaus and Beat Keller are working in this field.

    New ground is also being broken in plant cultivation. Here, research carried out by environmental scientist Bernhard Schmid and evolutionary biologist Anna-Liisa Laine, among others, shows how biodiverse cultivation can not only make agriculture more ecological, but also more productive in the long run. A diverse mix of plants can increase crop yields and protect against diseases and pests.

    We too can play a large role in the shift toward healthier and more sustainable eating habits. This includes eating less meat and more veggies – and taking an interest in how they are produced. Some people are taking this to the next level by growing their own vegetables, such as literary scholar Claudia Keller, who is part of a farming cooperative.

    See the full article here .

    five-ways-keep-your-child-safe-school-shootings

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    The University of Zürich (Universität Zürich) (CH), located in the city of Zürich, is the largest university in Switzerland, with over 26,000 students. It was founded in 1833 from the existing colleges of theology, law, medicine and a new faculty of philosophy.

    Currently, the university has seven faculties: Philosophy, Human Medicine, Economic Sciences, Law, Mathematics and Natural Sciences, Theology and Veterinary Medicine. The university offers the widest range of subjects and courses of any Swiss higher education institutions.
    Since 1833

    As a member of the League of European Research Universities (EU) (LERU) and Universitas 21 (U21) network, the University of Zürich belongs to Europe’s most prestigious research institutions. In 2017, the University of Zürich became a member of the Universitas 21 (U21) network, a global network of 27 research universities from around the world, promoting research collaboration and exchange of knowledge.

    Numerous distinctions highlight the University’s international renown in the fields of medicine, immunology, genetics, neuroscience and structural biology as well as in economics. To date, the Nobel Prize has been conferred on twelve UZH scholars.

    Sharing Knowledge

    The academic excellence of the University of Zürich brings benefits to both the public and the private sectors not only in the Canton of Zürich, but throughout Switzerland. Knowledge is shared in a variety of ways: in addition to granting the general public access to its twelve museums and many of its libraries, the University makes findings from cutting-edge research available to the public in accessible and engaging lecture series and panel discussions.

    1. Identity of the University of Zürich

    Scholarship

    The University of Zürich (UZH) is an institution with a strong commitment to the free and open pursuit of scholarship.

    Scholarship is the acquisition, the advancement and the dissemination of knowledge in a methodological and critical manner.

    Academic freedom and responsibility

    To flourish, scholarship must be free from external influences, constraints and ideological pressures. The University of Zürich is committed to unrestricted freedom in research and teaching.

    Academic freedom calls for a high degree of responsibility, including reflection on the ethical implications of research activities for humans, animals and the environment.

    Universitas

    Work in all disciplines at the University is based on a scholarly inquiry into the realities of our world

    As Switzerland’s largest university, the University of Zürich promotes wide diversity in both scholarship and in the fields of study offered. The University fosters free dialogue, respects the individual characteristics of the disciplines, and advances interdisciplinary work.

    2. The University of Zurich’s goals and responsibilities

    Basic principles

    UZH pursues scholarly research and teaching, and provides services for the benefit of the public.

    UZH has successfully positioned itself among the world’s foremost universities. The University attracts the best researchers and students, and promotes junior scholars at all levels of their academic career.

    UZH sets priorities in research and teaching by considering academic requirements and the needs of society. These priorities presuppose basic research and interdisciplinary methods.

    UZH strives to uphold the highest quality in all its activities.
    To secure and improve quality, the University regularly monitors and evaluates its performance.

    Research

    UZH contributes to the increase of knowledge through the pursuit of cutting-edge research.

    UZH is primarily a research institution. As such, it enables and expects its members to conduct research, and supports them in doing so.

    While basic research is the core focus at UZH, the University also pursues applied research.

     
  • richardmitnick 12:16 pm on June 7, 2022 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "SNPs": single nucleotide polymorphisms - where a single DNA letter in the genome is altered., "Study explores the promises and pitfalls of evolutionary genomics", A new study examines mathematical models designed to draw inferences about how evolution operates at the level of populations of organisms., An avalanche of data enabled by rapid low-cost DNA sequencing of organisms across the tree of life has dramatically changed the field., Evolution by means of natural selection, Evolutionary Biology, Natural selection may occur when different variants segregating in a population have a fitness differential relative to one another., Neutral Theory of Molecular Evolution: most evolutionary changes at the molecular level in real populations are governed not by natural selection but by genetic drift., Population Genetics is often regarded as the theoretical cornerstone of modern Darwinian evolution., Population Genomics, , The careful and judicious use of this gold mine of genomic data will help advance the most rigorous models to unlock evolution’s many remaining mysteries., The study of genomic variation focuses on DNA sequence differences among individuals and populations.   

    From The Arizona State University: “Study explores the promises and pitfalls of evolutionary genomics” 

    From The Arizona State University

    June 6, 2022
    Richard Harth

    1
    A new study examines mathematical models designed to draw inferences about how evolution operates at the level of populations of organisms. The study concludes that such models must be constructed with the greatest care, avoiding unwarranted initial assumptions, weighing the quality of existing knowledge and remaining open to alternate explanations.

    The second century Alexandrian astronomer and mathematician Claudius Ptolemy had a grand ambition. Hoping to make sense of the motion of stars and the paths of planets, he published a magisterial treatise on the subject, known as the Almagest. Ptolemy created a complex mathematical model of the universe that seemed to recapitulate the movements of the celestial objects he observed.

    Unfortunately, a fatal flaw lay at the heart of his cosmic scheme. Following the prejudices of his day, Ptolemy worked from the premise that the Earth was the center of the universe. The Ptolemaic universe, composed of complex “epicycles” to account for planet and star movements, has long since been consigned to the history books, though its conclusions remained the scientific dogma for over 1200 years.

    The field of evolutionary biology is no less subject to misguided theoretical approaches, sometimes producing impressive models that nevertheless fail to convey the true workings of nature as it shapes the dizzying assortment of living forms on Earth.

    A new study examines mathematical models designed to draw inferences about how evolution operates at the level of populations of organisms. The study concludes that such models must be constructed with the greatest care, avoiding unwarranted initial assumptions, weighing the quality of existing knowledge and remaining open to alternate explanations.

    Failure to apply strict procedures in null model construction can lead to theories that seem to square with certain aspects of available data derived from DNA sequencing, yet fail to correctly elucidate underlying evolutionary processes, which are often highly complex and multifaceted.

    Such theoretical frameworks may offer compelling but ultimately flawed pictures of how evolution actually acts on populations over time, be these populations of bacteria, shoals of fish, or human societies and their various migrations during prehistory.

    In the new study, Jeffrey Jensen, a researcher in the Biodesign Center for Mechanisms of Evolution at Arizona State University and professor in the School of Life Sciences with the Center for Evolution & Medicine, leads a group of international luminaries in the field in providing guidance for future research. Together, they describe a range of criteria that can be used to better ensure the accuracy of models that produce statistical inferences in population genomics—a scientific discipline concerned with large-scale comparisons of DNA sequences within and across populations and species.

    “One of our key messages is the importance of considering the contributions of evolutionary processes certain to be in constant operation (such as purifying selection and genetic drift), before simply relying on hypothesized or rare evolutionary processes as the primary drivers of observed population variation (such as positive selection)”, Jensen emphasized.

    The research findings appear in the current issue of the journal PLOS BIOLOGY.

    A field comes of age

    Population genomics arose as early efforts in the field attempted to reconcile Charles Darwin’s notion of evolution by means of natural selection with the first inklings of the mechanisms of inheritance, uncovered by the Augustinian monk, Gregor Mendel.

    The synthesis culminated in the 1920s and early 30s, largely thanks to the mathematical work of Fisher, Haldane and Wright, who were the first to explore how natural selection together with other evolutionary forces would modify the genetic composition of Mendelian populations over time.

    Today, studies in population genomics involve the large-scale application of various genomic technologies to explore the genetic composition of biological populations, and how various factors, including natural selection and genetic drift, produce changes in genetic composition over time.

    To accomplish this, population geneticists develop mathematical models quantifying the contributions of these evolutionary processes in shaping gene frequencies, use this theory to design statistical inference approaches for estimating the forces producing observed patterns of genetic variation in actual populations, and test their conclusions against accumulated data.

    The spice of life

    The study of genomic variation focuses on DNA sequence differences among individuals and populations. Some of these variants are critically important for biological function, including mutations responsible for genetic disease, while others have no detectable biological effects.

    Such variation in the human genome can take several forms. One common source of variation is known as single nucleotide polymorphisms, or SNPs, where a single DNA letter in the genome is altered. But larger-scale variation in the genome, involving the simultaneous alteration of hundreds or even thousands of base pairs is also possible. Again, some such alterations may play a role in disease risk and survival while many others have no effect.

    Natural selection may occur when different variants segregating in a population have a fitness differential relative to one another. By designing and studying mathematical models governing the corresponding gene frequency change and applying those models to empirical data, population geneticists seek to understand the contributing evolutionary processes in a rigorous, quantitative way. Thus, population genetics is often regarded as the theoretical cornerstone of modern Darwinian evolution.

    Adrift through the genome

    Although the importance of natural selection to the evolutionary process is undeniable, the role of positive selection in increasing the frequency of beneficial variants — the potential driver of adaptation — is certain to be comparatively rare relative even to other forms of natural selection. For example, purifying selection — the removal of deleterious variants from the population — is a constantly acting and far more pervasive form of selection.

    In addition, there are multiple non-selective evolutionary processes of great importance. For example, genetic drift describes the many stochastic fluctuations inherent to evolution. In large populations, natural selection may act more efficently in purging deleterious variation and potentially fixing beneficial variation, whereas as populations become smaller genetic drift will be increasingly dominant.

    The distinction can be seen in dramatic form when comparing prokaryotic organisms like bacteria with organisms composed of eukaryotic cells, including humans. In the former case, the vast population sizes tend to result in more efficient selection. In contrast, a weaker selection pressure operating in eukaryotes is more permissive of genomic changes, provided that they are not strongly deleterious.

    According to the Neutral Theory of Molecular Evolution — a now guiding principle of evolutionary theory proposed by the population geneticist Motoo Kimura over 50 years ago — most evolutionary changes at the molecular level in real populations are governed not by natural selection, but by genetic drift. The study emphasizes that this critical point is too often missed by evolutionary biologists. As co-author Michael Lynch, director of ASU’s Biodesign Center for Mechanisms in Evolution cogently observes, “natural selection is just one of several evolutionary mechanisms, and the failure to realize this is probably the most significant impediment to a fruitful integration of evolutionary theory with molecular, cellular, and developmental biology.”

    The new consensus study further stresses that a failure to consider these alternative evolutionary mechanisms which are certain to be operating, including genetic drift, and incorporate these into models of population genomics, is likely to lead researchers astray. The common over reliance on purely adaptive models to explain genomic variation has led to a raft of interpretations of dubious value, the authors assert.

    The study presents a detailed flow chart that can help guide the development of more accurate models used to draw evolutionary inferences, based on genomic data. Biological parameters that vary among species include not only evolutionary variables like population size, mutation rates, recombination rates, and population structure and history, but the way the genome itself is structured and life history traits, including mating behavior. All of these factors play a vital role in dictating observed molecular variation and evolution.

    “While these many considerations may sound daunting for some researchers, it is important to note that many excellent research groups at ASU and around the world are actively improving our understanding of these underlying evolutionary parameters, providing constantly improving inference, for example, of mutation and recombination rates,” added co-author Susanne Pfeifer, an Assistant Professor in the Center for Evolution & Medicine and the Biodesign Center for Mechanisms of Evolution.

    Where once, theoretical models in population genomics proliferated alongside relatively scant genomic data, today an avalanche of data, enabled by rapid, low-cost DNA sequencing of organisms across the tree of life, has dramatically changed the field. The careful and judicious use of this gold mine of genomic data will help advance the most rigorous models to unlock evolution’s many remaining mysteries.

    See the full article here .

    five-ways-keep-your-child-safe-school-shootings

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    The Arizona State University is a public research university in the Phoenix metropolitan area. Founded in 1885 by the 13th Arizona Territorial Legislature, Arizona State University is one of the largest public universities by enrollment in the U.S.

    One of three universities governed by the Arizona Board of Regents, Arizona State University is a member of the Universities Research Association and classified among “R1: Doctoral Universities – Very High Research Activity.” Arizona State University has nearly 150,000 students attending classes, with more than 38,000 students attending online, and 90,000 undergraduates and more nearly 20,000 postgraduates across its five campuses and four regional learning centers throughout Arizona. Arizona State University offers 350 degree options from its 17 colleges and more than 170 cross-discipline centers and institutes for undergraduates students, as well as more than 400 graduate degree and certificate programs. The Arizona State Sun Devils compete in 26 varsity-level sports in the NCAA Division I Pac-12 Conference and is home to over 1,100 registered student organizations.

    Arizona State University’s charter, approved by the board of regents in 2014, is based on the New American University model created by Arizona State University President Michael M. Crow upon his appointment as the institution’s 16th president in 2002. It defines Arizona State University as “a comprehensive public research university, measured not by whom it excludes, but rather by whom it includes and how they succeed; advancing research and discovery of public value; and assuming fundamental responsibility for the economic, social, cultural and overall health of the communities it serves.” The model is widely credited with boosting Arizona State University’s acceptance rate and increasing class size.

    The university’s faculty of more than 4,700 scholars has included 5 Nobel laureates, 6 Pulitzer Prize winners, 4 MacArthur Fellows, and 19 National Academy of Sciences members. Additionally, among the faculty are 180 Fulbright Program American Scholars, 72 National Endowment for the Humanities fellows, 38 American Council of Learned Societies fellows, 36 members of the Guggenheim Fellowship, 21 members of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, 3 members of National Academy of Inventors, 9 National Academy of Engineering members and 3 National Academy of Medicine members. The National Academies has bestowed “highly prestigious” recognition on 227 ASU faculty members.

    History

    Arizona State University was established as the Territorial Normal School at Tempe on March 12, 1885, when the 13th Arizona Territorial Legislature passed an act to create a normal school to train teachers for the Arizona Territory. The campus consisted of a single, four-room schoolhouse on a 20-acre plot largely donated by Tempe residents George and Martha Wilson. Classes began with 33 students on February 8, 1886. The curriculum evolved over the years and the name was changed several times; the institution was also known as Tempe Normal School of Arizona (1889–1903), Tempe Normal School (1903–1925), Tempe State Teachers College (1925–1929), Arizona State Teachers College (1929–1945), Arizona State College (1945–1958) and, by a 2–1 margin of the state’s voters, Arizona State University in 1958.

    In 1923, the school stopped offering high school courses and added a high school diploma to the admissions requirements. In 1925, the school became the Tempe State Teachers College and offered four-year Bachelor of Education degrees as well as two-year teaching certificates. In 1929, the 9th Arizona State Legislature authorized Bachelor of Arts in Education degrees as well, and the school was renamed the Arizona State Teachers College. Under the 30-year tenure of president Arthur John Matthews (1900–1930), the school was given all-college student status. The first dormitories built in the state were constructed under his supervision in 1902. Of the 18 buildings constructed while Matthews was president, six are still in use. Matthews envisioned an “evergreen campus,” with many shrubs brought to the campus, and implemented the planting of 110 Mexican Fan Palms on what is now known as Palm Walk, a century-old landmark of the Tempe campus.

    During the Great Depression, Ralph Waldo Swetman was hired to succeed President Matthews, coming to Arizona State Teachers College in 1930 from Humboldt State Teachers College where he had served as president. He served a three-year term, during which he focused on improving teacher-training programs. During his tenure, enrollment at the college doubled, topping the 1,000 mark for the first time. Matthews also conceived of a self-supported summer session at the school at Arizona State Teachers College, a first for the school.

    1930–1989

    In 1933, Grady Gammage, then president of Arizona State Teachers College at Flagstaff, became president of Arizona State Teachers College at Tempe, beginning a tenure that would last for nearly 28 years, second only to Swetman’s 30 years at the college’s helm. Like President Arthur John Matthews before him, Gammage oversaw the construction of several buildings on the Tempe campus. He also guided the development of the university’s graduate programs; the first Master of Arts in Education was awarded in 1938, the first Doctor of Education degree in 1954 and 10 non-teaching master’s degrees were approved by the Arizona Board of Regents in 1956. During his presidency, the school’s name was changed to Arizona State College in 1945, and finally to Arizona State University in 1958. At the time, two other names were considered: Tempe University and State University at Tempe. Among Gammage’s greatest achievements in Tempe was the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed construction of what is Grady Gammage Memorial Auditorium/ASU Gammage. One of the university’s hallmark buildings, Arizona State University Gammage was completed in 1964, five years after the president’s (and Wright’s) death.

    Gammage was succeeded by Harold D. Richardson, who had served the school earlier in a variety of roles beginning in 1939, including director of graduate studies, college registrar, dean of instruction, dean of the College of Education and academic vice president. Although filling the role of acting president of the university for just nine months (Dec. 1959 to Sept. 1960), Richardson laid the groundwork for the future recruitment and appointment of well-credentialed research science faculty.

    By the 1960s, under G. Homer Durham, the university’s 11th president, Arizona State University began to expand its curriculum by establishing several new colleges and, in 1961, the Arizona Board of Regents authorized doctoral degree programs in six fields, including Doctor of Philosophy. By the end of his nine-year tenure, Arizona State University had more than doubled enrollment, reporting 23,000 in 1969.

    The next three presidents—Harry K. Newburn (1969–71), John W. Schwada (1971–81) and J. Russell Nelson (1981–89), including Interim President Richard Peck (1989), led the university to increased academic stature, the establishment of the Arizona State University West campus in 1984 and its subsequent construction in 1986, a focus on computer-assisted learning and research, and rising enrollment.

    1990–present

    Under the leadership of Lattie F. Coor, president from 1990 to 2002, Arizona State University grew through the creation of the Polytechnic campus and extended education sites. Increased commitment to diversity, quality in undergraduate education, research, and economic development occurred over his 12-year tenure. Part of Coor’s legacy to the university was a successful fundraising campaign: through private donations, more than $500 million was invested in areas that would significantly impact the future of ASU. Among the campaign’s achievements were the naming and endowing of Barrett, The Honors College, and the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts; the creation of many new endowed faculty positions; and hundreds of new scholarships and fellowships.

    In 2002, Michael M. Crow became the university’s 16th president. At his inauguration, he outlined his vision for transforming Arizona State University into a “New American University”—one that would be open and inclusive, and set a goal for the university to meet Association of American Universities criteria and to become a member. Crow initiated the idea of transforming Arizona State University into “One university in many places”—a single institution comprising several campuses, sharing students, faculty, staff and accreditation. Subsequent reorganizations combined academic departments, consolidated colleges and schools, and reduced staff and administration as the university expanded its West and Polytechnic campuses. Arizona State University’s Downtown Phoenix campus was also expanded, with several colleges and schools relocating there. The university established learning centers throughout the state, including the Arizona State University Colleges at Lake Havasu City and programs in Thatcher, Yuma, and Tucson. Students at these centers can choose from several Arizona State University degree and certificate programs.

    During Crow’s tenure, and aided by hundreds of millions of dollars in donations, Arizona State University began a years-long research facility capital building effort that led to the establishment of the Biodesign Institute at Arizona State University, the Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability, and several large interdisciplinary research buildings. Along with the research facilities, the university faculty was expanded, including the addition of five Nobel Laureates. Since 2002, the university’s research expenditures have tripled and more than 1.5 million square feet of space has been added to the university’s research facilities.

    The economic downturn that began in 2008 took a particularly hard toll on Arizona, resulting in large cuts to Arizona State University’s budget. In response to these cuts, Arizona State University capped enrollment, closed some four dozen academic programs, combined academic departments, consolidated colleges and schools, and reduced university faculty, staff and administrators; however, with an economic recovery underway in 2011, the university continued its campaign to expand the West and Polytechnic Campuses, and establish a low-cost, teaching-focused extension campus in Lake Havasu City.

    As of 2011, an article in Slate reported that, “the bottom line looks good,” noting that:

    “Since Crow’s arrival, Arizona State University’s research funding has almost tripled to nearly $350 million. Degree production has increased by 45 percent. And thanks to an ambitious aid program, enrollment of students from Arizona families below poverty is up 647 percent.”

    In 2015, the Thunderbird School of Global Management became the fifth Arizona State University campus, as the Thunderbird School of Global Management at Arizona State University. Partnerships for education and research with Mayo Clinic established collaborative degree programs in health care and law, and shared administrator positions, laboratories and classes at the Mayo Clinic Arizona campus.

    The Beus Center for Law and Society, the new home of Arizona State University’s Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law, opened in fall 2016 on the Downtown Phoenix campus, relocating faculty and students from the Tempe campus to the state capital.

     
  • richardmitnick 7:18 am on May 14, 2022 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Bewitched by Invertebrates" Jared Richards, , , CSS: The Chancellor’s Science Scholars Program, , , Evolutionary Biology, For soft-bodied invertebrates fossils are rare., Invertebrate paleobiology, , Quantitative Biology, Richards studies fossils from a site in Morocco called the Fezouata biota., The Fezouata is one of the most well-preserved sites of Ordovician faunas and includes of plethora of new species., The vast majority of animals today-and in the past-are invertebrates.,   

    From “Endeavors” at The University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill: “Bewitched by Invertebrates” Jared Richards 

    From “Endeavors” at The University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill

    May 13th, 2022
    Megan Suggs

    1
    Jared Richards holds a Eurypterus lacustris — a prehistoric, marine arthropod similar to a scorpion — specimen in the invertebrate paleontology collection at Harvard University’s Museum of Comparative Zoology. Photo by Melissa Aja/ Museum of Comparative Zoology at Harvard University)

    Jared Richards sends a string of letters through our Zoom chat: Aegirocassis. It’s a long-extinct oceanic animal. He starts describing it before Google can provide a picture.

    “They look like aliens,” Richards says. “I love this animal. It’s awesome.”

    It’s almost more believable that this creature comes from space than that it swam in Earth’s oceans millions of years ago. It looks nothing like any current-day animal. It had a long, segmented body, an eye on either side of its head, body flaps to propel it through the water, and filter-feeding appendages similar to the baleen of modern whales. It could be up to six feet long. There is a particularly well-known green-hued picture from National Geographic that Richards notes as he describes it.

    “You have a fossil that’s a foot long of what most people would consider a bug,” Richards says with a laugh. “It’s crazy.”

    Now a graduate student at Harvard University, Richards gets to interact with fossils like that on a daily basis — a childhood passion propelled by his undergraduate experiences at UNC-Chapel Hill. At Harvard’s Museum of Comparative Zoology, he studies fossils of ancient invertebrates, including echinoderms like starfish, arthropods like horseshoe crabs, and other animal groups that lack a backbone.

    “I guess I don’t acknowledge it enough,” Richards says, “but I go down there, and I look at almost 500-million-year-old echinoderms.”

    A passion for paleontology

    Richards has always been interested in zoology and evolutionary biology.

    “When I was younger, I was big into dinosaurs,” Richards says. “A lot of us go through that phase, but I was really into paleontology, and it never really went away.”

    At UNC, he studied quantitative biology, combining his love of science and statistics, as a Chancellor’s Science Scholar. The Chancellor’s Science Scholars (CSS) Program provides scholarships, research opportunities, and a community of like-minded students. It aims to create a more inclusive culture in STEM fields.

    “That program was critical throughout my entire journey at UNC, whether it was just support in the academic setting or helping me figure out the next big thing to do, like figuring out what programs I wanted to apply to.”

    One of his first research experiences was studying coral in UNC marine sciences professor Karl Castillo’s lab the summer after his freshman year in 2017. The lab helped him discover an appreciation for ecology, and he wrote his senior honors thesis on this research.

    “That was one of my first experiences doing real research, coming up with hypotheses, testing them, and doing data analysis and visualization. That taught me that research was something I thought was awesome,” Richards says.

    CSS helped Richards find research experiences the following two summers. First, Richards worked at The Smithsonian Institution, cataloging over 400 cephalopods — like cuttlefish, squid, and octopods — caught more than two miles below the sea surface during a 2009 research expedition at the Atlantic Ocean’s Charlie-Gibbs Fracture Zone. He also employed computer science techniques to analyze cephalopod ecology in the region based on the samples the researchers brought back.

    2
    When he was a junior at UNC, Richards completed an internship at the Smithsonian Institution. Here, he removes an octopus from a jar to verify the species’ identification. (photo by Megan May)

    This experience reaffirmed that Richards wanted to work with organisms and in evolutionary biology. The summer before his senior year, everything clicked as he worked in Integrative Biology at The University of California-Berkeley, researching evolutionary biology with a focus on paleontology.

    “In my senior year, I decided not only was I going to apply to go off to grad school and study zoology and evolutionary biology at some point, but I wanted to basically reignite my interest in paleontology.”

    The professor Richards worked with at UC Berkeley, Seth Finnegan, suggested he check out an up-and-coming researcher at Harvard University who was working in invertebrate paleobiology. CSS helped him apply for graduate school, and in the fall of 2020, he found himself heading to Cambridge to attend Harvard.

    Fossils from the Fezouata

    Richards studies invertebrate paleontology and paleoecology in Javier Ortega-Hernández’s lab at Harvard’s Museum of Comparative Zoology. Almost every week, he goes to the museum’s collection space and catalogues fossil specimens collected in the field. Some are recognizable and look like starfish, similar in size and shape to what we see today. Others are six-foot wonders that seem nothing like any creature we’re familiar with.

    “This is the first time I’m working with real fossils. It really highlights how awesome invertebrates are,” Richards says. “There’s a massive world that we commonly don’t pay attention to. The vast majority of animals today-and in the past-are invertebrates.”

    The conditions have to be just right for any fossils to form, even if an organism does have bones. But for soft-bodied invertebrates, fossils are even rarer. There are “sites of exceptional preservation” where paleontologists can find many invertebrate fossils. Richards studies fossils from such a site in Morocco called the Fezouata biota. Though it is currently located near the equator, it was in the polar regions during the early Ordovician period, a highly diverse time roughly 485 million years ago.

    The Ordovician followed the Cambrian explosion, which is when most modern animal phyla — including sponges, mollusks, cnidarians, and arthropods — started appearing. The Ordovician is defined by the establishment of modern, marine ecological structure, rapid diversification, and a rise in the number of animal species on Earth. Richards explains the developments in this period shaped the organisms and biosphere of today.

    The Fezouata is one of the most well-preserved sites of Ordovician faunas and includes of plethora of new species. The Ortega-Hernández Lab makes trips to Morocco to gather specimens to study.

    Richards uses quantitative ecological methods to compare the community structure of the Fezouata to other sites with organisms from different periods — a process that lets Richards go beyond qualitative observation.

    “You’re not just limited to saying, This community has a bunch of this, and this other community has a bunch of that,” Richards explains. “You can say, There’s evidence that these two communities are drastically different, and we have math and statistics to back it.”

    Richards also studies a specific type of organism called a lobopodian — a precursor to modern arthropods, like insects, arachnids, and crustaceans — which has a worm-like body and many legs. There are a few dozen known species of lobopodians, and many are only centimeters long. Richards strives to integrate new species found in the Fezouata into our understanding of animal evolution.

    He thinks they’re fascinating, and he’s glad that, as a graduate student, he can spend most of his time focused on the research he cares about.

    “Today, I’m going to be making figures about those lobopodians to show why they are so special: They come from a crucial time period,” Richards says. “I have never enjoyed academics as much as I do now.”

    Richards has four years left in his program at Harvard. He’s still exploring what he wants to do after and is open to other fields like data science, but he can’t see anything replacing his love for paleontology. Harvard has many opportunities for funding and experience to help Richards continue to do what he’s passionate about, but he’ll always remember the opportunities UNC provided him.

    “I could not be where I am today without the great people in the UNC CSS program,” Richards says.

    See the full article here .

    five-ways-keep-your-child-safe-school-shootings

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    UNC bloc

    UNC campus
    UNC-University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill
    The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill is a public research university in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. The flagship of the University of North Carolina system, it is considered to be a Public Ivy, or a public institution which offers an academic experience similar to that of an Ivy League university. After being chartered in 1789, the university first began enrolling students in 1795, making it one of the oldest public universities in the United States. Among the claimants, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill is the only one to have held classes and graduated students as a public university in the eighteenth century.

    The first public institution of higher education in North Carolina, the school opened its doors to students on February 12, 1795. North Carolina became coeducational under the leadership of President Kemp Plummer Battle in 1877 and began the process of desegregation under Chancellor Robert Burton House when African-American graduate students were admitted in 1951. In 1952, North Carolina opened its own hospital, UNC Health Care, for research and treatment, and has since specialized in cancer care through UNC’s Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center which is one of only 51 national NCI designated comprehensive centers.

    The university offers degrees in over 70 courses of study and is administratively divided into 13 separate professional schools and a primary unit, the College of Arts & Sciences. Five of the schools have been named: the UNC Kenan–Flagler Business School, the UNC Hussman School of Journalism and Media, the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health, the UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy, and the UNC Adams School of Dentistry. All undergraduates receive a liberal arts education and have the option to pursue a major within the professional schools of the university or within the College of Arts and Sciences from the time they obtain junior status. It is classified among “R1: Doctoral Universities – Very high research activity”, and is a member of the Association of American Universities . According to the National Science Foundation, UNC spent $1.14 billion on research and development in 2018, ranking it 12th in the nation.

    UNC’s faculty and alumni include 9 Nobel Prize laureates, 23 Pulitzer Prize winners, and 51 Rhodes Scholars. Additional notable alumni include a U.S. President, a U.S. Vice President, 38 Governors of U.S. States, 98 members of the United States Congress, and nine Cabinet members as well as CEOs of Fortune 500 companies, Olympians and professional athletes.

    The campus covers 729 acres (3 km^2) of Chapel Hill’s downtown area, encompassing the Morehead Planetarium and the many stores and shops located on Franklin Street. Students can participate in over 550 officially recognized student organizations. The student-run newspaper The Daily Tar Heel has won national awards for collegiate media, while the student radio station WXYC provided the world’s first internet radio broadcast. UNC Chapel Hill is one of the charter members of the Atlantic Coast Conference, which was founded on June 14, 1953. Competing athletically as the Tar Heels, UNC has achieved great success in sports, most notably in men’s basketball, women’s soccer, and women’s field hockey.

     
  • richardmitnick 9:26 am on April 14, 2022 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Study- Climatic variability might not drive evolutionary change as much as previously thought", , , , , Evolutionary Biology, , , ,   

    From The University of Arizona: “Study- Climatic variability might not drive evolutionary change as much as previously thought” 

    From The University of Arizona

    4.11.22

    Media contact
    Daniel Stolte
    Science Writer, University Communications
    stolte@arizona.edu
    520-626-4402

    Researcher contact
    Andrew Cohen
    Department of Geosciences
    cohen@email.arizona.edu
    520-621-4691

    A UArizona-led study combining records of climate change during the last 3.5 million years with fossil evidence of mammals in Africa reveals that times of erratic climate change are not followed by major upheavals in evolution.

    1
    During the dry season, evaporating water leaves behind trona crystals, which grow on the lakebed of Lake Magadi, the southernmost lake in the Kenyan Rift Valley. A drilling rig used in the study is seen towering above the dry lakebed. Credit: Andrew Cohen/University of Arizona.

    A new study combining climate data with fossil records of large mammals that lived across Africa during the last 4 million years casts doubt on a long-standing hypothesis that repeated shifts in climate acted as major drivers of evolutionary change in mammals, including human ancestors.

    Published this week in the journal PNAS, the study yields an African continent-wide synthesis of environmental variability during the Plio-Pleistocene, a period in Earth’s history that spans roughly the last 5 million years and includes the last ice age about 20,000 years ago.

    The study finds that environmental variability during that time mirrors changes in the Earth’s orbit and orientation with respect to the sun, as predicted by a natural phenomenon known as Milankovic cycles. These cycles expose our planet to varying intensity of solar radiation, resulting in well-documented, cyclical effects on Earth’s climate at various frequencies.

    The researchers observed a long-term trend of increasing environmental variability across Africa attributable to variations in global ice volume and ocean temperature. The results did not, however, yield a significant correlation between environmental variation and rates of species origination or extinction, suggesting that environmental variability and species turnover may not be closely related, a notion that has been widely debated in the scientific community.

    2
    Workers use a drilling rig to collect samples of lake sediments from deep underground. Credit: Andrew Cohen/University of Arizona.

    The idea that long-term trends toward a wetter or drier climate may have been a driver of human evolution goes back to the time of Charles Darwin, according to the paper’s first author, Andrew Cohen, a University Distinguished Professor in the University of Arizona Department of Geosciences and the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology. A major change came in the late 1990s, with the introduction in the scientific community of the influential variability selection hypothesis.

    “The idea here is that it’s not just the direction of climate change that was important as a driver for evolutionary novelty in the hominin lineage, but the variability in the environmental and climate conditions,” Cohen explained. “As our ancestors faced rapidly shifting conditions, this hypothesis suggests they had to be more resourceful and capable of dealing with many different contingencies, which, in turn, led to new species appearing while others went extinct.”

    In the current study, researchers analyzed samples taken from sediment cores from lakebeds, ocean floors and terrestrial outcrops from 17 locations throughout the African continent and surrounding areas. The environmental data was sourced by analyzing records from pollen, fossilized algae, dust, leaf waxes, soil isotopes and other physical properties that provide clues about the types of vegetation and environmental conditions at the site where they were deposited. To combine data from these very different types of records and tease out the underlying pattern of climatic variability, Cohen said the team had to overcome a major challenge: how to quantify variability and compare it from one sampling location to another.

    “This isn’t trivial because you have records on the one hand of things like fossil pollen telling you about how variable the vegetation was, others telling you about changing lake levels, still others telling you about dust blowing out onto the ocean,” he said. “We needed a way to not just look at one record but stack all these different types of reference that allows us to tease apart the rhythm of variability.”

    To do this, the researchers developed statistical methods that allowed them to “compare apples and oranges,” Cohen explained, and assigned the climate record data points to “bins” of time periods comprising 20,000, 100,000 and 400,000 years. Once the individual datasets of variability scores in each bin had been standardized, the team could then “stack” them and calculate an averaged amount of variability for each time period.

    The climate data were then directly compared with the fossil record of large mammals – primarily bovids, a family that includes antelopes and other large herbivores – from eastern Africa. The researchers focused on large herbivores primarily because fossils from human ancestors are too rare to be useful in such an approach.

    “I won’t say you could fit all of (the hominin fossils) in a shoebox anymore, but they’re still not that common,” Cohen said, “so we decided to look at other organisms with a better fossil record, because there’s no reason to think that only our closest relatives, our hominin ancestors, should be affected by climate change and variability.

    “If climate variability is a significant driver in evolution, it ought to be a driver and evolution of other large mammals, too,” he added. “Think, for example, of polar bears and how they are affected by current climate change.”

    The authors used a method borrowed from modern wildlife population biology to account for a bias that has long plagued paleontologists: the inherent incompleteness of the fossil record, which the study’s second author, Andrew Du, illustrates with a block of Swiss cheese. If one were to drill a core sample through cheese, it would have gaps from where the core hit a hole in the cheese. Similarly, the fossil record of a species has gaps – time periods when no fossils have been found – interspersed with periods when there are fossils. This makes it very difficult to establish exactly when a species originated in the fossil record and when it went extinct.

    To circumvent this limitation, Du applied a technique known as capture, mark and recapture, which is frequently used by wildlife biologists when they survey animal populations: After an animal is caught, it is tagged for identification and released back into the wild. During a later survey, scientists compare the proportion of tagged to untagged animals. Applying statistics, this allows them to get an idea of the size and structure of the population at large.

    Du, an assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology & Geography at Colorado State University, explained how the technique works in fossil systems.

    “Let’s say we see the appearance of a new species in the fossil record in time period one, then we find a different fossil from the same species in time period two, we miss it in time period three, but we see it again in time period four,” he said. “What this tells us is that even though we didn’t see the species in time period three, we know it was around. This gives us an idea about the quality of the fossil record during certain time periods, and we can account for this quality when estimating speciation and extinction rates.”

    Putting all these datasets together allowed the researchers to compare patterns of environmental variability and its relationship to mammal species origination and extinction rates.

    “Overall, there has been a long-term trend over the last 3.5 million years of increasing variability in the environment,” he said. “That trend tracks rising variability in global ice volume and sea surface temperatures around Africa. Superimposed on that, we found another trend: Once we get into the ice ages, we see more ups and downs; the wiggles get bigger and bigger and bigger, reflecting the waxing and waning of the ice sheets, and that variability tracks the 400,000-year Milankovic cycles.”

    All the while, the fossil record of species origination and extinction among the large herbivores, and also hominin fossils, appears to be disconnected from these climatic variability trends. While the authors acknowledge that the variability selection hypothesis could still be correct but operating at different scales, they hope to encourage the scientific community to think about the variability selection hypothesis in a more critical way, “rather than just accepting it as an underlying principle of how we look at the fossil record in Africa, and especially the human fossil record,” Cohen said.

    “We don’t say that environmental variability is not important for human evolution, but the data we have currently compiled is very inconsistent with that idea,” he said. “If environmental variability was as important as it has been made out to be, we would expect to see that long-term trend of increasing variability mirrored in evolutionary turnover in all kinds of species, including hominins, but we just don’t see that.”

    See the full article here .


    five-ways-keep-your-child-safe-school-shootings
    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    As of 2019, the The University of Arizona enrolled 45,918 students in 19 separate colleges/schools, including The University of Arizona College of Medicine in Tucson and Phoenix and the James E. Rogers College of Law, and is affiliated with two academic medical centers (Banner – University Medical Center Tucson and Banner – University Medical Center Phoenix). The University of Arizona is one of three universities governed by the Arizona Board of Regents. The university is part of the Association of American Universities and is the only member from Arizona, and also part of the Universities Research Association . The university is classified among “R1: Doctoral Universities – Very High Research Activity”.

    Known as the Arizona Wildcats (often shortened to “Cats”), The University of Arizona’s intercollegiate athletic teams are members of the Pac-12 Conference of the NCAA. The University of Arizona athletes have won national titles in several sports, most notably men’s basketball, baseball, and softball. The official colors of the university and its athletic teams are cardinal red and navy blue.

    After the passage of the Morrill Land-Grant Act of 1862, the push for a university in Arizona grew. The Arizona Territory’s “Thieving Thirteenth” Legislature approved The University of Arizona in 1885 and selected the city of Tucson to receive the appropriation to build the university. Tucson hoped to receive the appropriation for the territory’s mental hospital, which carried a $100,000 allocation instead of the $25,000 allotted to the territory’s only university Arizona State University was also chartered in 1885, but it was created as Arizona’s normal school, and not a university). Flooding on the Salt River delayed Tucson’s legislators, and by the time they reached Prescott, back-room deals allocating the most desirable territorial institutions had been made. Tucson was largely disappointed with receiving what was viewed as an inferior prize.

    With no parties willing to provide land for the new institution, the citizens of Tucson prepared to return the money to the Territorial Legislature until two gamblers and a saloon keeper decided to donate the land to build the school. Construction of Old Main, the first building on campus, began on October 27, 1887, and classes met for the first time in 1891 with 32 students in Old Main, which is still in use today. Because there were no high schools in Arizona Territory, the university maintained separate preparatory classes for the first 23 years of operation.

    Research

    The University of Arizona is classified among “R1: Doctoral Universities – Very high research activity”. UArizona is the fourth most awarded public university by National Aeronautics and Space Administration for research. The University of Arizona was awarded over $325 million for its Lunar and Planetary Laboratory (LPL) to lead NASA’s 2007–08 mission to Mars to explore the Martian Arctic, and $800 million for its OSIRIS-REx mission, the first in U.S. history to sample an asteroid.

    National Aeronautics Space Agency OSIRIS-REx Spacecraft.

    The LPL’s work in the Cassini spacecraft orbit around Saturn is larger than any other university globally.

    National Aeronautics and Space Administration/European Space Agency [La Agencia Espacial Europea][Agence spatiale européenne][Europäische Weltraumorganisation](EU)/ASI Italian Space Agency [Agenzia Spaziale Italiana](IT) Cassini Spacecraft.

    The University of Arizona laboratory designed and operated the atmospheric radiation investigations and imaging on the probe. The University of Arizona operates the HiRISE camera, a part of the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter.

    U Arizona NASA Mars Reconnaisance HiRISE Camera.

    NASA Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter.

    While using the HiRISE camera in 2011, University of Arizona alumnus Lujendra Ojha and his team discovered proof of liquid water on the surface of Mars—a discovery confirmed by NASA in 2015. The University of Arizona receives more NASA grants annually than the next nine top NASA/JPL-Caltech-funded universities combined. As of March 2016, The University of Arizona’s Lunar and Planetary Laboratory is actively involved in ten spacecraft missions: Cassini VIMS; Grail; the HiRISE camera orbiting Mars; the Juno mission orbiting Jupiter; Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO); Maven, which will explore Mars’ upper atmosphere and interactions with the sun; Solar Probe Plus, a historic mission into the Sun’s atmosphere for the first time; Rosetta’s VIRTIS; WISE; and OSIRIS-REx, the first U.S. sample-return mission to a near-earth asteroid, which launched on September 8, 2016.

    3
    NASA – GRAIL Flying in Formation (Artist’s Concept). Credit: NASA.
    National Aeronautics Space Agency Juno at Jupiter.

    NASA/Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter.

    NASA/Mars MAVEN

    NASA Parker Solar Probe Plus named to honor Pioneering Physicist Eugene Parker. The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Lab.
    National Aeronautics and Space Administration Wise/NEOWISE Telescope.

    The University of Arizona students have been selected as Truman, Rhodes, Goldwater, and Fulbright Scholars. According to The Chronicle of Higher Education, UArizona is among the top 25 producers of Fulbright awards in the U.S.

    The University of Arizona is a member of the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy , a consortium of institutions pursuing research in astronomy. The association operates observatories and telescopes, notably Kitt Peak National Observatory just outside Tucson.

    National Science Foundation NOIRLab National Optical Astronomy Observatory Kitt Peak National Observatory on Kitt Peak of the Quinlan Mountains in the Arizona-Sonoran Desert on the Tohono O’odham Nation, 88 kilometers (55 mi) west-southwest of Tucson, Arizona, Altitude 2,096 m (6,877 ft). annotated.

    Led by Roger Angel, researchers in the Steward Observatory Mirror Lab at The University of Arizona are working in concert to build the world’s most advanced telescope. Known as the Giant Magellan Telescope (CL), it will produce images 10 times sharper than those from the Earth-orbiting Hubble Telescope.

    GMT Giant Magellan Telescope(CL) 21 meters, to be at the Carnegie Institution for Science’s NOIRLab NOAO Las Campanas Observatory(CL), some 115 km (71 mi) north-northeast of La Serena, Chile, over 2,500 m (8,200 ft) high.

    The telescope is set to be completed in 2021. GMT will ultimately cost $1 billion. Researchers from at least nine institutions are working to secure the funding for the project. The telescope will include seven 18-ton mirrors capable of providing clear images of volcanoes and riverbeds on Mars and mountains on the moon at a rate 40 times faster than the world’s current large telescopes. The mirrors of the Giant Magellan Telescope will be built at The University of Arizona and transported to a permanent mountaintop site in the Chilean Andes where the telescope will be constructed.

    Reaching Mars in March 2006, the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter contained the HiRISE camera, with Principal Investigator Alfred McEwen as the lead on the project. This National Aeronautics and Space Agency mission to Mars carrying the UArizona-designed camera is capturing the highest-resolution images of the planet ever seen. The journey of the orbiter was 300 million miles. In August 2007, The University of Arizona, under the charge of Scientist Peter Smith, led the Phoenix Mars Mission, the first mission completely controlled by a university. Reaching the planet’s surface in May 2008, the mission’s purpose was to improve knowledge of the Martian Arctic. The Arizona Radio Observatory , a part of The University of Arizona Department of Astronomy Steward Observatory , operates the Submillimeter Telescope on Mount Graham.

    University of Arizona Radio Observatory at NOAO Kitt Peak National Observatory, AZ USA, U Arizona Department of Astronomy and Steward Observatory at altitude 2,096 m (6,877 ft).

    Kitt Peak National Observatory in the Arizona-Sonoran Desert 88 kilometers 55 mi west-southwest of Tucson, Arizona in the Quinlan Mountains of the Tohono O’odham Nation, altitude 2,096 m (6,877 ft)

    The National Science Foundation funded the iPlant Collaborative in 2008 with a $50 million grant. In 2013, iPlant Collaborative received a $50 million renewal grant. Rebranded in late 2015 as “CyVerse”, the collaborative cloud-based data management platform is moving beyond life sciences to provide cloud-computing access across all scientific disciplines.

    In June 2011, the university announced it would assume full ownership of the Biosphere 2 scientific research facility in Oracle, Arizona, north of Tucson, effective July 1. Biosphere 2 was constructed by private developers (funded mainly by Texas businessman and philanthropist Ed Bass) with its first closed system experiment commencing in 1991. The university had been the official management partner of the facility for research purposes since 2007.

    U Arizona mirror lab-Where else in the world can you find an astronomical observatory mirror lab under a football stadium?

    University of Arizona’s Biosphere 2, located in the Sonoran desert. An entire ecosystem under a glass dome? Visit our campus, just once, and you’ll quickly understand why The University of Arizona is a university unlike any other.

    University of Arizona Landscape Evolution Observatory at Biosphere 2.

     
  • richardmitnick 10:13 pm on March 8, 2022 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Expedition to highest active volcano unearths clues about life on other worlds", A team of CU Boulder scientists seek to discover how tiny organisms persist at one of the driest and highest points on the planet., An environment which closely mimics that of ancient Mars high above the Atacama Desert., , , , Evolutionary Biology, , Ojos del Salado-the world’s highest active volcano at 22615 feet.,   

    From The University of Colorado-Boulder (US): “Expedition to highest active volcano unearths clues about life on other worlds” 

    U Colorado

    From The University of Colorado-Boulder (US)

    March 7, 2022
    Kelsey Simpkins

    1
    Left to right: Brian Hynek, professor of geological sciences and LASP research associate; Adam Solon, graduate student in ecology and evolutionary biology; and Amanda Steckel, graduate student in geological sciences and the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics [LASP].

    A harsh sun shines down through a cloudless sky, across a vast and unforgiving landscape. It’s covered in gray rock, giant ice sculptures and expansive fields of spiky, yellow and orange bushes. In the distance, intimidating mountain peaks dominate the desolate scene, many miles from the nearest town. Yet alpacas roam freely and flamingos seek out scarce water, both unexpected sights in this wild world.

    The extreme environment resembles something from a sci-fi film or another planet, but it’s right here on Earth, on the flanks of the world’s highest active volcano, 22,615-foot Ojos del Salado. Here, on the border of Argentina and Chile, a team of CU Boulder scientists seek to discover how tiny organisms persist at one of the driest and highest points on the planet.

    Supported in part by a grant from the National Geographic Society, the first-of-its-kind project may ultimately help inform the search for existing and extinct life on other planets.

    “There’s been almost no scientific studies on this volcano. So it’s a new frontier in terms of geology, microbiology and the environment itself,” said project lead Brian Hynek, professor of geological sciences and research associate at the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics (LASP).

    For three weeks in December, Hynek was joined by Adam Solon, graduate student in ecology and evolutionary biology, and Amanda Steckel, graduate student in geological sciences and LASP, as the first researchers to ever explore and survey this high up on the Argentinian side of the mountain. Project co-leader Steve Schmidt, professor of ecology and evolutionary biology, and Nick Dragone, graduate student in ecology and evolutionary biology, are now hard at work analyzing the samples they brought back. And a second trip is in the works.

    The team’s previous research on neighboring volcanoes suggests this trip will provide valuable insights about the microbiology and flow of chemical elements through this habitat, which mimics those of the past on neighboring planet Mars and possibly the present of Jupiter’s fourth largest moon, Europa.

    Training for great heights

    While they didn’t plan to spend much time at the summit, the team had to prepare for a base camp at 19,000 feet and to conduct research at 21,000 feet—the highest any of them have ever climbed.

    That high up, oxygen is scarce. So in the months leading up to the trip, they often hiked and camped near Leadville, Colorado—the highest incorporated city in North America, at over 10,000 feet—to acclimate and break in their mountaineering boots.

    Next, getting to Ojos del Salado was its own challenge, taking them two days and multiple flights to get to Northern Argentina, two days drive from the jungle to the high desert, and a day-and-a-half journey on a rough four-wheel-drive road to the base of the volcano at 19,000 feet. From there, the team climbed through the frigid night to over 21,000 feet, where they conducted their research.

    From life on Ojos to life on Mars

    Once settled in high above the Atacama Desert, the team set out to conduct research in an environment which closely mimics that of ancient Mars. Extremely dry conditions, high levels of ultraviolet radiation, large day-to-night temperature swings and limited water are all elements that make Ojos del Salado an ideal analog to the red planet.

    “Going to places on Earth that mimic either the chemistry or the physics or volcanic conditions of early Mars can help us understand it better,” said Hynek, a National Geographic explorer. “In the past, Mars probably was a lot like Ojos, and not as extreme as it is now. So by studying this, we can get a good glimpse at habitability on past Mars.”

    Hynek, a planetary geologist, was eager to examine the hydrothermal systems, steam vents, fumaroles and hot springs on the volcano. These are places where water and fluids interact with rocks, create minerals and can support microbial life from the energy involved in these chemical reactions.

    Today, Mars is riddled with remnant minerals from these interactions. By documenting under what temperatures, pressures and chemistries these minerals are created here in Earth’s extremes, Hynek can apply that information to what remains on Mars today. So when a rover or an orbiter discovers particular minerals on Mars, he and fellow scientists can deduce what historical conditions in those places must have been like to produce them—and if they could have also supported life.

    “The ultimate question is whether this is a good place where life could have come about,” said Hynek. “Because life on Earth probably started in hydrothermal systems, it’s probably where it would have started on Mars. These are key targets for looking for life on our neighbor.”

    See the full article here .

    five-ways-keep-your-child-safe-school-shootings

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    U Colorado Campus

    As the flagship university of the state of Colorado The University of Colorado-Boulder (US), founded in 1876, five months before Colorado became a state. It is a dynamic community of scholars and learners situated on one of the most spectacular college campuses in the country, and is classified as an R1 University, meaning that it engages in a very high level of research activity. As one of 34 U.S. public institutions belonging to the prestigious Association of American Universities (US), a selective group of major research universities in North America, – and the only member in the Rocky Mountain region – we have a proud tradition of academic excellence, with five Nobel laureates and more than 50 members of prestigious academic academies.

    The University of Colorado-Boulder (US) has blossomed in size and quality since we opened our doors in 1877 – attracting superb faculty, staff, and students and building strong programs in the sciences, engineering, business, law, arts, humanities, education, music, and many other disciplines.

    Today, with our sights set on becoming the standard for the great comprehensive public research universities of the new century, we strive to serve the people of Colorado and to engage with the world through excellence in our teaching, research, creative work, and service.

    In 2015, the university comprised nine colleges and schools and offered over 150 academic programs and enrolled almost 17,000 students. Five Nobel Laureates, nine MacArthur Fellows, and 20 astronauts have been affiliated with CU Boulder as students; researchers; or faculty members in its history. In 2010, the university received nearly $454 million in sponsored research to fund programs like the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics and JILA. CU Boulder has been called a Public Ivy, a group of publicly funded universities considered as providing a quality of education comparable to those of the Ivy League.

    The University of Colorado-Boulder Buffaloes compete in 17 varsity sports and are members of the NCAA Division I Pac-12 Conference. The Buffaloes have won 28 national championships: 20 in skiing, seven total in men’s and women’s cross country, and one in football. The university has produced a total of ten Olympic medalists. Approximately 900 students participate in 34 intercollegiate club sports annually as well.

    On March 14, 1876, the Colorado territorial legislature passed an amendment to the state constitution that provided money for the establishment of the University of Colorado in Boulder, the Colorado School of Mines(US) in Golden, and the Colorado State University (US) – College of Agricultural Sciences in Fort Collins.

    Two cities competed for the site of The University of Colorado: Boulder and Cañon City. The consolation prize for the losing city was to be home of the new Colorado State Prison. Cañon City was at a disadvantage as it was already the home of the Colorado Territorial Prison. (There are now six prisons in the Cañon City area.)

    The cornerstone of the building that became Old Main was laid on September 20, 1875. The doors of the university opened on September 5, 1877. At the time, there were few high schools in the state that could adequately prepare students for university work, so in addition to the University, a preparatory school was formed on campus. In the fall of 1877, the student body consisted of 15 students in the college proper and 50 students in the preparatory school. There were 38 men and 27 women, and their ages ranged from 12–23 years.

    During World War II, The University of Colorado was one of 131 colleges and universities nationally that took part in the V-12 Navy College Training Program which offered students a path to a navy commission.

    The University of Colorado-Boulder (US) hired its first female professor, Mary Rippon, in 1878. It hired its first African-American professor, Charles H. Nilon, in 1956, and its first African-American librarian, Mildred Nilon, in 1962. Its first African American female graduate, Lucile Berkeley Buchanan, received her degree in 1918.

    Research institutes

    The University of Colorado-Boulder’s (US) research mission is supported by eleven research institutes within the university. Each research institute supports faculty from multiple academic departments, allowing institutes to conduct truly multidisciplinary research.

    The Institute for Behavioral Genetics (IBG) is a research institute within the Graduate School dedicated to conducting and facilitating research on the genetic and environmental bases of individual differences in behavior. After its founding in 1967 IBG led the resurging interest in genetic influences on behavior. IBG was the first post-World War II research institute dedicated to research in behavioral genetics. IBG remains one of the top research facilities for research in behavioral genetics, including human behavioral genetics, psychiatric genetics, quantitative genetics, statistical genetics, and animal behavioral genetics.

    The Institute of Cognitive Science (ICS) at CU Boulder promotes interdisciplinary research and training in cognitive science. ICS is highly interdisciplinary; its research focuses on education, language processing, emotion, and higher level cognition using experimental methods. It is home to a state of the art fMRI system used to collect neuroimaging data.

    ATLAS Institute is a center for interdisciplinary research and academic study, where engineering, computer science and robotics are blended with design-oriented topics. Part of CU Boulder’s College of Engineering and Applied Science, the institute offers academic programs at the undergraduate, master’s and doctoral levels, and administers research labs, hacker and makerspaces, and a black box experimental performance studio. At the beginning of the 2018–2019 academic year, approximately 1,200 students were enrolled in ATLAS academic programs and the institute sponsored six research labs.[64]

    In addition to IBG, ICS and ATLAS, the university’s other institutes include Biofrontiers Institute, Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences, Institute of Arctic & Alpine Research (INSTAAR), Institute of Behavioral Science (IBS), JILA, Laboratory for Atmospheric & Space Physics (LASP), Renewable & Sustainable Energy Institute (RASEI), and the University of Colorado Museum of Natural History.

     
  • richardmitnick 9:17 pm on January 20, 2022 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Disassembling Evolution’s Engine", , , Biologists discovered as spadefoot tadpoles grow their diet determines their appearance., , Evolutionary Biology, How the environment and form of a parent impacts the behavior and appearance of its offspring., In biology how are novel traits formed; how do phenotypes come to be; what that means for evolution., , , When a research project centered on evolution within spadefoot toads fell through Emily Harmon shifted her focus to microscopic swimmers called rotifers.   

    From Endeavors at The University of North Carolina (US) – Chapel Hill: “Disassembling Evolution’s Engine” 

    From Endeavors at The University of North Carolina (US) – Chapel Hill

    January 13th, 2022
    Megan Suggs

    When a research project centered on evolution within spadefoot toads fell through Emily Harmon shifted her focus to microscopic swimmers called rotifers. The biology PhD student is studying an animal’s ability to adapt in one generation, which could inform conservation efforts in the face of climate change.

    1
    Emily Harmon, a PhD student in the Department of Biology, draws a plankton net from the water while collecting microscopic organisms called rotifers under the fishing dock at Jordan Lake in Chapel Hill. Photo by Andrew Russell.

    When we think of evolution, we imagine Charles Darwin’s Galápagos finches, their beaks lengthening or becoming more powerful over thousands of generations to decrease competition by specializing in one food source. Variation, improved survival, and heredity drive the slow process.

    Today, animals from corals to birds don’t have centuries to adapt to quickly shifting environments. One of the keys to surviving climate change may be an influence most evolutionary biologists have written off until recently.

    Animals changing form or behavior in response to environmental changes within their lifetime is called plasticity — a process Emily Harmon personally experienced while conducting research during the COVID-19 pandemic.

    As a UNC-Chapel Hill biology PhD student, Harmon studies how the environment and form of a parent impacts the behavior and appearance of its offspring. For example, an aphid on a crowded plant has offspring with wings so they can fly to a new plant.

    “These parental effects were once treated as a nuisance or something you needed to control in your experiment,” Harmon says. “In the 1990s, we realized this also plays a role in important things in biology, like how novel traits are formed, how phenotypes come to be, and what that means for evolution.”

    Finding the gas pump

    In 2019, Harmon began her research at the American Museum of Natural History’s Southwestern Research Station in the Chiricahua Mountains near the Mexican border. She collected spadefoot toads, which live where desert and mountains meet in southwestern United States. The landscape is a mix of orange, arid rocks and green oak, juniper, and pine forests.

    About 40 years ago, biologists discovered as spadefoot tadpoles grow, their diet determines their appearance. Those that eat detritus and plants grow into what are considered average omnivorous tadpoles. Those that eat small aquatic creatures, like shrimp, look different.

    “They become these big beefy carnivores,” Harmon says. “They have big jaw muscles. They have pointy mouth parts, and they’re much more likely to eat each other.”

    Ten years ago, biologists observed the mother’s traits also impacted whether tadpoles were destined for the large mouths, often used to eat its siblings. The bigger the mother, the more likely she was to have cannibalistic offspring. When Harmon started her PhD, she wanted to learn where the environment’s influence stopped and where the parent’s influence began. She also wanted to find out how a tadpole became “beefy” if it wasn’t determined by its genes and diet alone.

    “We were essentially focusing in on the egg as the factor through which some sort of information other than just genetic information was being passed down to the offspring,” Harmon says.

    Hypotheses ranged from protein variation to symbiotic bacteria entering the egg and shaping the offspring.

    Spadefoot toads are an ideal organism for studying parental effects because they do not raise their young. Otherwise, quality parenting would be one more variable to consider during the experiment. Harmon planned to travel to spadefoot toad populations in Arizona and New Mexico in 2020 to see what the mothers, eggs, and tadpoles looked like in nature.

    Then COVID-19 hit, and the research station closed. While Harmon could have collected toads, she couldn’t have conducted any experiments, so she turned her eye to a different species.

    Exploring the accelerator

    Harmon has since travelled to several lakes and ponds near Chapel Hill to collect microscopic creatures called rotifers. Like tadpoles, they’re omnivores — eating detritus, algae, and smaller aquatic animals. A certain type of rotifer called the Asplanchna, though, generationally changes form depending on what the parent eats.

    2
    Considered one of the smallest organisms on Earth, rotifers can only be seen with a microscope. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

    In the world of microscopic aquatic creatures, the key to survival is being too big to fit in the mouth of the next largest animal. If a rotifer consumes a lot of vitamin E from green algae, its offspring will be bigger, and appendages grow from their body, making them wider. If this second generation consumes enough vitamin E, its offspring will be five to 10 times the size of the original female. Like the spadefoot toad tadpoles, the third generation is carnivorous and often cannibalistic.

    Harmon is collecting Asplanchna from various sites to compare how responsive different lineages are to vitamin E. With this comparison, she hopes to demonstrate how transgenerational plasticity impacts species’ survival in the face of environmental change. This concept is the buying time hypothesis. If animals in a population can quickly adjust to an environmental shift to survive for more generations, it buys the species time to adapt and evolve into a form that better suits its new environment.

    Researchers have observed this in birds. Species that have more plasticity have persisted despite stressful conditions.

    Harmon is creating the first empirical test for the buying time hypothesis. Rotifers are a great subject because they have a fast generation time, it’s easy to maintain multiple lineages, and researchers can create the new environment for them to react to in a small jar.

    Right now, in collaboration with a rotifer researcher in Texas, Harmon is working to create Asplanchna colonies with ancestors from different ponds. Each colony will have plenty of vitamin E. She will document how much carnivorous offspring each colony produces to determine its plasticity. She’ll then introduce the colonies to an environmental change to see if those with more plasticity are better at survival.

    3
    Rotifers can be found all over the world, which makes them easy for Harmon to find and collect across Chapel Hill’s numerous lakes and ponds. Photo by Andrew Russell.

    Harmon’s research could help determine if transgenerational plasticity can help a species persist for multiple generations and eventually evolve. If that’s the case, conservation strategies could shift. Often, conservationists try to introduce new genetic material to a species to increase variation to drive adaptation. For some species, it might be in their best interest to try to trigger plasticity instead.

    “It might even be possible to pre-expose species to stressful environments so that they can develop a plastic response that could be passed down across generations,” Harmon says.

    So far, that’s worked for Harmon, who – like most of us – has found the pandemic frustrating but good for adaptation. She enjoys her new project on rotifers and sees a lot of potential.

    “When it was clear the work with spadefoot toads would be infeasible, I was able to step back, figure out what questions I was really interested in, and pick a study system best suited for that work,” she says. “If this works out, I’ll have not just contributed to the spadefoot system, but started to carve out my own area in the field.”

    See the full article here .

    five-ways-keep-your-child-safe-school-shootings

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    UNC bloc

    UNC campus
    UNC-University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill
    The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill is a public research university in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. The flagship of the University of North Carolina system, it is considered to be a Public Ivy, or a public institution which offers an academic experience similar to that of an Ivy League university. After being chartered in 1789, the university first began enrolling students in 1795, making it one of the oldest public universities in the United States. Among the claimants, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill is the only one to have held classes and graduated students as a public university in the eighteenth century.

    The first public institution of higher education in North Carolina, the school opened its doors to students on February 12, 1795. North Carolina became coeducational under the leadership of President Kemp Plummer Battle in 1877 and began the process of desegregation under Chancellor Robert Burton House when African-American graduate students were admitted in 1951. In 1952, North Carolina opened its own hospital, UNC Health Care, for research and treatment, and has since specialized in cancer care through UNC’s Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center which is one of only 51 national NCI designated comprehensive centers.

    The university offers degrees in over 70 courses of study and is administratively divided into 13 separate professional schools and a primary unit, the College of Arts & Sciences. Five of the schools have been named: the UNC Kenan–Flagler Business School, the UNC Hussman School of Journalism and Media, the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health, the UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy, and the UNC Adams School of Dentistry. All undergraduates receive a liberal arts education and have the option to pursue a major within the professional schools of the university or within the College of Arts and Sciences from the time they obtain junior status. It is classified among “R1: Doctoral Universities – Very high research activity”, and is a member of the Association of American Universities (AAU) (US). According to the National Science Foundation (US), UNC spent $1.14 billion on research and development in 2018, ranking it 12th in the nation.

    UNC’s faculty and alumni include 9 Nobel Prize laureates, 23 Pulitzer Prize winners, and 51 Rhodes Scholars. Additional notable alumni include a U.S. President, a U.S. Vice President, 38 Governors of U.S. States, 98 members of the United States Congress, and nine Cabinet members as well as CEOs of Fortune 500 companies, Olympians and professional athletes.

    The campus covers 729 acres (3 km^2) of Chapel Hill’s downtown area, encompassing the Morehead Planetarium and the many stores and shops located on Franklin Street. Students can participate in over 550 officially recognized student organizations. The student-run newspaper The Daily Tar Heel has won national awards for collegiate media, while the student radio station WXYC provided the world’s first internet radio broadcast. UNC Chapel Hill is one of the charter members of the Atlantic Coast Conference, which was founded on June 14, 1953. Competing athletically as the Tar Heels, UNC has achieved great success in sports, most notably in men’s basketball, women’s soccer, and women’s field hockey.

     
  • richardmitnick 11:06 am on January 12, 2022 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Measuring success-The path to real conservation gains", , , , Evolutionary Biology, Failure was largely due to a lack of linking goals to measurements., Key scientific advances in measuring conservation success can support better progress in the coming decade., Novel ways to integrate global data can improve national efforts to estimate the numbers and locations of endangered species and prevent extinctions., The last decade has seen important but insufficient progress in protecting areas that are home to endangered species worldwide.,   

    From Yale University (US) : “Measuring success-The path to real conservation gains” 

    From Yale University (US)

    January 5, 2022

    Media Contact:
    Bess Connolly
    elizabeth.connolly@yale.edu

    By Bill Hathaway

    1
    While Mongolia conserves a relatively small area of its country (green), it manages to protect a high percentage of its species, according to species protection index.

    The last decade has seen important but insufficient progress in protecting areas that are home to endangered species worldwide, conservation leaders say. As governments prepare to discuss new conservation goals at the 2022 U.N. Biodiversity Conference in Kunming, China, Yale’s Walter Jetz and colleagues argue that key scientific advances in measuring conservation success can support better progress in the coming decade.

    Writing in a recent issue of the journal Nature Ecology and Evolution, they make the case that novel ways to integrate global data can improve national efforts to estimate the numbers and locations of endangered species and prevent extinctions.

    In an interview, Jetz, professor of ecology and evolutionary biology and of the environment at Yale and one of chief architects of the groundbreaking Map of Life, discusses how these new tools, along with the combination of local observations and remote sensing, can support more effective conservation of the world’s biological diversity.

    What has been the impact of policies adopted at the last U.N. Biodiversity Summit in 2010?

    Walter Jetz: The previous international commitments for biodiversity conservation— the Aichi 2020 Targets [adopted in 2010] — which, for example stipulated a designation of 17% of lands and 10% of oceans as protected areas, resulted in some important progress. But overall, the activities it spurred were insufficient. Many of the agreed-on targets were missed, and we continue to witness major biodiversity decline.

    It’s widely recognized that this failure was largely due to a lack of linking goals to measurements, i.e., putting robust biodiversity status and trend measurements alongside goals in order to support and engage nations around achieving them.

    What are some of the shortcomings that need to be addressed at the 2022 summit?

    Jetz: As parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) meet to sanction a new global biodiversity framework and specific targets for 2030, they will need to address threats that contribute to species extinctions. One draft target, for instance, stipulates the preservation of 30% of land and sea by 2030 through effective reserves and sound area-based conservation. However, a focus only on the amount of area preserved without accurate measures of how well they represent species populations is at minimum inefficient and at worst unhelpful for conserving biodiversity.

    Then how do we track progress in species conservation and prevent extinction?

    Jetz: Scientific advances, including those advanced at Yale in The Center for Biodiversity and Global Change, now provide us with new, globally comparable measures of biodiversity representation in conservation areas. The metrics we developed in collaboration with international partners combine existing records with remotely sensed data to map detailed global distribution of species. This will allow us to assess whether a sufficiently large portion of the population is under some form of protection. Instead of simply measuring increases in protected areas, say, 30% of land, anyone can evaluate how these expansions translate into positive biodiversity outcomes, including an increase in the proportion of species sufficiently safeguarded.

    These innovative measurements have now become possible through a strong growth in data- and global remote sensing technologies. This information can help inform government policies and support anyone, including local and regional stakeholders, to use best-possible evidence in their conservation and resource management decisions.

    Some of the new products and tools can be found at the Map of Life website.

    See the full article here .

    five-ways-keep-your-child-safe-school-shootings

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    Yale University (US) is a private Ivy League research university in New Haven, Connecticut. Founded in 1701 as the Collegiate School, it is the third-oldest institution of higher education in the United States and one of the nine Colonial Colleges chartered before the American Revolution. The Collegiate School was renamed Yale College in 1718 to honor the school’s largest private benefactor for the first century of its existence, Elihu Yale. Yale University is consistently ranked as one of the top universities and is considered one of the most prestigious in the nation.

    Chartered by Connecticut Colony, the Collegiate School was established in 1701 by clergy to educate Congregational ministers before moving to New Haven in 1716. Originally restricted to theology and sacred languages, the curriculum began to incorporate humanities and sciences by the time of the American Revolution. In the 19th century, the college expanded into graduate and professional instruction, awarding the first PhD in the United States in 1861 and organizing as a university in 1887. Yale’s faculty and student populations grew after 1890 with rapid expansion of the physical campus and scientific research.

    Yale is organized into fourteen constituent schools: the original undergraduate college, the Yale Graduate School of Arts and Sciences and twelve professional schools. While the university is governed by the Yale Corporation, each school’s faculty oversees its curriculum and degree programs. In addition to a central campus in downtown New Haven, the university owns athletic facilities in western New Haven, a campus in West Haven, Connecticut, and forests and nature preserves throughout New England. As of June 2020, the university’s endowment was valued at $31.1 billion, the second largest of any educational institution. The Yale University Library, serving all constituent schools, holds more than 15 million volumes and is the third-largest academic library in the United States. Students compete in intercollegiate sports as the Yale Bulldogs in the NCAA Division I – Ivy League.

    As of October 2020, 65 Nobel laureates, five Fields Medalists, four Abel Prize laureates, and three Turing award winners have been affiliated with Yale University. In addition, Yale has graduated many notable alumni, including five U.S. Presidents, 19 U.S. Supreme Court Justices, 31 living billionaires, and many heads of state. Hundreds of members of Congress and many U.S. diplomats, 78 MacArthur Fellows, 252 Rhodes Scholars, 123 Marshall Scholars, and nine Mitchell Scholars have been affiliated with the university.

    Research

    Yale is a member of the Association of American Universities (AAU) (US) and is classified among “R1: Doctoral Universities – Very high research activity”. According to the National Science Foundation (US), Yale spent $990 million on research and development in 2018, ranking it 15th in the nation.

    Yale’s faculty include 61 members of the National Academy of Sciences (US), 7 members of the National Academy of Engineering (US) and 49 members of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences (US). The college is, after normalization for institution size, the tenth-largest baccalaureate source of doctoral degree recipients in the United States, and the largest such source within the Ivy League.

    Yale’s English and Comparative Literature departments were part of the New Criticism movement. Of the New Critics, Robert Penn Warren, W.K. Wimsatt, and Cleanth Brooks were all Yale faculty. Later, the Yale Comparative literature department became a center of American deconstruction. Jacques Derrida, the father of deconstruction, taught at the Department of Comparative Literature from the late seventies to mid-1980s. Several other Yale faculty members were also associated with deconstruction, forming the so-called “Yale School”. These included Paul de Man who taught in the Departments of Comparative Literature and French, J. Hillis Miller, Geoffrey Hartman (both taught in the Departments of English and Comparative Literature), and Harold Bloom (English), whose theoretical position was always somewhat specific, and who ultimately took a very different path from the rest of this group. Yale’s history department has also originated important intellectual trends. Historians C. Vann Woodward and David Brion Davis are credited with beginning in the 1960s and 1970s an important stream of southern historians; likewise, David Montgomery, a labor historian, advised many of the current generation of labor historians in the country. Yale’s Music School and Department fostered the growth of Music Theory in the latter half of the 20th century. The Journal of Music Theory was founded there in 1957; Allen Forte and David Lewin were influential teachers and scholars.

    In addition to eminent faculty members, Yale research relies heavily on the presence of roughly 1200 Postdocs from various national and international origin working in the multiple laboratories in the sciences, social sciences, humanities, and professional schools of the university. The university progressively recognized this working force with the recent creation of the Office for Postdoctoral Affairs and the Yale Postdoctoral Association.

    Notable alumni

    Over its history, Yale has produced many distinguished alumni in a variety of fields, ranging from the public to private sector. According to 2020 data, around 71% of undergraduates join the workforce, while the next largest majority of 16.6% go on to attend graduate or professional schools. Yale graduates have been recipients of 252 Rhodes Scholarships, 123 Marshall Scholarships, 67 Truman Scholarships, 21 Churchill Scholarships, and 9 Mitchell Scholarships. The university is also the second largest producer of Fulbright Scholars, with a total of 1,199 in its history and has produced 89 MacArthur Fellows. The U.S. Department of State Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs ranked Yale fifth among research institutions producing the most 2020–2021 Fulbright Scholars. Additionally, 31 living billionaires are Yale alumni.

    At Yale, one of the most popular undergraduate majors among Juniors and Seniors is political science, with many students going on to serve careers in government and politics. Former presidents who attended Yale for undergrad include William Howard Taft, George H. W. Bush, and George W. Bush while former presidents Gerald Ford and Bill Clinton attended Yale Law School. Former vice-president and influential antebellum era politician John C. Calhoun also graduated from Yale. Former world leaders include Italian prime minister Mario Monti, Turkish prime minister Tansu Çiller, Mexican president Ernesto Zedillo, German president Karl Carstens, Philippine president José Paciano Laurel, Latvian president Valdis Zatlers, Taiwanese premier Jiang Yi-huah, and Malawian president Peter Mutharika, among others. Prominent royals who graduated are Crown Princess Victoria of Sweden, and Olympia Bonaparte, Princess Napoléon.

    Yale alumni have had considerable presence in U.S. government in all three branches. On the U.S. Supreme Court, 19 justices have been Yale alumni, including current Associate Justices Sonia Sotomayor, Samuel Alito, Clarence Thomas, and Brett Kavanaugh. Numerous Yale alumni have been U.S. Senators, including current Senators Michael Bennet, Richard Blumenthal, Cory Booker, Sherrod Brown, Chris Coons, Amy Klobuchar, Ben Sasse, and Sheldon Whitehouse. Current and former cabinet members include Secretaries of State John Kerry, Hillary Clinton, Cyrus Vance, and Dean Acheson; U.S. Secretaries of the Treasury Oliver Wolcott, Robert Rubin, Nicholas F. Brady, Steven Mnuchin, and Janet Yellen; U.S. Attorneys General Nicholas Katzenbach, John Ashcroft, and Edward H. Levi; and many others. Peace Corps founder and American diplomat Sargent Shriver and public official and urban planner Robert Moses are Yale alumni.

    Yale has produced numerous award-winning authors and influential writers, like Nobel Prize in Literature laureate Sinclair Lewis and Pulitzer Prize winners Stephen Vincent Benét, Thornton Wilder, Doug Wright, and David McCullough. Academy Award winning actors, actresses, and directors include Jodie Foster, Paul Newman, Meryl Streep, Elia Kazan, George Roy Hill, Lupita Nyong’o, Oliver Stone, and Frances McDormand. Alumni from Yale have also made notable contributions to both music and the arts. Leading American composer from the 20th century Charles Ives, Broadway composer Cole Porter, Grammy award winner David Lang, and award-winning jazz pianist and composer Vijay Iyer all hail from Yale. Hugo Boss Prize winner Matthew Barney, famed American sculptor Richard Serra, President Barack Obama presidential portrait painter Kehinde Wiley, MacArthur Fellow and contemporary artist Sarah Sze, Pulitzer Prize winning cartoonist Garry Trudeau, and National Medal of Arts photorealist painter Chuck Close all graduated from Yale. Additional alumni include architect and Presidential Medal of Freedom winner Maya Lin, Pritzker Prize winner Norman Foster, and Gateway Arch designer Eero Saarinen. Journalists and pundits include Dick Cavett, Chris Cuomo, Anderson Cooper, William F. Buckley, Jr., and Fareed Zakaria.

    In business, Yale has had numerous alumni and former students go on to become founders of influential business, like William Boeing (Boeing, United Airlines), Briton Hadden and Henry Luce (Time Magazine), Stephen A. Schwarzman (Blackstone Group), Frederick W. Smith (FedEx), Juan Trippe (Pan Am), Harold Stanley (Morgan Stanley), Bing Gordon (Electronic Arts), and Ben Silbermann (Pinterest). Other business people from Yale include former chairman and CEO of Sears Holdings Edward Lampert, former Time Warner president Jeffrey Bewkes, former PepsiCo chairperson and CEO Indra Nooyi, sports agent Donald Dell, and investor/philanthropist Sir John Templeton,

    Yale alumni distinguished in academia include literary critic and historian Henry Louis Gates, economists Irving Fischer, Mahbub ul Haq, and Nobel Prize laureate Paul Krugman; Nobel Prize in Physics laureates Ernest Lawrence and Murray Gell-Mann; Fields Medalist John G. Thompson; Human Genome Project leader and National Institutes of Health (US) director Francis S. Collins; brain surgery pioneer Harvey Cushing; pioneering computer scientist Grace Hopper; influential mathematician and chemist Josiah Willard Gibbs; National Women’s Hall of Fame inductee and biochemist Florence B. Seibert; Turing Award recipient Ron Rivest; inventors Samuel F.B. Morse and Eli Whitney; Nobel Prize in Chemistry laureate John B. Goodenough; lexicographer Noah Webster; and theologians Jonathan Edwards and Reinhold Niebuhr.

    In the sporting arena, Yale alumni include baseball players Ron Darling and Craig Breslow and baseball executives Theo Epstein and George Weiss; football players Calvin Hill, Gary Fenick, Amos Alonzo Stagg, and “the Father of American Football” Walter Camp; ice hockey players Chris Higgins and Olympian Helen Resor; Olympic figure skaters Sarah Hughes and Nathan Chen; nine-time U.S. Squash men’s champion Julian Illingworth; Olympic swimmer Don Schollander; Olympic rowers Josh West and Rusty Wailes; Olympic sailor Stuart McNay; Olympic runner Frank Shorter; and others.

     
  • richardmitnick 11:48 am on January 4, 2022 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "The Ghost Wolves of Galveston Island", A population of strange canids in Texas could hold the key to reviving the highly endangered red wolf., All the red wolves alive today are descended from about a dozen animals-an extremely low level of genetic diversity that could further imperil the species., And then there is their fur-distinctly reddish in hue with white patches on their muzzles., , At some point the red wolves or their descendants bred with local coyotes-and not just in Texas., , , , Evolutionary Biology, For years these genes have been hiding in plain sight., Once abundant in the southeastern United States the red wolves had dwindled in number during the 20th century-a result of habitat loss; hunting and other threats., Scientists selected some of the animals for a breeding program in hopes of maintaining the red wolf in captivity., The "Fish and Wildlife Service (US)" made a last-ditch effort to save the species traveling along the Gulf Coast and trapping all the red wolves it could find., The animals’ bodies seem slightly out of proportion with overly long legs; unusually broad heads and sharply pointed snouts., The canids of Galveston Island Texas look almost like coyotes prowling around the beach at night eyes gleaming in the dark., The Galveston Island canids are not conventional coyotes-at least not entirely. They carry a ghostly genetic legacy: DNA from red wolves which were declared extinct in the wild in 1980., The highly endangered Red Wolf,   

    From The New York Times : “The Ghost Wolves of Galveston Island” 

    From The New York Times

    Jan. 3, 2022
    Written by Emily Anthes
    Photographs by Tristan Spinski

    A population of strange canids in Texas could hold the key to reviving the highly endangered red wolf.

    From a distance, the canids of Galveston Island, Texas, look almost like coyotes, prowling around the beach at night, eyes gleaming in the dark.

    But look closer and oddities appear. The animals’ bodies seem slightly out of proportion, with overly long legs, unusually broad heads and sharply pointed snouts. And then there is their fur, distinctly reddish in hue, with white patches on their muzzles.

    The Galveston Island canids are not conventional coyotes — at least, not entirely. They carry a ghostly genetic legacy: DNA from red wolves, which were declared extinct in the wild in 1980.

    For years, these genes have been hiding in plain sight, tucked away in the seemingly unremarkable animals that scavenged for food behind housing developments and roamed the grounds of the local airport.

    Their discovery, which came after a determined local resident persuaded scientists to take a closer look at the canids, could help revive a captive breeding program for red wolves and restore the rich genetic variation that once existed in the wild population.

    “It doesn’t seem to be lost any longer,” said Bridgett vonHoldt, an evolutionary biologist at Princeton University, referring to the genetic diversity that once characterized red wolves. “We might have a chance to bring it back.”

    2
    Bridgett vonHoldt, left, an evolutionary biologist at Princeton University, and Kristin Brzeski, an environmental scientist at The Michigan Technological University (US), looked for canids at dusk.

    3
    Galveston Island canids emerged from the dark. They are not entirely coyotes, as they carry DNA from red wolves, which were declared extinct in the wild in 1980.

    “They just didn’t look right”

    Ron Wooten, a Galveston resident, never paid close attention to the local coyotes until they ran off with his dog one night in 2008. “A pack took him and carried him off,” recalled Mr. Wooten, an outreach specialist at The Army Corps of Engineers (US).

    He found the pack, and what remained of his dog, in a nearby field. He was horrified, and he blamed himself for his dog’s death. But as his flashlight swept over the coyotes’ red muzzles, he found himself fascinated.

    Determined to learn more, he posted a message on Facebook asking his neighbors to alert him if they spotted the animals. Eventually, a friend came through: There was a pack near her apartment building.

    Mr. Wooten raced over with his camera, snapping photographs as he watched a group of pups chasing each other. “They were just beautiful,” he said.

    But when he looked more carefully at the photos, he began to wonder whether the so-called coyotes were really coyotes at all. “They just didn’t look right,” he said. “I thought at first that they must have bred with Marmaduke or something because they had super-long legs, super-long noses.”

    3
    A canid before dawn. The animals have thrived in and around the human landscape.

    Mr. Wooten, a former fisheries biologist, started reading up on the local wildlife and stumbled across the history of red wolves. Once abundant in the southeastern United States, the wolves had dwindled in number during the 20th century — a result of habitat loss, hunting and other threats.

    In the 1970s, The Fish and Wildlife Service (US) made a last-ditch effort to save the species, traveling along the Gulf Coast and trapping all the red wolves it could find. Scientists selected some of the animals for a breeding program, in hopes of maintaining the red wolf in captivity.

    Mr. Wooten became convinced that the creatures that had taken his dog were actually red wolf-coyote hybrids, if not actual red wolves.

    Eager to prove his hypothesis, he began looking for dead canids by the side of the road. “I was thinking that if these are red wolves then the only way they’re going to be able to tell is with genetics,” he recalled.

    He soon found two dead animals, collected a small patch of skin from each and tucked them away in his freezer while he tried, for years, to pique scientists’ interest.

    “Sometimes they wouldn’t respond,” he said. “Sometimes they’d say, ‘Yeah, that’s a neat animal. Nothing we can do about it.’ And, ‘They’re extinct. It’s not a red wolf.’”

    4
    Mr. Wooten prepared to set up a wildlife camera in a residential area at the edge of Galveston State Park.

    5
    From left, Dr. Brzeski, Tanner Barnes, a graduate student studying with her, and Mr. Wooten searched for signs of canids in an undeveloped area of Galveston.

    Genetic secrets

    Eventually, in 2016, Mr. Wooten’s photos made their way to Dr. vonHoldt, an expert on canid genetics.

    The animals in Mr. Wooten’s photos immediately struck her. They “just had a special look,” she said. “And I bit. The whole thing — hook, line and sinker.”

    She asked him to send his specimens, but there was a glitch: By then, he had lost one. So he packed up the skin tissue he could find and threw in the scalpel he had used to prepare the other sample, hoping that the scientists could extract DNA from it.

    “It was just a really kind of lovely chaos,” Dr. vonHoldt said. (The scientists did manage to pull DNA from the scalpel, but Mr. Wooten later found the second sample and mailed that, too.)

    Dr. vonHoldt and her colleagues extracted DNA from the skin samples and compared it to DNA from coyotes, red wolves, gray wolves and eastern wolves. Although the two Galveston Island canids were mostly coyote, they had significant red wolf ancestry; roughly 30 percent of their genetic material was from the wolves, they found.

    6
    Canid tracks on the beach.

    7
    The canids had tunneled under a fence between the airport and a golf course, where they are seen regularly.

    “It was a real validation, I think, to the people on the ground — the naturalists and the photographers on the ground saying, ‘We have something special here,’” said Kristin Brzeski, a conservation geneticist who was a postdoctoral fellow in Dr. vonHoldt’s lab at the time. “And they do.”

    Mr. Wooten was thrilled. “It blew me away,” he said.

    Even more remarkable, some of the genetic variants, or alleles, the Galveston animals carried were not present in any of the other North American canids the researchers analyzed, including the contemporary red wolves. The scientists theorize that these alleles were passed down from the wild red wolves that used to roam the region.

    “They harbor ancestral genetic variation, this ghost variation, which we thought was extinct from the landscape,” Dr. vonHoldt said. “So there’s a sense of reviving what we thought was gone.”

    The researchers suspect that some red wolves evaded the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service dragnet back in the 1970s. “There was surely a little slippery one that got away, or a couple,” Dr. vonHoldt said.

    8
    Dr. vonHoldt and Dr. Brzeski in the field. Dr. vonHoldt and her colleagues determined that the two Galveston Island canids whose DNA they analyzed were mostly coyote, but had significant red wolf ancestry.

    9
    Dr. Brzeski, left, and Dr. vonHoldt prepared a canid roadkill specimen, kept frozen at the Galveston Island Humane Society, to send to Princeton for DNA analysis.

    At some point, the red wolves or their descendants bred with local coyotes — and not just in Texas. In 2018, the same year Dr. vonHoldt’s team published its findings, another group documented high levels of red wolf ancestry in wild canids in Louisiana [Conservation Biology].

    The findings could help scientists understand the genetic variation that once existed in wild red wolves and even resurrect it. “We can start actually understanding what was the historical red wolf and think about reconstructing that animal,” said Dr. Brzeski, who is now at Michigan Technological University.

    In the late 1980s, some of the red wolves from the captive breeding program were released in North Carolina. But that experimental population has plummeted in recent years; officials estimate that fewer than 20 of the animals now patrol the Carolina coast. And all the red wolves alive today are descended from about a dozen animals, an extremely low level of genetic diversity that could further imperil the species.

    Hybrid help

    The hybrids raise new conservation possibilities. For instance, scientists might be able to restore genetic diversity by carefully breeding red wolves to hybrids with high levels of red wolf ancestry. Or they could use artificial reproductive technologies or gene-editing techniques to insert the ghost alleles back into red wolves, Dr. vonHoldt said.

    The findings also come as some scientists have begun rethinking the value of interspecies hybrids. “Oftentimes, hybridization is viewed as a real threat to the integrity of a species, which it can be,” Dr. Brzeski said.

    One reason that the red wolf populations declined in the wild is because the animals frequently interbred with coyotes. But, she added, “here we have these hybrids that are now potentially going to be the lifeline for the highly endangered red wolves.”

    10
    Mr. Henderson helped install a wildlife camera to track the canids’ movements.

    11
    A canid near a beachfront development.

    The discovery of hybrids in both Texas and Louisiana also suggests that scientists and officials may want to “refocus” their red wolf conservation efforts on those areas, said Lisette Waits, a conservation geneticist at The University of Idaho (US) and co-author of the 2018 paper on the Louisiana hybrids.

    In addition to studying the hybrids, it might make sense to reintroduce captive-bred red wolves to those regions, where animals with red wolf genes still roam the landscape. “It could completely change the direction of the red wolf recovery program,” Dr. Waits said.

    Dr. Brzeski, Dr. vonHoldt and their collaborators are now studying the hybrids in both Texas and Louisiana as part of the new Gulf Coast Canine Project.

    They are using GPS collars and wildlife cameras to learn more about the canids’ movements and behaviors, collecting fecal samples to analyze their diets, using genetic analysis to trace pack relatedness and collecting tissue samples from animals with the most red wolf ancestry. One goal, Dr. vonHoldt said, is to create a “biobank set of specimens that could be used to help increase the genetic health of the captive red wolf population.”

    They are also hoping to learn more about how these red wolf alleles have persisted, especially in animals that live close to humans in a popular tourist destination. The island setting, which keeps the canids relatively reproductively isolated, is probably part of the explanation, but so is the “lack of persecution,” Dr. Brzeski said, noting that the animals were not commonly hunted.

    Indeed, Mr. Wooten is not the only local resident who has taken an interest in the animals. The research team works closely with Josh Henderson, the animal services supervisor at the Galveston Police Department, and there is considerable community support for the canids.

    Steve Parker, a lawyer who grew up in the area, remembers hearing childhood stories about his relatives trapping red wolves. The Galveston canids have helped him connect with the older generations, many of whom have passed away. “I’d like to see something and maybe be able to touch something that was special to them,” he said.

    Mr. Wooten, for his part, dreams of setting up an educational center devoted to teaching the public about the unique animals. “The possibilities of what these animals hold down here is pretty valuable,” he said. “And that’s the reason I pursued it, I think. I think God was thumping me on the head and saying, ‘Hey, I got animals here. Take care of ’em.’”

    12
    A pack of canids frolicking in Galveston Island State Park at dawn.

    See the full article here .

    five-ways-keep-your-child-safe-school-shootings

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

     
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