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Analysing large amounts of DNA sequences poses a huge challenge for scientists. The research of Professor Xinge (Jessie) Jeng at North Carolina State University focuses on cutting-edge techniques in modern statistics which are applied to genomic research. Her work provides efficient statistical tools and powerful computational methods to identify causative mutations at the single-nucleotide resolution.

With the emergence of high-throughput technologies, it is now possible to detect information in large-scale and high-dimensional datasets. The demand for methods of detection and estimation of sparse signals has never been greater. Such tools have potential to impact upon a wide spectrum of applications…


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Minimising and mitigating the effects of global climate change rely on accurate predictions of future climate, vegetation changes, and feedbacks between the Earth and its atmosphere. Prof Sara Hotchkiss, of the University of Wisconsin — Madison, and Prof Robert Booth, of Lehigh University, Pennsylvania, have investigated the effects of climate change on an overlooked landscape, the kettle hole ecosystems of the northern US. Their work suggests that increasingly frequent and severe droughts could trigger sudden transitions from lake to peatland, with dramatic consequences for this ecosystem and potential feedbacks to the broader Earth system.

As global climate change intensifies, many…


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Almost all living organisms on earth get their energy, ultimately, from the sun. Energy is fixed in carbohydrates by plants and cyanobacteria during photosynthesis, then both animals and plants release it by breaking down those carbohydrates. Until now, only two main routes of carbohydrate breakdown were thought to be present in cyanobacteria and plants. However, Dr Kirstin Gutekunst, of Christian-Albrechts-University of Kiel, Germany, has found a third pathway — the Entner-Doudoroff pathway — also plays a vital role in carbohydrate breakdown in cyanobacteria and plants.

Life on Earth is essentially driven by a circuit of photosynthesis, which uses energy from…


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Cold-blooded vertebrates, such as fish, are extremely susceptible to changes in the temperature of their surroundings. Yet one successful ocean predator, the swordfish, migrates from tropical to temperate seas, and dives daily from warm surface waters to cooler depths, with seeming ease. Drs Diego Bernal and Chugey Sepulveda of the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth and the Pfleger Institute of Environmental Research (PIER), are working together to explain the physiological mechanisms underpinning this ability, with implications for understanding vertebrate respiratory and muscle function, and for maintaining healthy populations of swordfish and other marine species.

As terrestrial animals, we are accustomed to…


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Ten faculty members from the University of South Dakota and eleven undergraduate students from across the United States including Puerto Rico, came together through the Sustainable RIVER (Remediating InVasives to Encourage Resilience) program to study how a complex suite of historical and contemporary factors affect the current functioning and management of the Upper Missouri River.

Most of society’s grand challenges involve complex and interdisciplinary systems, and new approaches are needed to effectively address these challenges and create opportunities for enhanced sustainability in the future. …


The Archbold Biological Station, a world-renowned ecological field station based in Florida, USA, is uploading its natural history collection onto the Internet for the first time. The diverse collection, containing 270,000 specimens of more than 10,000 species will provide researchers and students around the world, with access to this rich source of ecological data. This highly collaborative project, which involves making data and images of thousands of biological specimens available online, is funded by NSF and is being led by Dr Hilary Swain and Dr Mark Deyrup.

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The lands and waters that form the headwaters of the Everglades are notable…


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What defines a living cell? How to capture the molecular essence of life? These fundamental questions underpin the collaborative research programme led by Prof Allen Liu at the University of Michigan and Prof Vincent Noireaux at the University of Minnesota. The pair uses molecular components to construct prototypes of synthetic cells displaying the minimal characteristics of life. Their ‘cell analogs’ shed light on basic biological processes, and also provide new tools for biotechnology and medicine.

Biologists and philosophers have long pondered the question, “What are the hallmarks of life?” Whilst many scientists attempt a top-down approach to the issue based…


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Dr Mauricio Rodriguez-Lanetty from Florida International University (FIU), is currently conducting research that focuses on immunological priming in corals and anemones, a process by which an animal can resist pathogens through repeated, non-lethal exposure. As corals are at risk due to climate change, this is an important project to help further our understanding of their immunology. The project also includes an outreach programme to motivate minority students to pursue science as a career.

Coral reefs are one of the most important ecosystems on the planet as they support a wide and diverse array of organisms and human activities. …


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Dr Matt Traxler of the University of California, Berkeley, is changing the way we study microbes. Gone are the days of thinking about a single species in a pure culture in the lab — Traxler and his team of graduate students and postdocs are developing a version of mass spectrometry which promises to allow single microbial cells, and their interactions with other species, to be studied under their natural conditions.


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Scientific discoveries often come from the most unlikely of places, and Dr Tracy Johnson’s work is no exception. Using a yeast system typically used to make beer or bread, Dr Johnson and her team at UCLA have uncovered important genetic findings that could highlight the importance of intron retention during gene expression. Her research looks at the science of gene expression, investigating the way in which cells synthesise, splice, and process RNA to generate the key proteins that regulate how we, as humans, continue to function.

When you think of the human body, you probably think of the bones, organs…

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