Records 191 to 200 of 306
On the U-M Gateway: slow snails, fast genes
Monday, April 02, 2012
A groundbreaking paper about snail conotoxin evolution by EEB doctoral student Dan Chang and her advisor, Professor Tom Duda, was published online March 29, 2012 in the journal Molecular Biology and Evolution.
Click on the featured photos on the U-M Gateway
Watch for an EEB research feature coming soon. U-M News Service press release.
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On U-M Gateway: U-M Museum of Zoology receives shipment of rare seabirds for study
Friday, March 30, 2012
The University of Michigan Museum of Zoology recently received the carcasses of 15 rare Hawaiian birds called Newell's shearwaters. The specimens were processed at the museum, and tissue samples from the salvaged birds will be used to study foraging habits, genetic differentiation and former population size.
The birds died when they flew into power lines and buildings, an ongoing source of mortality for Newell's shearwaters, which are endemic to Hawaii and are listed as threatened by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
The specimens were processed by Janet Hinshaw, collection manager of the museum's bird division. Information about each specimen was entered into an online searchable database called ORNIS (www.ornisnet.org). ORNIS links information about the roughly 207,000 U-M Museum of Zoology bird specimens with data from 42 other bird collections and makes it available to scholars worldwide.
"The U-M bird collection dates from the 1830s and comprises approximately two-thirds of the planet's bird species," said Diarmaid Ó Foighil, professor of ecology and evolutionary biology and director and curator of the U-M Museum of Zoology.
"The collection's specimens, and the historical, genetic and ecological data they embody, are particularly important in a time of rapid global change," he said. "In addition, they are extensively used to address fundamental questions in biodiversity research."
Tissue samples from the Hawaiian birds will be used by a multi-disciplinary research team that is analyzing stable isotopes and DNA from Newell's shearwaters and another rare species, the Hawaiian petrel. These birds are two of the most abundant species of seabirds in the Hawaiian paleontological record, providing an ecological perspective that predates human settlement of the archipelago.
The Newell's shearwater measures 12 to 14 inches in length and has a wingspan of 30 to 35 inches. It was once abundant on all the main Hawaiian islands. Today, most of the birds nest along cliffs, 500 to 2,300 feet above sea level, on Kauai.
This seabird was reported to be in danger of extinction by the 1930s, according to the Fish and Wildlife Service. The introduction of the mongoose, cats, black rats and the Norway rat likely played a role in reducing the population of these ground-nesting seabirds.
Another threat to the birds is their attraction to electrical lights. Fledgling shearwaters attracted to manmade lights can become confused and fly into utility wires and poles, trees or buildings. Between 1978 and 2007, more than 30,000 dead Newell's shearwaters were picked up by island residents from Kauai's highways, athletic fields and hotel grounds, according to Fish and Wildlife.
Tissue samples from the shearwaters processed at U-M will be analyzed by a team that includes scientists from Michigan State University, the U.S. Geological Survey, the University of Buffalo and the Smithsonian Institution. Their study focuses on Newell's shearwaters and Hawaiian petrels.
By studying tissues that are grown at different times of the year, we obtain information on diet during the breeding and non-breeding season," said Peggy Ostrom, a professor in Michigan State's Department of Zoology. "This is particularly useful because the non-breeding season is a time when very little is known about the diet of these far-ranging pelagic seabirds. During this time, the birds do not return to land. Instead, they forage thousands of mile out to sea."
The U-M Museum of Zoology contains more than 15 million specimens, with extensive collections in insects, mites, mollusks, fish, amphibians and reptiles, birds and mammals.
Currently featured on the U-M Gateway
U-M News Service press release
Photo captions and credits:
A Newell's shearwater in flight. Image credit: Photo by Jim Denny / Kaua`i Birding Tours, LLC
Janet Hinshaw, collection manager of the bird division at the U-M Museum of Zoology, with five Newell's shearwater specimens stuffed for the museum's research collection. Image credit: Dale Austin
Closeup of flat skins from two Newell's shearwaters. Image credit: Janet Hinshaw
A Newell's shearwater skeleton. Image credit: Janet Hinshaw
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Brownies go "buggy" in Tibbetts Lab
Thursday, March 29, 2012
A local Brownie Troop donning pipe cleaner antennae atop their heads visited Professor Liz Tibbett’s lab on Friday, March 23 to earn their Brownie Bug Patches.
“We talked about insect life history, looked at various stages of wasps, and talked about how humans and insects can interact,” said EEB graduate student Katherine Crocker, who helped arrange the tour.
The four girls of Troop #74645 are Elizabeth Amata, Bridgid Hughes, Veronica Klawender, Claire Kurpinski, second graders at Our Lady of Sorrows, Farmington, Mich.
“It was a lot of fun -- the girls were very excited to see old wasp nests and the wasps themselves,” said Crocker. “They were also shocked to see me hold a male wasp with my bare hands – male wasps can't sting. They had a lot of fun thinking about the ways that insects can help humans, the ways that humans and insects are similar, and how wasps can communicate. Being second-graders, they did a lot of squealing about things in general.”
The biggest hit was the “bug goggles” provided by EEB graduate student Mike Sheehan. These lab safety goggles have faceted lenses added, to approximate how insects see.
“Linda and I really enjoyed listening to the interaction between the girls and Katherine, especially when she was telling them about wasps,” said Christina Mui Amata, Brownie troop leader and a proud U-M alumnus. Linda Kurpinski is co-troop leader. “My daughter, Elizabeth, asked ‘how big is a wasp's brain?’ And sure enough, Katherine's labmate, Mike, had run actual calculations and could tell the girls that it is one-millionth the size of a human brain. How cool is that?!”
“There were also classic second grade questions like, ‘how big is a wasp's poop?’ Our favorite question was directed at Katherine, ‘has a wasp ever pooped on you?’ And like a true academic professional, she said ‘yes’ and elaborated, and didn't just laugh it off as a silly question," Mui Amata continued. "Very impressive."
“Thank you for giving the girls an amazing experience in the lab! They were fascinated by all the cool things they got to do with you, and we'll put up our bug drawing (thanks Prof. Tibbetts!) to remember the day. Katherine was terrific!”
Veronica Klawender gets a bugs-eye view through safety goggles.
Katherine Crocker holding a male wasp as Brigid Hughes, Claire Kurpinski, and Elizabeth Amata look on.
From left to right: Brownies from Our Lady of Sorrows Veronica Klawender, Claire Kurpinski, Elizabeth Amata and Brigid Hughes get buggy with EEB graduate student Katherine Crocker (in front).
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UMMZ's Myers in Michigan Daily about mammal preservation and ADW, article and video
Thursday, March 29, 2012
Past the two stone pumas guarding the entrance and through the large circular atrium behind the University's Museum of Natural History lays one of the largest collections of mammal specimens in the country, begins an article in the Michigan Daily, Thursday, March 29, 2012.
While the University’s Museum of Zoology’s Mammal Division has remained relatively unchanged for the past century, the Internet now allows the collection to reach more people than ever. The museum’s mammal collection has preserved a variety of specimens using four different methods. The most common is to remove an animal’s innards and bones and stuff it with cotton, but researchers also use flesh-eating dermestid beetles to remove skin and flesh to display an animal’s bones. Specimens can also be preserved in alcohol and extracted DNA is stored in liquid nitrogen.
Professor Philip Myers, one of the museum’s curators, said people from all over the country come to study the specimens in the museum’s collection, though it is not open to the public. Myers has recently found a way to increase access and eliminate potential harm to the specimens. A website called Animal Diversity Web — an online species information database — has allowed Myers to share the university’s collection with scientists worldwide.
Read more and watch a video. The Michigan Daily article was picked up by the Associated Press.
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Green EEB I.T. is golden!
Wednesday, March 28, 2012
The Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology has earned the Gold Level for Green IT Achievement in recognition of our commitment to environmental stewardship and I.T. resource conservation.
A few of the actions implemented by EEB’s I.T. staff are the installation of occupant sensor power strips, aggressive power management on desktop computers, such as putting computers to sleep after shorter periods of inactivity, and the elimination of CRT monitors, according to Rob Heller, senior desktop support specialist.
There is a lot of exciting work happening around the area of green IT achievement at the University of Michigan. Green IT achievement is becoming part of the Sustainable Workplace Program implemented by the Office of Campus Sustainability. Because of EEB’s commitment to sustainable computing, the department on its way to becoming a sustainable workplace.
Sheehan awarded NIH NRSA postdoc
Monday, March 26, 2012
EEB graduate student Michael Sheehan has received a National Research Service Award postdoctoral fellowship from the National Institute of Health. The fellowship will fund a proposal Sheehan wrote on the evolutionary genetics of urinary proteins in mice.
“Mice have complex, individually distinctive scents determined by their major urinary proteins,” he said. “These distinct smells are used to recognize other mice individually. My project seeks to understand the genetic mechanisms that give rise to these unique phenotypes. Additionally, we will examine patterns of genetic variation to see if there is a signature of selection maintaining variation in this highly diverse phenotype.”
Sheehan will begin work with Dr. Michael Nachman (a UM Biology Ph.D. alumnus) at the University of Arizona, Tucson, in August 2012. The work is in collaboration with Drs. Jane Hurst and Rob Beynon, experts on mouse urinary proteins, at the University of Liverpool.
“The broader implication is that it will provide a basis for understanding the basis of phenotypic variation, which is poorly understood, and likely to be important in range of fields from evolutionary biology to medicine,” he explained. “To a lesser extent, we will document variation in urinary proteins from wild mouse populations. Urinary proteins from mice are allergens and thought to be a major contributor to asthma and breathing problems in urban areas.”
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EEB students judge SE Michigan Science Fair
Tuesday, March 20, 2012
A handful of EEB graduate students were volunteer judges at the 54th annual Southeast Michigan Science Fair in mid-March 2012 at Washtenaw Community College.
Project topics asked questions as specific as do moving mirrors increase the efficiency of solar panels and whether mushrooms can pass gas to as far-reaching as our ability to reverse global warming. The fair included projects from area students in grades six through 12.
“Judging the science fair was a lot of fun – I did it with two of my housemates, and we had a blast looking at what ways kids apply science and scientific inquiry to the world,” said Katherine Crocker, who volunteered for the first time this year.
Crocker judged part of the junior high collections section, which was more descriptive than experimental. Projects explained the history of human understanding of light, the history of airplane flight, hydrofracking, what makes hamburgers bad for you (not the fat, surprisingly, but the chemicals they use to sterilize the meat in the packing plants, according to the project), and the benefits of using methane from water treatment plants. One of her favorites was a mathematical and anatomical investigation of why "an arrow to the knee" is so debilitating in Skyrim, a videogame.
"I've loved taking part in the Southeast Michigan Science Fair for the past five years,” said Liz Wason. “Many of the kids put a lot of thought and creativity into what turn out to be interesting projects. Participating in the science fair informs my own work by giving me a fresh perspective on the fundamental process of research. Using quantifiable criteria to judge elementary-school projects helps to remind me of the nuts and bolts of science."
Jasmine Crumsey, a fifth year volunteer, looks for the story behind what brought the student to their project. “I’m looking for a student to tell me how they came to care, the same way scientists explain why they do what they do to the public,” she said in an annarbor.com article. Crumsey noted that based on the entries, she sees a growing interest in the environment and its impact on people.
Other EEB volunteers included KC Semrau, for her second year and Sarah Barbrow, an EEB alumnus in her fifth year of volunteering.
Read more in an annarbor.com article
Pictured above left to right, top to bottom: Katherine Crocker, Jasmine Crumsey, KC Semrau, Liz Wason. Mushroom photo by KC Semrau.
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Hunter awarded NSF OPUS grant
Monday, March 19, 2012
Professor Mark Hunter has been awarded a $185,000 grant from the National Science Foundation through their Opportunities for Promoting Understanding through Synthesis (OPUS) program. His project is “Trophic interactions, plant quality, and the integration of above and belowground processes.” The two-year grant runs from June 2012 – May 2014.
“The OPUS funding basically provides support for a sabbatical,” Hunter said. “It will allow me to hide out and write a book.” Hunter will synthesize over 25 years of his research in diverse systems (temperate forests, old fields, deserts, lakes, streams, agricultural fields) with diverse taxa (insects, trees, perennial herbs, viruses, birds, algae, cyanobacteria, mycorrhizal fungi, protozoan parasites) under a single unifying theme of variation in plant quality. According to the proposal, new insights will emerge from the synthesis that inform our understanding of trophic interactions (living organisms eating or being eaten), ecosystem processes, and the links between them. “When we write up our research step by step in journals, we don’t always have the opportunity to tie things together,” Hunter said. “I’m optimistic that some generalities will emerge when I pull all the different research threads together.”
Products of the synthesis will include a large monograph and a smaller synthetic summary, both of which should stimulate future work by colleagues and students. As in previous work, Hunter will emphasize links between research on trophic interactions and mission-oriented endeavors of importance to society, including crop pest management, invasive species research, conservation biology, and mitigating the effects of global environmental change. A graduate course in trophic interactions and a workshop for EEB’s Frontiers Master’s students on the importance of synthesis will also be developed as a result of OPUS activities.
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EEB Frontiers student profiled in national SEEDS enewsletter
Sunday, March 18, 2012
EEB master’s student Beatriz Otero Jimenez earned her bachelor’s degree from the University of Puerto Rico, Rio Piedras, in environmental sciences, where she has been a member of Strategies for Ecology, Education, Diversity and Sustainability (SEEDS) since 2007.
Read more about Otero Jimenez’s research interests and summer plans in Chiapas, Mexico in the March 15, 2012 SEEDS enewsletter and watch for a Frontiers profile of her coming soon. Otero Jimenez's advisor is Professor Mark Hunter.
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Alvarado Serrano wins Rackham Predoc Fellowship
Wednesday, March 14, 2012
EEB graduate student Diego Alvarado Serrano has been awarded a Rackham Predoctoral Fellowship. The fellowship supports outstanding doctoral students who have achieved candidacy and are actively working on dissertation research and writing.
Alvarado Serrano studies diversification processes and evolutionary mechanisms underlying high tropical diversity, evolutionary responses to environmental heterogeneity, and long-term stability of ecological niches and its relationship to evolutionary limits of geographic ranges in the lab of Professor L. Lacey Knowles. “To address these questions, I combine analyses of molecular data from Sanger and Next-Generation sequencing and a combination of tools traditionally used in the fields of landscape genetics, phylogeography, species distribution modeling, and Global Information Systems,” he said. “As part of my work in this area, I collaborated with Lacey to develop an innovative approach that combines ecological, genetic, and demographic modeling to uncover the evolutionary consequences of climate-induced distributional shifts. Together these projects are expected to contribute to our understanding of the circumstances under which climatic and other environmental changes threaten species survival or promote their differentiation, and to improve available tools for the analysis of population differentiation and diversification.”
He will receive $28,200 over three terms, candidacy tuition and registration fees for fall and winter as well as GradCare health and dental insurance coverage for 2012-13. Congratulations!
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Records 191 to 200 of 306