Tag Archives: organism

New technique will accelerate genetic characterization of photosynthesis

Stanford, CA — Photosynthesis provides fixed carbon and energy for nearly all life on Earth, yet many aspects of this fascinating process remain mysterious. For example, little is known about how it is regulated in response to changes in light intensity. More fundamentally, we do not know the full list of the parts of the molecular machines that perform photosynthesis in any organism.

A type of single-cell green algae called Chlamydomonas reinhardtii is a leading subject for photosynthesis research. Despite its importance in the research world, few tools are available for characterizing the functions of its genes. (more…)

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‘Life as Research Scientist’: Taichi Suzuki, Evolutionary Biologist

Taichi Suzuki, an Evolutionary Biologist, is currently involved in PhD program in Integrative Biology at the University of California Berkeley. He received his Bachelor’s degree from the Nihon University in Japan and completed Master’s in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at The University of Arizona. He is also associated with Museum of Vertebrate Zoology at UC Berkeley.

So, let’s join Mr. Suzuki to our latest round of interviews on ‘Life as research scientist’:

Q. Let us start with your research topic. What is your research area? Will you please tell us a bit more on this? What did you find?

Taichi Suzuki: My research topic is focused on ‘Host associated microbial ecology’. I am interested in understanding how symbiotic microbial community affects host (e.g. animals) health and evolution. I found correlation between obese-associated gut microbial community composition and geography (i.e. latitude). (more…)

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Microplastics make marine worms sick

Tiny bits of plastic rubbish could spell big trouble for marine life, starting with the worms, say a team of researchers from the University of Exeter and Plymouth University who report their evidence in a pair of studies in the Cell Press journal Current Biology on December 2.

The marine worms play a key ecological role as an important source of food for other animals.

Work by Stephanie Wright from Biosciences at the University of Exeter found that if ocean sediments are heavily contaminated with microplastics, marine lugworms eat less and their energy levels suffer. A separate report, from Mark Anthony Browne on work performed at Plymouth University, shows that ingesting microplastic can also reduce the health of lugworms by delivering harmful chemicals, including hydrocarbons, antimicrobials and flame retardants to them. (more…)

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Single mutation gives virus new target

A mutation as minute as swapping just one amino acid can completely change the target that a virus will bind to on a victim cell — potentially shifting what kind of cell and eventually what kind of organism a virus could infect.

PROVIDENCE, R.I. [Brown University] — In a new study published online in the journal PLoS Pathogens, an international team of scientists showed that by swapping a single amino acid they could change the sugar to which the human BK polyomavirus will binds on the surface of cells. The BK polyomavirus lost the ability to bind its usual target sugar and instead “preferred” the same sugar as its cousin SV40 polyomavirus, which is active in monkeys. (more…)

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Fungi, Fungi Everywhere

New research shows fungi living beneath the seafloor are widespread

Fungi living beneath the seafloor are widespread in ocean environments around the world, according to a new paper by scientists at the University of Delaware and Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. 

“They’re ubiquitous,” said co-author Jennifer Biddle, assistant professor of marine biosciences at UD’s College of Earth, Ocean, and Environment. “They are everywhere.” (more…)

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New Key to Organism Complexity Identified

Berkeley Scientists Find that a Critical Transcription Factor Co-exists in Two Distinct States

The enormously diverse complexity seen amongst individual species within the animal kingdom evolved from a surprisingly small gene pool. For example, mice effectively serve as medical research models because humans and mice share 80-percent of the same protein-coding genes. The key to morphological and behavioral complexity, a growing body of scientific evidence suggests, is the regulation of gene expression by a family of DNA-binding proteins called “transcription factors.” Now, a team of researchers with the U.S. Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) and the University of California (UC) Berkeley has discovered the secret behind how one these critical transcription factors is able to perform – a split personality. (more…)

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Public Acceptance of Climate Change Affected by Word Usage, Says MU Anthropologist

Better science communication could lead to a more informed American public.

Public acceptance of climate change’s reality may have been influenced by the rate at which words moved from scientific journals into the mainstream, according to anthropologist Michael O’Brien, dean of the College of Arts and Science at the University of Missouri. A recent study of word usage in popular literature by O’Brien and his colleagues documented how the usage of certain words related to climate change has risen and fallen over the past two centuries. Understanding how word usage affects public acceptance of science could lead to better science communication and a more informed public.

“Scientists can learn from this study that the general public shouldn’t be expected to understand technical terms or be convinced by journal papers written in technical jargon,” O’Brien said. “Journalists must explain scientific terms in ways people can understand and thereby ease the movement of those terms into general speech. That can be a slow process. Several words related to climate change diffused into the popular vocabulary over a 30-50 year timeline.” (more…)

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Crowdsourcing Site Compiles New Sign Language for Math and Science

A multimedia feature published this week in the New York Times, “Pushing Science’s Limits in Sign Language Lexicon,” outlines efforts in the United States and Europe to develop sign language versions of specialized terms used in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

The article shares newly defined signs for terms like “light-year,” “organism” and “photosynthesis.” It also describes a successful crowdsourcing effort started at the University of Washington in 2008 that lets members of the deaf and hard-of-hearing community build their own guide to the evolving lexicon of science.

“It’s not a dictionary,” explained Richard Ladner, a UW professor of computer science and engineering. “The goal of the forum is to be constantly changing, a reflection of the current use.” (more…)

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