Obituaries for Marjorie Grene

An obituary for philosopher Marjorie Grene, who died March 16, was published Sunday in the New York Times. She was 98. Grene, best-known for her work on the philosophy of biology, was  a faculty member and chair of the UC Davis Department of Philosophy from 1965 until she her mandatory retirement in 1978. She later moved to Virginia Tech.

“She was, arguably, the founding figure in the new field of philosophy of biology,” wrote UC Davis philosophy professor Michael Wedin in a memorial notice posted online.

Butterfly migration underway

The Painted Lady butterflies are on the move again, reports UC Davis lepidopterist Art Shapiro. Here’s his dispatch.

Another Painted Lady (Vanessa cardui) migration is occurring in north-central California.  Painted Ladies showed up very early in the region, in late January, and there are hints of overwintering and breeding somewhere in south-central or southern California somewhere north of the usual desert breeding grounds along the Mexican border, because these animals were in good condition and did not appear to have migrated long distances. They also did not show the usual color-and-pattern signs of having been generated in the desert, but they were not produced locally in the Davis-Sacramento region and were seemingly confined to the west side of the Valley.

Liquid water droplets on Mars

Water on Mars landerDroplets of liquid water, probably very salty, have been detected on the leg of the Phoenix Mars Lander, according to researchers at the University of Michigan. UC Davis geology professor Dawn Sumner, our resident Martian expert, says this means we need a much more dynamic model of the Martian water cycle.

Low-wage jobs in a bad economy

UC Davis ag economist Phillip Martin contributes to a NY Times editorial group blog on how low-wage workers — many of them immigrants — are being affected by the economy. (Surprise! No-one’s getting a bonus.)

Martin predicts that immigrants who have begun to climb the employment ladder into higher-paying jobs will be pushed back to farm work. In the long run, as the economy improves, workers will leave the farms again — and farmers will adapt to a smaller, more productive workforce.

GM goats for Brazil

Brazilian and UC Davis scientists James Murray and Elizabeth Maga are teaming up to develop a herd of genetically modified dairy goats, whose milk could protect against diarrhea, a major killer of the children around the world.

The goats will produce the human enzyme lysozyme, a natural anti-bacterial substance found in tears, saliva and human breast milk. The team plans to establish the herd in Brazil within two years and hopes to begin human trials with the genetically enhanced goats’ milk within three to five years.

Got Milk: Animal Science Prof Wins $40,000 Teaching Prize

Ed DePeters, an expert in dairy cow nutrition, is the winner of the 2009 UC Davis Prize for Undergraduate Teaching and Scholarly Achievement, which includes $40,000 in cash — believed to be the largest prize of its type in the nation.

“Dr. DePeters’ focused and energetic devotion to teaching exemplifies the finest in UC Davis’ academic tradition,” said Chancellor Larry Vanderhoef. “He reminds us that we have a brief and precious moment at the university to engage young minds and ignite the talents and visions that will fire our nation and the global community.”

Why do skunks have stripes?

To warn predators of their stinky scent weapon, probably. But also because skunks — and many of their relatives — lack any other “avoidance strategy” to avoid conflicts with other predators, according to an ingenious survey of American carnivores.

Graduate student Jennifer Hunter and Tim Caro, professor of wildlife, fish and conservation biology, wanted to know how America’s many meat-eating animals avoid competing for food, or becoming lunch for each other. They plotted the ranges of all of America’s carnivore species — from cougars and bears to skunks and weasels — on a digital map.

SMACK! Scholars debate pros, cons of stimulus package

(Dateline editor Clifton Parker contributed this report on Wednesday’s debate. It is also available on the Dateline web site, and will be in print next Friday).

Will the economic stimulus package work as expected?

Two top economics scholars with different answers to this question squared off in a March 4 public forum, “Stimulus Smackdown — Can Deficit Spending Save the Economy?” A standing room-only audience of about 150 people crowded into the University Club to watch the sparks fly between Michele Boldrin of Washington University, St. Louis, and J. Bradford DeLong, a UC Berkeley economics professor.

Who Won the Stimulus Smackdown?

Brad DeLong from UC Berkeley has posted his notes from last night’s economics debate (also with some comments on his blog). I haven’t seen anything up from his distinguished opponent, Michele Boldrin of Washington University in St. Louis but I’ll post them if I get them.

Were you at the debate? Post your comments here. Dateline editor Clifton Parker was there and promises a full writeup for next week’s Dateline.

DeLong: Deficit spending does too spur employment and production

Prof. Greg Clark, who moderated the debate, adds:

Mercury is forever

Clear Lake, Calif. is heavily contaminated with mercury waste from old mining operations, and has become a case study for the effect of mercury on ecosystems. In a free public talk on March 11, Tom Suchanek, lead scientist with the U.S. Geological Survey’s Western Ecological Research Center, will trace the quicksilver trail from ore to organisms and into 3,000 years’ accumulation of lake sediment. Suchanek’s talk begins at 12:15 p.m. in 3201 Hart Hall on the UC Davis campus. The seminar is part of the John Muir Institute of the Environment’s Distinguished Speaker Series on “Environmental Solutions: Lenses on the Delta.”