By Karen Nikos-Rose
A gene implicated in affecting speech and language, FOXP2, is held up as a “textbook” example of positive selection on a human-specific trait. But in a paper in the journal Cell on Aug. 2, researchers challenge this finding. Their analysis of genetic data from a diverse sample of modern people and Neanderthals saw no evidence for recent, human-specific selection of FOXP2 and revises the history of how we think humans acquired language.
What makes us human? The FOXP2 gene has been associated with uniquely human language abilities. But a new study with a wider variety of people shows no evidence of selection for FOXP2 in modern humans. (Image by Brenna Henn, UC Davis)
By Lisa Howard
During the early days of the Great Depression, when many Americans were desperate to find jobs, state and local officials in the United States began forcibly repatriating Mexicans, including American citizens of Mexican descent, to Mexico. Between 1929 and 1935, hundreds of thousands of Mexicans left the United States. Some estimates put the number at 500,000 to over a million.
Mexicans picking cantaloupes in Imperial Valley, California, May 1937. Although the intent of Mexican repatriation was to create more jobs for Americans, a UC Davis study shows most native-born workers didn’t take the jobs left behind by Mexican laborers. (Credit: Dorothea Lange, Farm Security Administration, Library of Congress)
By Karen Nikos-Rose
Third-grader Jessica was quiet in group discussions and did not see herself as a strong science student. But after an eight-week unit in school where she was able to read, write about, collect data on and even draw and photograph ladybugs for a project, she began to see herself as scientist in her own right – explaining the life stages and lifestyles of ladybugs to grownups with conviction.
Citizen science projects can engage kids, a UC Davis study finds.
Jessica became a citizen scientist.
By Karen Nikos-Rose
Catherine Brinkley is a professor of human and community development and human ecology at UC Davis. So it’s interesting that in a recent published paper, she advocates that cities should work more like coral reefs — supporting a diversity of niches and uses for sustained vigor and resilience. In ecology and medical sciences, the term for a physical form with such topographic complexity is rugosity.
Traditional urban planning favors “concentric” layouts with a downtown core surrounded by suburbs and farmland (right). But Catherine Brinkley argues instead that cities should plan for “rugosity” (left) with more interfaces between functions.
The Center for Integrated Computing and STEM Education at the University of California, Davis, has released version 4 of its popular C-STEM Studio software suite. In addition to free breakthrough tools for teaching math, coding, robotics and making, this major update includes expanded support with textbooks and curriculum for Lego Mindstorms NXT and EV3 robots, Raspberry Pi computers and Arduino control boards as well as Barobo Linkbots. These hardware platforms and related curriculum are seamlessly integrated in C-STEM Studio for learning math with hands-on physical computing and real-world projects.
C-STEM Studio is compatible with robots widely used in school classrooms.
By Kathleen Holder
Anxiety is a common problem for children and adults with fragile X syndrome, magnifying their struggles living with an inherited intellectual disability. New UC Davis research could lead to new ways to identify and treat their anxiety at a young age—even in infancy.
The study led by developmental psychologists Jessica Burris and Susan Rivera found that infants and young children with fragile X syndrome, unlike typically developing children, tend to have their attention specifically captured by angry faces rather than happy ones. That sort of “attentional bias” toward angry faces is a pattern associated with anxiety.
The government of Haiti recently announced a program to fortify wheat flour with iron and folic acid, following a recommendation by UC Davis researchers who calculated that adding these nutrients to wheat flour during milling would prevent infant deaths and improve the health especially of women and children.
Farmers in Haiti’s Artibonite Valley
The new Haitian program, known by its French acronym RANFOSE, is supported by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). In addition to adding folic acid and iron to wheat flour, it will fortify vegetable oils with Vitamin A and salt with iodine. RANFOSE will increase the availability of high-quality, fortified staple foods across the country and expand the local production and importation of fortified foods, according to a US Embassy news release.
South American capuchin monkeys are curious animals that readily learn new skills. UC Davis graduate student Brendan Barrett talks about studying learning in these monkeys in this episode of the Three Minute Egghead podcast.
Capuchin monkeys can learn new skills by watching each other. (Brendan Barrett/UC Davis)
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The advent of farming, especially dairy products, had a small but significant effect on the shape of human skulls, according to a recently published study from anthropologists at UC Davis.
David Katz measured specific points on human skull bones (top) to create a wire frame model of the skull and jaw (bottom). Blue dashes indicate changes in skull shape from foragers to dairy farmers.
Put another way, our skulls were changed by the invention of cheese.
By Karen Nikos-Rose
A summer hike at 13,000 feet (4,000 meters) is challenging given the lack of oxygen, frigid temperatures, and exposure to elements. Now imagine living year-round at high elevation without your high-tech gear or modern foods.
High-altitude plateaus are challenging places to live, but archaeologists have found hunter-gatherers colonized the Andean Highlands 7,000 years ago. Photo by Lauren A. Hayes
Scientists debate whether early human populations could have done so, but a new UC Davis study confirms that intrepid hunter-gatherers—women, men, and children—called the Andean highlands home over 7,000 years ago.