News Archives: November, 2016

New model reveals adaptations of world's most abundant ocean microbe

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Researchers from David Karl’s laboratory at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa and from Professor Jens Nielsen’s laboratory at Chalmers University of Technology in Göteborg, Sweden, developed a computer model which takes into account hundreds of genes, chemical reactions and compounds required for the survival of Prochlorococcus, the most abundant photosynthetic microbe on the planet. They found that Prochlorococcus has made extensive alterations to its metabolism as a way to reduce its dependence on phosphorus, an element that is essential and often growth-limiting in the ocean.

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World’s best hybrid visualization system up and running at the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa

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  • You can now go under the sea, explore outer space and probe microscopic elements of the human body without leaving campus.
  • The 3-D, immersive possibilities are endless now that the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa is home to the best hybrid visualization system in the world that combines immersive virtual reality with ultra-high-resolution display walls.
  • It’s called the Destiny-class CyberCANOE, which stands for cyber-enabled Collaboration Analysis Navigation and Observation Environment.
  • UH Mānoa Computer and Information Sciences Professor Jason Leigh is the system’s creator.
  • Leigh has involved students in the design and construction of the CyberCANOE with investment and partnership from the National Science Foundation and the UH Academy for Creative Media System.
  • With 256 megapixels, this cylindrical CyberCANOE is the ultimate tool for scientists and researchers to visualize big data at resolutions that are 100-times better than commercial 3-D displays.
  • Diameter is 16 feet and walls are eight-feet high
  • The Destiny-class cost about $250,000 to build and is actually the seventh and best CyberCANOE Leigh has built in Hawai‘i over the past couple of years.He’s involved students from day one with investment and partnership from the National Science Foundation and the UH Academy for Creative Media System.
  • On Oct. 28, the National Science Foundation tweeted: At 256 million pixels, the CyberCANOE at @UHManoa is the highest resolution #VR display in the world.
  • Up next, even better CyberCANOEs for UH’s Experimental Program to Support Competitive Research, or EPSCoR’s, fresh water sustainability research and for the UH Academy for Creative Media System at UH West O‘ahu.
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Study: Climate change may be worse for Lake Champlain than EPA projections

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New research suggests that Lake Champlain may be more susceptible to damage from climate change than was previously understood—and that, therefore, the rules created by the EPA to protect the lake may be inadequate to prevent algae blooms and water quality problems as the region gets hotter and wetter.

This paper provides very clear evidence that the lake could be far more sensitive to climate change than is captured by the current approach of the EPA,” said University of Vermont professor Asim Zia, the lead author of the new study. “We may need more interventions—and this may have national significance for how the agency creates regulations.”

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Biomedical research leaders urge Trump administration to quickly appoint NIH director

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Like other scientific organizations, biomedical research advocates are scrambling to make contact with President-elect Donald Trump’s transition team to weigh in on his science policies and appointments. This week, a science star–studded group that including two former directors of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in Bethesda, Maryland, released a set of recommendations aimed at making NIH run better and offered advice on choosing an NIH director—ideally within Trump’s first 100 days in office.

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Study: Predators can drive increase in virus populations

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Publishing in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the study’s authors have reported the first evidence that a predator’s consumption of prey can catalyze the natural rise and fall of chlorovirus populations. The findings represent a potential "game-changer" in the study of virology, the authors said, by suggesting that the food webs in an ecosystem could profoundly affect the rate and magnitude of viral replication.

Chloroviruses replicate by infecting green algae that normally live inside a species of single-cell paramecium. The algae and paramecia enjoy a mutually beneficial relationship: Algae supply the paramecia with food as the paramecia provide transportation and protection from the chloroviruses.

Meanwhile, chloroviruses stay close by attaching to the surface of paramecia and awaiting an opportunity to infect the algae. But virologists had yet to answer the question of how a chlorovirus actually gains access to its target, which remains safe while encased in the paramecia.

The answer appears to lie with a group of millimeter-long crustaceans known as copepods. Researchers have long known that the transparent, one-eyed crustaceans feed on paramecia. But the Nebraska team showed that the crustaceans only partially digest the paramecia, breaking them down just enough to expose the still-living algae before excreting them into the water.

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Montana State, Dartmouth, University of Nevada-Reno, and Brown scientists awarded $6 million grant to study the brain circuits that help us focus and pay attention

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Three Montana State University researchers are among a team of 14 neuroscientists from across the nation seeking to develop a greater understanding of how the brain helps us pay attention to the right things when we execute complex behaviors with the help of a $6 million grant from the National Science Foundation.

This grant is intended to advance our understanding of the brain circuits and algorithms that ensure we can pay attention to the ‘right’ things during normal behavior,” said MSU Associate Professor James Mazer, who joined MSU’s faculty from Yale University in September. “With our daily lives getting ever more complicated and distractions like computers, phones and other gadgets constantly vying for our attention, understanding how these brain circuits function is becoming more and more important.”

Mazer, Professor Charles Gray, and Assistant Professor Behrad Noudoost, all in MSU’s Department of Cell Biology and Neuroscience in the College of Letters and Science, are collaborating on a project that aims to unravel how the brain helps us pay attention. Peter Tse, professor of psychological and brain sciences at Dartmouth College, is leading the study, which also includes researchers from the University of Nevada at Reno and Brown University in Rhode Island.

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University of Wyoming scientists among team mapping Yellowstone’s plumbing to find out why it’s so explosive, featured in the Washington Post

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What makes Old Faithful blow?

That is a question scientists are trying to answer as they launch an effort to map the subterranean systems of hot water and rock that constitute the plumbing for Yellowstone’s famous geysers. Starting this week, researchers with the U.S. Geological Survey, the University of Wyoming and Aarhus University in Denmark will survey the national park’s hydrothermal features using a giant, hoop-like electromagnetic monitor suspended from helicopters flying 200 feet above the ground.

This is really kind of a last frontier if you will, in Yellowstone, of being able to look at a large part that’s underground that people have not looked at,” Carol Finn, one of the scientists on the surveying team, told Wyoming Public Media. “This survey can visualize the geology and the water down to about 500 meters, so 1,500 feet.”

The monitor senses and records tiny pulses of electricity related to the interactions between hot water and rock underground.

The electromagnetic survey will help Finn and her colleagues understand the causes of geysers and much bigger hydrothermal explosions. More than 13,000 years ago, one of these explosions created the 1.5 mile crater that forms the bottom of Yellowstone Lake. It is thought to be the largest crater of its kind on the planet.

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UD Study: Conservation preferred way to protect drinking water

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The water crisis in Flint, Michigan put the need to protect and invest in clean drinking water front and center in the minds of many Americans. But how to go about investing, as well as how to get the public on board with such spending, is a difficult challenge that faces policymakers.

A new study from the University of Delaware has found that when given the choice, people prefer to invest their money in conservation, such as protecting key areas of a watershed — also referred to as green infrastructure — rather than in traditional water treatment plants — also referred to as gray infrastructure.

They also found that different messages related to climate change, global warming, extreme weather events and decaying infrastructure affect people’s willingness to contribute to projects.

Using a field experiment involving 251 adult participants from sites throughout northern Delaware — including UD’s Ag Day, the New Castle County Farmers Market and the Southbridge community in Wilmington — the researchers had participants perform a simple task in which they earned money for that action and were then asked if they would like to donate the funds to an organization that could help in alleviating water quality issues in the future.

“People didn’t just show up and automatically receive money. They earned their money. Then, we asked if they wanted to donate it to either a conservation cause (green infrastructure) or to help drinking water utilities (gray infrastructure),” said Messer who added that the CEAE likes to apply a charitable giving context to their research to see what people will actually do with the money as sometimes surveys aren’t always aligned with actual behavior. 

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Young entrepreneurs in Alaska are building the businesses of tomorrow

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Now more than ever, Fairbanks and all of Alaska engage and celebrate emerging entrepreneur leaders and businesses of tomorrow. Together, we can support a diverse portfolio of Alaska businesses. Furthermore, by becoming a member of the entrepreneur community, you are directly responsible for influencing the economy you want in Alaska moving forward.

This year, Fairbanks Economic Development Corporation, in collaboration with economic development organizations locally and around the state, spearheaded an effort to stimulate innovation juices in the community. The results were notable.

This statewide effort, coined “Innovate Alaska (2.0),” harnesses the resources and elbow grease of partner organizations locally, including Alaska Small Business Development Center, University of Fairbanks, Alaska EPSCoR, Alaska SCORE and The Hub co-working space, to bring a variety of opportunities to seed and grow these entrepreneurial endeavors.

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MSU wins grant to research biofuel, carbon capture technologies

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A regional interdisciplinary team led by Montana State University has received $6 million to develop new innovations at the intersection of food, energy and water systems while training the next generation of scientists.

The four-year grant from the National Science Foundation will allow MSU, the University of Wyoming and the University of South Dakota to coordinate a massive effort to address questions about whether biofuels and carbon capture technologies can be sustainably introduced into the Upper Missouri River Basin, said Paul Stoy, principal investigator and associate professor in the Department of Land Resources and Environmental Sciences in MSU's College of Agriculture.

The $6 million grant was one of 11 grants recently awarded through the NSF's Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR).

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