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  • richardmitnick 11:26 am on March 8, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Research shows we’re surprisingly similar to Earth’s first animals", , , , , UC Riverside   

    From UC Riverside: “Research shows we’re surprisingly similar to Earth’s first animals” 

    UC Riverside bloc

    March 8, 2021

    Jules L Bernstein
    Senior Public Information Officer
    jules.bernstein@ucr.edu
    (951) 827-4580

    1
    Fossil of Dickinsonia, an Ediacaran-era animal. Credit: Mary Droser/UCR.

    The earliest multicellular organisms may have lacked heads, legs, or arms, but pieces of them remain inside of us today, new research shows.

    According to a UC Riverside study, 555-million-year-old oceanic creatures from the Ediacaran period share genes with today’s animals, including humans.

    “None of them had heads or skeletons. Many of them probably looked like three-dimensional bathmats on the sea floor, round discs that stuck up,” said Mary Droser, a geology professor at UCR. “These animals are so weird and so different, it’s difficult to assign them to modern categories of living organisms just by looking at them, and it’s not like we can extract their DNA — we can’t.”

    However, well-preserved fossil records have allowed Droser and the study’s first author, recent UCR doctoral graduate Scott Evans, to link the animals’ appearance and likely behaviors to genetic analysis of currently living things. Their research on these links has been recently published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

    For their analysis, the researchers considered four animals representative of the more than 40 recognized species that have been identified from the Ediacaran era. These creatures ranged in size from a few millimeters to nearly a meter in length.

    Kimberella were teardrop-shaped creatures with one broad, rounded end and one narrow end that likely scraped the sea floor for food with a proboscis. Further, they could move around using a “muscular foot” like snails today. The study included flat, oval-shaped Dickinsonia with a series of raised bands on their surface, and Tribrachidium, who spent their lives immobilized at the bottom of the sea.

    2
    Paleontologist Scott Evans studying fossils in the Australian outback. Credit: Droser Lab/UCR.

    Also analyzed were Ikaria, animals recently discovered by a team including Evans and Droser. They were about the size and shape of a grain of rice, and represent the first bilaterians — organisms with a front, back, and openings at either end connected by a gut. Evans said it’s likely Ikaria had mouths, though those weren’t preserved in the fossil records, and they crawled through organic matter “eating as they went.”

    All four of the animals were multicellular, with cells of different types. Most had symmetry on their left and right sides, as well as noncentralized nervous systems and musculature.

    Additionally, they seem to have been able to repair damaged body parts through a process known as apoptosis. The same genes involved are key elements of human immune systems, which helps to eliminate virus-infected and pre-cancerous cells.

    These animals likely had the genetic parts responsible for heads and the sensory organs usually found there. However, the complexity of interaction between these genes that would give rise to such features hadn’t yet been achieved.

    “The fact that we can say these genes were operating in something that’s been extinct for half a billion years is fascinating to me,” Evans said.

    Also analyzed were Ikaria, animals recently discovered by a team including Evans and Droser. They were about the size and shape of a grain of rice, and represent the first bilaterians — organisms with a front, back, and openings at either end connected by a gut. Evans said it’s likely Ikaria had mouths, though those weren’t preserved in the fossil records, and they crawled through organic matter “eating as they went.”

    All four of the animals were multicellular, with cells of different types. Most had symmetry on their left and right sides, as well as noncentralized nervous systems and musculature.

    Additionally, they seem to have been able to repair damaged body parts through a process known as apoptosis. The same genes involved are key elements of human immune systems, which helps to eliminate virus-infected and pre-cancerous cells.

    These animals likely had the genetic parts responsible for heads and the sensory organs usually found there. However, the complexity of interaction between these genes that would give rise to such features hadn’t yet been achieved.

    “The fact that we can say these genes were operating in something that’s been extinct for half a billion years is fascinating to me,” Evans said.

    See the full article here .

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

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    UC Riverside Campus

    The University of California, Riverside is one of 10 universities within the prestigious University of California system, and the only UC located in Inland Southern California.

    Widely recognized as one of the most ethnically diverse research universities in the nation, UCR’s current enrollment is more than 21,000 students, with a goal of 25,000 students by 2020. The campus is in the midst of a tremendous growth spurt with new and remodeled facilities coming on-line on a regular basis.

    We are located approximately 50 miles east of downtown Los Angeles. UCR is also within easy driving distance of dozens of major cultural and recreational sites, as well as desert, mountain and coastal destinations.

     
  • richardmitnick 10:26 pm on February 9, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Astronomers offer possible explanation for elusive dark-matter-free galaxies", , , , , , Illustris Project, Lambda Cold Dark Matter cosmological model, UC Riverside   

    From UC Riverside: “Astronomers offer possible explanation for elusive dark-matter-free galaxies” 

    UC Riverside bloc

    From UC Riverside

    February 9, 2021
    Iqbal Pittalwala

    1
    UC Riverside-led study finds extreme tidal mass loss in dwarf galaxies formed in a simulation.

    A team led by astronomers at the University of California, Riverside, has found that some dwarf galaxies may today appear to be dark-matter free even though they formed as galaxies dominated by Dark Matter in the past.

    Galaxies that appear to have little to no dark matter — nonluminous material thought to constitute 85% of matter in the universe — complicate astronomers’ understanding of the universe’s dark matter content. Such galaxies, which have recently been found in observations, challenge a cosmological model used by astronomers called Lambda Cold Dark Matter, or LCDM, where all galaxies are surrounded by a massive and extended dark matter halo.

    Lamda Cold Dark Matter Accerated Expansion of The universe http scinotions.com the-cosmic-inflation-suggests-the-existence-of-parallel-universes
    Alex Mittelmann, Coldcreation.

    Dark-matter-free galaxies are not well understood in the astronomical community. One way to study the possible formation mechanisms for these elusive galaxies — the ultradiffuse DF2 and DF4 galaxies are examples — is to find similar objects in numerical simulations and study their time evolution and the circumstances that lead to their dark matter loss.

    Jessica Doppel, a graduate student in the UC Riverside Department of Physics and Astronomy and the first author of research paper published in the MNRAS, explained that in a LCDM universe all galaxies should be dark matter dominated.

    “That’s the challenge,” she said. “Finding analogs in simulations of what observers see is significant and not guaranteed. Beginning to pin down the origins of these types of objects and their often-anomalous globular cluster populations allows us to further solidify our theoretical framework of dark matter and galaxy formation and confirms that no alternative forms of dark matter are needed. We found cold dark matter performs well.”

    For the study, the researchers used cosmological and hydrodynamical simulation called Illustris, which offers a galaxy formation model that includes stellar evolution, supernova feedback, black hole growth, and mergers.

    The Illustris Simulation

    The researchers found a couple of “dwarf galaxies” in clusters had similar stellar content, globular cluster numbers, and dark matter mass as DF2 and DF4. As its name suggests, a dwarf galaxy is small, comprising up to several billion stars. In contrast, the Milky Way, which has more than 20 known dwarf galaxies orbiting it, has 200 to 400 billion stars. Globular clusters are often used to estimate the dark matter content of galaxies, especially dwarfs.

    The researchers used the Illustris simulation to investigate the origin of odd dwarf galaxies such as DF2 and DF4. They found simulated analogs to dark-matter-free dwarfs in the form of objects that had evolved within the galaxy clusters for a long time and lost more than 90% of their dark matter via tidal stripping — the stripping away of material by galactic tidal forces.

    “Interestingly, the same mechanism of tidal stripping is able to explain other properties of dwarfs like DF2 and DF4 — for example, the fact that they are ‘ultradiffuse’ galaxies,” said co-author Laura Sales, an associate professor of physics and astronomy at UCR and Doppel’s graduate advisor. “Our simulations suggest a combined solution to both the structure of these dwarfs and their low dark matter content. Possibly, extreme tidal mass loss in otherwise normal dwarf galaxies is how ultradiffuse objects are formed.”

    In collaboration with researchers at the MPG Institute for Astrophysics [MPG Institut für Astrophysik], Garching (DE), Sales’ group is currently working with improved simulations that feature more detailed physics and a numerical resolution about 16 times better than the Illustris simulation.

    “With these data, we will be able to extend our study to even lower-mass dwarfs, which are more abundant in the universe and expected to be more dark matter dominated at their centers, making them more challenging to explain,” Doppel said. “We will explore if tidal stripping could provide a path to deplete dwarfs of their inner dark matter content. We plan to make predictions about the dwarfs’ stellar, globular cluster, and dark matter content, which we will then compare to future observations.”

    The research team has already been awarded time at the W. M. Keck Observatory to help answer some of the questions pertaining to observations of dwarfs in the Virgo cluster.

    W.M. Keck Observatory, two ten meter telescopes operated by Caltech and the University of California, Maunakea Hawaii USA, altitude 4,207 m (13,802 ft). Credit: Caltech.

    Virgo Supercluster Credit: NASA.

    Sales and Doppel were joined in the research by Julio F. Navarro of the University of Victoria (CA); Mario G. Abadi and Felipe Ramos-Almendares of the National University of Córdoba (AR); Eric W. Peng of Peking University (CN); and Elisa Toloba of the University of the Pacific in California.

    The study was supported by grants from NASA and the National Science Foundation.

    Dark Matter Background
    Fritz Zwicky discovered Dark Matter in the 1930s when observing the movement of the Coma Cluster., Vera Rubin a Woman in STEM denied the Nobel, some 30 years later, did most of the work on Dark Matter.

    Fritz Zwicky from http:// palomarskies.blogspot.com.


    Coma cluster via NASA/ESA Hubble.


    In modern times, it was astronomer Fritz Zwicky, in the 1930s, who made the first observations of what we now call dark matter. His 1933 observations of the Coma Cluster of galaxies seemed to indicated it has a mass 500 times more than that previously calculated by Edwin Hubble. Furthermore, this extra mass seemed to be completely invisible. Although Zwicky’s observations were initially met with much skepticism, they were later confirmed by other groups of astronomers.
    Thirty years later, astronomer Vera Rubin provided a huge piece of evidence for the existence of dark matter. She discovered that the centers of galaxies rotate at the same speed as their extremities, whereas, of course, they should rotate faster. Think of a vinyl LP on a record deck: its center rotates faster than its edge. That’s what logic dictates we should see in galaxies too. But we do not. The only way to explain this is if the whole galaxy is only the center of some much larger structure, as if it is only the label on the LP so to speak, causing the galaxy to have a consistent rotation speed from center to edge.
    Vera Rubin, following Zwicky, postulated that the missing structure in galaxies is dark matter. Her ideas were met with much resistance from the astronomical community, but her observations have been confirmed and are seen today as pivotal proof of the existence of dark matter.

    Astronomer Vera Rubin at the Lowell Observatory in 1965, worked on Dark Matter (The Carnegie Institution for Science).


    Vera Rubin measuring spectra, worked on Dark Matter (Emilio Segre Visual Archives AIP SPL).


    Vera Rubin, with Department of Terrestrial Magnetism (DTM) image tube spectrograph attached to the Kitt Peak 84-inch telescope, 1970. https://home.dtm.ciw.edu.

    See the full article here .

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

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    UC Riverside Campus

    The University of California, Riverside is one of 10 universities within the prestigious University of California system, and the only UC located in Inland Southern California.

    Widely recognized as one of the most ethnically diverse research universities in the nation, UCR’s current enrollment is more than 21,000 students, with a goal of 25,000 students by 2020. The campus is in the midst of a tremendous growth spurt with new and remodeled facilities coming on-line on a regular basis.

    We are located approximately 50 miles east of downtown Los Angeles. UCR is also within easy driving distance of dozens of major cultural and recreational sites, as well as desert, mountain and coastal destinations.

     
  • richardmitnick 10:22 pm on January 20, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "‘Super Earth’ discovered near one of our galaxy’s oldest stars", A hot rocky “super Earth” near one of the oldest stars in the galaxy has taken a team of planet-hunting scientists by surprise., , , , , The planet TOI-561b, UC Riverside   

    From UC Riverside: “‘Super Earth’ discovered near one of our galaxy’s oldest stars” 

    UC Riverside bloc

    From UC Riverside

    January 11, 2021
    Jules Bernstein

    Hot planet orbits its star twice during every Earth day.

    1
    Artist’s rendition of TOI-561, one of the oldest, most metal-poor planetary systems discovered yet in the Milky Way galaxy. Credit: W. M. Keck Observatory/Adam Makarenko.

    A hot, rocky “super Earth,” near one of the oldest stars in the galaxy has taken a team of planet-hunting scientists by surprise.

    The planet is about 50 percent larger than Earth but requires less than half a day to orbit its star.

    “For every day you’re on Earth, this planet orbits its star twice,” said UC Riverside planetary astrophysicist and team member Stephen Kane.

    Part of the reason for the short orbit is the planet’s proximity to its star, which also creates incredible heat. Its estimated average surface temperature is over 2,000 degrees Kelvin — much too toasty to host life as we know it today, though it may once have been possible.

    In addition, Kane said that although the planet has roughly three times the mass of Earth, the team calculated its density to be the same as our planet.

    “This is surprising because you’d expect the density to be higher,” Kane said. “This is consistent with the notion that the planet is extremely old.”

    The older a planet is, the less dense it’s likely to be because not as many heavy elements were available when it formed, explained Kane. Heavy elements are produced by fusion reactions in stars as they age. Eventually stars explode, dispersing these elements from which new stars and planets will form.

    Discovery of planet TOI-561b, and additional observations the team made about its composition, have been accepted for publication in The Astronomical Journal and are being presented Jan. 11 at the 2021 meeting of the American Astronomical Society.

    “TOI-561b is one of the oldest rocky planets yet discovered,” said University of Hawaii postdoctoral fellow and team lead Lauren Weiss. “Its existence shows that the universe has been forming rocky planets almost since its inception 14 billion years ago.”

    Named for NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite, TESS Object of Interest (TOI) 561 belongs to a rare population of stars called the galactic thick disk.

    NASA/MIT TESS replaced Kepler in search for exoplanets.

    Stars in this region are chemically distinct, with fewer heavy elements such as iron or magnesium that are associated with planet building.

    The TESS Mission team used the University of California’s access to the W.M. Keck Observatory in Hawaii — home to some of the most scientifically productive telescopes on Earth — to confirm the presence of planet TOI-561b. The observatory’s equipment also helped the team calculate the planet’s mass, density and radius.

    W.M. Keck Observatory, two ten meter telescopes operated by Caltech and the University of California, Maunakea Hawaii USA, altitude 4,207 m (13,802 ft). Credit: Caltech.

    Astronomers are continually trying to understand the relationship between the mass and radius of the planets they find. This information yields insight about the interior structure of planets that with today’s technology are too far away to visit and sample.

    “Information about a planet’s interior gives us a sense of whether the surface of the planet is habitable by life as we know it,” Kane said. “Though this particular planet is unlikely to be inhabited today, it may be a harbinger of a many rocky worlds yet to be discovered around our galaxy’s oldest stars.”

    See the full article here .

    See also the post from W.M. Keck here .

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

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    UC Riverside Campus

    The University of California, Riverside is one of 10 universities within the prestigious University of California system, and the only UC located in Inland Southern California.

    Widely recognized as one of the most ethnically diverse research universities in the nation, UCR’s current enrollment is more than 21,000 students, with a goal of 25,000 students by 2020. The campus is in the midst of a tremendous growth spurt with new and remodeled facilities coming on-line on a regular basis.

    We are located approximately 50 miles east of downtown Los Angeles. UCR is also within easy driving distance of dozens of major cultural and recreational sites, as well as desert, mountain and coastal destinations.

     
  • richardmitnick 11:23 pm on January 11, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Astronomers measure enormous planet lurking far from its star", , , , , Kepler-1514b nicknamed GOT ‘EM-1b., NASA’s Kepler space telescope originally identified an object which turned out to be this planet in 2010., UC Riverside   

    From UC Riverside: “Astronomers measure enormous planet lurking far from its star” 

    UC Riverside bloc

    From UC Riverside

    January 11, 2021
    Jules L Bernstein
    Senior Public Information Officer
    (951) 827-4580
    jules.bernstein@ucr.edu

    1
    Gas giant takes 218 days to complete its orbit.

    2
    Artist’s rendering of a 10-million-year-old star system with a gas-giant planet like Jupiter. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/T. Pyle.

    Scientists aren’t usually able to measure the size of gigantic planets, like Jupiter or Saturn, which are far from the stars they orbit. But a UC Riverside-led team has done it.

    The planet is roughly five times heavier than Jupiter, hence its nickname GOT ‘EM-1b, which stands for Giant Outer Transiting Exoplanet Mass. Though it is nearly 1,300 light years away from Earth, GOT ‘EM-1b, or Kepler-1514b as it is officially known, is still considered part of what researchers call our “solar neighborhood.”

    “This planet is like a steppingstone between the giant planets of our own solar system, which are very far from our sun, and other gas giants that are much closer to their stars,” said UCR astronomer Paul Dalba, who led the research.

    The discovery of GOT ‘EM-1b has been detailed in a paper accepted for publication in The Astronomical Journal [PDF], and is being presented Jan. 11 at the 2021 meeting of the American Astronomical Society.

    NASA’s Kepler space telescope originally identified an object, which turned out to be this planet, in 2010.

    NASA/Kepler Telescope, and K2 March 7, 2009 until November 15, 2018.

    That mission then spotted periodic decreases in the brightness of a star, a clue that orbiting planets are nearby.

    Dalba and his team then used W.M. Keck Observatory in Hawaii to determine the planet’s size and density.

    W.M. Keck Observatory, two ten meter telescopes operated by Caltech and the University of California, Maunakea Hawaii USA, altitude 4,207 m (13,802 ft). Credit: Caltech.

    Dalba said it was surprising to find a planet such as GOT ‘EM-1b.

    “Taking 218 days to orbit a star is an order of magnitude longer than most giant exoplanets we’ve measured,” Dalba said. “Kepler discovered thousands of planets, and only a few dozen had orbits of a couple hundred days or longer.”

    Giant planets tend to form farther from their stars, then migrate inward over time. The discovery of one that hasn’t moved closer may serve as an analog, offering new insights into our own solar system.

    Earth enjoys a lot of relative stability, and astronomers believe Jupiter may be protecting our planet from other objects in space that would impact us. But because they are so massive, planets such as Jupiter have the potential to disturb the orbits, architecture, and development of other nearby planets.

    “Giant planets far from their stars can help us answer age-old questions about whether our solar system is normal or not in its stability and development,” explained UCR planetary astrophysicist Stephen Kane, who participated in the research.

    “We don’t know of many analogs to Jupiter and Saturn — it’s really hard to find those kinds of planets very far away, so this is exciting,” Kane said.

    Dalba explained that data from giant planets closer to their stars is often more difficult to interpret, since radiation from the star puffs them up.

    “You first have to account for the inflation in size before investigating the composition and other aspects of planets near stars,” Dalba said. “This planet doesn’t have that radius problem, so it’s more straightforward to study.”

    For these reasons, the discovery of Kepler-1514b is helpful to future NASA missions, such as the Nancy Grace Roman Space Telescope, which will attempt direct imaging of giant planets.

    NASA Nancy Grace Roman Space Telescope depiction.

    Dalba is also hoping to learn whether the planet has a moon or system of moons.

    “We’ve never found a moon outside our solar system,” Dalba said. “But if we did, it would let us know that moons can form around planets that are experiencing substantial migration, and teach us more about giant planets as a whole.”

    See the full article here .

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

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    UC Riverside Campus

    The University of California, Riverside is one of 10 universities within the prestigious University of California system, and the only UC located in Inland Southern California.

    Widely recognized as one of the most ethnically diverse research universities in the nation, UCR’s current enrollment is more than 21,000 students, with a goal of 25,000 students by 2020. The campus is in the midst of a tremendous growth spurt with new and remodeled facilities coming on-line on a regular basis.

    We are located approximately 50 miles east of downtown Los Angeles. UCR is also within easy driving distance of dozens of major cultural and recreational sites, as well as desert, mountain and coastal destinations.

     
  • richardmitnick 9:46 am on January 7, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Scientists developing new solutions for honeybee colony collapse", Agricultural Sciences, , , , UC Riverside   

    From UC Riverside: “Scientists developing new solutions for honeybee colony collapse” 

    UC Riverside bloc

    From UC Riverside

    January 7, 2021
    Jules L Bernstein
    Senior Public Information Officer
    jules.bernstein@ucr.edu
    (951) 827-4580

    1

    Grant establishes network of bee researchers at four UC campuses.

    The University of California, Riverside, is leading a new effort to stop and reverse a worldwide decline in honeybees, which threatens food security and prices.

    2
    Professor Boris Baer’s family tending beehives in Riverside, Calif. Credit:Boris Baer/UCR.

    Honeybees pollinate more than 80 agricultural crops, which account for about a third of what we eat. Several factors, including pesticide exposure and the spread of parasites and environmental changes, are to blame for the widespread collapse of bee colonies over the past decade.

    To boost dwindling honeybee populations, the University of California’s Office of the President has awarded $900,000 to a four-campus network of bee researchers and engineers.

    _____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
    A Network of Activities and Opportunities!

    3

    Safeguarding honey bees and their pollination services is of particular importance for California because they are key pollinators for a large number of crops with an estimated annual value of more than US$ 9 billion. Honeybees are of crucial importance for future food security and affordability, and generate income and job opportunities through honey production and rental income when hives are loaned for crop pollination. Within the last ten years, we have seen unprecedented losses among managed honey bee operations in California and around the world. Activities to address this ongoing “pollinator crisis” are being conducted through a network of collaborating UC campuses that study the causes of honeybee declines and use novel bee health management tools. This network consolidates these activities under a collaborative umbrella and uses state of the art honeybee research and extension capabilities to build an interdisciplinary California-wide research network. Together, we develop new and innovative tools to effectively combat declining honey bee health in close collaboration with local beekeepers and pollination dependent industries.
    _____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
    “This will become one of the largest honeybee health networks in the country,” said Boris Baer, a professor of entomology at UC Riverside and principal investigator of the project. “I’m very excited about so many different kinds of bee expertise joining forces through this project.”

    The network, which includes researchers from the Davis, San Diego and Merced campuses, is approaching the problem in three main ways.

    The first is through breeding programs — a particular focus of Baer’s laboratory. “We seek to identify and breed bees that are better able to cope with environmental stress,” he said.

    A second goal of the new network is to develop medications and treatments for sick bees. Certain types of honeybees generate molecules that make them more tolerant of pesticides and parasites. New technology will enable the scientists to isolate those molecules and use them as a basis for drugs.

    Finally, the group is looking to give beekeepers tools to better monitor bees’ health. Small devices will be able to ‘listen’ and ‘smell’ inside hives to give beekeepers indications about the health of the hive.

    “We know bee queens have a special pheromone they give off when they’re hungry or dying, and these can be traced,” Baer said. “We are essentially building ‘electronic veterinarians.’”

    Preventative devices like these are key to keeping bees alive, because once the colony collapses, it’s too late to bring it back, Baer said.

    The network’s goals closely mirror those of UC Riverside’s Center for Integrative Bee Research, or CIBER, which is also attempting to address the ‘pollinator crisis‘.

    4
    Bees can be hosts and vectors to a large diversity of pathogens, and they are particularly vulnerable to disease. Both social and solitary bees can easily pick up parasites and pathogens at flowers that were recently visited by an infected individual, much like a human can pick viruses by touching a door handle recently used by someone with a cold. Furthermore, intensified agriculture requires the availability of large amounts of pollinators for relatively short periods of time when crops are flowering. As a consequence, managed pollinators are shipped across the country to follow the blooms. These migrations bring pollinators as well as pests to new landscapes, introducing novel parasites and pathogens that local populations have never before encountered. Local bees often lack an immune response to these introduced diseases and are particularly susceptible to them.

    5
    Safeguarding the Bees
    Modern agriculture is heavily dependent on bees to pollinate crops, and the documented losses of managed and native pollinating insects have become a global concern. While more research is required to better understand bee declines, researchers agree that the problem is complex and there is no single cause. Consequently, declines in bee populations may need to be investigated using broad and multi-disciplinary approaches to better understand the complex relationships between insects, the plants they pollinate, and their environment. Furthermore, the domestication and breeding of some species of honeybees, bumblebees and stingless bees over thousands of years have heavily impacted and manipulated their populations and distributions, further complicating the issues.

    Both groups are working closely with local beekeepers and getting feedback on whether the tools being developed are working for them.

    “Together, we’ll develop innovative tools needed to effectively combat declining honeybee health, keep our food affordable, and safeguard the livelihood of those working with bees,” Baer said.

    Funding will also help provide research opportunities for undergraduates, including underrepresented students, with the goal of ensuring that students who enter research, academia, and industry reflects the diversity of the communities in which they learn and work.

    See the full article here .

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

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    UC Riverside Campus

    The University of California, Riverside is one of 10 universities within the prestigious University of California system, and the only UC located in Inland Southern California.

    Widely recognized as one of the most ethnically diverse research universities in the nation, UCR’s current enrollment is more than 21,000 students, with a goal of 25,000 students by 2020. The campus is in the midst of a tremendous growth spurt with new and remodeled facilities coming on-line on a regular basis.

    We are located approximately 50 miles east of downtown Los Angeles. UCR is also within easy driving distance of dozens of major cultural and recreational sites, as well as desert, mountain and coastal destinations.

     
  • richardmitnick 10:18 am on December 23, 2020 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Delicious and disease-free- scientists attempting new citrus varieties", , , , Huanglongbing-disease affecting citrus fruit., UC Riverside   

    From UC Riverside: “Delicious and disease-free- scientists attempting new citrus varieties” 

    UC Riverside bloc

    From UC Riverside

    December 22, 2020

    Jules L Bernstein
    Senior Public Information Officer
    (951) 827-4580
    jules.bernstein@ucr.edu

    UC Riverside scientists are betting an ancient solution will solve citrus growers’ biggest problem by breeding new fruits with natural resistance to a deadly tree disease.

    1
    New hybrid citrus fruit bred for disease resistance and flavor. Credit: Chandrika Ramadugu/UCR.

    The hybrid fruits will ideally share the best of their parents’ attributes: the tastiness of the best citrus, and the resistance to Huanglongbing, or HLB, displayed by some Australian relatives of citrus.

    There is no truly effective commercial treatment for HLB, also called citrus greening disease, which has destroyed orchards worldwide. The disease has already been detected in California, where 80 percent of the country’s fresh citrus is grown. However, it has not yet been detected in a commercial grove.

    To prevent that from happening, the National Institute of Food and Agriculture has awarded a UC Riverside-led research team $4.67 million. Chandrika Ramadugu, a UCR botanist leading the project, helped identify microcitrus varieties with natural resistance to HLB about eight years ago.

    2
    Cross section of a hybrid fruit bred for this project. Credit: Chandrika Ramadugu/UCR.

    “HLB is caused by bacteria, so many people are trying to control it with antimicrobial sprays,” Ramadugu said. “We want to incorporate resistance into the citrus trees themselves through breeding, to provide a more sustainable solution.”

    Part of the challenge with this approach to solving the HLB problem is that it’s possible to breed hybrids that are resistant to the disease but don’t taste good, Ramadugu said. “Hence the need to generate a lot of hybrids and screen them for the ones that will be most ideal for the citrus industry.”

    Microcitrus, such as the Australian finger lime, tends to have a sharper, more bitter taste than its relative citrus fruits, like oranges. The perfect cross will have just the right mix of genes to give it sweetness and HLB resistance.

    Ramadugu’s team includes collaborators from Texas A&M University, the University of Florida, Washington State University and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, as well as scientists from UC Riverside’s Department of Botany and Plant Sciences.

    Currently, the team is studying differences in the genetic makeup of the hybrids they’ve already bred. Analyzing the new plants’ DNA will help the team see whether enough disease resistance has been bred into the fruit, but not so much that the flavor is compromised.

    Another challenge with breeding is the time it takes for new citrus varieties to flower naturally, which can be several years. With the help of Sean Cutler, UCR professor of plant cell biology, the team is hoping to accelerate the time it takes for the hybrid plants to bear fruit in a greenhouse.

    This way the hybrids can be analyzed for taste much sooner. Clones of the best hybrid plants will then be grown in Florida and Texas field trials.

    UC Riverside scientists are using a variety of approaches to fight HLB. While some hope that altering soil and root bacteria will improve plants’ immunity to the disease, others are trying to improve HLB resistance by tweaking citrus metabolism, or by using an antibacterial peptide to clear HLB from an infected plant.

    The fruit produced through Ramadugu’s method will appeal to many consumers because it will not have genes introduced into them by scientists. Breeding has been done for thousands of years to improve crops and is considered a more natural practice.

    Additionally, Ramadugu says she’s excited about her approach because it will ultimately produce a product useful for growers and consumers.

    See the full article here .

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

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    UC Riverside Campus

    The University of California, Riverside is one of 10 universities within the prestigious University of California system, and the only UC located in Inland Southern California.

    Widely recognized as one of the most ethnically diverse research universities in the nation, UCR’s current enrollment is more than 21,000 students, with a goal of 25,000 students by 2020. The campus is in the midst of a tremendous growth spurt with new and remodeled facilities coming on-line on a regular basis.

    We are located approximately 50 miles east of downtown Los Angeles. UCR is also within easy driving distance of dozens of major cultural and recreational sites, as well as desert, mountain and coastal destinations.

     
  • richardmitnick 3:14 pm on December 16, 2020 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Graduate student’s BADASS code has astronomical benefits", A challenge in astronomy has been separating the contribution of stellar light and the contribution of AGN light from each other in the galaxy’s main spectral continuum., , , BADASS can be used for fitting normal non-AGN host galaxies and even individual stars., , , The challenge is separating the two from each other- that is- isolating the stellar component from the AGN light contribution. This is what BADASS does., The statistical framework BADASS is built on can be generalized for any kind of spectroscopy., UC Riverside   

    From UC Riverside: “Graduate student’s BADASS code has astronomical benefits” 

    UC Riverside bloc

    From UC Riverside

    December 16, 2020
    Iqbal Pittalwala

    1
    Remington Sexton earned his doctoral degree earlier this year.

    An astro-statistics course University of California, Riverside, graduate student Remington O. Sexton took three years ago taught him techniques that led him to develop free, open-source code benefiting astronomers everywhere.

    Called BADASS, which stands for Bayesian AGN Decomposition Analysis for SDSS Spectra, the code in its current form fits astronomical spectra of active galactic nuclei, or AGNs, from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey, or SDSS, using advanced statistical methods.

    3
    Open-source code developed at UC Riverside is free, versatile, and easy to use.

    SDSS Telescope at Apache Point Observatory, near Sunspot NM, USA, Altitude2,788 meters (9,147 ft).

    Apache Point Observatory, near Sunspot, New Mexico Altitude 2,788 meters (9,147 ft).

    “The code is unique in that it finally provides a way for astronomers to fit the stellar motions of stars simultaneously with many other components, is written in the popular programming language Python, and is versatile enough to fit not just AGNs, but normal galaxies as well,” said Sexton, who earned his doctoral degree in physics and astronomy in September 2020.

    Sexton’s breakthrough work is published in the January 2021 issue of the MNRAS.

    AGN is the general term used to describe a supermassive black hole in the center of a galaxy that is actively accreting material, usually in the form of interstellar gas, using its strong gravitational influence. AGNs are common; but not all galaxies have them at their centers. Each galaxy’s center is believed, however, to have a supermassive black hole. Normal galaxies, such as the Milky Way, lack actively accreting black holes.

    Different celestial objects produce different types of spectra. An object’s spectrum helps astronomers identify what type of object it is. Light from a celestial body with no intervening matter produces a spectrum that appears as a continuum. A challenge in astronomy has been separating the contribution of stellar light and the contribution of AGN light from each other in the galaxy’s main spectral continuum.

    “The challenge is separating the two from each other, that is, isolating the stellar component from the AGN light contribution,” Sexton said. “Aside from being versatile enough to fit many kinds of astronomical objects, which many codes aren’t designed for, BADASS simultaneously fits stellar kinematics simultaneously with all other components in the spectra. Codes in the past used a two-step process of fitting stellar kinematics and other components independently. But this could introduce biases or uncertainties. The best way to perform spectral decomposition is to fit all components simultaneously. This is what BADASS does.”

    Sexton designed BADASS also to detect and fit ionized gas outflows typically seen in optical emission line features and is the first to incorporate a set of specific criteria for their detection. Ionized gas outflow refers to the bulk motion of interstellar gas capable of escaping the gravitational influence of its host galaxy and the blackhole.

    “Ionized gas outflows have become a hot topic in the past decade and could explain how supermassive black holes and galaxies co-evolve with each other over cosmic time,” said coauthor Gabriela Canalizo, a professor of physics and astronomy at UC Riverside and Sexton’s doctoral advisor.

    Currently, BADASS is only being used to fit AGN objects. Sexton emphasized, however, that the code is versatile, easy to use, and can fit other objects such as normal galaxies.

    “BADASS can be used for fitting normal non-AGN host galaxies, and even individual stars,” he said. “Currently, its usage is strictly for astronomical spectra, but the statistical framework BADASS is built on can be generalized for any kind of spectroscopy. That makes it extraordinarily versatile and useful.”

    One motivation Sexton had to develop BADASS was to phase out the need for proprietary software — IDL programming language — and replace it with a free open-source language such as Python.

    “Now anyone can download BADASS for free and use it,” he said. “It is ready to be run as long as you can install Python and all the packages it requires. Because this code can also detect and fit ionized gas outflows in optical spectra, it could greatly assist in the heightened interest in astronomy now in studying ionized gas outflows by creating larger samples for analysis.”

    Sexton and Canalizo were joined in the research by William Matzko of George Mason University in Virginia; Nicholas Darden of UCR; and Varoujan Gorjian of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California.

    The research was supported partially by the National Science Foundation and the NASA MIRO program through the Fellowships and Internships for Extremely Large Data Sets (FIELDS) in the form of a graduate student fellowship.

    See the full article here .

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

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    UC Riverside Campus

    The University of California, Riverside is one of 10 universities within the prestigious University of California system, and the only UC located in Inland Southern California.

    Widely recognized as one of the most ethnically diverse research universities in the nation, UCR’s current enrollment is more than 21,000 students, with a goal of 25,000 students by 2020. The campus is in the midst of a tremendous growth spurt with new and remodeled facilities coming on-line on a regular basis.

    We are located approximately 50 miles east of downtown Los Angeles. UCR is also within easy driving distance of dozens of major cultural and recreational sites, as well as desert, mountain and coastal destinations.

     
  • richardmitnick 12:04 pm on December 15, 2020 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Proteins enable crop-infecting fungi to ‘smell’ food", , , , Neurospora fungus, UC Riverside   

    From UC Riverside: “Proteins enable crop-infecting fungi to ‘smell’ food” 

    UC Riverside bloc

    From UC Riverside

    December 15, 2020
    Jules L Bernstein
    Senior Public Information Officer
    jules.bernstein@ucr.edu
    (951) 827-4580

    1
    Humans use same proteins to smell, taste, and see.

    New research shows the same proteins that enable human senses such as smell also allow certain fungi to sense something they can eat.

    2
    Neurospora fungus growing on a tree trunk after the recent Cima Dome fire in the Mojave desert. Credit: Alex Carillo/UCR.

    The UC Riverside study offers new avenues for protecting people from starvation due to pathogenic fungus-induced food shortages. Understanding how fungi sense and digest plants can also help scientists engineer fungal strains that are more efficient at producing biofuels.

    Newly published by the American Society for Microbiology journal mBio, the study details how fungi react to cellulose, the main component of plant cell walls. Humans and other animals lack the enzymes to digest cellulose, but fungi can convert it into glucose, a sugar that makes an excellent biofuel feedstock.

    Key to this conversion process are G proteins, which send signals from a cell’s outer membrane into its nucleus.

    “These proteins get information about what’s outside the cell into what is essentially the brain of the cell, the nucleus, which in turn instructs the cell to produce a cocktail of cellulose-digesting enzymes,” said study author and biochemistry doctoral student Logan Collier.

    To determine whether G proteins play a role in the ability of fungi to sense nearby cellulose, the researchers modified strains of a fungus called Neurospora crassa. Once the G proteins were mutated, Neurospora no longer had the ability to “see” that it was on cellulose.

    Neurospora is a filamentous fungus, which means it’s made of thin tubes that extend and form a mesh as it grows. It plays a critical role in the environment, recycling carbon by consuming decaying plant matter and converting it into glucose.

    3
    Rice blast, caused by a fungus, can surive in crop residue, move with seed, and move between fields by producing airborne spores. Credit: UCANR.

    It is also closely related to pathogenic fungi that kill crops such as tomatoes and wheat. One related species also causes rice blast, which destroys enough rice to feed about 80 million people annually. Knowing how to interfere with G protein signaling in the fungus so it cannot detect its “food” could be crucial to stopping these kinds of infections.

    “No one has previously examined every member of the signaling pathway, creating a model for how every all of the G proteins work together,” said Katherine Borkovich, a UC Riverside microbiology and plant pathology professor, who led the study.

    Moving forward, the research team would also like to apply what they’ve learned to biofuel production.

    “It does appear from our study that there are ways to modify the fungus to produce extra cellulose-digesting enzymes, which would make them more efficient at breaking down biofuel feedstocks,” Collier said. Based on renewable sources like plants, biofuels can play a valuable role in reducing dependence on fossil fuels.

    See the full article here .

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

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    UC Riverside Campus

    The University of California, Riverside is one of 10 universities within the prestigious University of California system, and the only UC located in Inland Southern California.

    Widely recognized as one of the most ethnically diverse research universities in the nation, UCR’s current enrollment is more than 21,000 students, with a goal of 25,000 students by 2020. The campus is in the midst of a tremendous growth spurt with new and remodeled facilities coming on-line on a regular basis.

    We are located approximately 50 miles east of downtown Los Angeles. UCR is also within easy driving distance of dozens of major cultural and recreational sites, as well as desert, mountain and coastal destinations.

     
  • richardmitnick 9:06 am on December 8, 2020 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Using Earth’s history to inform the search for life on exoplanets", , , , , , How to detect planets that could host life and remain habitable despite tremendous change over time., Humans will likely never visit exoplanets- at least not soon., Our research focuses on diverse chapters of Earth’s history-or alternative Earths-that span billions of years and offer critical templates for examining exoplanets far beyond our solar system., RCNs-Research Coordination Networks, Studying biosignature gases in Earth’s past will allow the team to design telescopes and refine interpretative models for potential traces of life in distant exoplanet atmospheres., Success in this mission will require biological; chemical; geological; oceanographic and astronomical expertise., UC Riverside   

    From UC Riverside: “Using Earth’s history to inform the search for life on exoplanets” 

    UC Riverside bloc

    From UC Riverside

    December 8, 2020

    Jules L Bernstein
    Senior Public Information Officer
    (951) 827-4580
    jules.bernstein@ucr.edu

    1
    UC Riverside-led team looks back to find life beyond. UC Riverside.

    2
    This image shows an Earth-like “exomoon” orbiting a gas giant planet in a star’s habitable zone. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech.

    UC Riverside is leading one of the NASA Astrobiology Program’s eight new research teams tackling questions about the evolution and origins of life on Earth and the possibility of life beyond our solar system.

    The teams comprise the inaugural class of NASA’s Interdisciplinary Consortia for Astrobiology Research program. The UCR-led team is motivated by the fundamental question of how to detect planets that could host life and remain habitable despite tremendous change over time, which requires hunting for biological gases in the atmospheres of planets light years beyond our solar system.

    “To achieve this goal, our research focuses on the many diverse chapters of Earth’s history — or alternative Earths — that span billions of years and offer critical templates for examining exoplanets far beyond our solar system,” said UCR biogeochemist Timothy Lyons, the project leader.

    Because of their immense distance from us, humans will likely never visit those planets, at least not soon, Lyons said. However, in the near future, scientists will be able to analyze the compositions of these planets’ atmospheres, looking for gases like oxygen and methane that could come from life.

    Earth has undergone dramatic changes over the last 4.5 billion years, with major transitions occurring in plate tectonics, climate, ocean chemistry, the structure of our ecosystems, and composition of our atmosphere.

    “These changes represent an opportunity,” Lyons said. “The different periods of Earth’s evolutionary history provide glimpses of many, largely alien worlds, some of which may be analogs for habitable planetary states that are very different from conditions on modern Earth.”

    Exciting new research frontiers for Lyons’ team include studies of Earth’s first 500 million years, as well as predictions about our planet and its life billions of years in the future.

    Studying biosignature gases in Earth’s past will allow the team to design telescopes and refine interpretative models for potential traces of life in distant exoplanet atmospheres, noted Georgia Tech biogeochemist Christopher Reinhard.

    Once the researchers understand how Earth and its star — the sun — changed together to maintain liquid oceans teeming with life over billions of years, the team can predict how other planetary systems might also have developed and maintained life and better understand how to search for it.

    “Such a ‘mission to early Earth’ must include broad interdisciplinarity within the team, impactful synergy within and across the Research Coordination Networks, or RCNs, of the NASA Astrobiology Program, and a commitment to deliverables that will help steer NASA science for decades to come,” said UCR astrobiologist Edward Schwieterman.

    Success in this mission will require biological, chemical, geological, oceanographic, and astronomical expertise. Yale University biogeochemist Noah Planavsky said, “our team brings all that to the table.” Accordingly, the diverse expertise within the team includes astronomers, planetary scientists, geologists, geophysicists, oceanographers, biogeochemists, and geobiologists.

    The team will collect ancient rock samples and modern sediments from around the world spanning billions of years and use the data they generate to drive wide-ranging computational models for Earth’s ancient and future oceans and atmospheres.

    “The models will allow the team to evaluate whether different periods in Earth’s history were characterized by gases that would have been detectable from a distant vantage as products of life, much the way oxygen fingerprints life on our planet today,” said Purdue University Earth and exoplanetary scientist Stephanie Olson.

    This work requires a multipronged view of the Earth as a complex system that has varied dramatically over time. Yet despite all the change, Earth has remained persistently habitable, with liquid water oceans teeming with life.

    How Earth became and remained habitable and whether its life would have been detectable to a distant observer are the questions that will ultimately define and refine the search for life on exoplanets.

    “In short,” said Lyons, “the exciting goal of our team is to provide a new and more holistic view of Earth’s evolutionary history in order to help guide NASA’s mission-specific search for life on distant worlds.”

    The RCNs are the new face of astrobiology at NASA, following 20 years of exciting research under the umbrella of the NASA Astrobiology Institute, which supported the UCR-led team previously.

    The $4.6 million new award from NASA will span five years and includes team members from Georgia Tech, Yale University, Purdue University, UCLA, NASA Ames Research Center and collaborators from around the world.

    See the full article here .

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

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    UC Riverside Campus

    The University of California, Riverside is one of 10 universities within the prestigious University of California system, and the only UC located in Inland Southern California.

    Widely recognized as one of the most ethnically diverse research universities in the nation, UCR’s current enrollment is more than 21,000 students, with a goal of 25,000 students by 2020. The campus is in the midst of a tremendous growth spurt with new and remodeled facilities coming on-line on a regular basis.

    We are located approximately 50 miles east of downtown Los Angeles. UCR is also within easy driving distance of dozens of major cultural and recreational sites, as well as desert, mountain and coastal destinations.

     
  • richardmitnick 9:57 am on December 3, 2020 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Understanding bacteria’s metabolism could improve biofuel production", , , , , , , One of the barriers to creating biofuels that are cost competitive with petroleum is the inefficiency of converting plant material into ethanol., The authors describe mathematical and computational modeling; artificial intelligence; algorithms; and experiments showing that cells have failsafe mechanisms., UC Riverside   

    From UC Riverside: “Understanding bacteria’s metabolism could improve biofuel production” 

    UC Riverside bloc

    From UC Riverside

    December 3, 2020
    Jules Bernstein
    jules.bernstein@ucr.edu
    (951) 827-4580

    1

    A new study reveals how bacteria control the chemicals produced from consuming ‘food.’ The insight could lead to organisms that are more efficient at converting plants into biofuels.

    The study, authored by scientists at UC Riverside and Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, has been published in the Journal of the Royal Society Interface.

    2
    Colorized scanning electron micrograph of E. coli, bacteria commonly used in the production of biofuels. Credit: NIAID.

    In the article, the authors describe mathematical and computational modeling, artificial intelligence algorithms and experiments showing that cells have failsafe mechanisms preventing them from producing too many metabolic intermediates.

    Metabolic intermediates are the chemicals that couple each reaction to one another in metabolism. Key to these control mechanisms are enzymes, which speed up chemical reactions involved in biological functions like growth and energy production.

    “Cellular metabolism consists of a bunch of enzymes. When the cell encounters food, an enzyme breaks it down into a molecule that can be used by the next enzyme and the next, ultimately generating energy,” explained study co-author, UCR adjunct math professor and Pacific Northwest National Laboratory computational scientist William Cannon.

    The enzymes cannot produce an excessive amount of metabolic intermediates. They produce an amount that is controlled by how much of that product is already present in the cell.

    “This way the metabolite concentrations don’t get so high that the liquid inside the cell becomes thick and gooey like molasses, which could cause cell death,” Cannon said.

    One of the barriers to creating biofuels that are cost competitive with petroleum is the inefficiency of converting plant material into ethanol. Typically, E. coli bacteria are engineered to break down lignin, the tough part of plant cell walls, so it can be fermented into fuel.

    Mark Alber, study co-author and UCR distinguished math professor, said that the study is a part of the project to understand the ways bacteria and fungi work together to affect the roots of plants grown for biofuels.

    “One of the problems with engineering bacteria for biofuels is that most of the time the process just makes the bacteria sick,” Cannon said. “We push them to overproduce proteins, and it becomes uncomfortable — they could die. What we learned in this research could help us engineer them more intelligently.”

    Knowing which enzymes need to be prevented from overproducing can help scientists design cells that produce more of what they want and less of what they don’t.

    The research employed mathematical control theory, which learns how systems control themselves, as well as machine learning to predict which enzymes needed to be controlled to prevent excessive buildup of metabolites.

    While this study examined central metabolism, which generates the cell’s energy, going forward, Cannon said the research team would like to study other aspects of a cell’s metabolism, including secondary metabolism — how proteins and DNA are made — and interactions between cells.

    “I’ve worked in a lab that did this kind of thing manually, and it took months to understand how one particular enzyme is regulated,” Cannon said. “Now, using these new methods, this can be done in a few days, which is extremely exciting.”

    The U.S. Department of Energy, seeking to diversify the nation’s energy sources, funded this three-year research project with a $2.1 million grant.


    The project is also a part of the broader initiatives under way in the newly established UCR Interdisciplinary Center for Quantitative Modeling in Biology.

    Though this project focused on bacterial metabolism, the ability to learn how cells regulate and control themselves could also help develop new strategies for combatting diseases.

    “We’re focused on bacteria, but these same biological mechanisms and modeling methods apply to human cells that have become dysregulated, which is what happens when a person has cancer,” Alber said. “If we really want to understand why a cell behaves the way it does, we have to understand this regulation.”

    See the full article here .

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

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    UC Riverside Campus

    The University of California, Riverside is one of 10 universities within the prestigious University of California system, and the only UC located in Inland Southern California.

    Widely recognized as one of the most ethnically diverse research universities in the nation, UCR’s current enrollment is more than 21,000 students, with a goal of 25,000 students by 2020. The campus is in the midst of a tremendous growth spurt with new and remodeled facilities coming on-line on a regular basis.

    We are located approximately 50 miles east of downtown Los Angeles. UCR is also within easy driving distance of dozens of major cultural and recreational sites, as well as desert, mountain and coastal destinations.

     
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