Podcast: Restored Putah Creek Blooms With Bird Life

Until about twenty years ago, Putah Creek near the UC Davis campus was a dry, trash-filled ditch. Then a lawsuit led to the Putah Creek Accord, which mandated year-round water flows to help protect fish and habitat. In this episode of the Three Minute Egghead podcast, Kat Kerlin hears how restoring water has brought the creek back to life.


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Feature story: Little Creek, Big Impact

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Kat Kerlin writes about the environment for UC Davis Strategic Communications. Follow her at @UCDavis_Kerlin

How Population Genetics Can Help Breed a Hardier Honey Bee

by Greg Watry

The western honey bee (Apis mellifera), the world’s most important pollinator for agriculture, is facing a crisis. Parasitic mites, colony collapse and climate change threaten hives. California, as the seasonal home of nearly half of the continental United States’ managed honey bee colonies, is a prime location for monitoring bee populations. And honey bee health, key to the nation’s largest fresh produce economy, is vital to the Golden State.

A foraging honeybee. Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey.

Augmented Reality Sandbox Hits Worldwide Milestone

By Becky Oskin

With more than 500 installations on six continents, the UC Davis Augmented Reality, or AR, Sandbox, has become a worldwide phenomenon.

The Augmented Reality Sandbox shows how land forms affect water flow. (UC Davis KeckCAVES)

The AR Sandbox brings earth science to life by merging hands-on play with digital effects. The setup combines a real sandbox with a motion-sensing camera (such as a Microsoft 3D Kinect) and a digital projector. As people shape the sand with their hands or with tools, the camera detects the changes and a computer projects colors depicting elevation, vividly illustrating the principles of topographic maps. Users can also create rainstorms, lakes and rivers and immediately see how reshaping the sand surface changes the water flow.

SuperBlueBloodMoon: New Ideas About Lunar Formation

January 31 will be an early morning show for Moon lovers. Starting about 2.51 a.m. Pacific Time will be a lunar eclipse, or “blood moon” as the Moon passes through Earth’s shadow and picks up a reddish tint. At the same time, the full Moon of Jan. 31 is also a “supermoon” when the Moon is relatively close to Earth and looks bigger and brighter, and a “blue Moon” because it is the second full Moon in one month.

NASA is calling it a “SuperBlueBloodMoon.” (If it’s cloudy where you are, NASA is also running a live stream of the eclipse.)

Looking for New Pollutants in the Ashes of Sonoma

In this month’s episode of Three Minute Egghead, UC Davis graduate student Gabrielle Black talks about collecting samples of ash from neighborhoods burned by last year’s northern California wildfires. The intense heat on a wide range of household items from insulation to electronics may have created new chemical pollutants. Thanks to modern analytic technology, Black plans to search for both known pollutants and new compounds, and compare them to the ashes of burned wild land.

Listen to the podcast here.

More information

Testing Sonoma Ash and Air for Fire-Formed Pollutants

WHAT-NOW Survey (UC Davis Environmental Health Sciences Center)

California Water-Saving Drive Saved Energy, Too

California’s drive to save water during the drought had a double benefit: it saved a lot of energy as well.

Graphs of water and energy use

This interactive website shows how California cities and water districts saved energy and water

In April 2015, Governor Jerry Brown mandated a 25 percent cut in urban water consumption in the face of continuing drought. Water suppliers were required to report their progress to the State Water Resources Control Board. Now analysis of those figures by researchers Edward Spang, Andrew Holguin and Frank Loge at the UC Davis Center for Water-Energy Efficiency shows that while the state came within 0.5 percent of the water conservation goal, California also saved 1830 GigaWatt-Hours of energy — enough to power more than 270,000 homes.

Plant Sciences’ Stable Isotope Facility Marks 20 Years of Service

From improving crop production to tracking mosquitoes, the Stable Isotope Facility in the UC Davis Department of Plant Sciences supports a wide range of research on campus and throughout the world. December 1, 2017 marks the facility’s 20th anniversary and they are holding an open house today to celebrate.

Julian Herszage (left) and Lyndi Low carrying out analysis at the Stable Isotope Facility in the Department of Plant Sciences. The lab carries out analysis of isotopes of hydrogen, carbon, nitrogen, oxygen and sulfur for biological and environmental studies. Photo by Chris Yarnes/UC Davis.

Supercomputer Simulates Dynamic Magnetic Fields of Jupiter, Earth, Sun

By Becky Oskin

As the Juno space probe approached Jupiter in June last year, researchers with the Computational Infrastructure for Geodynamics’ Dynamo Working Group were starting to run simulations of the giant planet’s magnetic field on one of the world’s fastest computers. While the timing was coincidental, the supercomputer modeling should help scientists interpret the data from Juno, and vice versa.

Video: Simulation of Jupiter’s magnetic fields 

“Even with Juno, we’re not going to be able to get a great physical sampling of the turbulence occurring in Jupiter’s deep interior,” Jonathan Aurnou, a geophysics professor at UCLA who leads the geodynamo working group, said in an article for Argonne National Laboratory news. “Only a supercomputer can help get us under that lid.”

For Seagrass, Biodiversity Is Both a Goal and A Means For Restoration

By Kat Kerlin

Coral reefs, seagrass meadows and mangrove forests work together to make the Coral Triangle of Indonesia a hotspot for marine biodiversity. The system supports valuable fisheries and endangered species and helps protect shorelines. But it is in global decline due to threats from coastal development, destructive fishing practices and climate change.

From left, Jordan Hollarsmith of Hasanuddin University and UC Davis, and Susan Williams and Katie DuBois of UC Davis look at seabed plots in Indonesia. Photo by Christine Sur, UC Davis

Explaining Life’s Rapid Evolution on Land

By Becky Oskin

Although life arose in the sea, some of its most astonishing evolutionary leaps happened after organisms conquered land, according to UC Davis paleobiologist Geerat Vermeij. Drawing on his encyclopedic knowledge of evolutionary change in the fossil record,

Living on land brought new challenges and new opportunities for leaps in evolution, argues UC Davis paleobiologist Geerat Vermeij. Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey.

Vermeij has identified 11 major innovations that appeared first among terrestrial creatures. Vermeij describes the “irreversible shift” in evolutionary dominance from sea to land in a new study published online October 2017 in the journal Current Biology.