Garen Wintemute on preventing gun violence

UC Davis emergency physician Garen Wintemute is one of the nation’s leading experts on gun violence, and has long argued that it should be treated as a public health problem. In this Q&A with The Nation he says that the prohibition route followed by countries like Australia and Great Britain is closed to the U.S. — there are just too many guns already out there. But real steps can be taken that would make a dent in gun violence that kills 88 Americans every day.

Filling the tank at dark matter detector experiment

Contributed by the LUX Collaboration

An experiment to look for one of nature’s most elusive subatomic particles is finally under water, in a stainless steel tank nearly a mile underground beneath the Black Hills of South Dakota.

The Large Underground Xenon experiment, nicknamed LUX, will be the most sensitive device yet to look for dark matter. Thought to comprise more than 80 percent of the mass of the universe, dark matter has so far eluded direct detection. The LUX detector, under construction for more than three years in South Dakota, was installed underground in a protective tank in July. The tank was filled with water last week, and all systems are functioning well.

Pigs join the genome club

The genome of the domestic pig is published in the journal Nature today, Nov. 14. The pig genome was completed by an international team led by researchers at Wageningen University in The Netherlands, the Univesity of Illinois Urbana-Champaign and the University of Edinburgh, Scotland, and included Harris Lewin, vice chancellor for research at UC Davis. Lewin became involved in the project when he was heading the Institute for Genomic Biology at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign before joining UC Davis.

Sequencing the unsequenceable: Genome Center technology advances Fragile X research

The UC Davis Genome Center has been applying one of the world’s most advanced commercial genome sequencing machines to study the developmental disorder, Fragile X syndrome.

The DNA code is made up of four letters, A, T, C and G. Fragile X syndrome occurs when a large number of three-letter repeats CGG appears in part of the fragile X mental retardation gene, FMR1. A run of more than 200 repeats causes full-blown fragile X syndrome, switching off the gene altogether and causing serious intellectual disability. But shorter sequences of repeats can also cause a range of problems including learning disabilities, seizures and fragile X-associated tremor/ataxia syndrome.

BGI Chairman to speak on campus, Nov. 9

Huanming (Henry) Yang, Ph.D., co-founder and chairman of BGI — formerly known as the Beijing Genomics Institute — will speak in room 1005, Genome and Biomedical Sciences Facility at 4.10 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 9.

UC Davis and BGI have formed a partnership, BGI@UC Davis, to set up a DNA sequencing facility and foster new breakthroughs in genomics especially related to medicine, food and agricultural sciences, and the environment.

Cuts to Williamson act threaten open space and critical habitat

From UC ANR News

A survey by UC Davis doctoral students shows that cuts to California’s Williamson Act could lead to a sell-off of land currently protected from development.  The findings appear in the October–December 2012 California Agriculture, UC’s peer-reviewed research journal.

State budget cuts have dramatically reduced funding for the Williamson Act, California’s conservation law that provides property tax relief for the owners of 15 million acres of rangeland and farms — preserving California’s prized open space.

Migrating mallards carry bird flu strains to California

By Kat Kerlin

As migrating mallard ducks touch down on the wintering grounds of California’s Central Valley and mingle with resident mallard populations, they sometimes carry new avian influenza strains with them.

So concludes a new study conducted at the University of California, Davis, with researchers from the U.S. Geological Survey, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Canadian Department of the Environment, and University of Minnesota. The study appears in the journal Molecular Ecology.

Practice makes perfect for oiled bird responders

Contributed by Kat Kerlin

“Do we have an ETA on those sandpipers?” Mike Ziccardi asked into his cell phone at the San Francisco Bay Oiled Wildlife Care and Education Center in Cordelia, Calif.

Ziccardi, a UC Davis wildlife veterinarian, is director of the UC Davis-led Oiled Wildlife Care Network. His phone call was made in the middle of a drill held earlier this summer that drew about 70 of the state’s key oiled wildlife responders.

Prion Nobelist Prusiner to speak on brain injuries, Oct. 12

Soldiers, football players and Alzheimer’s patients… What do they all have in common? Brain injuries.

Come hear Stanley B. Prusiner, the 1997 recipient of the Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine, speak on the topic of brain injuries in these groups on Friday, October 12, 2012, at 5:30 pm. The talk in Freeborn Hall on the UC Davis campus is free and open to the public.

What happens to the floodplain after restoration?

Contributed by Kat Kerlin

Restoring floodplains —  fertile swaths of land favored for agriculture, ecological diversity and shipping — can benefit wildlife while also reducing the risk of flood, acknowledge water managers. But predicting the effects of restoration projects is challenging. For instance, what happens to the fish, birds, plants and other life along the floodplain as levees and lands are rearranged to create a more natural setting?

A group of UC Davis graduate students set out to ask such questions as part of the interdisciplinary training program, Responding to Rapid Environmental Change Integrative Graduate Education and Research Traineeship — or REACH IGERT, for short. The REACH IGERT is a two-year program funded by the U.S. National Science Foundation.