by Jordan Wilkerson figures by Brian Chow Summary: In the history of agriculture, no technology has been adopted so quickly and completely as genetically engineered crops. Particularly useful crops are ones that have an engineered resistance to herbicides. These crops have alluring benefits: reduced crop damage when herbicides are sprayed, easier weed management, and even the potential for environmental benefits. So what’s the problem? Herbicide-resistant … Continue reading Why Roundup Ready Crops Have Lost their Allure
Presented by Hannah Horowitz Mercury is a potent neurotoxin. For thousands of years, humans have altered mercury cycling in the environment by introducing massive amounts of mercury to surface water, soils, and air, through mining and burning coal. Once in the surface environment, mercury can threaten human and wildlife health, is transported globally through the air, and continues to have an impact for hundreds of … Continue reading Memoirs of a Toxin: The lasting human impact on mercury in the environment
Presented by Jacky Austermann Why does sea level change? Everyone knows that sea level rise is a threat to coastal cities, but the mechanisms of why the change happens are less often talked about. In my talk I will explain why sea level is changing, why it is changing at different rates around the globe, how we can use the measured sea level rise to … Continue reading Understanding sea level change by diving into the past
Presented by Laura Schaefer Searching for life in our galaxy means first finding liquid water. Water is found throughout our Solar System in many different forms, but the Earth, because of its balmy temperatures and unique geology, is the only known planet with sailable seas. Astronomers are searching far and wide for other planets that might host liquid water. In their search, they have found … Continue reading Sailing the Seas of Alien Worlds: The fate of oceans on rocky planets
Watch out, honey fans – populations of the honey bee, Apis mellifera, may be in decline, and we don’t really know why. Honey bees play a vital role in natural ecosystems as pollinators; it is estimated that a single bee can visit 2000 flowers in a day . Agriculturally, bees are important for much more than honey, being required for the pollination of many other … Continue reading To bee or not to bee: social dynamics impact productivity and stress response in honey bees
Traits that exist along a continuum, such as height, size, and behavior, vary significantly from person to person. The genetic and environmental interactions that cause these characteristics have long stumped scientists. In a recent study by Alvarado et al., ant larvae were exposed to an environmental factor that regulated adult ant size. The scientists were able to generate large and small ants just by changing … Continue reading What large ants tell us about variation in complex human traits
Turning on the tap for a clean glass of water is a luxury many Americans take for granted. Though TransCanada Corporation promises minimal spillage and environmental impact through improved safety features in its plans to install a 1169-mile-long, 36-inch-wide pipe through the grasslands of Canada and the United States, risking this natural resource is one of the many considerations President Obama examined before vetoing the … Continue reading Thrills and Spills: The Keystone XL Pipeline
Presented by Jordan Wilkerson Whether we are in China or here in the United States, the air in major cities is infamous for its unpleasant haze and resulting health problems. There are many ways in which an unhealthy mixture of chemicals can make it into the atmosphere where humans live and breathe. This lecture will discuss some of the most famous of these pollutants, what … Continue reading The Air We Breathe: An assessment of urban air pollution
Genetically modified organisms (GMOs) have amazing potential for improving lives, from providing nutrients to undernourished populations to cleaning up pollutants to synthesizing drugs on large scales. Yet escape of GMOs into the environment could upset nature’s balance, just as invasive species can cause extinctions of native species. Recently, researchers have effectively encoded safety locks into the genomes of these organisms to prevent their proliferation into … Continue reading Are genetically-modified organisms now safer?
Humans can’t digest cellulose. Similarly, we’ve found it hard to efficiently break down cellulose in biomass for energy applications, until now. Researchers show a more efficient breakdown of cellulose than current methods that require energy-intensive pretreatment steps to separate the parts that can be easily broken down from those that cannot, consuming more energy than they yield. Here, no pretreatment steps are required. In this … Continue reading An easier way to break down Cellulose for energy?