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By Chris Neill

Logan Science Journalism fellows Codi Kozacek (left), Susan Phillips and Nick Clark help Baltimore Ecosystems Study research assistant Heather Goodman collect water from trash in an abandoned lot in inner Baltimore. Tiny amounts of water in trash serve as breeding habitat for mosquitoes. The BES studies the relationship between income levels, urban habitat and the composition and abundance of urban mosquito communities. Credit: Chris Neill

MBL Logan Science Journalism Environmental fellows Codi Kozacek (left), Susan Phillips and Nick Clark help Baltimore Ecosystems Study research assistant Heather Goodman collect water from trash in an abandoned lot in inner Baltimore. Tiny amounts of water in trash serve as breeding habitat for mosquitoes. The BES studies the relationship between income levels, urban habitat and the composition and abundance of urban mosquito communities. Credit: Chris Neill

In urban West Baltimore, the mosquito Aedes albopictus is an increasing nuisance. Another species, Culex pipiens, is an important vector for West Nile virus. Both species are more common in low-income neighborhoods because they breed in ephemeral standing water created by trash, such as plastic cups and old tires.

Six MBL Logan Science Journalism Program (SJP) Environmental Fellows, led by Baltimore Ecosystems Study (BES) scientist Shannon LaDeau and BES researcher Heather Goodman, sampled larval mosquitoes and surveyed mosquito habitats in two inner-city blocks in West Baltimore last week. Back in the laboratory, they identified mosquito species under dissecting microscopes.

The SJP Environmental Fellows ventured to inner-city Baltimore to participate in one of the world’s largest coordinated studies of urban ecosystems. The BES is one of the National Science Foundation’s 26 Long-Term Ecological Research (LTER) projects.

The Baltimore Ecosystems Study examines how the human-built ecosystem of a large U.S. city influences ecological process such as nutrient flows in watersheds and plant species composition along gradients from the inner city to outlying “exurbs,” and how peoples’ attitudes to green space and other ecological features shape the structure of city neighborhoods.

The Environmental Fellows spent two days with BES scientists. They also collected water samples from streams running from the inner city to an outlying area with Peter Groffman, and from storm-water detention ponds managed in different ways by neighborhood associations with Chris Swan.

The Logan Science Journalism Program’s Environmental Hands-On Research Course is led by MBL Ecosystems Center Director Chris Neill and Ecosystems Center Senior Research Assistant Richard McHorney. The Environmental Fellows are joining the SJP Biomedical Fellows at the MBL this week to complete their fellowship in Woods Hole.

Carlo Bocconcelli, a senior at Falmouth Academy and student researcher working in the lab of MBL scientist Joel Smith under the guidance of postdoctoral associate Sarah Tulin, won second place in the Intel International Science Fair Competition, held last week in Los Angeles. Carlo’s project involved developing a method for detecting regulatory regions in the sea urchin genome which produced promising results the lab intends to submit for publication this summer. Carlo will be joining Harvard’s freshman class this coming fall. Congratulations, Carlo!

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Jerry Melillo, distinguished scientist at the MBL's Ecosystems Center, leads a panel discussion of the National Climate Assessment yesterday at the White House. Melillo is chairman of the advisory committee that prepared the assessment for interagency U.S. Global Change Research Program. Screen shot by Gina Hebert.

Jerry Melillo, Distinguished Scientist at the MBL’s Ecosystems Center, leads a panel discussion of the National Climate Assessment yesterday at the White House. Melillo is chairman of the National Climate Assessment and Development Advisory Committee. Screen shot by Gina Hebert.

The major messages of the Third National Climate Assessment released yesterday — climate change is already here, its impacts are being felt in every U.S. region, it is caused by human activity, and it is not too late to take action — were discussed far and wide, in thousands of news articles and broadcasts across the nation. For scientists like the MBL’s Jerry Melillo who have spent decades documenting global climate change, this is a great leap forward. This White House infographic summarizes some of the major findings of the Assessment, and outlines national plans to prepare for climate change impacts, reduce carbon pollution, and lead international efforts to address global climate change. Melillo is chairman of the federal advisory committee that prepared the assessment for the interagency U.S. Global Change Research Program.

 

We congratulate the following members of the MBL community who were recently elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences class of 2014.  One of the nation’s most prestigious honorary societies, the Academy is also a leading center for independent policy research.

Members contribute to Academy publications and studies of science and technology policy, energy and global security, social policy and American institutions, and the humanities, arts, and education.

  • Kenneth A. Dill, Stony Brook University, alumnus, Physiology
  • Leslie Anne Leinwand, University of Colorado, Boulder, MBL Society Member; former faculty, Physiology
  • Claudio Daniel Stern, University College London, former faculty, Embryology; former lecturer, Embryology
  • Dora E. Angelaki, Baylor College of Medicine, former lecturer, Neural Systems & Behavior
  • Bruce Palmer Bean, Harvard Medical School , former lecturer, Neurobiology, Methods in Computational Neuroscience
  • John Henry Richard Maunsell, University of Chicago, former faculty, Methods in Computational Neuroscience
  • David A. McCormick, Yale University School of Medicine, former faculty/lecturer, Methods in Computational Neuroscience
  • Larry James Young, Emory University, former lecturer, Neural Systems & Behavior
  • Graham A.C. Bell, McGill University, former faculty, X-Microbiology

The Academy also elected 26 members with UChicago ties, including eight faculty members and three trustees.

Read more about the Academy’s new class here.

 

Pedestrians in Edinburgh, Scotland, have been treated to a springtime display of giant photos of “glowing” or bioluminescent animals, including images of the jellyfish Aequorea aequorea captured by MBL Distinguished Scientist and 2008 Nobel Laureate Osamu Shimomura (panel behind girl on bike).

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The display, called “Living Lights,” was part of the 2014 Edinburgh International Science Festival and this week is moving to another venue in Edinburgh, Our Dynamic Earth, where it will remain through October.

Shimomura took these photos of Aequorea in 1961, when he was a young chemist at Princeton University asking, “What makes the jellyfish glow?” He captured thousands of jellyfish from the waters off Friday Harbor, Washington, and painstakingly searched for their bioluminescence molecule. The two photos on top (below) and at the one at bottom left he took in daylight, shooting directly into the clear Friday Harbor water, using a Nikon F camera and 50 mm lens. Shimomura brought one jellyfish into a darkroom and exposed it to fresh water to trigger its luminescence, allowing him to capture the phenomena on camera (bottom right).

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Shimomura did find and isolate the jellyfish’s bioluminescence protein—which he called “aequorin” –that year, and in the process he also discovered a fluorescent jellyfish protein that he called “green protein.”

Years later, in 1994, Martin Chalfie of Columbia University discovered that the jellyfish’s green fluorescent protein (GFP) could be an extremely useful tool for lighting up microscopic cells and their parts for study. GFP and other fluorescent proteins are now used in biomedical research worldwide, and they have been crucial in illuminating many processes that were previously invisible, such as the development of nerve cells or the spread of cancer. Shimomura, Chalfie, and Roger Tsien of University of California, San Diego, were awarded the 2008 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for their contributions to GFP’s discovery and applications.

The "Living Lights" photo exhibit of bioluminescent organisms in front of the Scottish National Gallery, Edinburgh.

The “Living Lights” photo exhibit of bioluminescent organisms in front of the Scottish National Gallery, Edinburgh, Spring 2014.

 

MBL Distinguished Scientist Osamu Shimomura at Friday Harbor, Washington, in 2003. Photo by Martin Chalfie

MBL Distinguished Scientist Osamu Shimomura at Friday Harbor, Washington, in 2003. Photo by Martin Chalfie

 

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