News

Dimensions of Biodiversity

March 5, 2020 - In late 2019, The National Science Foundation (NSF)’s Dimensions of Biodiversity Campaign has awarded University of Utah Associate Professor Bryn Dentinger (School of Biological Sciences/Natural History Museum of Utah) funding for an international research collaboration studying symbiotic coevolution. Coincidentally, another group of faculty members from the School of Biological Sciences, Colin Dale, Sarah Bush and Dale Clayton, has also received funding from the same campaign for a different project this year.  This is the fifth Dimensions of Biodiversity award to the School in seven years and the second time that two awards have been made to the school in the same year.   Dentinger and his collaborators’ research integrates phylogenetic, genetic, and chemical data to uncover hidden diversity within and interrogate the function of an iconic example of symbiotic coevolution, the fungus-growing ant symbiosis.  Dentinger says that "Using high throughput genetic and metabolomic approaches, the project will examine whether and how the functions of the ants' garden microbiomes complement those of the core symbionts within the system. We will also discover the functional chemistry underlying symbiont communication, pathogen suppression, and mutualistic facilitation."

Endangered wild relatives needed

February 7, 2020 - Wild plants evolve to survive the whims of nature and thrive in difficult conditions, including extreme climate conditions, poor soils, and pests and disease. It makes them tougher than their better-known descendants—the domesticated plants that are critical to a healthy diet who are not nearly as hardy. The genes that make crop wild relatives robust have the potential to make their cultivated cousins – our food plants - better prepared for a harsh climate future. But a series of new research papers show these critical plants are imperiled. Certain chile peppers, says SBS’s botanist Lynn Bohs, who with Khoury and others recently published new findings on the subject, have found themselves in one such imperiled grouping: “It is important to know the conservation status of the wild Capsicum species in order to prioritize regions for further collecting or habitat preservation so that these genetic resources are available for future crop improvement.” See D&D Article ...

Why males pack a powerful punch

February 6, 2020 - Elk have antlers. Rams have horns. In the animal kingdom, males develop specialized weapons for competition when winning a fight is critical. Humans do too, according to new research from the University of Utah. For years, SBS faculty member Dave Carrier has been exploring the hypothesis that generations of interpersonal male-male aggression long in the past have shaped structures in human bodies to specialize for success in fighting. Past work has shown that the proportions of the hand aren’t just for manual dexterity- they also protect the hand when it’s formed into a fist. Other studies looked at the strength of the bones of the face (as a likely target of a punch) and how our heels, planted on the ground, can confer additional upper body power. “One of the predictions that comes out of those,” Carrier says, “is if we are specialized for punching, you might expect males to be particularly strong in the muscles that are associated with throwing a punch.” See JEB Article ... See UNews Article ...

OUR DNA latest issue

December 6, 2019 - Hot off the Press! OUR DNA is a dynamic 360-degree snapshot of both the depth and breadth of the people, the research and the outreach that make up one of the University of Utah's most celebrated academic units. In both print and digital formats, the latest issue (Fall 2019) features stories about faculty members CRISPR-wielding James (Jamie) Gagnon, “Ant Man” John (Jack) Longino, our newest faculty member Dean Castillo and botanist plant water transport specialist John Sperry (who is retiring this year). A profile of alumnus Dr. Nikhil Bhayani (BS’98) takes a bow along with other alumni updates from basketball-player-turned-doctor (Larry Cain BS’93) to Sue Phillips (MS’96) the U.S. Geological Survey’s new director of the FRESC center in Oregon.  Undergraduate research students like Bridget Phillips (Shapiro lab) get a plug as does the remarkable story about the Colin Dale Lab’s project of firebugs collected by citizen scientist 2nd graders. Pick up your copy today or see the full magazine online at Our DNA Fall 2019

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The School of Biological Sciences offers exceptional opportunities to learn, work, and collaborate across levels of biological organization and styles of research. Faculty research interests span the complete spectrum of biological phenomena and disciplines, from biochemistry to global environmental change. This breadth of research interests has led to development of two focused, yet overlapping, graduate training programs: Molecular, Cellular, and Evolutionary Biology (MCEB) and Ecology Evolution and Organismal Biology (EEOB).

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