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  • richardmitnick 3:19 pm on May 1, 2023 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Kelp forests - a multi-billion-dollar ecosystem in our waters", , , , , For the first time there are figures to demonstrate the considerable commercial value of global kelp forests., Living in shallow ocean waters off a third of the world’s coastlines are vibrant jungles of brown seaweed called kelp forests., , , New research suggests these underwater kelp canopies provide hundreds of billions of dollars in value to society., Our understanding of the economic value of kelp forests has been lagging behind other ecosystems competing for conservation funding., Plant Biology,   

    From The University of New South Wales (AU) : “Kelp forests – a multi-billion-dollar ecosystem in our waters” 

    UNSW bloc

    From The University of New South Wales (AU)

    Ben Knight

    New research suggests these underwater kelp canopies provide hundreds of billions of dollars in value to society.

    New estimates suggest global kelp forests have considerable commercial value. Photo: Shutterstock.

    Living in shallow ocean waters off a third of the world’s coastlines are vibrant jungles of brown seaweed called kelp forests. These underwater canopies support a wealth of biodiversity and, according to new estimates, could be worth quite a bit themselves.

    Map of kelp distribution, total economic value per m^2 per year (k), regional value (B). Lighter shade colours are for regions where distribution estimates were not available and therefore these values were not included in the regional value calculation. Image credit: Tim Carruthers, Integration and Application Network (ian.umces.edu/media-library) for the Ecklonia, Laminaria, Lessonia, Macrocystis, Nereocystis images and map provided by http://www.FreeVectorMaps.com.

    A new study led by UNSW Sydney suggests kelp forests are worth hundreds of billions to society through fisheries, nutrient cycling, and carbon removal. While the exact amount varied between regions and kelp type, the findings, published in Nature Communications [below], suggest they collectively provide an average of $US500 billion through ecosystem services – the benefits provided by ecosystems to humans – each year.

    Dr Aaron Eger is the lead author of the study from UNSW Science. The marine ecologist is the founder and director of the Kelp Forest Alliance – a research-driven not-for-profit dedicated to accelerating the protection and restoration of kelp forests worldwide.

    “We have a deep cultural connection to this ecosystem. But our understanding of the economic value has been lagging behind other ecosystems competing for conservation funding,” Dr Eger says.

    “Now, with this study, for the first time, we have the figures to demonstrate the considerable commercial value of our global kelp forests and the financial impetus for advancing kelp conservation and restoration efforts.”

    Lead author of the study, Dr Aaron Eger. Photo: Danielle Holmes.

    Despite their commercial value, kelp forests are disappearing worldwide at an alarming rate from sea urchin overgrazing and climate change-related threats. In some places, such as Tasmania, up to 95 per cent of the canopy has already disappeared. Vital restoration projects and management strategies may go unfunded without work to understand the return on investment.

    “Multiple drivers increasingly threaten kelp forests, so we must understand their economic contribution if we hope to accelerate efforts to save them and the more than 1800 species that rely on them,” Dr Eger says.

    “These findings are also highly relevant as we have just launched the Kelp Forest Challenge, a global call to protect and restore four million hectares of kelp forest by 2040.

    “By strengthening our understanding of their value, we can hopefully motivate governments, businesses, and society to reach these target values.”

    Kelp forests support a wealth of biodiversity but are disappearing at an alarming rate. Photo: Unsplash.

    The holistic value of kelp forests

    For the study, the researchers analyzed the contribution of kelp forests to ecosystem services using fish and invertebrate surveys and measures of annual net primary production – or growth. This growth requires elements such as carbon, nitrogen, and phosphorus to be pulled out of the seawater, effectively cleaning the water and contributing to carbon sequestration – the storage of captured carbon in environmental reservoirs.

    They found the most significant economic value of kelp forests in fisheries production and uptake of nitrogen, contributing an average of $29,000 and $73,000 per hectare, respectively, annually. While the estimation for carbon sequestration was low ($163 per hectare annually) ecologically, it was comparable to seagrass meadows and terrestrial forests. Collectively, they could remove 4.91 megatons of carbon from the atmosphere per year – a number likely to increase further as more kelp forests are mapped.

    “This is just a baseline study, so we expect the approximations will get more accurate as the field advances,” Dr Eger says. “There were also many other services we didn’t assess, including tourism, educational and learning experiences, and kelp as a source of food, so we anticipate the actual value of kelp forests in the world to be higher.”

    Around 740 million people live within 50 km of a kelp forest. Photo: Ralph Pace.

    The findings could open new opportunities for marine management and conservation strategies, such as a credit system for offsetting emissions. Furthermore, Dr Eger says it can also encourage governments to develop new industries around restoring and managing kelp forests.

    “Through the study, we found 740 million people live within 50 km of a kelp forest. So these systems have a significant role to play in supporting these people’s livelihoods and vice-versa,” Dr Eger says. “The more the public appreciates these high-value ecosystems living in their blue backyards, the easier it becomes for policymakers to support their protection.”

    While the research is not intended to commodify kelp forests, Dr Eger says it ultimately helps draw attention to the need for more investment in kelp forest conservation.

    “Putting the dollar value on these systems is an exercise to help us understand one measure of their immense value,” Dr Eger says. “It’s important to remember these forests also have an intrinsic, historical, cultural and social value in their own right.”

    “Hopefully, it helps start more conversation about the role of these ecosystems in maintaining healthy oceans and ultimately healthy coastal communities and cultures.”

    Nature Communications

    See the full article here .

    Comments are invited and will be appreciated, especially if the reader finds any errors which I can correct. Use “Reply”.


    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    Comments are invited and will be appreciated, especially if the reader finds any errors which I can correct.

    U NSW Campus

    The University of New South Wales is an Australian public university with its largest campus in the Sydney suburb of Kensington.

    Established in 1949, UNSW is a research university, ranked 44th in the world in the 2021 QS World University Rankings and 67th in the world in the 2021 Times Higher Education World University Rankings. UNSW is one of the founding members of the Group of Eight, a coalition of Australian research-intensive universities, and of Universitas 21, a global network of research universities. It has international exchange and research partnerships with over 200 universities around the world.

    According to the 2021 QS World University Rankings by Subject, UNSW is ranked top 20 in the world for Law, Accounting and Finance, and 1st in Australia for Mathematics, Engineering and Technology. UNSW also leads Australia in Medicine, where the median ATAR (Australian university entrance examination results) of its Medical School students is higher than any other Australian medical school. UNSW enrolls the highest number of Australia’s top 500 high school students academically, and produces more millionaire graduates than any other Australian university.

    The university comprises seven faculties, through which it offers bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees. The main campus is in the Sydney suburb of Kensington, 7 kilometres (4.3 mi) from the Sydney CBD. The creative arts faculty, UNSW Art & Design, is located in Paddington, and subcampuses are located in the Sydney CBD as well as several other suburbs, including Randwick and Coogee. Research stations are located throughout the state of New South Wales.

    The university’s second largest campus, known as UNSW Canberra at ADFA (formerly known as UNSW at ADFA), is situated in Canberra, in the Australian Capital Territory (ACT). ADFA is the military academy of the Australian Defense Force, and UNSW Canberra is the only national academic institution with a defense focus.

    Research centres

    The university has a number of purpose-built research facilities, including:

    UNSW Lowy Cancer Research Centre is Australia’s first facility bringing together researchers in childhood and adult cancers, as well as one of the country’s largest cancer-research facilities, housing up to 400 researchers.
    The Mark Wainwright Analytical Centre is a centre for the faculties of science, medicine, and engineering. It is used to study the structure and composition of biological, chemical, and physical materials.
    UNSW Canberra Cyber is a cyber-security research and teaching centre.
    The Sino-Australian Research Centre for Coastal Management (SARCCM) has a multidisciplinary focus, and works collaboratively with the Ocean University of China [中國海洋大學](CN) in coastal management research.

  • richardmitnick 9:38 am on March 30, 2023 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Fieldwork class examines signs of climate change in Hawai'i", , , , , Climate change impacts on forests, , Deadly threats to native plants, , , Invasive and endangered species, Plant Biology, , ,   

    From The Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering In The School of Engineering At The Massachusetts Institute of Technology: “Fieldwork class examines signs of climate change in Hawai’i” 


    From The Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering


    The School of Engineering


    The Massachusetts Institute of Technology

    Stephanie Martinovich | Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering

    Students hike up Mauna Loa Forest to observe climate change’s impact on native Hawai’ian plants. Photo: David Des Marais.

    Students explore a recent volcanic eruption in Kilauea’s East Rift Zone. Photo: David Des Marais.

    When Joy Domingo-Kameenui spent two weeks in her native Hawai’i as part of MIT class 1.091 (Traveling Research Environmental eXperiences), she was surprised to learn about the number of invasive and endangered species. “I knew about Hawaiian ecology from middle and high school but wasn’t fully aware to the extent of how invasive species and diseases have resulted in many of Hawaii’s endemic species becoming threatened,” says Domingo-Kameenui.

    Domingo-Kameenui was part of a group of MIT students who conducted field research on the Big Island of Hawai’i in the Traveling Research Environmental eXperiences (TREX) class offered by the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering. The class provides undergraduates an opportunity to gain hands-on environmental fieldwork experience using Hawai’i’s geology, chemistry, and biology to address two main topics of climate change concern: sulfur dioxide (SO2) emissions and forest health.

    “Hawai’i is this great system for studying the effects of climate change,” says David Des Marais, the Cecil and Ida Green Career Development Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering and lead instructor of TREX. “Historically, Hawai’i has had occasional mild droughts that are related to El Niño, but the droughts are getting stronger and more frequent. And we know these types of extreme weather events are going to happen worldwide.”

    Climate change impacts on forests

    The frequency and intensity of extreme events are also becoming more of a problem for forests and plant life. Forests have a certain distribution of vegetation and as you get higher in elevation, the trees gradually turn into shrubs, and then rock. Trees don’t grow above the timberline, where the temperature and precipitation changes dramatically at the high elevations. “But unlike the Sierra Nevada or the Rockies, where the trees gradually change as you go up the mountains, in Hawaii, they gradually change, and then they just stop,” says Des Marais.

    “Why this is an interesting model for climate change,” explains Des Marais, “is that line where trees stop [growing] is going to move, and it’s going to become more unstable as the trade winds are affected by global patterns of air circulation, which are changing because of climate change.”

    The research question that Des Marais asks students to explore — How is the Hawai’ian forest going to be affected by climate change? — uses Hawai’i as a model for broader patterns in climate change for forests.

    To dive deeper into this question, students trekked up the mountain taking ground-level measurements of canopy cover with a camera app on their cellphones, estimating how much tree coverage blankets the sky when looking up, and observing how the canopy cover thins until they see no tree coverage at all as they go further up the mountain. Drones also flew above the forest to measure chlorophyll and how much plant matter remains. And then satellite data products from NASA and the European Space Agency were used to measure the distribution of chlorophyll, climate, and precipitation data from space.

    They also worked directly with community stakeholders at three locations around the island to access the forests and use technology to assess the ecology and biodiversity challenges. One of those stakeholders was the Kamehameha Schools Natural and Cultural Ecosystems Division, whose mission is to preserve the land and manage it in a sustainable way. Students worked with their plant biologists to help address and think about what management decisions will support the future health of their forests.

    “Across the island, rising temperatures and abnormal precipitation patterns are the main drivers of drought, which really has significant impacts on biodiversity, and overall human health,” says Ava Gillikin, a senior in civil and environmental engineering.

    Gillikin adds that “a good proportion of the island’s water system relies on rainwater catchment, exposing vulnerabilities to fluctuations in rain patterns that impact many people’s lives.”

    Deadly threats to native plants

    The other threats to Hawaii’s forests are invasive species causing ecological harm, from the prevalence of non-indigenous mosquitoes leading to increases in avian malaria and native bird death that threaten the native ecosystem, to a plant called strawberry guava.

    Strawberry guava is taking over Hawai’i’s native ōhiʻa trees, which Domingo-Kameenui says is also contributing to Hawai’i’s water production. “The plants absorb water quickly so there’s less water runoff for groundwater systems.”

    A fungal pathogen is also infecting native ōhiʻa trees. The disease, called rapid ʻohiʻa death (ROD), kills the tree within a few days to weeks. The pathogen was identified by researchers on the island in 2014 from the fungal genus, Ceratocystis. The fungal pathogen was likely carried into the forests by humans on their shoes, or contaminated tools, gear, and vehicles traveling from one location to another. The fungal disease is also transmitted by beetles that bore into trees and create a fine powder-like dust. This dust from an infected tree is then mixed with the fungal spores and can easily spread to other trees by wind, or contaminated soil.

    For Gillikin, seeing the effects of ROD in the field highlighted the impact improper care and preparation can have on native forests. “The ‘ohi’a tree is one of the most prominent native trees, and ROD can kill the trees very rapidly by putting a strain on its vascular system and preventing water from reaching all parts of the tree,” says Gillikin.

    Before entering the forests, students sprayed their shoes and gear with ethanol frequently to prevent the spread.

    Uncovering chemical and particle formation

    A second research project in TREX studied volcanic smog (vog) that plagues the air, making visibility problematic at times and causing a lot of health problems for people in Hawai’i. The active Kilauea volcano releases SO2 into the atmosphere.

    When the SO2 mixes with other gasses emitted from the volcano and interacts with sunlight and the atmosphere, particulate matter forms.

    Students in the Kroll Group, led by Jesse Kroll, professor of civil and environmental engineering and chemical engineering, have been studying SO2 and particulate matter over the years, but not the chemistry directly in how those chemical transformations occur.

    “There’s a hypothesis that there is a functional connection between the SO2 and particular matter, but that’s never been directly demonstrated,” says Des Marais.

    Testing that hypothesis, the students were able to measure two different sizes of particulate matter formed from the SO2 and develop a model to show how much vog is generated downstream of the volcano.

    They spent five days at two sites from sunrise to late morning measuring particulate matter formation as the sun comes up and starts creating new particles. Using a combination of data sources for meteorology, such as UV index, wind speed, and humidity, the students built a model that demonstrates all the pieces of an equation that can calculate when new particles are formed.

    “You can build what you think that equation is based on first-principle understanding of the chemical composition, but what they did was measured it in real time with measurements of the chemical reagents,” says Des Marias.

    The students measured what was going to catalyze the chemical reaction of particulate matter — for instance, things like sunlight and ozone — and then calculated numbers to the outputs.

    “What they found, and what seems to be happening, is that the chemical reagents are accumulating overnight,” says Des Marais. “Then as soon as the sun rises in the morning all the transformation happens in the atmosphere. A lot of the reagents are used up and the wind blows everything away, leaving the other side of the island with polluted air,” adds Des Marais.

    “I found the vog particle formation fieldwork a surprising research learning,” adds Domingo-Kameenui who did some atmospheric chemistry research in the Kroll Group. “I just thought particle formation happened in the air, but we found wind direction and wind speed at a certain time of the day was extremely important to particle formation. It’s not just chemistry you need to look at, but meteorology and sunlight,” she adds.

    Both Domingo-Kameenui and Gillikin found the fieldwork class an important and memorable experience with new insight that they will carry with them beyond MIT.

    How Gillikin approaches fieldwork or any type of community engagement in another culture is what she will remember most. “When entering another country or culture, you are getting the privilege to be on their land, to learn about their history and experiences, and to connect with so many brilliant people,” says Gillikin. “Everyone we met in Hawai’i had so much passion for their work, and approaching those environments with respect and openness to learn is what I experienced firsthand and will take with me throughout my career.”

    See the full article here .

    Comments are invited and will be appreciated, especially if the reader finds any errors which I can correct. Use “Reply”.

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    Our Mission

    In The MIT Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, we are driven by a simple truth: we only have one Earth to call home. Our intellectual focus is on the human-built environment and the complex infrastructure systems that it entails, as well as the man-made effect on the natural world. We seek to foster an inclusive community that pushes the boundaries of what is possible to shape the future of civil and environmental engineering. Our goal is to educate and train the next generation of researchers and engineers, driven by a passion to positively impact our society, economy, and our planet.

    Our faculty and students work in tandem to develop and apply pioneering approaches that range from basic scientific principles to complex engineering design, with a focus on translating fundamental advances to real-world impact. We offer undergraduate and graduate degree programs in the broad areas of infrastructure and environment, in order to advance the frontiers of knowledge for a sustainable civilization.

    Our Vision

    Bold solutions for sustainability across scales.

    MIT CEE is creating a new era of sustainable and resilient infrastructure and systems from the nanoscale to the global scale.

    We are pioneering a bold transformation of civil and environmental engineering as a field, fostering collaboration across disciplines to drive meaningful change. Our research and educational programs challenge the status quo, advance the frontier of knowledge and expand the limit of what is possible.

    The MIT School of Engineering

    The MIT School of Engineering is one of the five schools of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, located in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The School of Engineering has eight academic departments and two interdisciplinary institutes. The School grants SB, MEng, SM, engineer’s degrees, and PhD or ScD degrees. The school is the largest at MIT as measured by undergraduate and graduate enrollments and faculty members.

    Departments and initiatives:


    Aeronautics and Astronautics (Course 16)
    Biological Engineering (Course 20)
    Chemical Engineering (Course 10)
    Civil and Environmental Engineering (Course 1)
    Electrical Engineering and Computer Science (Course 6, joint department with MIT Schwarzman College of Computing)
    Materials Science and Engineering (Course 3)
    Mechanical Engineering (Course 2)
    Nuclear Science and Engineering (Course 22)


    Institute for Medical Engineering and Science
    Health Sciences and Technology program (joint MIT-Harvard, “HST” in the course catalog)

    (Departments and degree programs are commonly referred to by course catalog numbers on campus.)

    Laboratories and research centers

    Abdul Latif Jameel Water and Food Systems Lab
    Center for Advanced Nuclear Energy Systems
    Center for Computational Engineering
    Center for Materials Science and Engineering
    Center for Ocean Engineering
    Center for Transportation and Logistics
    Industrial Performance Center
    Institute for Soldier Nanotechnologies
    Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research
    Laboratory for Information and Decision Systems
    Laboratory for Manufacturing and Productivity
    Materials Processing Center
    Microsystems Technology Laboratories
    MIT Lincoln Laboratory Beaver Works Center
    Novartis-MIT Center for Continuous Manufacturing
    Ocean Engineering Design Laboratory
    Research Laboratory of Electronics
    SMART Center
    Sociotechnical Systems Research Center
    Tata Center for Technology and Design

    MIT Seal

    USPS “Forever” postage stamps celebrating Innovation at MIT.

    MIT Campus

    The Massachusetts Institute of Technology is a private land-grant research university in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The institute has an urban campus that extends more than a mile (1.6 km) alongside the Charles River. The institute also encompasses a number of major off-campus facilities such as the MIT Lincoln Laboratory , the MIT Bates Research and Engineering Center , and the Haystack Observatory , as well as affiliated laboratories such as the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard and Whitehead Institute.

    Massachusettes Institute of Technology-Haystack Observatory Westford, Massachusetts, USA, Altitude 131 m (430 ft).


    The Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL)

    The Kavli Institute For Astrophysics and Space Research

    MIT’s Institute for Medical Engineering and Science is a research institute at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology

    The MIT Laboratory for Nuclear Science

    The MIT Media Lab

    The MIT Sloan School of Management



    Founded in 1861 in response to the increasing industrialization of the United States, Massachusetts Institute of Technology adopted a European polytechnic university model and stressed laboratory instruction in applied science and engineering. It has since played a key role in the development of many aspects of modern science, engineering, mathematics, and technology, and is widely known for its innovation and academic strength. It is frequently regarded as one of the most prestigious universities in the world.

    As of December 2020, 97 Nobel laureates, 26 Turing Award winners, and 8 Fields Medalists have been affiliated with MIT as alumni, faculty members, or researchers. In addition, 58 National Medal of Science recipients, 29 National Medals of Technology and Innovation recipients, 50 MacArthur Fellows, 80 Marshall Scholars, 3 Mitchell Scholars, 22 Schwarzman Scholars, 41 astronauts, and 16 Chief Scientists of the U.S. Air Force have been affiliated with The Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The university also has a strong entrepreneurial culture and MIT alumni have founded or co-founded many notable companies. Massachusetts Institute of Technology is a member of the Association of American Universities (AAU).

    Foundation and vision

    In 1859, a proposal was submitted to the Massachusetts General Court to use newly filled lands in Back Bay, Boston for a “Conservatory of Art and Science”, but the proposal failed. A charter for the incorporation of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, proposed by William Barton Rogers, was signed by John Albion Andrew, the governor of Massachusetts, on April 10, 1861.

    Rogers, a professor from the University of Virginia , wanted to establish an institution to address rapid scientific and technological advances. He did not wish to found a professional school, but a combination with elements of both professional and liberal education, proposing that:

    “The true and only practicable object of a polytechnic school is, as I conceive, the teaching, not of the minute details and manipulations of the arts, which can be done only in the workshop, but the inculcation of those scientific principles which form the basis and explanation of them, and along with this, a full and methodical review of all their leading processes and operations in connection with physical laws.”

    The Rogers Plan reflected the German research university model, emphasizing an independent faculty engaged in research, as well as instruction oriented around seminars and laboratories.

    Early developments

    Two days after The Massachusetts Institute of Technology was chartered, the first battle of the Civil War broke out. After a long delay through the war years, MIT’s first classes were held in the Mercantile Building in Boston in 1865. The new institute was founded as part of the Morrill Land-Grant Colleges Act to fund institutions “to promote the liberal and practical education of the industrial classes” and was a land-grant school. In 1863 under the same act, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts founded the Massachusetts Agricultural College, which developed as the University of Massachusetts Amherst ). In 1866, the proceeds from land sales went toward new buildings in the Back Bay.

    The Massachusetts Institute of Technology was informally called “Boston Tech”. The institute adopted the European polytechnic university model and emphasized laboratory instruction from an early date. Despite chronic financial problems, the institute saw growth in the last two decades of the 19th century under President Francis Amasa Walker. Programs in electrical, chemical, marine, and sanitary engineering were introduced, new buildings were built, and the size of the student body increased to more than one thousand.

    The curriculum drifted to a vocational emphasis, with less focus on theoretical science. The fledgling school still suffered from chronic financial shortages which diverted the attention of the MIT leadership. During these “Boston Tech” years, Massachusetts Institute of Technology faculty and alumni rebuffed Harvard University president (and former MIT faculty) Charles W. Eliot’s repeated attempts to merge MIT with Harvard College’s Lawrence Scientific School. There would be at least six attempts to absorb MIT into Harvard. In its cramped Back Bay location, MIT could not afford to expand its overcrowded facilities, driving a desperate search for a new campus and funding. Eventually, the MIT Corporation approved a formal agreement to merge with Harvard, over the vehement objections of MIT faculty, students, and alumni. However, a 1917 decision by the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court effectively put an end to the merger scheme.

    In 1916, The Massachusetts Institute of Technology administration and the MIT charter crossed the Charles River on the ceremonial barge Bucentaur built for the occasion, to signify MIT’s move to a spacious new campus largely consisting of filled land on a one-mile-long (1.6 km) tract along the Cambridge side of the Charles River. The neoclassical “New Technology” campus was designed by William W. Bosworth and had been funded largely by anonymous donations from a mysterious “Mr. Smith”, starting in 1912. In January 1920, the donor was revealed to be the industrialist George Eastman of Rochester, New York, who had invented methods of film production and processing, and founded Eastman Kodak. Between 1912 and 1920, Eastman donated $20 million ($236.6 million in 2015 dollars) in cash and Kodak stock to MIT.

    Curricular reforms

    In the 1930s, President Karl Taylor Compton and Vice-President (effectively Provost) Vannevar Bush emphasized the importance of pure sciences like physics and chemistry and reduced the vocational practice required in shops and drafting studios. The Compton reforms “renewed confidence in the ability of the Institute to develop leadership in science as well as in engineering”. Unlike Ivy League schools, Massachusetts Institute of Technology catered more to middle-class families, and depended more on tuition than on endowments or grants for its funding. The school was elected to the Association of American Universities in 1934.

    Still, as late as 1949, the Lewis Committee lamented in its report on the state of education at The Massachusetts Institute of Technology that “the Institute is widely conceived as basically a vocational school”, a “partly unjustified” perception the committee sought to change. The report comprehensively reviewed the undergraduate curriculum, recommended offering a broader education, and warned against letting engineering and government-sponsored research detract from the sciences and humanities. The School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences and the MIT Sloan School of Management were formed in 1950 to compete with the powerful Schools of Science and Engineering. Previously marginalized faculties in the areas of economics, management, political science, and linguistics emerged into cohesive and assertive departments by attracting respected professors and launching competitive graduate programs. The School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences continued to develop under the successive terms of the more humanistically oriented presidents Howard W. Johnson and Jerome Wiesner between 1966 and 1980.

    The Massachusetts Institute of Technology‘s involvement in military science surged during World War II. In 1941, Vannevar Bush was appointed head of the federal Office of Scientific Research and Development and directed funding to only a select group of universities, including MIT. Engineers and scientists from across the country gathered at Massachusetts Institute of Technology ‘s Radiation Laboratory, established in 1940 to assist the British military in developing microwave radar. The work done there significantly affected both the war and subsequent research in the area. Other defense projects included gyroscope-based and other complex control systems for gunsight, bombsight, and inertial navigation under Charles Stark Draper’s Instrumentation Laboratory; the development of a digital computer for flight simulations under Project Whirlwind; and high-speed and high-altitude photography under Harold Edgerton. By the end of the war, The Massachusetts Institute of Technology became the nation’s largest wartime R&D contractor (attracting some criticism of Bush), employing nearly 4000 in the Radiation Laboratory alone and receiving in excess of $100 million ($1.2 billion in 2015 dollars) before 1946. Work on defense projects continued even after then. Post-war government-sponsored research at MIT included SAGE and guidance systems for ballistic missiles and Project Apollo.

    These activities affected The Massachusetts Institute of Technology profoundly. A 1949 report noted the lack of “any great slackening in the pace of life at the Institute” to match the return to peacetime, remembering the “academic tranquility of the prewar years”, though acknowledging the significant contributions of military research to the increased emphasis on graduate education and rapid growth of personnel and facilities. The faculty doubled and the graduate student body quintupled during the terms of Karl Taylor Compton, president of The Massachusetts Institute of Technology between 1930 and 1948; James Rhyne Killian, president from 1948 to 1957; and Julius Adams Stratton, chancellor from 1952 to 1957, whose institution-building strategies shaped the expanding university. By the 1950s, The Massachusetts Institute of Technology no longer simply benefited the industries with which it had worked for three decades, and it had developed closer working relationships with new patrons, philanthropic foundations and the federal government.

    In late 1960s and early 1970s, student and faculty activists protested against the Vietnam War and The Massachusetts Institute of Technology ‘s defense research. In this period Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s various departments were researching helicopters, smart bombs and counterinsurgency techniques for the war in Vietnam as well as guidance systems for nuclear missiles. The Union of Concerned Scientists was founded on March 4, 1969 during a meeting of faculty members and students seeking to shift the emphasis on military research toward environmental and social problems. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology ultimately divested itself from the Instrumentation Laboratory and moved all classified research off-campus to the MIT Lincoln Laboratory facility in 1973 in response to the protests. The student body, faculty, and administration remained comparatively unpolarized during what was a tumultuous time for many other universities. Johnson was seen to be highly successful in leading his institution to “greater strength and unity” after these times of turmoil. However, six Massachusetts Institute of Technology students were sentenced to prison terms at this time and some former student leaders, such as Michael Albert and George Katsiaficas, are still indignant about MIT’s role in military research and its suppression of these protests. (Richard Leacock’s film, November Actions, records some of these tumultuous events.)

    In the 1980s, there was more controversy at The Massachusetts Institute of Technology over its involvement in SDI (space weaponry) and CBW (chemical and biological warfare) research. More recently, The Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s research for the military has included work on robots, drones and ‘battle suits’.

    Recent history

    The Massachusetts Institute of Technology has kept pace with and helped to advance the digital age. In addition to developing the predecessors to modern computing and networking technologies, students, staff, and faculty members at Project MAC, the Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, and the Tech Model Railroad Club wrote some of the earliest interactive computer video games like Spacewar! and created much of modern hacker slang and culture. Several major computer-related organizations have originated at MIT since the 1980s: Richard Stallman’s GNU Project and the subsequent Free Software Foundation were founded in the mid-1980s at the AI Lab; the MIT Media Lab was founded in 1985 by Nicholas Negroponte and Jerome Wiesner to promote research into novel uses of computer technology; the World Wide Web Consortium standards organization was founded at the Laboratory for Computer Science in 1994 by Tim Berners-Lee; the MIT OpenCourseWare project has made course materials for over 2,000 Massachusetts Institute of Technology classes available online free of charge since 2002; and the One Laptop per Child initiative to expand computer education and connectivity to children worldwide was launched in 2005.

    The Massachusetts Institute of Technology was named a sea-grant college in 1976 to support its programs in oceanography and marine sciences and was named a space-grant college in 1989 to support its aeronautics and astronautics programs. Despite diminishing government financial support over the past quarter century, MIT launched several successful development campaigns to significantly expand the campus: new dormitories and athletics buildings on west campus; the Tang Center for Management Education; several buildings in the northeast corner of campus supporting research into biology, brain and cognitive sciences, genomics, biotechnology, and cancer research; and a number of new “backlot” buildings on Vassar Street including the Stata Center. Construction on campus in the 2000s included expansions of the Media Lab, the Sloan School’s eastern campus, and graduate residences in the northwest. In 2006, President Hockfield launched the MIT Energy Research Council to investigate the interdisciplinary challenges posed by increasing global energy consumption.

    In 2001, inspired by the open source and open access movements, The Massachusetts Institute of Technology launched OpenCourseWare to make the lecture notes, problem sets, syllabi, exams, and lectures from the great majority of its courses available online for no charge, though without any formal accreditation for coursework completed. While the cost of supporting and hosting the project is high, OCW expanded in 2005 to include other universities as a part of the OpenCourseWare Consortium, which currently includes more than 250 academic institutions with content available in at least six languages. In 2011, The Massachusetts Institute of Technology announced it would offer formal certification (but not credits or degrees) to online participants completing coursework in its “MITx” program, for a modest fee. The “edX” online platform supporting MITx was initially developed in partnership with Harvard and its analogous “Harvardx” initiative. The courseware platform is open source, and other universities have already joined and added their own course content. In March 2009 the Massachusetts Institute of Technology faculty adopted an open-access policy to make its scholarship publicly accessible online.

    The Massachusetts Institute of Technology has its own police force. Three days after the Boston Marathon bombing of April 2013, MIT Police patrol officer Sean Collier was fatally shot by the suspects Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev, setting off a violent manhunt that shut down the campus and much of the Boston metropolitan area for a day. One week later, Collier’s memorial service was attended by more than 10,000 people, in a ceremony hosted by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology community with thousands of police officers from the New England region and Canada. On November 25, 2013, The Massachusetts Institute of Technology announced the creation of the Collier Medal, to be awarded annually to “an individual or group that embodies the character and qualities that Officer Collier exhibited as a member of The Massachusetts Institute of Technology community and in all aspects of his life”. The announcement further stated that “Future recipients of the award will include those whose contributions exceed the boundaries of their profession, those who have contributed to building bridges across the community, and those who consistently and selflessly perform acts of kindness”.

    In September 2017, the school announced the creation of an artificial intelligence research lab called the MIT-IBM Watson AI Lab. IBM will spend $240 million over the next decade, and the lab will be staffed by MIT and IBM scientists. In October 2018 MIT announced that it would open a new Schwarzman College of Computing dedicated to the study of artificial intelligence, named after lead donor and The Blackstone Group CEO Stephen Schwarzman. The focus of the new college is to study not just AI, but interdisciplinary AI education, and how AI can be used in fields as diverse as history and biology. The cost of buildings and new faculty for the new college is expected to be $1 billion upon completion.

    The Caltech/MIT Advanced aLIGO was designed and constructed by a team of scientists from California Institute of Technology , Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and industrial contractors, and funded by the National Science Foundation .

    Caltech /MIT Advanced aLigo

    It was designed to open the field of gravitational-wave astronomy through the detection of gravitational waves predicted by general relativity. Gravitational waves were detected for the first time by the LIGO detector in 2015. For contributions to the LIGO detector and the observation of gravitational waves, two Caltech physicists, Kip Thorne and Barry Barish, and Massachusetts Institute of Technology physicist Rainer Weiss won the Nobel Prize in physics in 2017. Weiss, who is also a Massachusetts Institute of Technology graduate, designed the laser interferometric technique, which served as the essential blueprint for the LIGO.

    The mission of The Massachusetts Institute of Technology is to advance knowledge and educate students in science, technology, and other areas of scholarship that will best serve the nation and the world in the twenty-first century. We seek to develop in each member of The Massachusetts Institute of Technology community the ability and passion to work wisely, creatively, and effectively for the betterment of humankind.

  • richardmitnick 9:13 am on January 5, 2023 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Wildflower Cells Reveal Mystery of Leaf's Structure", , , , , , , , , , Plant Biology, , This work could lead to the manufacturing of energy-producing photosynthetic materials.,   

    From The School of Engineering and Applied Science At Yale University: “Wildflower Cells Reveal Mystery of Leaf’s Structure” 

    Yale SEAS

    From The School of Engineering and Applied Science


    Yale University

    12.20.22 [Just today in social media.]

    In plants, the cells that form the internal structure of leaves start out as tightly compacted spheres in the early stages of leaf development. As the leaf develops and expands, these cells take on new shapes and loosen up. Yet the leaf’s microstructure remains robust and intact.  

    Confocal microscopic images of the developing spongy mesophyll in Arabidopsis thaliana taken at (a) 0, (b) 24 and (c) 72 hours of development. (See Methods and materials in the science paper for details.) The black scale bar in each frame represents 50 μm. (d) Mesophyll tissue observed in a microcomputed tomography (microCT) scan of a mature Arabdidopsis leaf. The leaf has three orthogonal axes, the basal–apical (BA), medial–lateral (ML) and adaxial–abaxial (AdAb) axes. Leaf images are in the three planes orthogonal to these axes, i.e. the transverse (yellow), longitudinal (red) and paradermal (purple) planes, respectively. The paradermal slice is taken at the location of the dashed white lines drawn on the other slices, and the location of the transverse (longitudinal) slices are indicated by yellow (red) dashed lines on the paradermal slice. Credit: Journal of The Royal Society Interface (2022).

    A team of researchers—including a mechanical engineer, plant biologist, and applied physicist—has figured out how this happens. Doing so not only answers questions that have long baffled the plant world, but could lead to the manufacturing of energy-producing photosynthetic materials. The results of their work appear in the Journal of the Royal Society Interface [below]. 

    The middle layer of plant leaves is known as the spongy mesophyll, which is a porous network of cells where photosynthesis happens. In this process, carbon dioxide (CO2) comes up through the bottom of the leaf, sunlight comes in through the top, and then the two interact within the middle layer of cells. In a leaf’s early stages, the cells in this layer are nearly spherical and tightly packed together. However, if the cells stay this way, the light and the carbon dioxide have no room to interact. So the cells loosen up to make room to allow photosynthesis to happen. But in doing so, why doesn’t the leaf lose its structure and break apart?

    “The spongy mesophyll is able to develop into a very porous material, yet retain the properties of a solid,” said Corey O’Hern, professor of mechanical engineering & materials science. “That’s the paradox, that the leaf needs to create this labyrinthian structure of air space to allow diffusion of CO2—but the leaf still has to remain mechanically stable.”

    To understand this counterintuitive process, O’Hern and the other researchers used images made with confocal microscopy of the cells in different phases of the leaf’s development.

    “We created a computational model to describe the shapes of individual cells and how much they stick to each other,” O’Hern said. “Then we modeled the development of the spongy mesophyll by pulling on the tissue on all sides.”

    These studies included measuring the shapes of all cells and the porosity of the mesophyll (that is, how much of the material is made up of cells and how much is made up of air). The researchers charted the course of the cells’ development from early to late stages of development and observed how the cells morph from tightly packed spheres to elongated and multi-lobed shapes.

    They found that, rather than causing the leaf structure to break down, the cells spreading out maintained the leaf’s structure. “What’s happening is that the cells in the spongy mesophyll are still pushing outward, while the epidermal tissue in the leaf is keeping it inside,” O’Hern said.

    The specific plant they looked at is the thale cress, a wildflower known to scientists as Arabidosis thaliana. It’s considered the fruit fly of plants in that it’s particularly useful for experiments. It germinates very quickly, and the genes of the plant are well-known.

    For future studies, the researchers plan to apply their computational model to other plant species to see if the model can expain the wide diversity of spongy mesophyll structure. Further, they want to apply what they’ve learned to creating artificial plant tissue.

    “If we can understand how plants are so efficient at photosynthesis, and can understand the self-assembly of leaf mesophyll, maybe we can create similar photosynthetic materials in the lab.”

    Science paper:
    Journal of the Royal Society Interface
    See the science paper for instructive material with images.

    See the full article here .

    Comments are invited and will be appreciated, especially if the reader finds any errors which I can correct. Use “Reply”.


    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    Yale School of Engineering and Applied Science Daniel L Malone Engineering Center
    The Yale School of Engineering & Applied Science is the engineering school of Yale University. When the first professor of civil engineering was hired in 1852, a Yale School of Engineering was established within the Yale Scientific School, and in 1932 the engineering faculty organized as a separate, constituent school of the university. The school currently offers undergraduate and graduate classes and degrees in electrical engineering, chemical engineering, computer science, applied physics, environmental engineering, biomedical engineering, and mechanical engineering and materials science.

    Yale University 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.


    Yale is a member of the Association of American Universities (AAU) and is classified among “R1: Doctoral Universities – Very high research activity”. According to the National Science Foundation, 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 , 7 members of the National Academy of Engineering and 49 members of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. 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 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 1:40 pm on December 6, 2022 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "People and places at Penn Research", Alice Kate Li, Architecture using biomaterials, DumoLab, From Charles Addams Fine Arts Hall to the Schuylkill River four researchers share their science and their spaces., Laia Mogas-Soldevila, , Plant Biology, Poethig Lab, , Roderick B. Gagne, Scott Poethig, The BioPond,   

    From “Penn Today” At The University of Pennsylvania : “People and places at Penn Research” 

    From “Penn Today”


    U Penn bloc

    The University of Pennsylvania

    Kristina García – Writer
    Eric Sucar – Photographer

    From Charles Addams Fine Arts Hall to the Schuylkill River four researchers share their science and their spaces.

    Clockwise from top left, Alice Kate Li, Laia Mogas-Soldevila, Erick Gagne, and Scott Poethig introduce their campus research workspaces.

    Laia Mogas-Soldevila is surrounded by possibilities—leather made from plants, ribbons of lattice that can filter air, sand structures that could replace concrete and rebar. She and the research team at DumoLab are experimenting with architecture using biomaterials that are healthy for humans and sustainable for the planet. Mogas-Soldevila is one of four researchers who share their science and their spaces in the fourth installment of People and Places at Penn.

    From robotics on the Schuylkill River to chronic wasting disease in Pennsylvania woodlands to a basement grow chamber near the BioPond, these individuals are searching for new ways to understand wildlife ecology, environmental engineering, sustainable architecture, and plant biology.

    Laia Mogas-Soldevila, DumoLab

    Laia Mogas-Soldevila’s office is a modern-day curiosity cabinet. Seed pods, feathers, cocoons, and barnacles coexist alongside science fiction offerings: a translucent, shell-like substance that curls up and stretches out again without cracking, a pink-and-orange, hexagonal-patterned fabric that feels like high-sheen leather, and a perforated, plastic-looking material with a snakeskin motif. But of course, nothing here is plastic or leather. It’s all biomaterials, reverse-engineered to make everyday objects that will biodegrade after they’ve fulfilled their purpose.

    Laia Mogas-Soldevila in Meyerson Hall’s studio space looks up through “performative beacons,” student projects using lightweight natural materials.

    Mogas-Soldevila is assistant professor of graduate architecture at the Weitzman School of Design and her work explores material design. Using nature as inspiration, Mogas-Soldevila repurposes biomaterials to form everyday objects out of silk, cellulose, sand, and shrimp skins—everything is fair game, as long as it’s biodegradable.

    “Everything that we do is water-based,” Mogas-Soldevila says. “You, any human, is assembled in a water-based environment, in our mother’s womb. All this water-based fabrication already happens in nature, all the time.”

    Her lab has created a water-based gel that feels like plastic when it dries, but will degrade when it gets wet again. The hope is that this material could replace petroleum-based products, Mogas-Soldevila says. “It’s the plastic bag that you can use a couple of days and then the third day, it’s almost cracked.”

    Mogas-Soldevila, a newly appointed professor at the Weitzman School of Design, creates biomaterials for architectural use, merging design with science. “If it was not beautiful, we would not do it,” she says.

    Originally from Spain, Mogas-Soldevila’s first advanced degree was in architecture. But she graduated during a construction crisis, she says. “I had to change gears. What else was out there?”

    Mogas-Soldevila earned an interdisciplinary Ph.D. working within a biomedical engineering lab, integrating biology and design at Tufts University, and two Master of Science degrees in design computation and digital fabrication from Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

    Now at Penn, “my intent is to bring it all back to architecture,” Mogas-Soldevila says. She wants to scale up, making these materials affordable, durable, and accessible. Her DumoLab Research group, housed in Charles Addams Fine Arts Hall, is a room with 3-D printers and Hobart mixers that looks like a mix of an industrial bakery, an art studio, and a technology lab.

    Everything DumoLab makes has to have aesthetic value. “If it was not beautiful, we would not do it,” Mogas-Soldevila says. She’s exploring materials that could replace leather, both in upholstery and in clothing, and alternatives for construction material, like concrete.

    Together with a team of Penn undergraduates, Mogas-Soldevila will spend her summer building a dome structure from their new “concrete,” which has the color and texture of earth, a substance made not only of sand, but also biopolymers from shrimp shells, algae, calcium, and corn, along with natural fibers like flax, bamboo, and burlap. It looks like caramelized sugar and weighs like lead.

    And, like everything else, the concrete substitute is water soluble. “If it comes in, it must go back to Earth without toxicity. And that’s a challenge,” Mogas-Soldevila says. A “decade, multi-decade challenge. That’s why it’s difficult. But it’s going to be very rewarding if we get there.”
    Scott Poethig, Poethig Lab

    Scott Poethig in his office overlooking the BioPond.

    Born on the windy shores of Lake Erie in Buffalo, New York, Scott Poethig was quickly whisked away to tropical Manila by his parents, both Presbyterian missionaries. They wanted to immerse their son in Filipino culture and society, enrolling him in a local school. “In our biology class, when we had to dissect a frog, we had to bring the frog,” Poethig says.

    For the last 40 years, Poethig has found a home at Penn as the John H. and Margaret B. Fassitt Professor of plant biology in the School of Arts & Sciences. He studies the transition between juvenile and adult development—everything from birth to puberty.

    “Almost every aspect of the plant changes during the juvenile-to-adult transition,” Poethig says. “But, for many years, the vast majority of plant biologists didn’t know that [this transition] exists and certainly didn’t believe it was important.”

    Poethig in one grow chamber filled with Arabidopsis thaliana (left) and in his laboratory (right).

    As it turns out, this transition controls many other processes, Poethig says. Photosynthetic efficiency differs, disease resistance varies, and almost every aspect of the shape of a plant—from its branching pattern to leaf shape—is differentially expressed in a juvenile plant, compared to its mature state.

    Poethig discovered which gene controls maturation—a piece of small RNA called miR156. A large presence of miR156 suppresses the adult genes during the juvenile phase. When miR156 decreases, plants transition to the adult stage. Environmental impacts affect this as well, he says. Shade, for instance, delays the process.

    Since 2006, Poethig has conducted his research at the Carolyn Lynch Laboratory, where ceiling-height glass windows look out onto Kaskey Park and the BioPond, framing a panoply of native species and their horticultural guests. In the fall, asters and toad lilies bloom in the understory. Tulip popular leaves yellow and fall, wafting down to rest on the understory.

    Here, Poethig, three post-doctoral students, and one undergraduate conduct experiments on Arabidopsis thaliana, an inconspicuous, weedy-looking plant that, upon maturation, shoots up a flowering, foot-long stalk from a cluster of serrated leaves—and promptly dies.

    With A. thaliana, the team is currently studying what Poethig calls “the master regulator of the final switch—reproduction.”

    Every organism, both plants and animals, go through two major changes: somatic, or body change, and reproductive maturation, he says. “One of the big questions is, what is the relationship between vegetative phase change—the type of leaves the plant makes—and reproductive competence?”

    People assume that physical maturation and reproductive competence are part of the same process, Poethig says, meaning that a plant will flower when it looks like an adult. “That’s what’s been assumed in plants for over 100 years,” he says. At Lynch Laboratory, results from the A. thaliana experiments show that these two processes are independently regulated. While miR156 controls many aspects of plant development, it does not inhibit reproduction.
    Alice Kate Li, Underwater Weather

    Alice Kate Li (center) and her six member team work on deploying the autonomous surface vehicle (ASV) with an on-board sensor suite, designed and tested with Yue Mao, Sixuan Liu, Sandeep Manjanna, Jasleen Dhanoa, Bharg Mehta, and Torrie Edwards, using a pulley system.

    On an early morning in late October, Alice Kate Li and five teammates bundle up in hats and coats and head down to the river to deploy a 45-pound robot. The project, called Underwater Weather, uses an autonomous surface vehicle kitted out with flame-red kayak pontoons to collect data on river sediment and flow dynamics, along with riverbed structure, tidal cycles, and storm flooding.

    While it may look static, the Schuylkill River is tidally influenced, with about a five-foot difference between high-tide and low-tide, says Li, a Ph.D. candidate in the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences who works on Underwater Weather. The project is part of the ScalAR Lab at the General Robotics, Automation, Sensing & Perception (GRASP) Lab, housed in the Pennovation Center.

    Information the Underwater Weather team gathers could allow them to predict the impact of floods on urban infrastructure (like bridges and piers), the river ecosystem, and drinking water quality. “With all this data that we’re collecting, we should be able to model the dynamics—but also then extrapolate to make predictions on environmental changes, while climate change causes more frequent tornadoes and hurricanes, and therefore floods,” Li says.

    (Left) Ph.D. candidate Victoria Edwards in a kayak, who follows the ASV during deployments, receives tools from Jeremy Wang, a design and mechatronics engineer for the GRASP Lab. (Right) Li sets up the monitoring system.

    True to the GRASP Lab’s collaborative nature, the Underwater Weather team is working with Douglas Jerolmack and Hugo Ulloa in the Department of Earth and Environmental Science, who will use the amalgamated data to better understand river dynamics. “I really want my work to be impactful,” Li says. “I would love to take this data and, in the future, find out it is valuable for understanding the potential impacts of climate change.”

    Originally from the south of England, Li spent her high school years in Hong Kong before moving to California for college. She spent two years at a community college before heading to the University of California, Irvine to study mechanical engineering. Now in her third year of the electrical and systems engineering doctoral program at Penn, Li is working on active sensing—creating robots that can make autonomous decisions in real time while they’re out in the field.

    The GRASP Lab is a great place to do this work, she says. “I think a lot of it is the people, the environment as well—it’s highly collaborative and welcoming.”

    The Lab’s large open space facilitates conversation, Li says. Everyone is “happy to discuss ideas that probably have nothing to do with their research,” she says, which makes students feel connected to others and their work.

    Doctoral work can be lonely, Li says. “You can feel like, ‘Oh, what did I get myself into?’ But this kind of environment allows for people to stay sane, to stay motivated and inspired.”
    Roderick B. Gagne, Wildlife Futures Program

    Roderick “Erick” B. Gagne on the New Bolton Center campus in Kennett Square, Pennsylvania. (Image: Hannah Kleckner Hall)

    It’s autumn at the School of Veterinary Medicine’s New Bolton Center in Kennett Square and the rolling hills of Chester County, Pennsylvania transmuted into a tapestry of green and gold, if only for a few weeks. Placid cows dot the hills, hemmed in by white fences. A murmuration of starlings undulates in the sky.

    Tucked off a gravel road on is the Wildlife Futures Program, which operates out of a stone farmhouse from 1792 and works in partnership with the Pennsylvania Game Commission on disease surveillance, management, and research in wildlife populations across the state.

    The program works on a variety of diseases, including chronic wasting disease (CWD), a fatal neurological illness that affects a variety of members of the deer family and is transmitted by animal-to-animal contact, including through saliva, feces, and carcasses. The illness is caused by misfolded proteins, called prions. There is currently no vaccine, no treatment, and no cure. Once CWD is established, it can spread within area herds.

    The Wildlife Futures team uses the enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) to detect protease-resistant proteins—a trait characteristic of prions—in CWD, says Roderick “Erick” B. Gagne, assistant professor of wildlife disease ecology. If positive, they administer an immunohistochemistry (IHC) screening, where a pathologist looks at a trimmed and stained piece of tissue under a microscope to look for look for evidence of binding with a prion-specific antibody. “That’s the gold standard,” Gagne says

    Gagne works at his desk (left) and monitors test results (right). (Images: Hannah Kleckner Hall)

    The team is also experimenting with the real-time quaking-induced conversion (RT-Quic) test, which is more sensitive than ELISA, Gagne says—similar to a real-time COVID PCR test.

    “The potential is for early detection of CWD,” he says. “We’re looking at where the prion is in animals in the wild, and then trying to address, or start to think about, how it’s getting there.”

    Pennsylvania’s deer hunting season is their busiest time of year. The 27-member team spends months gearing up, hiring additional staff and buying lab equipment and supplies. By the first Saturday after Thanksgiving, it’s all hands on deck, says Gagne. The program processes thousands of samples per week, he says, each from separately tagged white-tailed deer.

    To do so, the Wildlife Futures Program works collaboratively with management agencies, developing research questions together and applying novel approaches to find solutions. “Disease is becoming increasingly recognized as something that wildlife management agencies need to deal with,” Gagne says. “I envision this academic and state agency partnership only increasing. It’s a really good roadmap to actively solve urgent and immediate issues.”

    Gagne is a new hire, not quite two years into his position, which he accepted just before the birth of his first child. With a full beard and a quiet demeanor, Gagne is here to put down roots, to help mold the program’s future. It has “a real, tangible feeling—like your work is making a difference,” he says. “It’s kind of exciting to see just how quickly it can take shape. And then having that happening at a university like Penn just really leverages the potential of what we can do.”

    See the full article here .

    Comments are invited and will be appreciated, especially if the reader finds any errors which I can correct. Use “Reply”.


    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    U Penn campus

    Academic life at University of Pennsylvania is unparalleled, with 100 countries and every U.S. state represented in one of the Ivy League’s most diverse student bodies. Consistently ranked among the top 10 universities in the country, Penn enrolls 10,000 undergraduate students and welcomes an additional 10,000 students to our world-renowned graduate and professional schools.

    Penn’s award-winning educators and scholars encourage students to pursue inquiry and discovery, follow their passions, and address the world’s most challenging problems through an interdisciplinary approach.

    The University of Pennsylvania is a private Ivy League research university in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The university claims a founding date of 1740 and is one of the nine colonial colleges chartered prior to the U.S. Declaration of Independence. Benjamin Franklin, Penn’s founder and first president, advocated an educational program that trained leaders in commerce, government, and public service, similar to a modern liberal arts curriculum.

    Penn has four undergraduate schools as well as twelve graduate and professional schools. Schools enrolling undergraduates include the College of Arts and Sciences; the School of Engineering and Applied Science; the Wharton School; and the School of Nursing. Penn’s “One University Policy” allows students to enroll in classes in any of Penn’s twelve schools. Among its highly ranked graduate and professional schools are a law school whose first professor wrote the first draft of the United States Constitution, the first school of medicine in North America (Perelman School of Medicine, 1765), and the first collegiate business school (Wharton School, 1881).

    Penn is also home to the first “student union” building and organization (Houston Hall, 1896), the first Catholic student club in North America (Newman Center, 1893), the first double-decker college football stadium (Franklin Field, 1924 when second deck was constructed), and Morris Arboretum, the official arboretum of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. The first general-purpose electronic computer (ENIAC) was developed at Penn and formally dedicated in 1946. In 2019, the university had an endowment of $14.65 billion, the sixth-largest endowment of all universities in the United States, as well as a research budget of $1.02 billion. The university’s athletics program, the Quakers, fields varsity teams in 33 sports as a member of the NCAA Division I Ivy League conference.

    As of 2018, distinguished alumni and/or Trustees include three U.S. Supreme Court justices; 32 U.S. senators; 46 U.S. governors; 163 members of the U.S. House of Representatives; eight signers of the Declaration of Independence and seven signers of the U.S. Constitution (four of whom signed both representing two-thirds of the six people who signed both); 24 members of the Continental Congress; 14 foreign heads of state and two presidents of the United States, including Donald Trump. As of October 2019, 36 Nobel laureates; 80 members of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences; 64 billionaires; 29 Rhodes Scholars; 15 Marshall Scholars and 16 Pulitzer Prize winners have been affiliated with the university.


    The University of Pennsylvania considers itself the fourth-oldest institution of higher education in the United States, though this is contested by Princeton University and Columbia University. The university also considers itself as the first university in the United States with both undergraduate and graduate studies.

    In 1740, a group of Philadelphians joined together to erect a great preaching hall for the traveling evangelist George Whitefield, who toured the American colonies delivering open-air sermons. The building was designed and built by Edmund Woolley and was the largest building in the city at the time, drawing thousands of people the first time it was preached in. It was initially planned to serve as a charity school as well, but a lack of funds forced plans for the chapel and school to be suspended. According to Franklin’s autobiography, it was in 1743 when he first had the idea to establish an academy, “thinking the Rev. Richard Peters a fit person to superintend such an institution”. However, Peters declined a casual inquiry from Franklin and nothing further was done for another six years. In the fall of 1749, now more eager to create a school to educate future generations, Benjamin Franklin circulated a pamphlet titled Proposals Relating to the Education of Youth in Pensilvania, his vision for what he called a “Public Academy of Philadelphia”. Unlike the other colonial colleges that existed in 1749—Harvard University, William & Mary, Yale Unversity, and The College of New Jersey—Franklin’s new school would not focus merely on education for the clergy. He advocated an innovative concept of higher education, one which would teach both the ornamental knowledge of the arts and the practical skills necessary for making a living and doing public service. The proposed program of study could have become the nation’s first modern liberal arts curriculum, although it was never implemented because Anglican priest William Smith (1727-1803), who became the first provost, and other trustees strongly preferred the traditional curriculum.

    Franklin assembled a board of trustees from among the leading citizens of Philadelphia, the first such non-sectarian board in America. At the first meeting of the 24 members of the board of trustees on November 13, 1749, the issue of where to locate the school was a prime concern. Although a lot across Sixth Street from the old Pennsylvania State House (later renamed and famously known since 1776 as “Independence Hall”), was offered without cost by James Logan, its owner, the trustees realized that the building erected in 1740, which was still vacant, would be an even better site. The original sponsors of the dormant building still owed considerable construction debts and asked Franklin’s group to assume their debts and, accordingly, their inactive trusts. On February 1, 1750, the new board took over the building and trusts of the old board. On August 13, 1751, the “Academy of Philadelphia”, using the great hall at 4th and Arch Streets, took in its first secondary students. A charity school also was chartered on July 13, 1753 by the intentions of the original “New Building” donors, although it lasted only a few years. On June 16, 1755, the “College of Philadelphia” was chartered, paving the way for the addition of undergraduate instruction. All three schools shared the same board of trustees and were considered to be part of the same institution. The first commencement exercises were held on May 17, 1757.

    The institution of higher learning was known as the College of Philadelphia from 1755 to 1779. In 1779, not trusting then-provost the Reverend William Smith’s “Loyalist” tendencies, the revolutionary State Legislature created a University of the State of Pennsylvania. The result was a schism, with Smith continuing to operate an attenuated version of the College of Philadelphia. In 1791, the legislature issued a new charter, merging the two institutions into a new University of Pennsylvania with twelve men from each institution on the new board of trustees.

    Penn has three claims to being the first university in the United States, according to university archives director Mark Frazier Lloyd: the 1765 founding of the first medical school in America made Penn the first institution to offer both “undergraduate” and professional education; the 1779 charter made it the first American institution of higher learning to take the name of “University”; and existing colleges were established as seminaries (although, as detailed earlier, Penn adopted a traditional seminary curriculum as well).

    After being located in downtown Philadelphia for more than a century, the campus was moved across the Schuylkill River to property purchased from the Blockley Almshouse in West Philadelphia in 1872, where it has since remained in an area now known as University City. Although Penn began operating as an academy or secondary school in 1751 and obtained its collegiate charter in 1755, it initially designated 1750 as its founding date; this is the year that appears on the first iteration of the university seal. Sometime later in its early history, Penn began to consider 1749 as its founding date and this year was referenced for over a century, including at the centennial celebration in 1849. In 1899, the board of trustees voted to adjust the founding date earlier again, this time to 1740, the date of “the creation of the earliest of the many educational trusts the University has taken upon itself”. The board of trustees voted in response to a three-year campaign by Penn’s General Alumni Society to retroactively revise the university’s founding date to appear older than Princeton University, which had been chartered in 1746.

    Research, innovations and discoveries

    Penn is classified as an “R1” doctoral university: “Highest research activity.” Its economic impact on the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania for 2015 amounted to $14.3 billion. Penn’s research expenditures in the 2018 fiscal year were $1.442 billion, the fourth largest in the U.S. In fiscal year 2019 Penn received $582.3 million in funding from the National Institutes of Health.

    In line with its well-known interdisciplinary tradition, Penn’s research centers often span two or more disciplines. In the 2010–2011 academic year alone, five interdisciplinary research centers were created or substantially expanded; these include the Center for Health-care Financing; the Center for Global Women’s Health at the Nursing School; the $13 million Morris Arboretum’s Horticulture Center; the $15 million Jay H. Baker Retailing Center at Wharton; and the $13 million Translational Research Center at Penn Medicine. With these additions, Penn now counts 165 research centers hosting a research community of over 4,300 faculty and over 1,100 postdoctoral fellows, 5,500 academic support staff and graduate student trainees. To further assist the advancement of interdisciplinary research President Amy Gutmann established the “Penn Integrates Knowledge” title awarded to selected Penn professors “whose research and teaching exemplify the integration of knowledge”. These professors hold endowed professorships and joint appointments between Penn’s schools.

    Penn is also among the most prolific producers of doctoral students. With 487 PhDs awarded in 2009, Penn ranks third in the Ivy League, only behind Columbia University and Cornell University (Harvard University did not report data). It also has one of the highest numbers of post-doctoral appointees (933 in number for 2004–2007), ranking third in the Ivy League (behind Harvard and Yale University) and tenth nationally.

    In most disciplines Penn professors’ productivity is among the highest in the nation and first in the fields of epidemiology, business, communication studies, comparative literature, languages, information science, criminal justice and criminology, social sciences and sociology. According to the National Research Council nearly three-quarters of Penn’s 41 assessed programs were placed in ranges including the top 10 rankings in their fields, with more than half of these in ranges including the top five rankings in these fields.

    Penn’s research tradition has historically been complemented by innovations that shaped higher education. In addition to establishing the first medical school; the first university teaching hospital; the first business school; and the first student union Penn was also the cradle of other significant developments. In 1852, Penn Law was the first law school in the nation to publish a law journal still in existence (then called The American Law Register, now the Penn Law Review, one of the most cited law journals in the world). Under the deanship of William Draper Lewis, the law school was also one of the first schools to emphasize legal teaching by full-time professors instead of practitioners, a system that is still followed today. The Wharton School was home to several pioneering developments in business education. It established the first research center in a business school in 1921 and the first center for entrepreneurship center in 1973 and it regularly introduced novel curricula for which BusinessWeek wrote, “Wharton is on the crest of a wave of reinvention and change in management education”.

    Several major scientific discoveries have also taken place at Penn. The university is probably best known as the place where the first general-purpose electronic computer (ENIAC) was born in 1946 at the Moore School of Electrical Engineering.

    ENIAC UPenn

    It was here also where the world’s first spelling and grammar checkers were created, as well as the popular COBOL programming language. Penn can also boast some of the most important discoveries in the field of medicine. The dialysis machine used as an artificial replacement for lost kidney function was conceived and devised out of a pressure cooker by William Inouye while he was still a student at Penn Med; the Rubella and Hepatitis B vaccines were developed at Penn; the discovery of cancer’s link with genes; cognitive therapy; Retin-A (the cream used to treat acne), Resistin; the Philadelphia gene (linked to chronic myelogenous leukemia) and the technology behind PET Scans were all discovered by Penn Med researchers. More recent gene research has led to the discovery of the genes for fragile X syndrome, the most common form of inherited mental retardation; spinal and bulbar muscular atrophy, a disorder marked by progressive muscle wasting; and Charcot–Marie–Tooth disease, a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects the hands, feet and limbs.

    Conductive polymer was also developed at Penn by Alan J. Heeger, Alan MacDiarmid and Hideki Shirakawa, an invention that earned them the Nobel Prize in Chemistry. On faculty since 1965, Ralph L. Brinster developed the scientific basis for in vitro fertilization and the transgenic mouse at Penn and was awarded the National Medal of Science in 2010. The theory of superconductivity was also partly developed at Penn, by then-faculty member John Robert Schrieffer (along with John Bardeen and Leon Cooper). The university has also contributed major advancements in the fields of economics and management. Among the many discoveries are conjoint analysis, widely used as a predictive tool especially in market research; Simon Kuznets’s method of measuring Gross National Product; the Penn effect (the observation that consumer price levels in richer countries are systematically higher than in poorer ones) and the “Wharton Model” developed by Nobel-laureate Lawrence Klein to measure and forecast economic activity. The idea behind Health Maintenance Organizations also belonged to Penn professor Robert Eilers, who put it into practice during then-President Nixon’s health reform in the 1970s.

    International partnerships

    Students can study abroad for a semester or a year at partner institutions such as the London School of Economics(UK), University of Barcelona [Universitat de Barcelona](ES), Paris Institute of Political Studies [Institut d’études politiques de Paris](FR), University of Queensland(AU), University College London(UK), King’s College London(UK), Hebrew University of Jerusalem(IL) and University of Warwick(UK).

  • richardmitnick 10:08 am on August 2, 2022 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Crustaceans Discovered 'Pollinating' Seaweeds in Scientific First", , , , Plant Biology, ,   

    From The University of Paris-Sorbonne [Université de Paris-Sorbonne](FR) via “Science Alert (AU)” : “Crustaceans Discovered ‘Pollinating’ Seaweeds in Scientific First” 

    From The University of Paris-Sorbonne [Université de Paris-Sorbonne](FR)



    “Science Alert (AU)”

    2 AUGUST 2022

    A marine crustacean covered in seaweed sperm. (Sebastien Colin, MPG Institute for Biology/Sorbonne University).

    Pollination is the trademark of flowering plants, with animal pollinators such as bees and birds sustaining the world’s food supplies – not to mention our cravings for coffee, honey, and macadamia nuts. But new research raises the possibility that animal-assisted pollination may have emerged in the sea, long before plants moved ashore.

    The study, conducted by research groups based in France and Chile, is the first to document a seaweed species that depends on small marine crustaceans bespeckled in pollen-like spores to reproduce.

    Since the red algae Gracilaria gracilis evolved long before land plants appeared, the researchers say their study shows animal-assisted pollination could have arisen some 650 million years ago in the oceans once a suitable pollinator appeared.

    On land in seed-bearing flowering plants and gymnosperms, male reproductive cells, or gametes, take flight in the form of pollen grains, which are carried on wind, through water, or aback insects, to hopefully land upon a female counterpart somewhere far afield.

    Scientists then discovered that mosses [Science 2006 (below)] (a type of rootless, non-flowering plant classified as bryophytes) and some fungi also use animals and insects to facilitate reproduction, upending what they knew about animal-mediated pollination.

    Though often debated, researchers thought it had originated in concert with terrestrial plants around 140 million years ago [Science 2020 (below)]– or at least during the Mesozoic, which stretches back some 252 million years.

    Only a few years ago, scientists discovered foraging marine invertebrates carrying seagrass sperm [Nature Communications 2016 (below)], throwing out to sea the long-standing theory that the oceans were devoid of pollinators.

    Now, this new study from Emma Lavaut, an evolutionary biology graduate student at Sorbonne University in Paris, and colleagues, describes how small crustaceans called isopods, Idotea balthica, help fertilize a species of red seaweed, G. gracilis, that evolved around 1 billion years ago, long before the 500 million years [Science 2018 (below)] ago when land-plants appeared.

    “The study by Lavaut et al. has broadened both the variety and the history of animal-mediated male gamete transfer, taking the concept of pollination from [land] plants to algae and potentially pushing it back to the earliest evolution of marine invertebrates,” write Jeff Ollerton and Zong-Xin Ren, two ecologists at the Chinese Academy of Sciences’ Kunming Institute of Botany, in a perspective accompanying the paper in Science.

    A type of photosynthesizing algae, seaweeds are only very distantly related to so-called true plants.

    G. gracilis also differs from most other seaweeds in that their male gametes have no flagellum to propel them through water, left adrift in the ocean – unless they can snag a ridge on a passing critter, as this new work suggests they often do.

    In a series of lab experiments, Lavaut and colleagues showed how the small marine isopods, which forage along strands of male G. gracilis, inadvertently collect the seaweed’s male gametes (spermatia) as they do, transferring them to female plants.

    You can see in the image below, an idotea decorated with fluorescently-stained spermatia, which suggests that crustaceans may serve as pollinators.

    An idotea appendage covered in spermatia. (Sebastien Colin, MPG Institute for Biology/CNRS/SU).

    “Our results demonstrate for the first time that biotic interactions dramatically increase the probability of fertilization in a seaweed,” Lavaut and colleagues write [Science 2022 (below)].

    Fertilization success was about 20 times higher in the presence of I. balthica than without the critters, the team found.

    Idotea balthica, perched on a red seaweed frond. (Wilfried Thomas, CNRS/SU).

    However, in a world of rapid human-caused climate change, these delicate mutualistic relationships between plants or algae and animals are threatened as much as the ecosystems which they sustain.

    Seaweeds such as G. gracilis rely on still coastal waters to reproduce, when coastlines are being battered by storms and sea levels are slowly rising landward. Meanwhile, ocean acidification can weaken the exoskeletons of crustaceans – though this needs to be studied in isopods.

    While the threat of global heating is abundantly clear, evolutionary-minded ecologists are still stumped as to what G. gracilis did before I. balthica appeared on the scene, since the isopods are not nearly as old as the algae, evolving a ‘mere’ 300 million years ago.

    Although they most likely just relied on ocean currents, “how these seaweeds were reproducing before this is a mystery,” explain Ollerton and Ren [Science 2022].

    If science has taught us anything, it’s that we should always prepare ourselves for more surprises. Recent estimates from Ollerton suggest that only one-tenth of the more than 300,000 known species of animal-pollinated flowering plants have had their pollinators documented.

    So which species are working their magic? “No doubt many more revelations awaiting the careful observer of species interactions,” Ollerton and Ren conclude.

    The study was published in Science.

    Science papers:
    Science 2006

    Science 2020

    Nature Communications 2016

    Science 2022

    Science 2022

    Science 2018

    See the full article here.


    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    Sorbonne University [Sorbonne Université](FR) is a public research university located in Paris, France. The institution’s legacy reaches back to 1257 when Sorbonne College was established by Robert de Sorbon as one of the first universities in Europe.

    Paris-Sorbonne University was one of the inheritors of the Faculty of Humanities [Faculté des lettres] of the University of Paris [also known as the Sorbonne], which ceased to exist following student protests in May 1968. The Faculty of Humanities of was the main focus of the University of Paris, and subsequently Paris-Sorbonne University was one of its main successors. It was a member of The Sorbonne University Alliance [ Sorbonne Université] (FR).

    Paris-Sorbonne University enrolled about 24,000 students in 20 departments specializing in arts, humanities and languages, divided in 12 campuses throughout Paris. Seven of the campuses were situated in the historic Latin Quarter, including the historic Sorbonne university building, and three in the Marais, Malesherbes and Clignancourt respectively. In addition, the university also maintained one campus in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, also called Sorbonne University Abu Dhabi. Paris-Sorbonne University also comprised France’s prestigious communication and journalism school, Centre for Applied Literary and Scientific Studies [Celsa Sorbonne Université, Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences de l’information et de la Communication] (FR), located in the Parisian suburb of Neuilly-sur-Seine. Paris-Sorbonne University maintained about 400 international agreements.

    As a successor of the faculty of humanities of the University of Paris, it was a founding member the Sorbonne University Alliance [ Sorbonne Université] (FR), an alliance with the successor of the faculty of law and economics and of the faculty of science of the The University of Paris-Sorbonne [Université de Paris-Sorbonne](FR); Paris Panthéon-Assas University [Université Paris-Panthéon-Assas] (FR) and Pierre and Marie Curie University [Université Pierre-et-Marie-Curie] (FR). This group allowed Paris-Sorbonne University students to study several dual degrees in combinations. Two graduate certificates in law from Panthéon-Assas University (Sorbonne Law School) were accessible for all the student members of the Sorbonne University group.

    Sorbonne University [Sorbonne Université] (FR) is considered one of the most prestigious universities in Europe and the world. It has a world-class reputation in academia and industry; as of 2021, its alumni and professors have won 33 Nobel Prizes, six Fields Medals, and one Turing Award.

    In the 2021 edition of the Academic Ranking of World Universities, Sorbonne University ranked 35th in the world, placing it as the 4th best university in continental Europe, 3rd in Mathematics and Oceanography. In the 2023 edition of QS World University Rankings, the Sorbonne ranked 60th in the world, placing it 8th in continental Europe, 14th in Natural Sciences and Mathematics, and 7th in Classics and Ancient History.

    Known for its selectivity, Sorbonne University is one of the most sought after universities by students and researchers from France, Europe, and the French speaking countries. Most notably, Marie Curie, who came from Poland in 1891 and joined the faculty of sciences of the Sorbonne, was also the first woman to become a professor at the Sorbonne. Marie Curie and her husband Pierre Curie are considered the founders of the modern-day Faculty of Science and Engineering of Sorbonne University.

    College of Sorbonne

    Robert de Sorbon (1201–1274), chaplain to King Louis IX (Saint Louis), observed the difficulties experienced by poor “schoolchildren” in achieving the rank of doctor. In February 1257, he had a house (domus) officially established which he intended for a certain number of secular clergy who, living in common and without concern for their material existence, would be entirely occupied with study and teaching. This house was named the college of Sorbonne.

    The old slogan of the establishment, “Sorbonne University, creators of futures since 1257”, refers to this date. The college of Sorbonne was closed along with all the other colleges of the former University of Paris in 1793.

    The college of Sorbonne is located on the site of the current Sorbonne building, shared between Sorbonne University and Panthéon-Sorbonne University (Paris I) and Sorbonne Nouvelle University (Paris III).

    The law of 28 April 1893 giving civil personality to the bodies formed by the union of several faculties of an academy and that of 10 July 1896 giving the name of university to the bodies of faculties, the new University of Paris was created in 1896 as a grouping of the Faculty of Science, the Faculty of Letters, the Faculty of Law, the Faculty of Medicine, the Faculty of Protestant Theology (created in 1877, transformed into a free faculty in 1905) and the École supérieure de pharmacie. It was inaugurated on 19 November 1896 by its president, Félix Faure.

    Splitting of the University of Paris

    The Universities of Paris-Sorbonne and Pierre-et-Marie-Curie were created as a result of the university reform prepared by Edgar Faure in 1968.

    At that time, the University of Paris, divided into five faculties, was split into several interdisciplinary universities. Some, including the University of Paris-Sorbonne, retained the name “Sorbonne” and premises in the historic centre of the University of Paris, which had until then been mainly devoted to the Faculties of Arts and Sciences.

    The University of Paris-VI is created from the majority of the teaching and research units of the Faculty of Sciences of Paris (the others joining the universities of Paris-VII Denis Diderot (now University of Paris), Paris-Saclay University in Orsay, Paris-XII and Paris-XIII in Villetaneuse) and part of the units of the Faculty of Medicine of Paris (the others joining the universities of Paris-V René Descartes (now University of Paris), Paris-VII Denis Diderot and Paris-XIII).

    Reunification of the Universities of Paris IV and Paris VI

    In 2010, some of the direct successors of the faculties of the University of Paris created the Sorbonne University Alliance [ Sorbonne Université] (FR). The following universities, members of the group, decided to merge into Sorbonne University in 2018:

    Paris-Sorbonne University (Paris IV) (1971–2017), formerly a constituent part of the faculty of humanities of the University of Paris.
    Université Pierre et Marie Curie (Paris VI) (1971–2017), formerly a constituent part of the faculty of science and of the faculty of medicine of the University of Paris.

    At the same time, the Sorbonne Universities Alliance was renamed the Sorbonne University Association; it includes the following institutions for academic cooperation:

    University of Technology of Compiègne (1972– )
    National Museum of Natural History
    Centre international d’études pédagogiques (International Centre for Pedagogical Studies)
    Pôle supérieur d’enseignement artistique Paris Boulogne-Billancourt
    Four research institutes

    As part of the reforms of French Higher Education, on 19 March 2018, the international jury called by the French Government for the “Initiative d’excellence” (IDEX) confirmed the definite win of Sorbonne University. Consequently, Sorbonne University won an endowment of 900 Mio euros with no limit of time. This is the first higher education institution in Paris region to win such an endowment. The university was established by a decree issued 21 April 2017, taking effect 1 January 2018.

    Rankings and reputation

    Sorbonne University is consistently ranked in the top universities in Europe and the world. The first recognition of its existence as an integrated university came in 2018, when it appeared on the CWUR World University Rankings 2018–2019 in 29th place globally and 1st place in France.
    University rankings
    Global – Overall
    ARWU World 35 (2021)
    CWUR World 36 (2021-2022)
    CWTS World 89 (2020)
    QS World 72 (2022)
    Reuters World 56 (2019)
    THE World 80 (2020)
    USNWR Global 46 (2022)

    National – Overall

    ARWU National 2 (2022)
    CWTS National 1 (2020)
    CWUR National 3 (2021-22)
    QS National 3 (2021)
    THE National 3 (2021)
    USNWR National 1 (2022)

    In the Academic Ranking of World Universities 2020, Sorbonne University is ranked in range 39 globally and 3rd in France.

    In the Times Higher Education European Teaching Rankings 2019, Sorbonne University was ranked in 3rd place in France (after Paris-Sud University and The University of Lyon [Université Claude Bernard Lyon 1] (FR)).

    In the Times Higher Education World Reputation Rankings 2019, Sorbonne University was ranked in range 51-60 globally and 2nd in France.

    The 2021 QS World University Rankings ranked Sorbonne University 83rd overall in the world and 3rd in France. Individual faculties at Sorbonne University also featured in the rankings.

    Before the merger of Paris-Sorbonne University and Pierre and Marie Curie University, both had their own rankings in the world.

    Its founding predecessor Paris-Sorbonne University was ranked 222 in the world by the QS World University Rankings 2015. By faculty, it was ranked 9 in modern languages, 36 in arts and humanities (1st in France), and 127 in social sciences and management (5th in France). By academic reputation, it was ranked 80 (2nd in France), according to the QS World University Rankings, and 2nd in overall highest international reputation of all academic institutions in France, according to the Times Higher Education 2015. In 2014 Paris-Sorbonne ranked 227 in the world, according to the QS World University Rankings, 115 for Social Sciences and Management, 33 for Arts and Humanities.

    Pierre and Marie Curie University [Université Pierre-et-Marie-Curie] (FR) was often ranked as the best university in France. In 2014 UPMC was ranked 35th in the world, 6th in Europe and 1st in France by the Academic Ranking of World Universities. It was ranked 4th in the world in the field of mathematics by the same study. The 2013 QS World University Rankings ranked the university 112th overall in the world and 3rd in France. In 2013, according to University Ranking by Academic Performance, Université Pierre et Marie Curie is ranked first university in France, and 44th in the world. UPMC is a member of Sorbonne University Alliance.

    The Sorbonne College

    Since 2014, the Sorbonne College for bachelor’s degree (« Collège des Licences de la Sorbonne ») has been coordinating the academic projects inside Sorbonne University and with Paris Panthéon-Assas University [Université Paris-Panthéon-Assas] (FR), the law school of the Sorbonne University Group which has not merged into the Sorbonne University and remained independent. It also offers cross-institutional academic courses in many fields, allowing students to graduate from both institutions. For example, some cross-institutional bachelor’s degrees (« double licences ») are proposed to students in :

    Science and History (Sorbonne)
    Science and Musicology (Sorbonne)
    Science and Philosophy (Sorbonne)
    Science and Chinese (Sorbonne)
    Science and German (Sorbonne)
    Law and History (Panthéon-Assas / Sorbonne)
    Law and Art History (Panthéon-Assas / Sorbonne)
    Law and Science (Panthéon-Assas / Sorbonne)
    History and Media (Sorbonne / Panthéon-Assas)[32]

    As it is the case in the Anglo-American university system, Sorbonne University proposes a major-minor system, that is currently being deployed at the university.

    Sorbonne University, in partnership with INSEAD The Business School for the World [INSEAD L’école de commerce pour le monde] (FR), also offers all of its alumni and PhD students a professionalizing course in business management to complete their curriculum.

    The Doctoral College

    Since 2010, every PhD student is being delivered an honorary diploma labeled Sorbonne University. This diploma highlights and gathers the skills of the doctors and researchers from the institutions that form Sorbonne University.

    The Sorbonne Doctoral College, created in 2013, coordinates the activities of the 26 doctoral schools. Since 2014, it has developed cross-disciplinary PhDs between the different members of the Sorbonne University Alliance.


    To strengthen the influence of its research infrastructures on the international scale, Sorbonne University has developed several research programs aiming at reinforcing or exploring new fields of study. This innovative cross-disciplinary approach was embodied with the creation of four new academic positions gathering several establishments of the group:

    A Department of Digital Humanities, exploring the use of digital technologies in the social science
    A Department of Polychromatic Studies of Societies, associating architecture, anthropology, chemical physics, literature and art history
    A Department of Digital Health, exploring biomedical tools
    A Department of 3D Craniofacial Reconstruction

    Sorbonne University has formed with academic institutions such as the China Scholarship Council or the Brazilian foundation FAPERJ several partnerships enabling bilateral research programs.

    Sorbonne University is a member of The League of European Research Universities, which gathers 23 European universities such as The University of Cambridge (UK) and The University of Oxford (UK).

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