Department of Biology News

Is grEen the new flying car?

June 16, 2017 - What inspires our work? Why have we each chosen to pursue a vision of cities that incorporates and expands our views of nature? Was it a particular mentor, a class or school experience, time spent in wilderness, or a book or film that led us to think boldly about a green future for cities? See Nature of Cities Story...

Wasting water through overwatering

March 24, 2017 - In summer 2010, Los Angeles was losing about 100 gallons of water per person per day to the atmosphere through the evaporation and plant uptake of lawns and trees. Lawns accounted for 70 percent of the water loss, while trees accounted for 30 percent, according to a University of Utah study published in Water Resources Research. The water loss that Elizaveta Litvak and Diane Pataki of the Pataki Lab, measured is best described as “evapotranspiration,” a measurement that adds together the evaporation of water from soil and the release of water vapor, called transpiration, from plants. See NSF Story... See UNews Story...

Biology Professor publishes book

May 21, 2017 - It's a quiet Monday morning between terms, and Sylvia Torti casually, knowingly, points out birds as well as the ingenious hacks and inventions underlying the research in colleague Franz Goller's lab. Torti, dean of the U.'s Honors College, has spent years wandering through the university's biology labs, where she earned her Ph.D. in tropical biology in 1998. But instead of continuing to pursue tropical research, Torti, turned her curiosity to storytelling. And in the ongoing songbird research conducted in Goller's lab, she found fictional riches: It's the setting for "Cages," her new novel about language, communication and loss, as well as the complications of scientific ambition and the human urge to connect. See Trib Story...

2017 GSA President's Medal Awarded to Dr. Thure Cerling

May 16, 2017 - Congratulations to Dr. Thure Cerling who has been awarded the 2017 President's Medal of the Geological Society of America. This award, commissioned in 2007, is conferred only on individuals, groups, or entities whose GSA President's Medalimpact has profoundly enhanced the geoscience profession through: (a) supporting and contributing to the Society; (b) advancing geosciences, enhancing professional growth, and/or promoting geosciences in service of humankind; or (c) significantly enlarging the range of scientific achievement for the growth of our profession.

Endangered Species Day

May 15, 2017 - For Endangered Species Day, we celebrate the many University of Utah scientists who research endangered, threatened or vulnerable plants, animals and ecosystems in the United States and around the world. Phyllis Coley and Tom Kursar of the Coley/Kursar Lab on rainforest ecology, Dale Clayton and Sarah Bush of the Clayton/Bush Lab on invasive species in the Galapagos Islands, Jack Longino of the Longino Lab on ant ecology, Çağan Şekercioğlu of the Şekercioğlu lab on avian ecology. See Full Story...

The Making of a Friendly Microbe

May 10, 2017 - One day in October 2010, a volunteer firefighter named Thomas Fritz cut down a crab apple tree outside his house, and impaled his hand on one of the branches. His doctor gave him a course of antibiotics and sent fluid from the wound to the University of Utah for analysis. The technicians there tested the microbes in the fluid, and found that their DNA was a close match to a bacterium called Sodalis. By coincidence, the man who discovered SodalisColin Dale—was working at the university. Dale didn’t buy the results. He had only ever seen Sodalis in the cells of insects, and he assumed that it was permanently dependent on these animal hosts. After all, it lacked many of the genes that it would need to live independently. It couldn't possibly survive on its own, much less lurk on a tree branch, or successfully infect a firefighter’s hand. But the DNA wasn’t lying. The bacterium that had infected Fritz was a version of Sodalis, but a free-living one with a bigger, self-sufficient genome. Dale called it Sodalis praecaptivus—“Sodalis before captivity.”  See Full Story...

U biologists researching non opioid pain relief

May 4, 2017 - Scientists at the University of Utah say a better solution to pain than opiods may lie in a tank. Sean Christensen, a research specialist at the U. said, "The big guy in the sand here we named after the lounge singer Don Ho from Hawaii, but we call him Donny for short." Dr. Michael McIntosh with the University of Utah said, "They're called conus or cone snails, and they've been collected for centuries because of the beauty of their shells. But what we've found is that they're also beautiful on the inside as well." The same components the snail uses in its venom to capture fish can stop pain. "We purify those components, study them individually, chemically synthesize," McIntosh said. It's working in lab rats with no known side effects and is nonaddictive, unlike opioids. Studies indicate if the compound is given at the time of injury, it helps nerves regenerate preventing chronic pain. See Full Story...

Reading the genetic code triplet of triplets

April 17, 2017— The so-called central dogma of molecular biology states the process for turning genetic information into proteins that cells can use. “DNA makes RNA,” the dogma says, “and RNA makes protein.” Each protein is made of a series of amino acids, and each amino acid is coded for by sets of “triplets,” which are sets of three informational DNA units, in the genetic code. University of Utah biologists Fabienne Chevance and Kelly Hughes now suggest that connecting amino acids to make proteins in ribosomes, the cell’s protein factories, may in fact be influenced by sets of three triplets – a “triplet of triplets” that provide crucial context for the ribosome. Their results are published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

How nature engineered the original rotary motor

April 14, 2017— The bacterial flagellum is one of nature’s smallest motors, rotating at up to 60,000 revolutions per minute. To function properly and propel the bacterium, the flagellum requires all of its components to fit together to exacting measurements. In a study published today in Science, University of Utah researchers report the eludication of a mechanism that regulates the length of the flagellum’s 25 nanometer driveshaft-like rod and answers a long-standing question about how cells are held together. Dr. Kelly Hughes’ graduate student Eli Cohen pursued the question of rod length control in Salmonella enterica using genetic tools. See Full Story...

"Badger buries cow" paper led by U undergrad goes viral

April 4, 2017 - While studying scavenger ecology in the Utah Desert, Ph.D. student Evan Buechley in the Şekercioğlu lab lab discovered camera trap photos of badgers burying the cow carcasses he left out for his experiment. The paper led by U senior Ethan Frehner and the video created by U senior Tara Christensen have gone viral and became a "Twitter moment". Evan, Ethan and Tara have been interviewed by Science, National Geographic, New York Times, NPR, USA Today and Newsweek. With 1 million views in 5 days, it became the U's most watched video and the National Geographic video has been viewed millions of times.

 

Distinguished Creative and Scholarly Research Award

March 7, 2017 - Dr. Kelly Hughes has been awarded a Distinguished Creative and Scholarly Research Award. The Distinguished Scholarly and Creative Research Awards were established as a means of recognizing University of Utah tenure track faculty members in all disciplines who have made significant scholarly contributions to their fields. No more than three awards are made for the following academic year and consists of a grant to pursue research or creative pursuits. Selection is made on the basis of the significance and quality of research or creative achievements. The award recognizes lifelong accomplishments by considering the extent to which they represent a major breakthrough or advance in the field, are intellectually distinctive or creative, and contribute to improvement and enrichment in the human condition. Recognition of one’s work by experts of national and international reputation is an indicator of its importance. Congratulations!

Rain Forest Tree Communities Across the Amazon Basin

Feb. 21, 2017 - Drs. Coley and Kursar of the Coley/Kursar Lab are receiving recognition for their work with rain forest ecosystems published in a current PNAS article. The rich diversity of trees in the Amazon could be the result of widespread dispersal over geological time, a study has suggested. Although the vast tropical area is now divided into regions, scientists suggest these areas did not evolve in isolation from one another. Modern fragmentation could be damaging the process that made the Amazon so important for plant biodiversity. The findings appear in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. See PNAS Article... See BBC Coverage...

Biology Coordinator Recognized by Career Services

April 11, 2017 - Amy Sibul, Coordinator for the Biology Department Community Engaged Learning and Intership program has received recognition by the U's Career Services. The Career Services Faculty Recognition Program was designed in an effort to recognize faculty members who are contributing to students’ career development and exploration. With a campus of over 31,000 students, we recognize that our career coaching staff of 10 cannot possibly meet with every single one of these students multiple times, and for the majority of students, career conversations are not a one-time occurrence.

U Biology Student alternate for Fulbright award

April 4, 2017 - Four University of Utah students are either finalists or alternates for a prestigious Fulbright scholarship. Students will travel across the globe to teach English or conduct research. Tuscan Thompson, a Biology major ,has received the Fulbright Award. Tuscan will teach English in South Korea.

Biology Instructor wins LDSSA award

April 4, 2017 - Dr. Renee Dawson has been selected by The Salt Lake University Institute of Religion and the Latter-day Saint Student Association (LDSSA) congratulate as the recipient of the 2016-17 Excellence in Education Award.

U professor featured in National Geographic

March 22, 2017 - It has long been known that radioactive isotopes in the atmosphere have made carbon dating of all kinds of materials possible. The method is now being used to help fight the illegal trade in elephant ivory. Thure Cerling, a University of Utah professor of biology, geology, and geophysics, and colleagues, published a study in late 2016 that demonstrates how radiocarbon dating, combined with genetic analysis of elephant tusks, can yield valuable clues as to when and where elephants are being poached. See Full Story...

Biology Student selected as STEM Advocate

March 22, 2017 - A biology student, Lane Mulvey of the Phadnis lab has been selected and featured in the “Student innovation @ the U” 2017 as a STEM advocate. Read it here: STEM Advocate
Read entire report here: Student Innovation

Congratulations College of Science

Jan. 19, 2017 - Congratulations to the College of Science winners of the Governor's Medal for Science and Technology. See Full Story...

 

 

Biology Professor receives Blavatnik award

Nov. 28, 2016 – The Blavatnik Family Foundation and the New York Academy of Sciences announced the three winners of the 2016 Blavatnik Regional Awards at their annual gala. The winners include a U of U ecologist, Dr. Bill Anderegg, who has advanced our understanding of how forest ecosystems recover or die during drought; a physical chemist who studies electron transport in solar energy capture and conversion; and a condensed matter physicist who has provided theoretical guidance to experiments that have led to the direct observation of Majorana fermions. See Full Story... See YouTube video... 2016 Blavatnik Awards Gala...

Biology professor receives grant for smart helmet

Nov. 28, 2016 - Dr. David Carrier has received an NSF gran tin collaboration with Mechanical Engineering. The goal of the project is to reduce the risk of Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) through smart technology that collects sensory data to predict and characterize impacts in real-time, optimizes protective mechanisms based on impact characteristics (e.g., direction, velocity), and transmits final impact attributes to a database for further analysis and injury risk prediction. The core research team includes: Mark Minor and co-investigators David Carrier, Brittany Coats, Andrew Merryweather and Neal Patwari. See Full Story...

Expanding Science's Reach

Nov. 9, 2016 - An after-school boxing club. A grocery store cooking class. A juvenile detention center. These likely aren’t the first venues that come to mind for scientists trying to bring their work to the public. For biology professor Nalini Nadkarni, however, the perfect venue is anywhere you can reach someone who hasn’t yet realized how much their life, interests, and experiences connect to science. Nadkarni has years of experience bringing science into faith communities, sports and even into the toy aisle. Recently, with the help of NASA and the National Science Foundation, she is expanding her efforts, training scientists in communication and public engagement, and expanding the horizons of prisoners, refugees and other underserved groups. See Full Story...

A songbirds travelogue

Oct. 26, 2016 - Biologists at the University of Utah recently used light-weight geolocation technology to follow a species of songbird on its 10,000-kilometer migration from the Middle East to sub-Saharan Africa. The study, published in The Condor: Ornithological Applications identified key regions of importance for the species and highlighted the lack of protection many of these regions receive. “Identifying areas important to a species is a critical component of conservation,” says graduate student and study first author Joshua Horns in professor Çağan Şekercioğlu's lab. “For migratory birds, like the Great Reed Warbler, this information can be difficult to obtain since the birds rely on multiple areas that can be separated by vast distances.” See Full Story...

2016 Beacons of Excellence

Oct 17, 2016 - Congratulations to Dr. David Temme on receiving a 2016 Beacons of Excellence Award. Dr. Temme seeks to truly transform learning by encouraging students to engage in critical, creative thinking. Temme helps teach his students how to learn instead of following the rote memorization typically attached to scientific instruction. He enriches his students’ lives by teaching them how to apply their newly gained biology knowledge to everyday life. In the words of one of his students, Temme “has flipped the idea of typical education on its head. He asks his students to do more than simply regurgitate information presented in class. He hopes they will be able to apply that knowledge to problem solving.”  See Full Story...

Beckerle's Cancer Moonshot

Oct. 7, 2016 - There's something about Utah's uncluttered landscape and expansive blue sky that gives Mary Beckerle a sense of mental space. It helps her think, she says, and fuels her desire to explore both mentally and physically. It's the reason the New Jersey native came to the Beehive State in the 1980s to teach at the University of Utah. Thirty years later, she's found herself in the Huntsman Cancer Institute's corner office as its CEO, with wall-to-wall windows overlooking the geography she loves so much. And recently, Beckerle, 62, was picked by Vice President Joe Biden to serve on a blue-ribbon panel as part of his campaign to cure cancer. See SL Trib Story...

Former grad in coley/kursar lab publishes book

Sept 29, 2016 - Georgia Sinimbu has published an e-book in collaboration with two Brazilian artists. It illustrates some of the knowledge she acquired during the PhD program at the University at Utah Coley/Kursar Lab in a language that everyone can understand. It is published in both Portuguese and English and available for free at Mutualism. Inspired by the challenge of demystifying science, the production of "Interactions: about ants and Amazonian plants" arose as an e-book distributed free of charged over the internet.

Renee Dawson receives Teaching Excellence Awar d

Sept. 22, 2016 - Dr. Renee Dawson has been awarded the College of Science's inaugural award for Teaching Excellence! This award recognizes accomplishments in challenging and stimulating the intellectual curiosity of our students. Renae has been teaching for the Department of Biology for 13 years and has always been an innovative and highly effective teacher. She has introduced thousands of students to the wonders of Biology in our main Introductory Biology class (Biology 1210), and she teaches our Human Genetics course, of great importance to many of our pre-professional students. She has made enormous contributions to the educational mission of the Biology Department and the University of Utah.

Why Birds Matter

September 7, 2016 - University of Utah ornithologist and biology department professor Çağan Şekercioğlu presents a new book, "Why Birds Matter," this week at the IUCN World Conservation Congress in Honolulu. Held every four years, this is the world's largest conservation event. Over 8300 delegates from 184 countries gathered for the meeting where President Obama made an appearance on Wednesday. Sekercioglu represents his Turkish environmental organization KuzeyDoga that was elected an IUCN Member this year with the support of National Geographic Society and Wildlife Conservation Society. See Full Story...

Ecology on the Runway

August 8, 2016 - University of Utah ecologist Nalini Nadkarni is no fashion mogul. But she is a scientist actively engaged in public outreach, working to bring the wonder and curiosity of the natural world to people, even those who may have no interest in natural history museums, nature documentaries or natural history magazines. Those people probably care about clothes, though. On Aug. 8, Nadkarni and 14 other ecologists put on an unconventional fashion show at the annual meeting of the Ecological Society of America (ESA) in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Each showcased a custom-made garment that artistically depicted his or her own field of research, the organism or environment to which they’d devoted their life and careers — their hearts on their sleeves. See Full Story...

Thure Cerling Named AGU Fellow

August 4, 2016 - Dr. Thure Cerling has been named a 2016 AGU Fellow. Since the American Geophysical Union (AGU) established its Fellows Program in 1962, the organization has elected outstanding members as Union Fellows. This special honor recognizes scientific eminence in the Earth and space sciences. It acknowledges Fellows for their remarkable contributions to their research fields, exceptional knowledge, and visionary leadership. Only 0.1% of AGU membership receives this recognition in any given year. See Full Story...

Nitin Phadnis on KUED

July 22, 2016 - Dr. Nitin Phadnis, who was recently named one of 22 Pew Scholars in the country, is an evolutionary biologist.  He has created a lab that combines genetics and microbiology…two disciplines that for years were considered separate.  He has been published in the most prestigious science magazines in the world, and recently solved a genetics puzzle that had been identified over 100 years ago.  He prides himself on his ability to address fundamental biological questions with novel approaches and current technology. “Science is an incredibly creative Endeavor,” says Phadnis.  “I am not sure it is as widely appreciated as it should be.” KUED Video Interview... See Full Story...

Capecchi Endowed Chair in Biology

July 21, 2016 - Sophie Caron has been appointed as the next Capecchi Endowed Chair in Biology. This chair was established to honor the U’s first Nobellaureate,MarioCapecchi, through a generous gift from the Eccles Foundation. Knowing Capecchi’s commitment and passion for supporting young scientists, whom Eccles described as “the Nobel winners of tomorrow,” the foundation directors decided to establish an endowed chair to help recruit and retain some of the best and brightest young researchers. 

 

U of U Presidential Award

July 15, 2016 - Congratulations to Dr. Michael Shapiro on being selected as a University of Utah Presidential Scholar. This is a relatively new award given by the Vice President of Academic Affairs with funding from an anonymous donor to recognize excellence and achievement of mid-career faculty. Each college is permitted a single nominee for this award with a total of four awards made across the University. Mike was selected from a cadre of exceptional nominees. Kudos on this prestigious recognition!

 

To save water, throw some shade

July 13, 2016 - How much water does your lawn really need?  A University of Utah study re-evaluated lawn watering recommendations by measuring water use by lawns in Los Angeles. “The current method of estimating water use is very arbitrary,” says postdoctoral scholar Elizaveta Litvak, first author on the new study, published today in the Journal of Arid Environments. “And there has been no scientific ground for more precise recommendations.” Although turfgrass is the largest irrigated crop in the U.S., researchers aren’t certain how the ET model holds up in the fragmented urban landscape. Tall water vapor flux towers are not the answer. “You can’t use that method in urban lawns because they’re too small,” says U biology professor Diane Pataki. See Full Story... KSL Audio Interview...

World's First migratory brown Bears discovered

June 24, 2016 - University of Utah biologists working in Turkey discovered two surprising facts about a group of 16 brown bears: First, six of the bears seasonally migrated between feeding and breeding sites, the first known brown bears to do so. Second, and more sobering, the other 10 bears stayed in one spot all year long: the city dump. “Bears are an incredible species that can adapt to many different environments,” says graduate student Mark Chynoweth, a member of the research team along with U biologist Çağan Şekercioğlu and colleagues from Switzerland, Croatia and Turkey. Their work is published today in the Journal of Zoology. See Full Story...

Book Announcement

May 26, 2016 - Sylvia Torti, Sylvia Torti has won the third annual Nicholas Schaffner Award for Music in Literature, and her novel Cages will be published by Schaffner Press in 2017. "Cages reminds me of the novels of Richard Powers in its mix of real science and real people grappling with issues like the ethics of experimentation," said publisher Timothy Schaffner. "The novel brings up fascinating and important questions about the source of memory, and whether it can be located in the human brain." Sylvia's first novel, The Scorpion's Tail won the 2005 Miguel Mármol Prize.

Biology blitz

May 4, 2016 - The Biology Department pulled a “hat trick” this year, winning all three University of Utah Disintinguished awards. Dr. Leslie Sieburth received the Distinguished Teaching Award, Dr. Baldomero Olivera received the Distinguished Innovation & Impact Award and Dr. Dale Clayton received the Distinguished Scholarly and Creative Research Award. Dr. James Ehleringer was elected to the National Academy of Science and received the Rosenblatt Prize. Dr. Çağan Şekercioğlu was named Ashoka Environment Fellow and Sabanci Foundation Changemaker. The award announcement for Dr. Nitin Phadnis is currently embargoed.

Why Vultures Matter

May 5, 2016 - Vultures. Cartoon characters in parched deserts often wish them to disappear, since circling vultures are a stereotypical harbinger of death. But, joking aside, vultures in some parts of the world are in danger of disappearing. And according to a new report from University of Utah biologists, Evan Buechley and Çağan Şekercioğlu, such a loss would have serious consequences for ecosystems and human populations alike.The primary threat to vultures, according to the report published today in Biological Conservation, is the presence of toxins in the carrion they consume. Populations of most vulture species around the world are now either declining or on the brink of extinction. See Full Story...

Biology professor wins Rosenblatt

May 5, 2016 - Jim Ehleringer has received the Rosenblatt Prize for Excellence, the University’s highest honor. This endowed award is given annually to one member of the faculty of the University of Utah to honor excellence in teaching, research and administrative efforts. Jim is the embodiment of this award with significant contributions in all three of these areas. Please join me in congratulating Jim once again this week for his numerous and creative contributions to the university, and especially our department!

biology professor wins Creative Research award

April 26, 2016 - Dr. Dale Clayton, an expert in host-parasite coevolution, has received the Distinguished Scholarly and Creative Research Award. This award was established as a means of recognizing University of Utah faculty who have made significant scholarly contributions to their fields. Selection is made on the basis of the significance and quality of research or creative achievements and recognizes lifelong accomplishments by considering the extent to which they represent a major breakthrough or advance in the field, are intellectually distinctive or creative, and contribute to improvement and enrichment in the human condition.

Which trees risk death

April 18, 2016 - Drought left 225 million trees dead in the U.S. Southwest in 2002. Nine years later, it killed 300 million trees in Texas. This past year, 12 million trees died in California. Throughout the world, large numbers of trees are dying in extreme heat and drought. Such mass die-offs can have critical consequences for the future of forests and Earth's climate. On Earth Week, scientists are trying to understand how a warming climate could affect how often tree mortality events occur -- and how severe they could become. A University of Utah biologist may be able to help. William Anderegg and his colleagues looked for patterns in previous studies of tree mortality and found some common traits that characterized which species lived and which died during drought. The results, published today in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), can help chart the future of forests. See Full Story... More Coverage...

Biology professor receives award

April 19, 2016 - Distinguished Professor Baldomero Olivera has been selected to receive the U's Distinguished Innovation and Impact Award. The Distinguished Innovation and Impact Awards were established to recognize University of Utah tenure-track faculty members in all disciplines whose innovations have demonstrated impact beyond academia and have improved the lives of ordinary citizens. Congratulations to Dr. Olivera.

Biota Web series at the leonardo

The premier of the first episode of a science documentary web series BIOTA at The Leonardo is April 29th from 7:30 - 8:30pm. This science documentary web series features a former U Biology, Chemistry, and Environmental & Sustainability Studies alumni, Sabah Ul-Hasan. Sabah is currently a Ph.D. and Eugene Cota-Robles Fellow in Quantitative and Systems Biology at the University of California, Merced.

Broad diet helps birds in fast-changing world

April 8, 2016 - In 2000, biology professor Çağan Şekercioğlu began building a global database of bird traits that now contains 1.4 million entries covering all known bird species. The database is a rich and versatile resource for biologists. The latest study to draw on Şekercioğlu's database, “Omnivory in birds is a macroevolutionary sink”, was published Thursday in Nature Communications and examines the role of how birds’ diets affect how new species arise and how others fall to extinction. In a stable environment, being a jack-of-all foods is risky. Omnivorous birds lose out to birds with specialized diets, hence omnivory is generally associated with higher extinction risk and fewer new species. In our human-affected world with disappearing habitats and a changing climate, however, having a broad diet is an advantage and helps omnivorous birds survive while specialists face extinction. Şekercioğlu, a co-author on the paper, is available to discuss the work’s results and implications. See Full Story...

New species of Ethiopian Viper

March 28, 2016 - While driving through Ethiopia’s Bale Mountains National Park in 2013, graduate student Evan Buechley of the University of Utah, and his colleagues, spotted a black-colored snake with pale-yellowish markings. The driver stopped the vehicle, and the team photographed the one-meter long snake. To date, these are the only known photographs of what scientists say could be a new species of venomous Bitis viper. Now, in a study published in Zootaxa, researchers have confirmed that the snake is most likely a novel species of Bitis viper. See Full Story...

Pigeon Foot feather Genes identified

University of Utah scientists identified two genes that make some pigeon breeds develop feathered feet known as muffs, while others have scaled feet. The same or similar genes might explain scaled feet in chickens and other birds, and provide insight into how some dinosaurs got feathers before they evolved into birds. The study found that in pigeons with feathers on their hindlimbs or feet, a hindlimb-development gene named Pitx1 is less active than normal, while a forelimb-development gene named Tbx5 is active in the feet, where it normally is not. In other words, “pigeons’ fancy feathered feet are partially wings,” says biologist Dr. Michael Shapiro, senior author of the study published today by the journal eLife. See Full Story...

Nurturing nature’s habitat on campus

Feb. 9, 2016 - We may have forgotten that the University of Utah campus is an ecosystem, an environment for student learning to take place and a habitat for other species to live and thrive. A small group of students are paying attention to the latter issue by working to increase the kestrel populations on campus and learn more about the species’ natural history. Colter Dye, a biology student at the U, is at the forefront of this initiative. He says the idea hatched after taking a biology class last spring. “I hope that the University of Utah will serve as a model for other colleges, on how to integrate campus wildlife research and habitat preservation into grounds activities,” says Amy Sibul of the Biology Department's Community Engaged Learning. If you’re interested in getting involved, contact Sibul or attend the next Wildlife Society meeting. The Wildlife Society meets on the first and third Thursday of each month at 3:30 in ASB 304 and is open to students, staff, and faculty from all departments. See Full Story...

U Biologist wins Eppendorf Prize

Feb. 5, 2016 - Dr. Shigeki Watanabe of the Jorgensen lab has been awarded the 2015 Eppendorf and Science Grand Prize for Neurobiology. This prize acknowledges the increasingly active and important role of neurobiology in advancing our understanding of the functioning of the brain and the nervous system -- a quest that seems destined for dramatic expansion in the coming decades. This international prize, established in 2002, encourages the work of promising young neurobiologists by providing support in the early stages of their careers. It is awarded annually for the most outstanding neurobiological research based on methods of molecular and cell biology by a young scientist. See Science Story... See Science Video...

Dead or Alive-infrared cameras and beehives

Feb. 3, 2016 - The U of U Dept. of Biology, headed by Amy Sibul, using a grant from the Sustainable Campus Initiative Fund, has loaned the Utah Dept. of Agriculture and Food an infrared camera that allows inspectors to “see” into hives without opening the hives, which may expose living bees to freezing temperatures. The FLIR camera detects heat signatures in the hive. If the hive has a strong heat signature they will leave it alone. The infrared camera winter beehive health inspection program is among the first of its kind nationally and one of many free services available to registered beekeepers to help them better manage their colonies. "Some people imagine either that (bees) freeze and then thaw out in the winter or that they hibernate, but the bees are actually awake and alive through the winter and they stay in a cluster," said bee inspector Stephen Stanko in a Utah Agriculture video See KSL Story... See Demonstration Flyer...

What a moth's nose knows

Jan. 27, 2016 - Moths sniff out others of their own species using specific pheromone blends. So if you transplant an antenna – the nose, essentially – from one species to another, which blend of pheromones does the moth respond to? The donor species’, or the recipients’? The answer is neither. Moths with transplanted antennae responded instead to a similar yet novel pheromone blend not naturally produced by either species, according to University of Utah research published online Jan. 27 in PLOS ONE. The result, says biology professor Neil Vickers, reveals how the brain depends on the senses to construct an impression of reality, and how changing the sensory hardware can cause the moths’ brains to be fooled. See Full Story...

Biology Professor wins Distinguished Teaching Award

Jan. 21, 2016 - Dr. Leslie Sieburth has received the UofU Distinguished Teaching Award for 2016. The University Distinguished Teaching Award honors significant contributions to the teaching mission of the University of Utah. The awardee has maintained a consistent record of outstanding teaching performance and has implemented effective and innovative teaching methods which demonstrate exceptional abilities to motivate student learning and shows a concern for students and their wider education as well as their career preparation and also contributes to the educational process outside of the classroom. 

Poison Warmed over

Jan. 21, 2016 - UofU Dearing Lab experiments found that when temperatures get warmer, woodrats suffer a reduced ability to live on their normal diet of toxic creosote – suggesting that global warming may hurt plant-eating animals.  “This study adds to our understanding of how climate change may affect mammals, in that their ability to consume dietary toxins is impaired by warmer temperatures,” says biologist Denise Dearing , senior author of the research published online Jan. 13 in the British journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B.  “This phenomenon will result in animals changing their diets and reducing the amount of plant material they eat, relocating to cooler habitats or going extinct in local areas,” says Dearing, a distinguished professor and chair of biology at the University of Utah, and Patrice Kurnath, a doctoral student in biology.  See PRS-B Article... See Full Story...

21st century explorers series

Feb. 25, 2016 - Dr. Phyllis Coley will be lecturing at the 2016 NHMU Lecture Series: Biodiversity in the Rainforest - The Hidden World of Nature’s Toxins. Every year, Dr. Coley spends months exploring the world’s rainforests, searching the jungle for tropical plants and insects that have been co-evolving for millions of years. Although jungle plants have deployed a stunning array of chemical defenses to protect themselves from their herbivorous predators, their predators have deployed an equally stunning array of counter defenses, in effect, creating an arms race between plants and insects. Coley’s research has led her to propose that these interactions not only help explain the high local diversity of rainforests, but why there are so many species of plants and insects to begin with. She has used her discoveries to promote a drug discovery program to find medicines in rainforests and promote conservation. See Details...

Biology Professor Ashoka Fellow

Dec. 28, 2015 - Cagan Sekercioglu has been elected an Ashoka Environment Fellow and Sabanci Foundation Changemaker for his ecological research and community-based biodiversity conservation work in Turkey. See Full Story... Ashoka YouTube... Sabanci YouTube...

 

Threat to darwin's finches

Dec. 18, 2015 - Finches in the Galapagos Islands are being threatened by a parasitic fly that attacks their young. A new mathematical model based on five years of data collected by Koop, Clayton and colleagues suggests that the birds may succumb to this pest in 50 years. “Darwin’s finches are one of the best examples we have of speciation,” says the new study’s first author, Jennifer Koop, who did the research as a U of U doctoral student and now is an assistant professor at UMass Dartmouth. The finches are threatened by a nest fly. "They are maggots basically, is what they are," said Dale Clayton, U of U biology professor. See Full Story... See BBC Story... See MentalFloss Story...

Gene for new species discovered

Dec. 17, 2015 – A University of Utah-led study identified a long-sought “hybrid inviability gene” responsible for dead or infertile offspring when two species of fruit flies mate with each other. The discovery sheds light on the genetic and molecular process leading to formation of new species, and may provide clues to how cancer develops. “We knew for decades that something like this gene ought to exist, and our approach finally allowed us to identify it,” says biologist Nitin Phadnis, principal author of the study published today in the journal Science. See Full Story...

Science behind bars

Nov. 30, 2015 - A program to bring science behind bars is flourishing at the Salt Lake County Jail. Inmates are learning lessons that will improve their lives and reduce crime.  On a chilly fall afternoon, Celeste Henrickson, the project manager for the University of Utah's Initiative to Bring Science Programs to the Incarcerated (INSPIRE), is helping a small group of jail inmates learn how to string a fish trap.  It is what University of Utah biologist Nalini Nadkarni calls the healing power of nature.  "It seemed to me that if there were any population that really needed exposure to nature, to nurturing wild things, it would be people who are incarcerated," says Nadkarni. See Full Story...

Biology Professor wins award

Dec 3, 2015 - Nalini Nadkarni has received The William Julius Wilson Award for the Advancement of Social Justice. She is a world-renowned forest ecologist who works to bring science and job training to prisons. Her innovative efforts promote social inclusiveness of prisoners and reduce post-prison joblessness. “One of the most pressing problems facing society today is the increasing distance between humans and nature,” Nadkarni says. “Another issue—seemingly unrelated—is the failure of our system of incarceration to provide inmates with the education and experiences they need to become useful citizens after release.” See Full Story...

Dead Men Punching

Oct 21, 2015 - University of Utah biologists used cadaver arms to punch and slap padded dumbbells in experiments supporting a hotly debated theory that our hands evolved not only for manual dexterity, but also so males could fistfight over females.  “The idea that aggressive behavior played a role in the evolution of the human hand is controversial,” says biology professor David Carrier, senior author of the study published online Oct. 21 in the Journal of Experimental Biology. “Many skeptics suggest that the human fist is simply a coincidence of natural selection for improved manual dexterity. That may be true, but if it is a coincidence, it is unfortunate.”  “As an alternative, we suggest that the hand proportions that allow the formation of a fist may tell us something important about our evolutionary history and who we are as a species,” Carrier adds. See Full Story...

Sugar Rush Panel at the Leonardo

Oct. 29, 2015 - Dr. James Ruff, PD in the Potts Lab will participate on a panel at The Leonardo November 12, 2015. Sugar, or some form of it, is in just about everything we eat. Americans consume about 19 teaspoons of sugar per day. Couple that with all the health problems that come from over consumption of sugar, like diabetes and obesity, and it’s easy to see why sugar gets a bad rap. Cutting out sugar entirely isn’t the best course of action either. Join a panel of experts for the November installment of Leo After Hours where you will dive into the good and bad of America’s favorite sweetener.. RSVP...

Competing mice reveal genetic defects

Sept. 30, 2015 - In recent years, University of Utah biologists showed that when wild-type mice compete in seminatural “mouse barns” for food, territory and mates, they can suffer health problems not revealed by conventional toxicity tests on caged lab mice. The new research shows that genes once thought to be redundant actually play distinct roles. The mouse barn test provides scientists a tool to find out what a change in a gene does to change how an organism functions, says biology professor Wayne Potts , senior author of the study scheduled for online publication Oct. 7 in the journal Genetics.  Biology postdoctoral fellow James Ruff, the study’s first author, says: “Much of biology for several decades has focused on reducing life to its component molecular parts to better understand the whole. We have done the opposite. We assessed the performance of the whole organism in a natural environment to illustrate the function of a gene.” See Full Story... See NSF360 Story...

Watanabe wins Eppendorf

Sept. 27, 2015 - Shigeki Watanabe, a Post Doc with the Jorgensen Lab, is the 2015 grand prize winner in the annual international competition for The Eppendorf & Science Prize for Neurobiology. Watanabe is recognized for the development of a new ultrafast technique that will allow neuroscientists to visualize nerve cell activity on a rapid time scale. See AAAS Story...

Pigeons teach evolution theory

Sept 19, 2015 - Domesticated pigeons are spectacularly diverse. Pigeon breeders have created over 350 breeds with dozens of extravagant features like fancy crests, feathered feet, fantails, and frillbacks. These abundant variations enable scientists to explore how evolution works. Pigeons was developed by the Natural History Museum of Utah in collaboration with the laboratory of Dr. Michael Shapiro at the University of Utah and with the support of the National Science Foundation. See NHMU Posting... See SLTrib Story...

Evolution of Walking

Sept. 9, 2015 - Researchers have found that as we walk, our nervous systems do real-time calculations to figure out which step length and speed expend the least amount of energy. We evolved to walk as efficiently as possible as a survival strategy, says David Carrier, a professor in the biology department at the University of Utah. "It makes sense to be lazy," Carrier says. "If you're not sure there's going to be food a week from now, you don't want to be wasting any energy." See Full Story...

Tenure Track Position

Biodiversity, the richness of life on Earth, past and present, is declining at unprecedented rates, accelerated by human activity. The need for outstanding research and broad-reaching public education related to biodiversity and its preservation is urgent. The University of Utah is establishing a faculty cluster where biodiversity research is combined with learning research for a novel interdisciplinary emphasis that strongly supports the University’s commitment to sustainability. Each faculty position will be jointly hired between the Natural History Museum of Utah and any of the following departments/institutes participating in the cluster: Anthropology, Biology, etc. Application.

Molecular Medicine PD Fellow Position

A postdoctoral scientist is needed to study how small GTPases that control intracellular trafficking can regulate classic cancer signaling pathways. Use a variety of approaches and tools including genetic, biologic, and small molecules to manipulate these pathways both in vitro and in vivo. Application

Drought’s lasting impact on forests

July 30, 2015 – In the virtual worlds of climate modeling, forests and other William Andereggvegetation are assumed to bounce back quickly from extreme drought. But that assumption is far off the mark, according to a new study of drought impacts at forest sites worldwide. Living trees took an average of two to four years to recover and resume normal growth rates after droughts ended, researchers report today in the journal Science.“This really matters because in the future droughts are expected to increase in frequency and severity due to climate change,” says lead author William R.L. Anderegg, an assistant professor of biology at the University of Utah. “Some forests could be in a race to recover before the next drought strikes.” See U Press Release... See Full Science article...

WINGED SENTINELS OF THE FUTURE

The migratory journey is a dangerous and difficult and songbirds need good Cagan Sekerciogluquality stop over and refueling sites along the way.  But climate change is affecting many of the diverse habitats migratory birds depend on. Çağan Şekercioğlu is concerned that climate induced change increases the chance that migrants will be negatively affected at some stage of the annual cycle. By the end of this century, 25 percent of all bird species may be extinct. Dr. Şekercioğlu's ornithological research on bird population biology, community ecology at Aras River wetlands of eastern Turkey and effects of climate change on songbirds has been featured in a major new documentary on songbirds. See information about The MESSENGER a cinematic full length film.

Climate-vulnerable pikas may be resilient to wildfire

July 23, 2015 - As the West transforms into a tinderbox defined by hotter Pikasummers and drier winters, we Homo sapiens will have to rethink our relationship with fire. But how will other animals weather our fire-prone future? Research suggests that at least one species is well prepared to survive the flames — and it’s probably not the creature you would expect.  The new study, published last month in the International Journal of Wildland Fire, comes courtesy of Johanna Varner, a recent Ph.D. graduate from the University of Utah working in the Dearing Lab. Pikas, an adorable, baseball-sized relative of the rabbit, have a notoriously poor tolerance for heat; as a result, they’re widely considered among the species most susceptible to climate change. See Full Story...

DOVES SHARE PIGEON GENE FOR HEAD CRESTS

June 23, 2015 – The same gene that creates elaborate head crests in domestic Crestsrock pigeons also makes head and neck feathers grow up instead of down in domesticated doves to give them head crests, although theirs are much simpler and caused by a different mutation, University of Utah researchers found. Unlike pigeons, which can have any of four kinds head crests – peaks, manes, shells and hoods -- the ringneck doves have only peak crests, which is the simplest form of head crest in pigeons. But the new study by biologist Michael Shapiro found that a different mutation of the gene that causes head crests in pigeons also does the same thing in doves. “This shows that different species use the same gene to similar effect.” See Full Story...

U’s conservation ecology lab

May 28, 2015—Utah is well-known for its breathtaking mountain landscape, Sekergioclu Labworld-class skiing and easy access to the great outdoors. University of Utah’s Biodiversity and Conservation Ecology lab, led by assistant professor Çağan Şekercioğlu, has created an avenue by which U students, and other community members alike can take further advantage of the state’s famed outdoors and face wildlife head-on through bird banding in Red Butte Canyon. The project is a good example of “citizen science” where regular people volunteer to help collect data and contribute to science through working with professional scientists. See Full Story...

U Biologist on SL Trib "I LOVE" Series

May 14, 2015 - A study conducted by Johanna Varner, a U biologist in the Pika-Dearing Lab Dearing lab, found that American pikas living in the Columbia River Gorge near Portland, Ore., have adapted to much lower elevations by eating nutrient-poor mosses that cover the boulder fields they live in near sea level. The moss also acts like a "swamp cooler" to keep the warm mammals cool.  See her story in the latest video in The Tribune's "I Love" video series, which features people with a passion.

 

Biology Professor starts Jail Program

May 3, 2015 - A field of weeds at the Salt Lake County Jail has been Jail Programtransformed into a fish pond designed to save a threatened species, as well as provide science education and job training to inmates. On Friday, 5,000 least chub, a small minnow found only in Utah, were introduced into the newly created half-acre pond. The fish later will be introduced at Mona Springs, in Juab County, which has one of the six remaining wild populations of least chub, and used as broodstock for future sites similar to the pond.  Sheriff Jim Winder said inmates and the environment will get a boost from the pond, which was created in partnership with University of Utah INSPIRE (Initiative to Bring Science Programs to the Incarcerated) and the Division of Wildlife Resources. "We're doing this to change human beings, to change the world," Winder said of the project. Nalini Nadkarni , a U. biology professor, said one of the most powerful features of INSPIRE is that it provides an opportunity "to contribute to something as big as the health of Utah's streams and waterways." See SL Trib Article... See KUER Article...

What's new at NSF

April 29, 2015 - Our thanks to Dr. Diane Pataki for her presentation about what's new at NSF. See the PowerPoint Presentation here....

Biology Professor recognized for social Justice

April 17, 2015 - Dr. Nalini Nadkarni has been named as the recipient of the Nadkarni4th William Julius Wilson Award for the Advancement of Social Justice by the President of Washington State University. The award selection committee stated that they recognized: "your truly significant work that brings respect to prison inmates. In particular, your work as a co-Founder of the Washington State–based Sustainbility in Prisons Project, an endeavor that has brought science, along with respect and job-training, to incarcerated men and women. The Committee felt you have done much to raise public awareness of social exclusiveness and injustice while promoting respect for all people regardless of their class, race/enthnicy, income, or social isolation, key things the award seeks to recognize." See Award Page...

Denise Dearing named Distinguished Professor 

Dr. Denise Dearing-Distinguished ProfessorMarch 26, 2015 - Congratulations to Biology Professor and Chair Denise Dearing who has been named one of three new Distinguished Professors. “The rank of Distinguished Professor is reserved for selected individuals whose achievements exemplify the highest goals of scholarship as demonstrated by recognition accorded to them from peers with national and international stature, and whose record includes evidence of a high dedication to teaching as demonstrated by recognition accorded to them by students and/or colleagues.”

Drought damage leads to widespread forest death

March 30, 2015 - The 2000-2003 drought in the American southwest triggered Sperry/Anderegga widespread die-off of forests around the region. A Carnegie-led team of scientists developed a new modeling tool to explain how and where trembling aspen forests died as a result of this drought. Their work aimed to address a longstanding disagreement over how climate change caused by the emission of greenhouse gasses will affect forest ecosystems. Most current models of forests under climate change cannot predict when or where forests might die from temperature and drought stress. The model created by the team including Carnegie's William Anderegg (now at Princeton University), Joseph Berry, and Christopher Field fills this gap by accurately simulating the widespread aspen mortality caused by the 2000-2003 drought. Their findings are published by Nature Geoscience. The team also included John Sperry of University of Utah. See Carnegie Story... See NSF Story...

Molecular ruler sets bacterial needle length

March 16, 2015 – When a salmonella bacterium attacks a cell, it uses a Dr. Kelly Hughesnanoscopic needle to inject it with proteins to aid the infection. If the needle is too short, the cell won’t be infected. Too long, and the needle breaks. Now, University of Utah biologists report how a disposable molecular ruler or tape measure determines the length of the bacterial needle so it is just right. The findings have potential long-term applications for developing new antibiotics against salmonella and certain other disease-causing bacteria, for designing bacteria that could inject cancer cells with chemotherapy drugs, and for helping people how to design machines at the nanoscopic or molecular scale. The study by University of Utah biology professor Kelly Hughes and doctoral student Daniel Wee is set for online publication the week of March 16 in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. See Full Story...

Early herders’ grassy route through Africa

March 9, 2015 – A University of Utah study of nearly 2,000-year-old livestock Kendra Chritzteeth show that early herders from northern Africa could have traveled past Kenya’s Lake Victoria on their way to southern Africa because the area was grassy – not tsetse fly-infested bushland as previously believed. “We studied the chemical signature of teeth in wild antelopes and domestic plant-eating animals – cows and sheep or goats – and found they all were eating a lot of grass in the Lake Victoria Basin,” says Kendra Chritz, first author of the study published online this week in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. “That means Lake Victoria could have been an area through which people passed while migrating southward to southern Africa,” adds Chritz, a paleoecologist and University of Utah doctoral student in biology in the Cerling Lab. See Full Story...

Biology faculty win governor’s science medals

March 16, 2015 – The University of Utah, the state’s flagship research institution, Eric JorgensonDr. Lissy Coleytoday swept up half of the latest batch of Governor’s Medals for Science and Technology, with faculty members winning four of the eight awards. Among the U’s winners are professors Phyllis D. Coley and Erik M. Jorgensen in biology. The Governor’s Medal for Science and Technology is Utah’s highest honor in STEM, or science, technology, engineering and mathematics. The new awards are the 2014 medals even though they are just being announced. In addition, Dr. Christine Fogarty Celestino, Juan Diego Catholic High School, won in the education division. Christine was a Ph.D. student in Neil Vicker's lab where she discovered a passion for teaching. See Full Story...

Canopy researcher goes out on a (tree) limb

March 12, 2015 - Dr. Nalini Nadkarni is currently featured on the NSF's discovery Nadkarniwebsite. The article showcases some of her innovative methods for communicating science to diverse audiences. Nadkarni says, "Although it is often more comfortable and convenient for scientists to communicate with people who share their own values and vocabulary, overcoming the challenge of engaging with non-traditional public audiences--those who may never visit a museum or watch a nature documentary film--can have synergistic results. Transmitting knowledge, changing attitudes and allowing novel insights to emerge can flow in both directions." See NSF Story... NSF FrontPage

Making prisons safer

March 12, 2015 - Solitary confinement can lead to madness or suicide for some Nadkarniinmates, or exacerbate behavioral problems for inmates who already were mentally ill when they entered the prison system. For the people whose job it is to supervise them, the assignment can be dangerous. University of Utah Professor Nalini Nadkarni’s innovative “Blue Room,” named one of Time magazine’s “25 Best Inventions of 2014,” could help the situation. See Continuum Story...

Biology professor wins award 

March 2, 2015 - Dr. Michael Shapiro has been selected as one of the Myriad Dr. Michael ShapiroAward of Research Excellence winners for 2015.  Winners are chosen both for the impact of their research and for exceptional work in fostering undergraduate research and promoting experiential learning during the academic year. 

 

 

Biology Professor receives research award 

Feb. 25, 2015 - Dr. Wayne Potts has received a Distinguished Scholarly and Dr. Wayne PottsCreative Research Award for 2015.  This award was established as a means of recognizing University of Utah faculty who have made significant scholarly contributions to their fields. Selection is made on the basis of the significance and quality of research or creative achievements and recognizes lifelong accomplishments by considering the extent to which they represent a major breakthrough or advance in the field, are intellectually distinctive or creative, and contribute to improvement and enrichment in the human condition.

 

Biology Professor receives teaching award

Feb 25, 2015 - Dr. Sarah Bush has received one of the 2015 Early Career Dr. Sarah BushTeaching Awards.  This award is given to outstanding young faculty members who have made significant contributions to teaching at the University of Utah.  and has distinguished themselves through the development of new and innovative teaching methods, effectiveness in the curriculum and classroom and a commitment to enhancing student learning.

 

Shade coffee is for the birds

Feb. 5, 2015 – The conservation value of growing coffee under trees instead of Sunbirdon open farms is well known, but hasn’t been studied much in Africa. So a University of Utah-led research team studied birds in the Ethiopian home of Arabica coffee and found that “shade coffee” farms are good for birds, but some species do best in forest. “Ethiopian shade coffee may be the most bird friendly coffee in the world, but a primary forest is irreplaceable for bird conservation, especially for birds of the forest understory,” says doctoral student Evan Buechley, lead author of a new study that will be published online Feb. 11 in the journal Biological Conservation.  “The best coffee for biodiversity is organic shade coffee in Ethiopia, where the coffee is a native species of the forest,” says ornithologist Çağan Şekercioğlu, the study’s senior author and assistant professor of biology at the University of Utah. “It is grown where it belongs in its native habitat with native tree cover and without chemicals.” See UNews Story... See NatGeo Story...

Biology professor receives distinguished teaching award

Jan. 27, 2015 - Dr. David Gard is the recipient of the University of Utah's Dr. David GardDistinguished Teaching award for 2015! Since 1987, Dave has been a sterling example of teaching excellence in the Department of Biology. For more than twenty-five years, thousands of students have benefitted from Dave’s energy and passion in teaching, and more recently from his incisive and thoughtful advising.

 


Undergraduates study wildlife in Red Butte Canyon

Jan. 26, 2015—Mountain lions, moose and bears, oh my! In the University of Sekercioglu LabUtah’s own backyard lies Red Butte Canyon, the most pristine ecosystem along Utah’s Wasatch Front filled with a variety of wildlife species. Managed by the U.S. Forest Service and designated as a Research Natural Area, Red Butte is restricted to all except those who use the area for scientific studies. Members of the U’s Biodiversity and Conservation Ecology Lab are some of those who have exclusive access to study the area and the animals in it.  University of Utah professor Çağan Şekercioğlu heads a lab that conducts field research all over the world, including Turkey, Ethiopia and Costa Rica. His projects all have one common goal: to study how humans and other species interact. See full story... See FoxNews story...

Tax Exemption PURCHASING CLARIFICATIONS

When purchasing on-line using a University PCard, please review your purchase for sales tax prior to finalizing your sale. If sales tax has been charged, call the vendor to ask how to have it removed. Each vendor will differ in this procedure. Some will ask only for the University’s tax number (which is printed on your PCard). Others will require a copy of the University’s Tax Exemption Certificate. In addition to providing the University’s documentation, you may also be asked to complete a vendor’s on-line form or place the order with the assistance of a customer service rep. In the rare instance that a vendor will not remove sales tax and you have no other source for the product, for audit documentation purposes it is best to ask for an email [from the vendor] stating why you must pay the tax. If you finalize a PCard purchase with sales tax, you are responsible to have the tax reversed. To reverse sales tax charges, contact the vendor.

Each cardholder is responsible for activity on their University PCard, just as they are responsible for activity on personally held charge cards. Though a staff member may contact Purchasing (or a vendor) on your behalf to determine the proper course of action on a questioned charge or tax refund, the cardholder may then be required to resolve the issue.

Note that by law, the University’s tax exempt number CANNOT be used in conjunction with personal funds. It is best that you do not use your own money to purchase items intended for University use; however, if you do purchase with personal funds, the recent change to University policy states that tax will not be reimbursed when receipts are submitted for reimbursement. The new ruling exempts receipts submitted through Travel, as well as business meals purchased at established restaurants involving 10 people or less. Questions may be directed to Deni in Accounting (1-8107) or to Purchasing (1-7241).

BIOLOGY TUTORing available

Beginning Jan. 26th, tutoring will be available 9am - 5pm, Mon - Fri, for Cell Biology and Genetics, in the new Biology Learning Center (BLC), located in the south biology atrium and room 103. Cor more information contact: Lucas M Horner

U Professor named Leopold Fellow

Jan. 13, 2015 - Diane Pataki, Associate Professor, Department of Biology at the Dr. Diane PatakiUniversity of Utah, has been selected as a 2015 Leopold Leadership Fellow. Based at the Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment, the Leopold Leadership Program provides outstanding academic environmental researchers with skills and approaches for communicating and working with partners in NGOs, business, government and communities to integrate science into decision-making. This year's 20 fellows come from 16 institutions in Canada and the United States. See full story...

Corn syrup more harmful than table sugar

Jan. 5, 2015 - There’s a new incentive to avoid the candy bars.  Some Dr. Wayne Potts and James RuffUniversity of Utah biologists say their research shows corn syrup is more toxic than table sugar. At least that’s the case for female mice, who had higher death rates and reproduced less frequently.  With male mice, it’s possible both sweeteners are equally toxic. Researchers reported no significant changes in male mice fed corn syrup. Researcher James Ruff advises consumers to "first, reduce added sugar across the board. Then worry about the type of sugar, and decrease consumption of products with high-fructose corn syrup," he said in a prepared statement Monday. Senior author Wayne Potts expects the study to appear in the March 2015 issue of The Journal of Nutrition. See full story... See SL Trib story...

U Biologist wins Turkey's top Science Prize

Dec. 22, 2014 – University of Utah biology professor Çağan Şekercioğlu became Sekercioglu Awardthe first biologist, ecologist and the youngest person to win the TUBITAK Special Science Award, equivalent to the USA National Science Medal. Sekercioglu received the award from Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in a ceremony held in the new Presidential Palace. While receiving the award, Sekercioglu had a single request: “The biggest award you can give me will be to save from destruction the eastern Turkey’s richest wetland for birds, the Aras River Bird Sanctuary I discovered and where I do my science", Sekercioglu said, and gave President Erdogan over 55,000 signatures and 4000 comments he collected with his petition to Save Aras. Erdogan replied “Putting 55,000 signatures aside, your word is enough, professor.. NatGeo Bio, See full story...

Inmates as conservationists

Dec 11, 2014 - A University of Utah biology professor hopes to help prisoners Nadkarniconnect with nature. Nalini Nadkarni wants the group to help her study how desert brush and weather affect sage grouse populations. Nadkarni has had success with a similar program in Washington state, where she and other biologists in recent years enlisted inmates to study Oregon spotted frogs and moss varieties. On Tuesday night, the men in white corrections gear and green sweatshirts watched National Geographic footage of Nadkarni scaling Costa Rican rain forest tree canopies. , See SL Trib story...

AAAS Names Three U Faculty as Fellows

Nov. 24, 2014 – Three University of Utah faculty members were honored today Dr. Jon Seger-AAAS Fellowfor distinguished efforts to promote the uses of science by being elevated to the rank of fellow in the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the world’s largest general-science society and publisher of the journal Science. The three are among 401 AAAS members elevated to the rank of fellow for 2014. Jon Seger, professor of biology, was honored “for distinguished contributions to the understanding of the genetic dynamics of social and life-history trait evolution in various contexts.” See full story...

Biology Professor in Time's 25 Best

Nov. 21, 2014 - For 23 hours a day, the 200 inmates in solitary confinement at Oregon’s largest prison see nothing but a tiny, white-walled cell—an experience some research suggests can heighten mental illness and make prisoners prone to suicide attempts and violence. Last year, officials began letting some of them spend their free hour in a first-of-its-kind “blue room,” an exercise space where a projector plays video of open deserts, streaming waterfalls and other outdoor scenes. That imagery, says creator Nalini Nadkarni, who studies how nature affects behavior, is designed to calm prisoners, “much in the way we walk through a park” to relax. Inmates have responded so well that guards now use blue-room time as a way to pre-empt bad behavior. See full story... (Scroll down) PDF

Viruses Impaired by Diverse Genes

Nov. 18, 2014 – When a viral infection spread through five genetically identical Wayne Pottsmice in a row, the virus replicated faster and became more virulent or severe. But when the infection spread one-by-one through five genetically diverse mice, the virus had trouble adapting and became less virulent. By showing this long-suspected mechanism holds true within a single species of vertebrate animal, namely, mice, the University of Utah study suggests that increased genetic diversity should be promoted in livestock and in captive-bred endangered species so as to limit their risk of getting deadly infections. “This study showed a surprising rapid and large effect of genetic diversity in mice that dramatically reduced the replication of virus infecting the mice and the severity of disease caused by the virus,” says biology professor Wayne Potts. He is senior author of the study published online this month in the British journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B. “There’s a reason we are not clones of our mom and dad,” says the study’s first author, Jason Kubinak, a postdoctoral fellow in biology. See full story... See Science 360 story...

Tree diseases can help forests

Nov. 11, 2014 - In Panama's forest, death is a beautiful thing. It kills ultimately Erin Spear of the Coley Kursar Labfor a good reason, so that trees in a wetter part of the forest can grow big and strong. according to a new study published in the Journal of Ecology. "That’s exactly right," said Erin R. Spear, lead author of the research and a doctoral candidate in biology at the University of Utah in the Coley/Kursar Lab. "We have this negative perspective on pathogens and disease. We think of pathogens as being destroyers, and in this case they are constructors." See Washington Post article...

Between earth and Sky

Nov. 17, 2014 - Nalini Nadkarni is a biologist with the University of Utah. She’s a tree expert who has spent more than 30 years in canopies around the world. It’s where she feels at home.  (KUER 90.1) partnered with Salt Lake filmmaker Nate Balli on this piece. His production company is called The Moniker, and last year, Balli was director of photography on a feature short called “Dominus,” which was a winner in the Cannon “Project Imagination” film contest.. See documentary..., Listen to podcast...

Uinta Pikas Watch

Nov. 5, 2014 - Johanna Varner, a grad student from the Dearing lab is involved Varner of the Dearing Labin Pika Watch. "A decade ago, I would have NEVER have believed that I would write the following words, but here they are: I love working with 7th graders! My twenty-something self would have further cringed at the idea of leading dozens of boisterous middle schoolers through quiet mountain landscapes. And yet, here I am, traipsing across alpine boulder fields with 60 of my closest 7th grade friends." See full article...

Biology professor admitted to the Leopold Program

Nov. 5, 2014 - Diane Pataki, Associate Professor in Biology has been admitted to the Leopold Leadership Program. The program provides outstanding academic researchers with the skills, approaches, and theoretical frameworks for translating their knowledge to action and for catalyzing change to address the world’s most pressing sustainability challenges. See program...

Cell Biology Faculty Position

The Department of Biology at the University of Utah invites applications for a tenure-track faculty position at the Assistant or Associate Professor level in Cell Biology. We are seeking applicants addressing fundamental questions in cell biology using model and non-model organisms from all taxa. In addition to developing a vigorous independent research program, the successful candidate will be expected to contribute to the Department’s interdisciplinary teaching mission at the undergraduate and graduate levels. The University of Utah provides exceptional opportunities for collaboration in research, education and outreach across departments in several colleges. See full announcement... or PDF

Beating Big Oil? Ecuador's pristine Yasuni

Oct. 2, 2014 - Biologist Phyllis Coley and Thomas Kursar, have Coley/Kursar Rain Forestdevoted their working lives to the study of plants, and nowhere is it more fascinating, they say, than in Ecuador's Yasuni National Park - the most biodiverse place on the planet. "Evolution is going incredibly fast here with the plants evolving as quickly as they can and the herbivores counter-evolving. It's a never-ending escalation," Coley told Al Jazeera. They call it an "arms race". On one side the plants; on the other, insects and other herbivores. Each of them evolving defences to outwit the other. See full article...

 

Intnl Union of Forest Researchers Orgs (IUFRO)

Oct 6, 2014 - Nalini Nadkarni an internationally recognized biologist in our Department of Biology, specializing in forest and forest canopies, will be on Doug Fabrizio's Radio West (KUER 90.1) onWednesday, October 8th at 11am (rebroadcast at 7pm). Prof. Nadkarni will be discussing the state of forest around the world and the International Union of Forest Researchers Organizations (IUFRO) World Congress in Salt Lake October 5-11. IUFRO was founded in 1873 in Vienna, Austria and has been responsible for many of the outstanding efforts to conserve the world's forest. There will be more than 4,000 international visitors in Salt Lake next week, and Prof. Nadkarni will describe some of their work activities.Nadkarni and Biology faculty member Patrick Shea have also organized a number of events during the week of the Conference to engage the public and raise awareness of the importance of forests and forest science research. These efforts were funded by the National Science Foundation's Ecosystems Program to explore ways that scientific meetings can be used to foster broader impacts of research. All events are free and open to the public.

Biology professor featured in HHMI bulletin

July 29, 2014 - Dr. Baldomaro Olivera, his research and outreach programs are Dr. Baldomaro Oliverafeatured in the current issue of the HHMI bulletin. "His quest to understand what each mechanism does to the body, and how it does it, would profoundly influence the field of neuroscience and help bring relief to thousands of chronic pain sufferers. It would also take Olivera’s research circling back to his childhood, when his interest in the natural world and science was sparked, first on the beach and then in the classroom. Today, as an HHMI professor Olivera is bringing his inexhaustible love of science to young students, in hopes of sparking that same sense of wonder in them". See Full Article...

u professor Gets Grant to Study Nature and the Brain

July 28, 2014 - Faculty member Nalini Nadkarni received an “Innovation Grant” Emotive Headset-Nadkarni Labfrom National Geographic Society to study the impacts of nature imagery on urban millennials with EEG technology, specifically "emotive" headsets. As a part of her work to bring nature and science to non-traditional public audiences, Nadkarni and two colleagues, Tierney Thys and Tan Le, received a $50,000 “Innovations” grant from the National Geographic Society. Read more...

Dr. Nadkarni also delivered the Brown University 246th 2014 Baccalaureate address and was awarded an honorary PhD from Brown University.

The right poop helps packrats eat poisonous plants

July 21, 2014 - Biology professor Denise Dearing and postdoctoral researcher Woodrats study by Prof DearingKevin Kohl in the University of Utah laboratory demonstrated how gut microbes play a crucial role in allowing woodrats and certain other mammals to eat and thrive on toxic plants such as creosote and juniper.  Poop, packrats and poisonous plants may seem like a repellent combination for University of Utah biologists to study. But the results could help feed livestock in developing countries, improve care for endangered species and even tackle the spread of unwanted juniper plants in Utah. The key? Gut bacteria in the fecal transplants, according to the authors of the study, published Monday in the journal Ecology Letters. See SL Trib Article...

Legler obituary published

Dr. John M. Legler's family has placed an obituary in the Sunday, July 13th issue of the Salt Lake Tribune. They have requested any donations go to the Legler Lecturer in Human Anatomy fund.

New Plant Species from the Heart of Texas

July 9, 2014 – Collectors found the first two specimens of the prickly plant in Dr. Lynn Bohs, Solanum Project1974 and 1990 in west Texas. Then, for two decades, the 14-inch-tall plant was identified wrongly as one species, then another and then a third. Now – after a long search turned up a “pathetic, wilted” third specimen – a University of Utah botanist and her colleagues identified the spiny plant as a new, possibly endangered species and named it “from the heart” in Latin because it was found in Valentine, Texas. Most new plant species are found in the tropics, and it is uncommon for a new one to be found in the United States, says University of Utah biology professor Lynn Bohs, senior author of a new study describing and naming Solanum cordicitum See full story...

2014 MERRIAM AWARD - DENISE DEARING

June 24, 2014 - The 2014 recipient of the Merriam Award is Professor Denise Dearing from the University of Utah. Dr. Dearing has pioneered the Denise Dearingdevelopment of new theoretical frameworks in ecology by combining biochemical and molecular tools from pharmacological science with hypothesis-driven investigations from an ecological perspective. Professor Dearing is particularly well known for her transformative and cross-disciplinary research on the ecological factors and physiological constraints that influence mammalian foraging behavior and the evolution of diet breadth in mammalian herbivores, both of which clearly demonstrate the central role mammalian herbivores play in the structure and functioning of ecological communities. See full story...

Silent mutations speak up

June 5, 2014 – So-called silent DNA mutations earned their title because, Dr. Kelly Hughes, Geneticistaccording to the fundamental rules of biology, they should be inconsequential. Reported in PLOS Genetics online, University of Utah researchers experimentally proved there are frequent exceptions to the rule. The work was conducted in the bacteria, Salmonella enterica, used to study basic biological mechanisms that are often conserved in humans. “In this post-genomic era, where a patient’s DNA sequence can be used to diagnose predisposition to diseases, silent mutations are usually ignored,” said senior author Kelly T. Hughes, professor of biology at the University of Utah. “Our data argue that they shouldn’t be.” See full story...

Human face evolved to take a punch

June 3, 2014 - The human face evolved to withstand being hit by a fist, two NutCracker Man-Carrier LabUniversity of Utah researchers contend, expanding on their controversial theory that human hands evolved to punch. A protruding jaw, a thick brow ridge above the eyes, robust bones around the nose and upper jaw and large molars and premolars are defining characteristics of early human ancestors examined by Biology professor David Carrier and Michael Morgan for a study published Monday in the journal Biological Reviews. See BBC Story..., See full article...

Biology Graduate Student Awards

May 9, 2014 - Congratulations to the Biology Department graduates who received awards. Robert Greenhalgh, Matthew LaBella, Jose Crespo, Kevin Kohl, Robert Cieri , Shrinivasan Raghuraman, Autumn Amici, La’Shaye Ervin, Kristin Moore, Leonardo Parra, Johanna Varner. See full list...

Is Self-Fumigation for the Birds?

May 5, 2014 – When University of Utah biologists set out cotton balls treated Dr. Clayton and Sarah Knutiewith a mild pesticide, wild finches in the Galapagos Islands used the cotton to help build their nests, killing parasitic fly maggots to protect baby birds. The self-fumigation method may help endangered birds and even some mammals. “We are trying to help birds help themselves,” says biology professor Dale Clayton, senior author of a study outlining the new technique. The findings were published online May 5, 2014, in the journal Current Biology. “Self-fumigation is important because there currently are no other methods to control this parasite" says University of Utah biology doctoral student Sarah Knutie, the study’s first author. See UNews Story... See Science Article... See Nature Article... See Reuters Article...

Inaugural Citizen Scientist Award

May 2, 2014 - Biology Prof. Çağan Şekercioğlu received the University of Utah's Cagan Sekercioglu-Citizen ScientistInaugural Citizen Scientist Award at the College of Science Convocation. Sekercioglu was chosen to be the first recipient of this new award for training and working with citizen scientists; involving the public in his wildlife, ecology, ornithology, and conservation biology research; communicating environmental science to the public through the effective use of photography, traditional and social media; and leading an environmental non-profit that combines ecological research, environmental education, public outreach, media campaigns, and advocacy to push for better conservation policy in his native Turkey. Sekercioglu's citizen science work has received global coverage, including in BBC , National Geographic, Nature , New Yorker and New York Times.

U Biology professor receives major grant

Apr 4, 2014 - Çağan Şekercioğlu receives one of four inaugural Fondation Sekercioglu camera trap wolfSegré-Whitley Fund partnership grants for his research on Landscape Conservation of Large Carnivores in Turkey.  North East Turkey is a biodiversity hot spot but despite its importance receives little conservation attention. Sekercioglu's 3-year project will expand carnivore monitoring to assess their population size and track movements using video/radio collars and camera traps, use research findings to influence on-going political decisions regarding Turkey’s wildlife and advocate for the expansion of protected areas, train grassroots conservation leaders and communicate with local villagers and officials. See Full Story...

 

U Biologist first recipient of Lillie Award

Mar 17, 2014 - The University of Chicago and the Marine Biological Laboratory Dr. Erik Jorgensen(MBL) announced today the first two recipients of the Frank R. Lillie Research Innovation Awards. The awards will provide funding for scientists to develop novel, collaborative projects based at the MBL that will lead to transformative biological discoveries. One grant was awarded to University of Utah neuroscientist Erik M. Jorgensen and his colleagues, who will address the fundamental question of how high-level brain processes such as memory are related to changes in the structure and function of neural connections. See UChicago Story... See MLB Story...


Birds of a Different Color

Feb. 6, 2014 – Scientists at the University of Utah identified mutations in three key genes that determine feather color in domestic rock pigeons. The same genes control pigmentation of human skin. “Mutations in these genes can be responsible for skin diseases and conditions such as melanoma and albinism,” says Michael Shapiro, associate professor of biology and senior author of the study published online Feb. 6 in the journal Current Biology. “In humans, mutations of these genes often are considered ‘bad’ because they can cause albinism or make cells more susceptible to UV (ultraviolet sunlight) damage and melanoma because the protective pigment is absent or low,” says Eric Domyan, a biology postdoctoral fellow and first author of the study. “In pigeons, mutations of these same genes cause different feather colors, and to pigeon hobbyists that is a very good thing.” See Full Story... See SL Trib Story...

Aaron Miller Wins NSF Bread Challenge

Jan 9, 2014 - Aaron Miller, a Post Doc in the Dearing lab in the Biology Department has won a $10,000 prize awarded to only 13 people on a 100 word idea statement. Smallholder farmers who feed their livestock on forage plants risk exposing those animals to potentially lethal levels of toxic plant secondary compounds (PSCs). However, many PSCs can be degraded by gut bacteria from mammalian herbivores. Challenge: Identify novel functions offered by gut biota that could be transplanted into smallholder farmers' domesticated livestock, reintroducing toxin tolerance and improving animal health and grazing options. See NSF Announcement...

On Tropical Forests and Their Pests

Jan 2, 2014 - Phyllis D. Coley, Thomas A. Kursar have published an article in Coley KursarScience Magazine. "Biologists have long been intrigued by the diversity of tropical forests, where 1 hectare may hold more than 650 tree species—more than in all of Canada and the continental United States. Ecological theory suggests that if species are too similar in their resource use, one will out-compete the others; hence, neighboring species must exploit different niches if they are to coexist. However, given that plants in one hectare of rainforest experience very similar physical environments, ecologists have struggled to demonstrate sufficient niche differentiation to support such high diversity". See Science story... See NY Times story...

Sekercioglu meets with Turkey's President

Dec. 3, 2013 - Çağan Şekercioğlu was invited to an hour-long private meeting Sekercioglu and Turkish President Abdullah Gulwith Turkey's President Abdullah Gul to discuss his conservation and ecological research efforts in Turkey. President Gul was especially interested in birds. Sekercioglu gave him more than 13,000 signatures and comments of the SaveAras campaign Sekercioglu initiated to save the globally important Aras River wetlands he discovered in 2005 and where he documented 252 bird species.

After the meeting, President Gul tweeted the following in Turkish along with a photo of the meeting:

I met separately with Prof. Sekercioglu, an ornithologist from the University of Utah who attended the award ceremony. Prof. Sekercioglu is a world-famous, extraordinary researcher with an impressive education. He told me about his conservation activities in eastern Turkey National Geographic will broadcast a documentary on his research. See Story in Turkish...

A roly-poly pika gathers much moss

Dec. 18, 2013 – In some mountain ranges, Earth's warming climate is driving Dearing Study-Pikarabbit relatives known as pikas to higher elevations or wiping them out. But University of Utah biologists discovered that roly-poly pikas living in rockslides near sea level in Oregon can survive hot weather by eating more moss than any other mammal. "Our work shows pikas can eat unusual foods like moss to persist in strange environments," says biology professor Denise Dearing, senior author of the new study, published online today in the February 2014 issue of Journal of Mammalogy. "It suggests that they may be more resistant to climate change than we thought." The study's first author, biology doctoral student Jo Varner, says: "Some fiber is good, but this is almost all fiber. Mosses are 80 percent fiber. It's a bit like eating paper." See full story..., See SL Trib story...

Why lizards may inherit the Earth

Dec. 11, 2013 - It’s not just for the birds: Air flows through the lungs of reptiles Monitor Lizard Airflowin a pattern that scientists previously thought necessary only for high-altitude flight. C.G. Farmer, an associate professor of biology at the University of Utah, discovered in 2010 that alligator lungs exhibit the same one-way airflow as their avian cousins, and that method thus evolved about 80 million years before the first birds. Wednesday, another study published in the journal Nature by Emma Schachner and Bob Cieri (Farmer Lab) , Jim Butler (Harvard) and C. G. Farmer finds that also true of monitor lizards — whose ancestors branched off from alligators’ ancestors 20 million years earlier. Nature story... SL Trib story... UK Daily Mail story...

 

 

Ultrafast endocytosis at mouse hippocampal synapses

Dec. 4, 2013 - To sustain neurotransmission, synaptic vesicles and their Eric Jorgensen and Shigeki Watanabeassociated proteins must be recycled locally at synapses. Synaptic vesicles are thought to be regenerated approximately 20 s after fusion by the assembly of clathrin scaffolds or in approximately 1 s by the reversal of fusion pores via ‘kiss-and-run’ endocytosis. Here we use optogenetics to stimulate cultured hippocampal neurons with a single stimulus, rapidly freeze them after fixed intervals and examine the ultrastructure using electron microscopy—‘flash-and-freeze’ electron microscopy. Docked vesicles fuse and collapse into the membrane within 30 ms of the stimulus. Shigeki Watanabe and Erik Jorgensen report in a new article in Nature. Nature story... SL Tribune story... See full U story...

Utah scientist’s discovery may help fight pervasive parasites

Nov. 27, 2013 - When scientist Aude Peden was growing up in the western African nation of Gabon, parasitic nematode worms were a fact of life that affected people, livestock and crops. Fifty percent of the human population worldwide is affected by gastrointestinal nematode infections, according to a paper published in the International Journal of Experimental Pathology. But with a new discovery published in the journal Nature Neuroscience, Peden can chalk one up against the parasites. The study "potentially identified a new neurotransmitter," said U. biology professor Erik Jorgensen, one of the co-authors in the study. "These are the things that make our brains work." SL Tribune story... Nature story...

TENURE TRACK Cellular Biology FACULTY Position

The Department of Biology at the University of Utah invites applications for a tenuretrack faculty position at the assistant professor level in cellular biology. Applicants should be addressing fundamental questions in any aspect of eukaryotic cellular biology including, but not limited to, gene expression, signaling, trafficking, development, evolution or neurobiology, and in plants, animals, fungi or protists. In addition to developing a vigorous independent research program, the successful candidate will. . . See full announcement

Socially Competitive Moms Have Sexier Sons

Nov. 21, 2013 - When mother mice compete socially for mates in a promiscuous Odor Peacocksocial environment, their sons play hard and die young: They attract more females by making more pheromones, but smelling sexier shortens their lives. “Only recently have we started to understand that environmental conditions experienced by parents can influence the characteristics of their offspring through 'epigenetic' mechanisms. This study is one of the first to show parental social experience adaptively modifying offspring characteristics”, says University of Utah biology professor Wayne Potts , the study’s senior author. The study was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences on November 19. Science News story... PBS Coverage... ArsTechnica... Discovery News video

U Biologist Gets Neuroscience Prize

Oct. 31, 2013 – Shigeki Watanabe, a University of Utah postdoctoral fellow in Watanabebiology, has been awarded the Society for Neuroscience’s Nemko Prize for his accomplishments as a young scientist. Shigeki works in the Utah laboratory of Erik Jorgensen, a distinguished professor of biology. He currently studies how nerve cell vesicles – tiny bubbles that contain neurotransmitter chemicals – are recycled after they help send a nerve signal from one nerve cell to the next.See full Story...

 

The West's Pika Plight Captivates Middle Schoolers' Minds

Oct. 27, 2013 - For the past two years, Niki Hack, a seventh grade science teacher at the Salt Lake Center for Science Education (SLCSE) has been teaming with Johanna Varner, a cheery University of Utah graduate student in the Dearing Lab known as “Pika Jo”, to help the middle schoolers collect data on pikas, which could be on the brink of becoming endangered. See Full Story ...

Earth's threatened biodiversity

Sep. 27, 2013 - The diversity of life on Earth is seemingly endless, yet much still remains to be discovered. With climate change and habitat loss threatening that biodiversity, the challenge of discovery is a race against time. To fill the gaps in understanding our planet's biodiversity, the National Science Foundation (NSF) has awarded 13 grants totaling $25 million in the fourth year of its Dimensions of Biodiversity program. Two of these awards are to professors at the University of Utah.

Denise Dearing, Dimensions: Biodiversity of the gut microbiome of herbivorous rodents. Additional Collaborators: Colin Dale and Robert Weiss, University of Utah.

Dale Clayton, Dimensions: Experimental adaptive radiation--genomics of diversification in bird lice. Additional Collaborators: Sarah Bush and Michael Shapiro, University of Utah, Kevin Johnson University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign See full NSF story...

Journey to Turkey

Situated in one of the world's most important migratory bird flyways, some of Turkey's wAudubon Turkishildest places face threats from massive construction projects. Trying to provide a better way, one visionary biologist aims to put his country on the birding map.Çağan Şekercioğlu, a Turkish-born, U.S.-educated ornithologist who founded KuzeyDoga, believes that visiting birders can help protect Northeast Turkey by creating an economic demand for unspoiled habitat. He has coined the term "village-based biocultural tourism" to describe his vision of small home-stay businesses in the communities adjacent to birding areas. Travelers would come primarily to watch the birds, and they would also enjoy local home-cooked meals and hospitality. With the revenue that birdwatchers bring, and the pleasure they receive, he's hoping to garner both local and international support for his group's conservation efforts. See full Audubon story...

Sugar is Toxic to Mice in ‘Safe’ Doses

Aug. 13, 2013 – When mice ate a diet of 25 percent extra sugar – the mouse Dr. Wayne Potts, James Ruffequivalent of a healthy human diet plus three cans of soda daily – females died at twice the normal rate and males were a quarter less likely to hold territory and reproduce, according to a toxicity test developed at the University of Utah. “Our results provide evidence that added sugar consumed at concentrations currently considered safe exerts dramatic adverse impacts on mammalian health,” the researchers say in a study set for online publication Tuesday, Aug. 13 in the journal Nature Communications. “This demonstrates the adverse effects of added sugars at human-relevant levels,” says University of Utah biology professor Wayne Potts, the study’s senior author. He says previous studies using other tests fed mice large doses of sugar disproportionate to the amount people consume in sweetened beverages, baked goods and candy. See full story..., Radio West Interview, LA Times Interview, Bagley Cartoon

MINI-MONSTERS OF THE FOREST FLOOR

July 29, 2013 – A University of Utah biologist has identified 33 new species of Longino Ant Facepredatory ants in Central America and the Caribbean, and named about a third of the tiny but monstrous-looking insects after ancient Mayan lords and demons. These new ant species are the stuff of nightmares” when viewed under a microscope, says entomologist Jack Longino, a professor of biology. “Their faces are broad shields, the eyes reduced to tiny points at the edges and the fierce jaws bristling with sharp teeth. They look a little like the monster in ‘Alien.’ They’re horrifying to look at up close. That’s sort of what makes them fun. In a study published online Monday, July 29 in the journal Zootaxa, Longino identified and named 14 new species of the ant genus Eurhopalothrix and distinguished them from 14 other previously known species. Longino’s ant lab web page, See full story...

Fragile Wetland Tests Turkey's Protection of Biodiversity

July 2013 - Çağan Şekercioğlu is in a race with the bulldozers. The Turkish Aras Dam Turkeyornithologist is based at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City, but these days he spends most of his time in a wetland in eastern Turkey. Just 10 square kilometers in area, the Aras River Bird Paradise is home to 36 threatened or endangered species and is one of a handful of long-term ecological research sites in Turkey. Şekercioğlu is trying to document Aras's biodiversity before construction starts on a dam that will flood the wetlands and, he and others say, destroy the fragile habitat. See full story..., Listen to Science interview

Promotion and Tenure

Congratulations to Biology faculty members Michael Shapiro, Colleen Farmer and Ayako Yamaguchi who have been promoted to Associate Professors and received tenure effective July 1.

Emeritus Professor honored by Mimulus Group

Dr. Robert VickeryDr. Robert Vickery was honored for his contributions to the study of genetics during the recent Evolution Society meeting held at Snowbird by a student group who study genetics and evolution using Monkey Flowers (Mimulus).

 

 

Nuke Test Radiation Can Fight Poachers

July 1, 2013 – University of Utah researchers developed a new weapon to fight Poachingpoachers who kill elephants, hippos, rhinos and other wildlife. By measuring radioactive carbon-14 deposited in tusks and teeth by open-air nuclear bomb tests, the method reveals the year an animal died, and thus whether the ivory was taken illegally. “This could be used in specific cases of ivory seizures to determine when the ivory was obtained and thus whether it is legal,” says geochemist Thure Cerling, senior author of a study about the new method. It was published online the week of July 1 in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. See full story...

 

A Grassy Trend in Human Ancestors’ Diets

June 3, 2013 – Most apes eat leaves and fruits from trees and shrubs. New Thure Cerlingstudies spearheaded by the University of Utah show that human ancestors expanded their menu 3.5 million years ago, adding tropical grasses and sedges to an ape-like diet and setting the stage for our modern diet of grains, grasses, and meat and dairy from grazing animals. “At last, we have a look at 4 million years of the dietary evolution of humans and their ancestors,” says University of Utah geochemist Thure Cerling, principal author of two of the four new studies published online June 3 by the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. See full story...

 

PRINCESS ANNE GIVES AWARD TO UTAH BIOLOGIST

May 3, 2013 – For the second time in five years, the United Kingdom’s Princess HRH Princess Ann and SekergiocluAnne handed the prestigious Whitley Gold Award for conservation to Çağan Şekercioğlu. The University of Utah biologist gifted the princess with mulberry molasses and dried apricots from wetlands threatened by dam construction in his native Turkey. Şekercioğlu, 37, an ornithologist and conservation biologist, is the first person to win the Whitley Gold Award twice from the Whitley Fund for Nature. He previously won in 2008 while working at Stanford University. Şekercioğlu and seven winners of the 2013 Whitley Awards (the non-gold variety) accepted their honors Thursday night, May 2 during a ceremony at the Royal Geographic Society in London. See full story...

National Geographic Names U Faculty Risktaker

May 2013 - The 21st-century explorer can make good use of the latest NGM-Cagantechnology; can communicate from almost anywhere on Earth, even atop Mount Everest; can solicit financial support from donors large and small. Yet the advantages of modernity cannot remove all risk from the act of exploration. This is a yearlong series profiling explorers who press the limits. Çağan Şekercioğlu is an ornithologist who works to document and prevent bird extinctions. He’s also a professor in the U.S. who runs an award-winning conservation group in his native Turkey. All those pursuits require juggling—and each entails big risks. See NG story... See SL Trib story...

U of UTAH HONORS FACULTY INVENTORS

April 22, 2013 — Faculty at the University of Utah make hundreds of inventions Dale Claytonevery year – everything from chemical processes and surgical devices to wheelchairs – but only the best researchers and inventors win the annual Distinguished Innovation and Impact Award. The award, now in its third year, is presented to exceptional faculty who have applied their research to serve the public through innovative new products. Winners of this year’s Distinguished Innovation and Impact Award are Dale Clayton, Ph.D., a professor of biology, and Ric Harnsberger, M.D., a professor of radiology. Their contributions are vastly different – Clayton invented a device for killing head lice, while Harnsberger is revolutionizing the world of medical publishing. But what they have in common is a passion to help others by applying and commercializing their research. See full story...

Conservation Leadership Award to U biologist

April 8, 2013 - Out of 305 applications from 22 countries, the project titled Kasikgaga"Improving the Community-Based Conservation of Lake Kuyucuk Ramsar Site, Turkey" initiated in 2007 by Çağan Şekercioğlu and his students through KuzeyDoga has won the top prize given to young conservationists through the Conservation Leadership Programme. To apply for this award, an organization needs to get and successfully complete two other awards: Future Conservationist Award and Follow-up Award. Each project, with reporting and feedback takes a minimum of 2 years. "It took my team 5 years and 2 successful projects on Kuyucuk just to be able to apply".

WHAT DO BIRDS DO FOR US?

April 8, 2013 - With an estimated 1,200 species facing extinction over the next Honeycreepercentury, and many more suffering from severe habitat loss, the impulse to protect birds must be universal. Right? Well, if you happen to be a birder or a biologist, then “of course, birds have an intrinsic value, and we have an ethical obligation to conserve them,” says University of Utah ornithologist Çağan Şekercioğlu. “A lot of people want something more utilitarian,” he points out. If we want policy makers and the public to take conservation seriously, then perhaps we must offer credible research showing that healthy bird populations are essential to human welfare. See full Audubon story...

Taking Science to Prison

March 18, 2013 – The University of Utah is launching a project to teach Nadkarni Lectureprisoners about science and give them job training in recycling, organic gardening, composting and other skills. It is part of a trend toward environmental sustainability in prisons – the subject of a workshop at the university Wednesday, March 20 through Friday, March 22. Speakers will include Nalini Nadkarni, director of the U’s Center for Science and Mathematics Education, which is launching the Utah project. See full story...

Biology professor named Distinguished Professor

February 28, 2013 - President Pershing announces the approval and Jorgensenaffirmative recommendation by the Distinguished Professor selection committee that the following individuals be appointed Distinguished Professor at the University of Utah. Among the four selected was Erik Jorgensen, Distinguished Professor of Biology. The Distinguished Professor selection committee met on Feb. 11, 2013 to consider nominations received. The four nominees were selected by a majority vote from an outstanding pool of candidates. Congratulations to all! See full story...

 

U Hangs Owl Nest Boxes

Feb. 28, 2013 - The famed peregrine falcons of downtown Salt Lake City may Andrew Stahl installing owl nesting boxessoon have competition for webcam fans from a fellow raptorMacy Kennedy with Owl nest box with nocturnal habits. University of Utah biology students spent Thursday afternoon installing owl nest boxes at three locations on the campus. Student Brandi Thompson came up with the idea while in the Global Environmental Issues class. "One of the things we talked about was serving the learning community." Thompson said. Spurred into action by a guest lecturer, Arthur Morris, lead Ecologist for Utah Open Lands who talked about urban wildlife and mentioned owls, Thompson decided she wanted to build owl nest boxes and put them on campus. Amy Sibul, the service learning instructor for the class, also got involved. See Tribune story...

Animal Attraction

March 2013 - A portrait of an Old Dutch Capuchin appears on this week's cover, SydneyStringhamrepresenting one of the hundreds of different pigeon breeds created by humans since the Neolithic Era. The photograph was taken by graduate student Sydney Stringham, from the lab of Michael D. Shapiro at the University of Utah. And although Salt Lake City has its own yearly pigeon shows, sometimes you have to go far afield to get the bird you need. A few years ago, Sydney traveled with her advisor to a large pigeon show in Germany, to collect samples for pigeon population genetics projects. In the process, they also got some inside information on the art of avian portraiture from a professional pigeon photographer. “I had no idea such a thing existed. See full story...

Mutant Gene Gives Pigeons Fancy Hairdos

Jan. 31, 2013 – University of Utah researchers decoded the genetic blueprint of ShapiroPigeonthe rock pigeon, unlocking secrets about pigeons’ Middle East origins, feral pigeons’ kinship with escaped racing birds, and how mutations give pigeons traits like a fancy feather hairdo known as a head crest. “Birds are a huge part of life on Earth, and we know surprisingly little about their genetics,” especially compared with mammals and fish, says Michael D. Shapiro, one of the study’s two principal authors and an assistant professor of biology at the University of Utah. “There are more than 10,000 species of birds, yet we know very little about what makes them so diverse genetically and developmentally.” See full story... NY Times story...

Biology Department Celebrates Dr. Robert Vickery

Feb 4, 2013 - The Biology Department is celebrating Dr. Vickery's 90th birthday and his contributions to the scientific community. Monday, February 14th, 3:00 p.m. ASB 210 with a reception following the presentation.

A bear’s-eye view of Turkey’s first wildlife corridor

January 2013 - With the help of funding by Whitley Fund for Nature (WFN), work carried out by 2008 Gold Award winner Sekercioglu with sedated bearand 2012 Continuation Funding recipient, Çağan Şekercioğlu, and his NGO, KuzeyDoga , led to the Turkish government approving creation of the country’s first wildlife corridor in December 2011. The protected area connects the Sarikamis-Allahuekber National Park in Kars, Northern Turkey, to the extensive forests of the Black Sea and the Caucasus forests on the Turkey-Georgia border. Covering 23,500 hectares and extending for 82 kilometres, the corridor will safeguard habitat for large carnivores, such as brown bears, lynx and wolves, helping to connect isolated populations and reduce human-wildlife conflict. See full story...

EXPLORING THE MACHINERY OF MEMORY

Jan. 30, 2013 – University of Utah biology Professor Andres Villu Maricq will explore the workings of nerve synapses – the fundamental building blocks of memory –during the next Frontiers of Science Lecture at the University of Utah. “Exploring the Machinery of Memory: New Insights, New Directions” is the title of Maricq’s free public lecture at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 6 in the Aline Wilmot Skaggs Biology Building Auditorium.

Fred Montague one of catalyst 100

Jan. 23, 2013 - Emeritus Professor named as top 100 catalysts within our community—those who have made this a more sustainable, compassionate and vibrant place to live. Montague's mission is to show we are a part of nature, not separate from it. See full story...

Four at U Get Governor’s Science Medals

Jan. 4, 2013 – Four University of Utah faculty members are among 10 winners of the 2012 Utah Governor’s Medal for Science and Technology. Thure Cerling is a geochemist and a distinguished professor of geology and biology at the University of Utah. He uses isotopes – different forms of chemical elements – to study the ancient environments and diets of human ancestors; how global changes in climate and plant ecosystems influenced human and animal evolution; the dating of landscapes from tropical to Arctic zones; animal physiology for wildlife conservation purposes; and for forensic purposes such as helping identify murder victims. His field work has taken him to all seven continents. He has served on federal and state boards that review nuclear waste disposal plans. See full story...

FINE HANDS, FISTS OF FURY

Dec. 19, 2012 – Men whacked punching bags for a University of Utah study that suggests human hands evolved not only for the manual dexterity needed to use tools, play a violin or paint a work of art, but so men could make fists and fight. Compared with apes, humans have shorter palms and fingers and longer, stronger, flexible thumbs – features that have been long thought to have evolved so our ancestors had the manual dexterity to make and use tools. “The role aggression has played in our evolution has not been adequately appreciated,” says University of Utah biology Professor David Carrier, senior author of the study, scheduled for publication Dec. 19 by the Journal of Experimental Biology. “There are people who do not like this idea, but it is clear that compared with other mammals, great apes are a relatively aggressive group, with lots of fighting and violence, and that includes us,” Carrier says. “We’re the poster children for violence.” See full story...

Birds May Spread, Not Halt, Fever-Bearing Ticks

Nov. 30, 2012 – Turkey raises and releases thousands of non-native guineafowl to eat ticks that carry the deadly Crimean-Congo hemorrhagic fever virus. Yet research suggests guineafowl eat few ticks, but carry the parasites on their feathers, possibly spreading the disease they were meant to stop, says a Turkish biologist working at the University of Utah. “They are introducing a species that is not eating many ticks, based on studies of stomach content, and is carrying the ticks, which are the best conduit for spreading Crimean-Congo hemorrhagic fever,” says Çağan Şekercioğlu, an assistant professor of biology at the University of Utah. See full story...

Symbiotic Microbes’ Origin Discovered

Nov. 15, 2012 – Two years ago, a 71-year-old Indiana man impaled his hand on a branch after cutting down a dead crab apple tree, causing an infection that led University of Utah scientists to discover a new bacterium and solve a mystery about how bacteria came to live inside insects. Because the new bacterial strain lives symbiotically inside insects’ guts, it may be possible to genetically alter the new bacteria so they can block disease transmission by insects like tsetse flies and prevent crop damage by insect-borne viruses. “If we can genetically modify a bacterium that could be put back into insects, it could be used as a way to combat diseases transmitted by those insects,” says Adam Clayton, a University of Utah Ph.D. student in biology and a first author of a study unveiling the new bacterium and its genome or “genetic blueprint.” It “shows the origin of the mutually beneficial symbiotic relationship between bacteria and insects,” says biology Ph.D. student Kelly Oakeson, the study’s other first author. Colin Dale, the study’s senior author and an associate professor of biology, says the findings provide “a missing link in our understanding of how beneficial insect-bacteria relationships originate. See full story...

U Announces New “Beacons of Excellence” Award

Sept. 26, 2012 —The offices of Undergraduate Studies and Student Affairs have established the Transforming U: Beacons of Excellence Award to recognize and celebrate examples of “best practices” on the University of Utah campus, whether by individuals, programs, centers, or projects. Six awards—given annually— will recognize excellence in creating and offering a transformational experience to undergraduate students. The six recipients include Mark Nielsen, a professor of anatomy and the Human Anatomy Lab, College of Science. See full story...

Biology Professor awarded Archie F. Carr Medal

August 2012 - Nalini Nadkarni has been selected to receive the 2012 Archie F. Carr medal from the Florida Museum of Natural History. The Carr Medal "is presented to deserving naturalists for outstanding contributions to knowledge and an understanding of our natural heritage, as well as for their commitment to sharing that knowledge with a broad audience." Nalini joins distinguished previous winners of the medal including E. O. Wilson, Jared Diamond, Peter Raven, and Thomas Lovejoy. She will be the first woman to receive this award.

Biology Professor Receives Humboldt Research Award

August 2012 - Erik Jorgensen has been selected as a recipient of the Humboldt Research Award.  This award is made in recognition of outstanding scientific achievement and provides support for collaborations between German and foreign researchers.

Birds Do Better in ‘Agroforests’ than on Farms

Aug. 7, 2012 – Compared with open farmland, wooded “shade” plantations that produce coffee and chocolate promote greater bird diversity, although a new University of Utah study says forests remain the best habitat for tropical birds. The findings suggest that as open farmland replaces forests and “agroforests” – where crops are grown under trees – reduced number of bird species and shifts in the populations of various types of birds may hurt “ecosystem services” that birds provide to people, such as eating insect pests, spreading seeds and pollinating crops. “We found that agroforests are better overall for bird biodiversity in the tropics than open farms,” says study author Çağan Şekercioğlu, an assistant professor of biology at the University of Utah. “This doesn’t mean people should farm in intact forests,” the ornithologist adds. Şekercioğlu’s new study, funded by the University of Utah, is being published this month in the Journal of Ornithology. He will present the findings at the Ecological Society of America’s annual meeting. See full story...

Turkey's biodiversity at the crossroads

July 10, 2012 Current Biology - As Turkey hosts the northernmost part of the Research Site Turkey‘Fertile Crescent’, where humans first developed agriculture more than 10,000 years ago, one might expect to find little wildlife left to protect after millennia of human management and exploitation of the land. The country boasts a rich variety of landscapes, from its three coasts (bordering the Mediterranean, Aegean, and Black Seas) up to the mountains that reach 5,137 metres in height. There are forests, shrublands, large rivers, wetlands, and several mountain ranges. Turkey's unique position at the crossroads between Europe, Asia and Africa has provided an interesting mixture of species to populate these habitats. Even though Turkey's wildlife has weathered more than ten millennia of civilisation remarkably well, conservationists fear that recent ambitions of the Turkish government are raising the threat level. Çağan Şekercioğlu from the University of Utah and colleagues have warned that “unchecked urbanisation, dam construction, draining of wetlands, poaching and excessive irrigation” are threatening Turkey's globally important biodiversity. See full story...

U Gets $5.4M of $20M Water Research Effort

July 16, 2012 – The University of Utah will receive $5.4 million from a five-year, $20 million National Science Foundation grant in which a group of Utah universities and other groups will work to help study, manage and protect Utah’s scarce water supply. The competitive grant is part of a National Science Foundation (NSF) program named EPSCoR – the Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research – which is meant to promote research and development in smaller states that get a disproportionately small share of NSF funds. More than half the states are in the program. While the principal investigator of the new grant is based at Utah State University, co-principal investigators at the University of Utah are Diane Pataki, an associate professor of biology, and Jim Ehleringer, a distinguished professor of biology. See full story...

Ptooey! Plant Poison Turns Seed-Eating Mouse Into Seed Spitter

June 14, 2012 – In Israel’s Negev Desert, a plant called sweet mignonette or Spitting Mousetaily weed uses a toxic “mustard oil bomb” to make the spiny mouse spit out the plant’s seeds when eating the fruit. Thus, the plant has turned a seed-eating rodent into a seed spreader that helps the plant reproduce, says a new study by Utah and Israeli scientists. “It’s fascinating that these little mice are doing analytical chemistry, assaying the fruit for toxic compounds” and learning not to bite into the seed, says Denise Dearing, a coauthor of the study and professor of biology at the University of Utah. “It adds a new dimension to our understanding of the ongoing battle between plants and animals,” she adds. “In this case, the plants have twisted the animals to do their bidding, to spread their progeny.” The study was set for online publication June 14 in the journal Current Biology. See full story...

Virgin Male Moths Think They’re Hot When They’re Not

June 6, 2012 – Talk about throwing yourself into a relationship too soon. A Vickers, CrespoUniversity of Utah study found that when a virgin male moth gets a whiff of female sex attractant, he’s quicker to start shivering to warm up his flight muscles, and then takes off prematurely when he’s still too cool for powerful flight. So his headlong rush to reach the female first may cost him the race. “What happens before flight has not been well studied,” says José Crespo, a University of Utah doctoral student in biology and first author of the new study, published online June 7 in the Journal of Experimental Biology. “To me, the story is you have a behavior – pre-flight warmup – that is switched on by smell.” Senior author Neil Vickers, professor and chairman of biology at the University of Utah, says: “In many insects, moths in particular, all of their adult lives are affected by odor – all the activities they engage in that you and I see at night at the porch light are things typically affected by odor.” See full story... SL Tribune Article

MEASURING CO2 TO FIGHT GLOBAL WARMING

May 14, 2012 – If the world’s nations ever sign a treaty to limit emissions of Dr. Jim Ehleringerclimate-warming carbon dioxide gas, there may be a way to help verify compliance: a new method developed by scientists from the University of Utah and Harvard. Using measurements from only three carbon-dioxide (CO2) monitoring stations in the Salt Lake Valley, the method could reliably detect changes in CO2 emissions of 15 percent or more, the researchers report in the online edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences for the week of May 14, 2012.“The primary motivation for the study was to take high-quality data of atmospheric CO2 in an urban region and ask if you could predict the emissions patterns based on CO2 concentrations in the air,” says study coauthor Jim Ehleringer, a distinguished professor of biology at the University of Utah. See full story... SL Tribune Article

The Key To Keeping Lice At Bay? A Lot Of Hot Air

April 6, 2012 by STEVE HENN-NPR News. When Dale Clayton's kids were little, Kill Licethey — like millions of others — got lice, and Clayton spent weeks combing and picking and shampooing to get them out. "Even then it was already pretty well known that lice were evolving resistance to many of the shampoos that are available in drugstores and grocery stores and so on," says Clayton, so he made it his mission to build a better louse trap. See full story with audio and video...

First National Meeting of Science, Math Ed Centers
UNIVERSITY OF UTAH TO HOST MAY 20-22 CONFERENCE

May 16, 2012 – More than 60 U.S. colleges and universities have created centers to promote science and math education, but there has been no organization to unite them. So on May 20-22, the University of Utah will take a leadership role by hosting the First National Conference for Centers of Science and Mathematics Education. “Nationwide, we are experiencing an increased need for students who have completed higher education degrees in science and math,” says Nalini Nadkarni, director of the University of Utah’s Center for Science and Math Education. “Our center is working to enhance education efforts to meet that goal.” See full story...

Genes for Learning, Remembering, Forgetting

March 29, 2012 – Certain genes and proteins that promote growth and Nemotodedevelopment of embryos also play a surprising role in sending chemical signals that help adults learn, remember, forget and perhaps become addicted, University of Utah biologists have discovered. “We found that these molecules and signaling pathways [named Wnt] do not retire after development of the organism, but have a new and surprising role in the adult. They are called back to action to change the properties of the nervous system in response to experience,” says biology Professor Andres Villu Maricq, senior author of the new study in the March 30 issue of the journal Cell. See full story...

Biology Professor Proposes Wildlife Corridor

March 5, 2012 Kars, Turkey - "This is an Armenian plot," mutters a farmer as ecologists Kuzeydoga explain what may be Turkey's most ambitious wildlife conservation project ever, right in his backyard. But in fact, the government is behind it. This summer, officials expect to begin the reforestation of a 58,000-acre corridor of land that will connect the isolated Sarikamis National Park and its shrinking population of wolves, bears, and lynxes to a swath of territory in the Caucausus . "This is the biggest landscape-scale active conservation project ever undertaken in the country," says Cagan Sekercioglu, a professor of biology at the University of Utah who proposed the corridor. "We're hoping this will reduce human-predator contact and encourage these animals to access much larger and more resource-rich forests along the Black Sea and Caucasus. See full story...

Math Can Save Tylenol Overdose Patients

Feb. 27, 2012 – University of Utah mathematicians developed a set of calculus equations to make it easier for doctors to save Tylenol overdose patients by quickly estimating how much painkiller they took, when they consumed it and whether they will require a liver transplant to survive. “It’s an opportunity to use mathematical methods to improve medical practice and save lives,” says Fred Adler, a professor of mathematics and biology and coauthor of a study that developed and tested the new method. See full story...

900 species of birds could be extinct by 2100

March 5, 2012 - The finding is modelled on the effects of a 3.5C Earth surface temperature rise, Scissor-Tailed Hummingbirda Biological Conservation Journal paper shows. Species may struggle to adapt to habitat loss and extreme weather events, author Cagan Sekercioglu says. Mountain, coastal, restricted-range, and species unable to get to higher Depending on future habitat loss, each degree of surface warming could affect between 100-500 species, says Mr. Sekercioglu, assistant professor of biology at the University of Utah. See full story...

Climate Change Threatens Tropical Birds

Feb. 16, 2012 – Climate change spells trouble for many tropical birds – ScissorTailedHummingbirdespecially those living in mountains, coastal forests and relatively small areas – and the damage will be compounded by other threats like habitat loss, disease and competition among species. That is among the conclusions of a review of nearly 200 scientific studies relevant to the topic. The review was scheduled for online publication this week in the journal Biological Conservation by Cagan Sekercioglu, an assistant professor of biology at the University of Utah. There are roughly 10,000 bird species worldwide. About 87 percent spend at least some time in the tropics, but if migratory birds are excluded, about 6,100 bird species live only in the tropics. See full story...

 

Our Amorphophallus is Smaller

Feb. 6, 2012 – The famed “corpse flower” plant – known for its giant size, Amorphophallus Flowerrotten-meat odor and phallic shape – has a new, smaller relative: A University of Utah botanist discovered a new species of Amorphophallus that is one-fourth as tall but just as stinky. The new species, collected on two small islands off Madagascar, brings to about 170 the number of species in the genus Amorphophallus, which is Greek for “misshapen penis” because of the shape of the plants’ flower-covered shaft, called the inflorescence or the spadix, says Greg Wahlert, a postdoctoral researcher in the Bohs Lab in biology. See full story...

 

Why Bad Immunity Genes Survive

Feb. 6, 2012 – University of Utah biologists found new evidence why mice, Cellpeople and other vertebrate animals carry thousands of varieties of genes to make immune-system proteins named MHCs – even though some of those genes make us susceptible to infections and to autoimmune diseases. “Major histocompatibility complex” (MHC) proteins are found on the surface of most cells in vertebrate animals. They distinguish self from foreign, and trigger an immune response against foreign invaders. MHCs recognize invading germs, reject or accept transplanted organs and play a role in helping us smell compatible mates. “This study explains why there are so many versions of the MHC genes, and why the ones that cause susceptibility to diseases are being maintained and not eliminated,” says biology Professor Wayne Potts. “They are involved in a never-ending arms race that causes them, at any point in time, to be good against some infections but bad against other infections and autoimmune diseases.” See full story...

Birds of a Feather Don’t Always Stick Together

Jan. 19, 2012 – Pigeons display spectacular variations in their feathers, feet, beaks and other physical traits, but a new University of Utah study shows that visible traits don’t always coincide with genetics: A bird from one breed may have huge foot feathers, while a closely related breed does not; yet two unrelated pigeon breeds both may have large foot feathers “Most people think of pigeons as rats of the sky, but in fact they’re really incredibly diverse,” says Michael Shapiro, an assistant professor of biology and senior author of the study published online Jan. 19 in the journal Current Biology. SL Tribune Article See full story...

 

Turkey’s Globally Important Biodiversity in Crisis

Turkey lies at the nexus of Europe, the Middle East, Central Asia and Africa. Turkey’s location, mountains, and its encirclement by three seas have resulted in high terrestrial, fresh water, and marine biodiversity. Most of Turkey’s land area is covered by one of three biodiversity hotspots (Caucasus, Irano-Anatolian, and Mediterranean). Of over 9000 known native vascular plant species, one third are endemic. Turkey faces a significant challenge with regard to biodiversity and associated conservation challenges due to limited research and lack of translation into other languages of existing material. Addressing this gap is increasingly relevant as Turkey’s biodiversity faces severe and growing threats, especially from government and business interests. Turkey ranks 121st out of 132 countries in biodiversity and habitat conservation. Millennia of human activities have dramatically changed the original land and sea ecosystems of Anatolia, one of the earliest loci of human civilization. Recent articles on  Cagan Sekercioglu's work on biodiversity research and conservation in Turkey are in Science, Biological Conservation, National Geographic, the New York Times and the New Yorker.

Utah Biologist Wins Public Engagement Award

Jan. 9, 2012 – University of Utah biology Professor Nalini Nadkarni is being honored by the world’s largest general science society – the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) – with the group’s 2011 Public Engagement with Science Award. AAAS has named Nalini M. Nadkarni as the recipient of the 2011 AAAS Public Engagement With Science Award, recognizing “her unique, persistent and innovative public engagement activities that have served to raise awareness of environmental and conservation issues with a broad and exceedingly diverse audience.” See full story...

BLUEPRINT OF SPIDER MITE MAY YIELD BETTER PESTICIDES

Nov. 23, 2011 – A University of Utah biologist and an international research team decoded the genetic blueprint of the two-spotted spider mite, raising hope for new ways to attack the major pest, which resists pesticides and destroys crops and ornamental plants worldwide. The voracious mites, which technically are not insects, can eat more than 1,100 plant species – a rare trait. The mites’ newly revealed and sequenced genome contains a variety of genes capable of detoxifying pesticides as well as toxins plants use to defend themselves, the scientists report in the Thursday, Nov. 24 issue of the journal Nature.

“One key thing that makes spider mites unique is they can eat many, many different plant species,” says Richard M. Clark, one of five main authors of the study and an assistant professor of biology at the University of Utah. “These mites are often house plant pests – a major cause of people’s house plants turning yellow and getting sick. They also are a major problem for agricultural nurseries and greenhouses, and for field crops.” Primary targets are tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, strawberries, corn, soybeans, apples, grapes and citrus. See full story...

U. biologist merges bird research and conservation

BY BRIAN MAFFLY
The Salt Lake Tribune

Oct 09, 2011 Cagan Sekercioglu’s first summer in graduate school was spent in a lab staring at bird barf. "It was awful," said the University of Utah biologist. "You had to look at these vomits through a microscope and figure out what they had eaten from the insect body parts you could see." The inherent tension between trying to conserve nature and studying it objectively means conservation biologists must walk a careful line. His global perspective and eye on conservation help round out one of the U.’s largest departments, according to biology chairman Neil Vickers.

Another pair of U. biologists, Phyllis Coley and Thomas Kursar, maintain a research outpost in Costa Rica, assaying compounds harvested from rain forest plants for therapeutic properties.

Other recent U. biology hires also fit this mold. Entomologist Jack Longino and tree-canopy researcher Nalini Nadkarni joined the department this fall after the U. recruited the husband-wife team from Washington's Evergreen State College where they started the International Canopy Network, which promotes forest conservation and research. Nadkarni, who now runs the U.'s new Center for Science and Mathematics Education, is a charismatic communicator noted for engaging nonacademics. See full story...

Little Plant has Big Stories to Tell

August 28, 2011—Understanding which genes control traits, like when a plant will flower, what soil type is best or its ability to persist in drought conditions provides insight into the ability of plants to adapt to new environments. This type of scientific data is important for crop improvement and significant to human well being. An international collaboration of researchers, including biologists at the University of Utah (the U), compared genetic data from 19 different strains of a humble plant called Arabidopsis thaliana (thale cress). The genome sequences of these strains, 18 of which are presented in the study, will now make it easier to study plants’ surprisingly wide trait variation that underlies their adaptability. The results of the study are published online in the journal Nature. “Arabidopsis thaliana is widely used by the international community and has provided a wealth of knowledge about plant biology,” says Richard Clark , University of Utah biologist and one of the authors of this multi-national project. See full story...

RATS CONTROL APPETITE FOR POISON

Aug. 9, 2011 - Life is tough for woodrats in deserts of the U.S. Southwest. There are few plants for food, and those plants produce poison to deter rodents, insects and other animals. A new University of Utah study shows how certain woodrats put themselves on a diet to avoid poisoning. "For decades, we have been trying to understand how herbivores deal with toxic diets," says biology Professor Denise Dearing , senior author of the study, published online Tuesday, Aug. 9 in the British Ecological Society's journal Functional Ecology. Dearing conducted the research with first author and Utah biology Ph.D. student Ann-Marie Torregrossa.... See full story...

6 Million Years of Savanna

Aug. 3, 2011 – University of Utah scientists used chemical isotopes in ancient soil to measure prehistoric tree cover – in effect, shade – and found that grassy, tree-dotted savannas prevailed at most East African sites where human ancestors and their ape relatives evolved during the past 6 million years. “We’ve been able to quantify how much shade was available in the geological past,” says geochemist Thure Cerling, senior author of a study of the new method in the Thursday, Aug. 4, 2011 issue of the journal Nature. . See full story...

U Biologist named 2011 National Geographic Emerging explorer

May 16, 2011- Dr. Cagan Sekercioglu has been named one of 14 National Geographic's 2011 Emerging Explorers. National Geographic's Emerging Explorers Program recognizes and supports uniquely gifted and inspiring young adventurers, scientists, photographers, and storytellers—explorers who are already making a difference early in their careers. . See full story...

NO NUTS FOR ‘NUTCRACKER MAN’ - EARLY HUMAN RELATIVE APPARENTLY CHEWED GRASS INSTEAD

May 2, 2011 - For decades, a 2.3 million- to 1.2 million-year-old human relative named Paranthropus boisei has been nicknamed Nutcracker Man because of his big, flat molar teeth and thick, powerful jaw. But a definitive new University of Utah study shows that Nutcracker Man didn't eat nuts, but instead chewed grasses and possibly sedges - a discovery that upsets conventional wisdom about early humanity's diet. "It most likely was eating grass, and most definitely was not cracking nuts," says geochemist Thure Cerling, lead author of the study published in the May 2 online edition of the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.See full story...

Graduate Student and Postdoctoral Scholar Distinguished Mentor Award 2011 (April 20, 2011)

Biology professor Dr. Donald Feener named as winner of the University of Utah's 2011 Graduate Student and Postdoctoral Scholar mentor award. This award recognizes faculty who effectively guide graduate students and postdoctoral scholars throughout their professional training in a continuing, multifaceted partnership sustained by mutual respect and concern. The relationship between a graduate student and/or postdoctoral scholar and his or her faculty advisor is one that can have a profound, lifelong influence on both parties. At its best, this mentoring relationship inspires and gives confidence to the student or postdoctoral scholar while providing the faculty member with a valued colleague. See full story...

THREE AWARDS RECOGNIZE OUTSTANDING TEACHING BY BIOLOGY FACULTY

Biology faculty members have recently received awards recognizing their outstanding teaching. Professor David Gard was recognized with the Students' Choice Teaching Award from the Associated Students of the University of Utah. Students nominate outstanding professors for this honor. Assistant Professor Michael Shapiro received the Early Career Teaching Award from the Center for Teaching and Learning Excellence at the University of Utah. The award committee were particularly impressed by Dr. Shapiro's use of skype technology to connect students directly with the authors of papers that they read in class. In addition, Professor (Lecturer) David Temme was awarded the Excellence in Education Award by the Latter-Day Saint Student Association at the University of Utah. Dr. Temme's selection for this award shows that his teaching is held in high regard by students across the campus.

MONITORING KILLER MICE FROM SPACE (Feb. 15, 2011)

The risk of deadly hantavirus outbreaks in people can be predicted months ahead of time by using satellite images to monitor surges in vegetation that boost mouse populations, a University of Utah study says. The method also might forecast outbreaks of other rodent-borne illnesses worldwide. "It's a way to remotely track a disease without having to go out and trap animals all the time," says Dr. Denise Dearing, professor of biology at the University of Utah and co-author of the study published online Wednesday, Feb. 16, in the journal Global Ecology and Biogeography. "The satellite measures the greenness of the Earth, and we found that greenness predicts deer mouse population density." See full "Killer Mice" story…

Biology Professor Recognized (January 7, 2011)

Dr. Cagan H. Sekercioglu, a new assistant professor of biology, has been named Turkey's Scientist of the Year by a media consortium in his homeland of Turkey. The consortium, which includes the NTV-MSNBC news organization, named people of the year in 10 categories (including politician, sportsperson, actor, musician and businessperson). The media group selected Sekercioglu through its popular science magazine, NTV Bilim (NTV Science). In addition to citing Sekercioglu's conservation, biodiversity research and ecological restoration project at Turkey's Lake Kuyucuk, NTV Bilim praised him as intelligent and charming, and noted the frequency with which his work is cited by other scientists. See NatGeo Blog

Biology Department Names Three NEW Assistant Professors

Dr. Cagan H. Sekercioglu, Dr. Ayako Yamaguchi, Dr. Sarah Bush

Biology Professor Named Fellow of AAAS (January 11, 2011)

Biology Professor Dr. Gary Drews has been elected as a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the world's largest general scientific society and publisher of the journal Science. He was among 503 AAAS members awarded that honor "because of their efforts toward advancing science applications that are deemed scientifically or socially distinguished," the group said. Drews was honored for "distinguished contributions to the study of plant reproduction through pioneering work" on the development of embryo sacs and the seed component known as endosperm, which is a major source of food, animal feed and industrial raw materials. AAAS has been electing members as fellows since 1874. See full "Recognizing U" story…

The Lousterbuster Returns (December 6, 2010)

Dec. 6, 2010 -- Four years after the LouseBuster prototype made headlines when research showed the chemical-free, warm-air device wiped out head lice on children, a new study reveals that a revamped, government-cleared model is highly effective. The new study of 56 louse-infested children and adults - soon to be published in the January 2011 issue of the Journal of Medical Entomology - found 94.8 percent of lice and their eggs, known as nits, were dead after treatment with the LouseBuster. See full "Lousebuster Returns" story.

Olivera reappointed HHMI Professor (September 2, 2010)

Baldomero "Toto" Olivera has been reappointed as an HHMI Professor for science education. Olivera, who is a Distinguished Professor in the Department of Biology, will receive an $800,000 grant to expand his efforts in building innovative research-based approaches to undergraduate education. Dr. Olivera was first appointed as an HHMI Professor in 2006. Out of about 60 initial appointments, Professor Olivera is one of only 13 science education professors to be reappointed in 2010.

Cryptically colored parasites (August 19, 2010)

The evolution of cryptic coloration is a classic example of evolution by natural selection. Just as cryptically colored prey avoid detection by predators, Sarah Bush and colleagues from the Department of Biology have shown that some species of parasites have evolved cryptic coloration to avoid being removed when the host preens. Their study, published in the American Naturalist, shows that lice match the color of the feathers on which they live. Lightly colored birds have lightly colored lice and darkly colored birds have darkly colored lice. There is however, an interesting exception. Birds have species of lice that are found only on their head and neck feathers. Since birds can neither see nor preen their own heads, there is no selection pressure for these "head lice" to evolve cryptic coloration. Indeed, Bush and colleagues found no evidence of cryptic coloration in head lice. In essence, head lice are the exception that proves the rule that preening is the selective agent responsible for the evolution of cryptic coloration in feather lice.

Big NIH Honor for U Biologist (August 17, 2010)

University of Utah biologist A. Villu Maricq will receive $3.75 million to study memory and learning in action, thanks to a National Institutes of Health (NIH) Director's Pioneer Award meant to encourage promising but risky research. See full "Big NIH Honor" story…

Putting Muscle into Birdsong (June 29, 2010)

University of Utah biologists Franz Goller and Tobias Reide were among the scientists that studied the colorful zebra finch to learn more about the factors that allow the songbirds to sing over a wide range of frequencies while females utter only brief lower-frequency calls. They found that the males' more powerful vocal muscles were much more important than the pressure of air within the lung. See full "Putting Muscle into Birdsong" story…

Mental Illness Tied to Immune Defect (May 27, 2010)

A Nobel Prize-winning University of Utah geneticist, Mario Capecchi, distinguished professor of human genetics at the University of Utah, School of Medicine discovered that bone marrow transplants cure mutant mice who pull out their hair compulsively. The study provides the first cause-and-effect link between immune system cells and mental illness, and points toward eventual new psychiatric treatments. See full "Mental Illness Tied to Immune Defect" story…

Worm Genes K'O (April 25, 2010)

Knocking genes out of action allows researchers to learn what genes do by seeing what goes wrong without them. University of Utah biologists pioneered the field. Mario Capecchi won a Nobel Prize for developing knockout mice. Kent Golic found a way to cripple fruit fly genes. Now, biologist Erik Jorgensen and colleagues have devised a procedure for knocking out genes in nematode worms. See full "Worm Genes K'O" story…

Gators Breathe Like Birds (Jan. 14, 2010)

University of Utah scientists (biologist, C.G. Farmer, the study's principal author) discovered that air flows in one direction as it loops through the lungs of alligators, just as it does in birds. The study suggests this breathing method may have helped the dinosaurs' ancestors dominate Earth after the planet's worst mass extinction 251 million years ago. See full "Gators Breathe Like Birds" story…

Birds Fight Alien Parasites (Jan. 5, 2010)

Unlike Hawaii and other island groups, no native bird has gone extinct in the Galapagos Islands, although some are in danger. But University of Utah biologists found that finches - the birds Darwin studied - develop antibodies against two parasites that moved to the Galapagos, suggesting the birds can fight the alien invaders. See full "Birds Fight Alien Parasites" story…