News Archives: March, 2017

WEBINAR: NSF CAREER Program Webinar

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  • WHEN: Monday, May 22, 2017 at 1:00 PM-3:00 PM EST
  • WHAT: The NSF CAREER Coordinating Committee hosts a webinar to answer participants' questions about development and submission of proposals to the NSF Faculty Early Career Development Program (CAREER). The webinar will give participants the opportunity to interact with members of the NSF CAREER Coordinating Committee in a question-and-answer format.

You must register in advance here.

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NIH achieves milestone to accelerate multisite clinical studies

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Developing new treatments for diseases often requires large numbers of clinical research participants enrolled in the same study at numerous geographical sites. These multisite clinical trials are well-positioned to discover whether a promising therapeutic is safe and effective, and may provide medical professionals with the information needed for treating their patients. However, the initiation of such studies may be delayed because each site typically relies on its own Institutional Review Boards (IRBs) to provide ethics reviews of the risks and benefits of the proposed research.

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Westernmost, low-lying region of Louisiana coast on track to drown under sea level rise

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Above, a forested swamp in transition to a grassy marsh.

Without major efforts to rebuild Louisiana's wetlands, which serve as bulwarks against waves and rising seas, the state's coast has little chance of withstanding the accelerating rate of sea level rise, a new study concludes.

Results of the research, funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) and conducted by scientists at Tulane University, are published in the journal Nature Communications. They show the rate of sea level rise in the region over the past six to 10 years amounting to half an inch per year, on average.

Wetlands can provide crucial protection from rising seas, especially in Louisiana's low-lying westernmost areas, but the habitats have faced years of decline, mostly from coastal erosion.

The erosion results in part from levees that have been built along the Mississippi River. The levees block mud deposits that flow to and underlie much of the Louisiana coast. The land, cut off from new building material, begins to sink.

"In the westernmost part of coastal Louisiana, many of the sites we studied are on track to drown," said Tulane geologist Torbjörn Törnqvist, co-author of the study. "This is why it is such an important setting to assess what may happen elsewhere later in this century, when global sea level rise accelerates."

That sinking is compounded by rising seas washing over fragile wetlands, further degrading them. Over time, wetland plants die, eroding the mud foundations the plants once helped support.

Törnqvist conducted the research with lead author Krista Jankowski, also of Tulane, and co-author Anjali Fernandes of the University of Connecticut.

"These researchers have developed a new way of evaluating whether coastal marshes in Louisiana will be submerged by rising sea levels," said Justin Lawrence, a program director in NSF's Division of Earth Sciences. "The findings suggest that a large portion of coastal wetlands in Louisiana are vulnerable to present-day sea level rise."

Lawrence said the research "may provide an early indication of what is to occur in coastal regions around the world later this century."

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Extreme temperatures threaten desert songbirds with death by dehydration

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According to NASA, 2016 was the hottest year on historical record. Globally, the increase amounted to nearly 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit. And while that might not sound like much of an increase, it could mean the difference between life and death for some bird populations.

Heat waves due to climate change pose an increasing threat to wildlife in many regions of the world. During heat waves, birds are especially at risk of lethal dehydration due to scarce water resources and high rates of evaporative water loss needed for cooling their bodies. High environmental temperatures were attributed to recent mass die-offs of wild birds and poultry in Australia, South Africa, India and North America suggest that birds are sensitive to extreme heat events.

With climate projections forecasting a large increase in the frequency, intensity and duration of heat waves, researchers including Tom Albright, associate professor from the Geography Department at the University of Nevada-Reno, Professor Blair Wolf from The University of New Mexico Department of Biology, and Alexander Gerson, assistant professor, Department of Biology, University of Massachusetts-Amherst, and others mapped the potential effects of current and future heat waves on the risk of lethal dehydration for songbirds in the southwestern United States.

The research, “Mapping evaporative water loss in desert passerines reveals an expanding threat of lethal hydration,” was published today in PNAS. The research was funded through a three-year, $650,000 National Science Foundation grant. NASA also funded aspects of this research, and its data and products played a role in enabling the research.

Birds are susceptible to heat stress in two ways,” explained Wolf. “When it’s really hot, they simply can’t evaporate enough water to stay cool, overheat and die of heat stroke. In other cases the high rates of evaporative water loss needed to stay cool deplete their body water pools to lethal levels and birds die of dehydration; this is the stressor we focused on in this study."

This is a neat example of the kind of science enabled by two of our great U.S. science agencies: NSF (Blair’s team) and NASA (Albright’s team): basically mapping what you might call physiological performance and ultimately mapping the dynamics of risk,” said Albright.

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NIH consortium takes aim at vascular disease-linked cognitive impairment and dementia

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To better predict, study, and diagnose small vessel disease in the brain and its role in vascular contributions to cognitive impairment and dementia (VCID), the National Institutes of Health has launched MarkVCID, a consortium designed to accelerate the development of new and existing biomarkers for small vessel VCID.

The five-year program, developed by the NIH’s National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS), in collaboration with the National Institute on Aging (NIA), consists of seven research groups across the United States working together via a coordinating center based at Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston. A kick-off meeting for the consortium was held immediately prior to the International Stroke Conference 2017 in Houston, Feb. 20-21.

Steven M. Greenberg, M.D., Ph.D., director of the Hemorrhagic Stroke Research Program at Massachusetts General Hospital will serve as the project leader for the MarkVCID Coordinating Center.

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