Monday, June 13, 2016

Global Warming

Hey CCS,

According to some global warming is a phenomenon that simply does not exist, but as well educated soon-to-be biologists we all know this is a falsehood.  Scientists are now predicting that our future summers will be hotter than any on record, not something I enjoy hearing. Read more here!

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Gut Microbes and Their Connection to Obesity

There are a lot of factors that go into determining an animals weight and metabolism. However, due to the growing obesity rate in (mostly) first world countries the cause(s) of obesity are of particular interest. Scientists are discovering that it may not be simply a matter of calorie count, and that the effects of obesity are multifaceted. A key component lies in the environment of the gut, particularly the gut’s microbes. A recent study on rats (the link to this very interesting article is below) found that certain microbes can send information via the vagus nerve that result in weight gain. Pretty interesting that these small microbes play such a vital role.

-Veronica Russell

Toxoplasma infection linked with neurological diseases

Toxoplasma gondii is a protozoan parasite that infects a third of the world's population. It is acquired through the consumption of undercook meat or unwashed vegetables. New research has shown that Toxoplasma leads to the disruption of glutamates, a neurotransmitter which transmits excitatory signals between neurons. Glutamate buildups are usually seen in traumatic brain injuries and can also be caused by Toxoplasma. The astrocytes which are suppose to remove the glutamate buildups become swelled during the infection and the glutamate transporters that are suppose to help remove the glutamates are not expressed properly. Weird fact about these parasites are that they can only sexually reproduce in cats.

-David Lowe

What Are We Doing About Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria?

In recent years, there have been increased number of antibiotic resistant bacteria. Considering the first antibiotics were only invented in the late 1920’s by Alexander Fleming, it has not taken very long for bacterial strains to mutate and become resistant to antibiotics they’re targeted by. This reflects the process of evolution happening in real time. This also means that humans need to invent a new way of combating bacterial infections. Innovative methods such as using bacteriophages or viruses to attack bacteria are being explored. 

Here’s a link to a neat article in Science Daily that discusses one of the methods developed at MIT.

Diversity of oligodendrocytes

Earlier in this quarter, we had an overview of the nervous system and talked about different types of nerve cells. In high school, I worked in a multiple sclerosis lab that studied oligodendrocytes ability to remyelinate demyelinated cells due to multiple sclerosis. These researchers used a recently developed technique called single cell RNA-sequencing, which allows them to characterize subtle differences that would be missed with classical methods. With this method, they were able discover 12 different subtypes of oligodendrocytes. This unexpected diversity, because oligodendrocytes were thought to all be the same type of cell, might lead to new pathways of research for neurodegenerative diseases.

-David Lowe

Godzilla Goby

Hello CCS friends,

An article was just posted today which revealed a new species of deep water goby.  This discovery was part of the Deep Reef Observation Project, funded by the Smithsonian Institution, which aimed to collect a live specimen in the southern Caribbean Sea.  This unusually large headed, bright yellow and orange colored fish was named the Godzilla goby, or Varicus lacerta.  Also thought I would add that I'm taking EEMB 106 Biology of Fishes Fall quarter, can't wait to learn everything possible about fish...take it with me!

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

No Pristine Landscapes

Hi everyone!
    Just found this really interesting article on ScienceDaily stating that due to colonization early on, there have been no "pristine" landscapes for the last thousand years. The authors state that archaeological data is often not taken into consideration during conservation research and that large-scale extinctions from human disturbances are not just a recent post-industrial revolution phenomenon. Really cool to think about as it raises questions such as whether or not climax ecosystems truly exist at the moment or whatever "original state" even means in regards to landscape restoration.
Here is the article:

On another note, another really interesting article I found on ScienceDaily pertaining to Electric Eels...

It's been a great year with you guys and good luck with finals!
Jasen Liu

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Papers to read about kelp forest interactions

Hey guys, If you wanted to read more about the three way competition between kelp, sessile inverts, and understory algae I recommend reading this paper. And if you want to learn more about the effect of disturbances I recommend this one.
Happy finals week!!

Friday, June 3, 2016

More into Materials Science and Technology

Hello all,

During my topic presentation, I gave a very brief summary about some of the research I conducted at my last lab. I thought I might post some more information here and give some links to anyone that might be interested in this topic.

So, one of the main goals of my last lab was to develop materials that are both lightweight and extremely strong. By altering the nano-architecture of different materials, the lab is able to, in a sense, induce strength to those materials and reduce the amount of material used. This is accomplished by a property of some nano materials where there is an effect observed called "smaller is stronger." What this means is that as some materials get closer to the nano-scale, they get stronger. The lab utilizes this concept by creating nano-lattices that are 99% air and contain structures that are made out of hollow nano-tubes. This greatly increases the strength and significantly reduces the weight of the material. Now, these materials would have extremely wide applications in the real world from dramatically reducing the weight and amount of materials used of cars, bridges, planes, and many other appliances without sacrificing those materials' strength and durability.

Now for the biological related portion of this post: A lot of these developments and studies were based of nature and naturally occurring things that already exist. In my presentation, the research I was helping with was associated with testing and understanding the micro-structures of diatoms and how those organisms are able to create a very tough and stable silicon micro-structure that can withstand the various mechanical stresses of the ocean. By better understanding evolutionary design and efficacy, the lab hopes to better address how to artificially apply that information from nature into synthetic materials for wider real world applications.

Here are some links if anyone is interested in looking up more information:

Greer Group:

Diatoms Paper:

Professor Julia Greer speaking at
Google Solve for X:

Thursday, June 2, 2016

California Mussel Quarantine

Hey guys!

So we brushed over the idea of the California mussel quarantine in class, and I wanted to let you guys know a little more about it.

So basically, because of the levels of biotoxins that are present in mussels between May and October, the Department of Public Health created a ban on public collecting of mussels during these times, to protect people against shellfish poisoning.  The reason that these toxin levels are so high between these months is that this is when the conditions are most optimal for the algae that create the toxins. However, the toxins don't harm the mussels, so the algal bloom climbs until the conditions return to suboptimal.

I just found this really interesting and I didn't know that it occurred along our coast every year, so I thought I'd spread the knowledge.

Here are some articles about it, if you're as fascinated by this as I am



So from my presentation today, I mentioned a colour changing mushroom. This mushroom changes from yellow to a blue after cutting. It's a cool thing to look at. The change is due to when variegatic acid oxidizes enzymatically during exposure to air.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Cancer-Killing Vaccine???

Found some amazing science news today and thought I'd share. Recently a lab in Germany has made some breakthroughs on a vaccine that delivers RNA to dendritic cells in order to exploit the body's antiviral defense and work as a type of immunotherapy for all types of cancer. While this isn't necessarily the "cancer cure" that the world is hoping for, it could lead to a whole new level of cancer treatment. This vaccine has passed mouse trials and already been tested in low doses in three melanoma patients.  So far these patients have yielded positive, and expected results correlating with the low-dose treatment and more human trials are on the way! The paper was published online in Nature today - check it out.


Bringing Home Security with You

As I was going through one of those random YouTube surfing ventures, I somehow ended up watching various video clips of different marine organisms doing all sorts of different things to each other. One of these videos I thought was pretty hilarious and thought I'd post about it.

In this video, a hermit crab was shown with sea anemones on its shell. It was walking on the ocean floor and needed to change its shell. The crab found itself a new shell and quickly transferred from its old one to the new one. The surprising part for me was when the video showed the crab dislodging the sea anemones attached to the old shell and reattaching them to the new shell. I found it pretty remarkable how a crab can develop such a specific behavior. It's like the hermit crab is bringing home security with it while it travels through the ocean floor.

This is a really cool example of mutualism and is related to the material we covered during our lectures about the different types of relationships organisms can have with one another. The hermit crab gets protection from predators while the sea anemone gets to eat leftovers from the hermit crab and gets mobility to forage through a larger area for food.

Here is the video link for anyone interested: