Egghead is a blog about research by, with or related to UC Davis. Comments on posts are welcome, as are tips and suggestions for posts. General feedback may be sent to Andy Fell. This blog is created and maintained by UC Davis University Communications, and mostly edited by Andy Fell.
By Becky Oskin
For the first time scientists can see how the shells of tiny marine organisms grow atom-by-atom, a new study reports. The advance provides new insights into the mechanisms of biomineralization and will improve our understanding of environmental change in Earth’s past.
Foraminifera are marine plankton with complex shells. The shells of dead forams in ocean sediments form a record of climate hundreds of millions of years into the past.
Led by researchers from the University of California, Davis and the University of Washington, with key support from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, the team examined an organic-mineral interface where the first calcium carbonate crystals start to appear in the shells of foraminifera, a type of plankton.
With the third and final debate over, those voters who haven’t yet made up their minds will be focusing on their choice for President. But what do the woolly bear caterpillars of Bodega Bay have to say about the election?
Woolly bear caterpillars are having a hard time picking the outcome of the 2016 Presidential election. (Eric Lo Presti/UC Davis)
The caterpillars shot to fame a few months ago when UC Davis graduate student Eric Lo Presti pointed out in a blog post that cycles in the caterpillar population tracked with the fortunes of political parties in presidential election years. Going back as far as 1984, Democrats won the White House in years when the caterpillars were abundant in March, and Republicans when the caterpillars were less prolific.
By Andrew Engilis
On October 5th, two scientists from the UC Davis Museum of Wildlife and Fish Biology joined a multi-national team of researchers to conduct biodiversity surveys on the island of New Britain, Papua New Guinea.
Irene Engilis, UC Davis Museum of Wildlife and Fish Biology, extracts a bat from a mist net.
The expedition is coordinated by Allen Allison, senior zoologist at the Bishop Museum in Honolulu, Hawaii. Allison obtained his B.S and Ph.D. from UC Davis and has organized and led numerous research expeditions over the past 40 years in Papua New Guinea.
By Lorena Anderson, UC Merced
California’s coastal redwoods are one of the state’s most prominent icons, drawing more than 2 million visitors a year. Another prominent icon? Fog, winding its way across the coast and through the trees. Climate change may be impacting both of them.
Climate change may affect the fog that waters California’s iconic coastal redwoods.
While coastal redwoods typically get plenty of water during the winter, fog helps them get through the summer. But fog is on the decline. What that means for the coastal redwoods in currently unclear.
By Nicole Gelfand
Children imitate our every action- from their very first words to even the most miniscule of habits they acquire from their parents. Children are a firsthand example of how human learning often takes place by observing other individuals, a term referred to as observational learning. From a young age human brains associate observed actions with the rewards and consequences that follow, to subsequently “learn by watching” and change behavior.
By Linda Vu, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory
Getting a better picture of connections between brain areas is the goal of a new tool developed by researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and UC Davis. Their “Brain Modulyzer” software allows researchers to visualize and explore brain activity, either while a subject is performing tasks or at rest.
The 2016 Nobel Prize for Physics will be shared by David Thouless, F. Duncan Haldane and J. Michael Kosterlitz for their work on peculiar states of matter under extreme conditions. The three used advanced mathematics — specifically topology, the study of shapes — to build theoretical models of matter. Their work has practical implications for understanding superconductors, superfluids and thin magnetic films, and ultimately for new types of devices and technologies.
“This year’s Laureates opened the door on an unknown world where matter can assume strange states,” according to the Nobel Prize citation.
“Gnothi seauton” or “Know thyself,” said the Ancient Greeks; but they might have also said, “eat yourself.” For biologists, autophagy or “self-eating” is the process that cells use to recycle material inside the cell. It breaks down defective proteins and molecules, disposes of invading viruses and bacteria, provides an energy source when food is lacking and generally keeps cells fit and healthy. Problems in autophagy are implicated in cancer, aging, infectious disease and degenerative disorders.
Yoshinori Ohsumi after hearing he had been awarded the 2016 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine.
Photo: Mari Honda
Full post: Nobel Medicine Prize for “self-eating”
(307 words, 1 image, estimated 1:14 mins reading time)
By Kat Kerlin
Plants imported into the United States sometimes hold more than leaves and stems. They also can transport hidden, non-native pests and pathogens that can cause substantial ecological and economic damage if they establish in the environment.
Pests, such as this citrus long horned beetle, can be accidentally imported in cross-border shipments of live plants. (Wikipedia)
In the United States, that pathway is growing. Over the past four decades, the dollar value of imported plants has grown at 68 percent per decade. One means of reducing their entry is to inspect live plant imports at the U.S. border.
Full post: A Better Way to Stop Pests at the Border
(284 words, 1 image, estimated 1:08 mins reading time)
Under certain conditions, forests can grow in response to climate change
By Kat Kerlin
After a tip-off from nomadic herders, a team of scientists has confirmed reports of a forest expansion in eastern Tibet, a region dominated by ancient grasslands. The forest growth, unprecedented since 1760, is due to a combination of climatic changes: rising atmospheric carbon dioxide, increased water related to warming, and greater nutrient availability released by thawing permafrost.
New forests are encroaching on the alpine grasslands of Tibet. (Photo: Lucas Silva)
Full post: Climate Change Spurs Forest Growth in Tibet
(367 words, 1 image, estimated 1:28 mins reading time)