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WashU Expert: Proposed changes will stamp out ‘countless species’

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“Species are being lost at a rate not seen since an asteroid slammed into the Earth and wiped out the dinosaurs and many other species 66 million years ago,” Losos said. “The Endangered Species Act has been successful at slowing this rate and preventing the extinction of many species, and it has served as an inspiration for countries around the world. Sadly, the recent proposals of the federal government, if put into place, will greatly weaken the act’s protections and hasten the extinction of countless species,” he said.

Caught on camera Wildlife of greater St. Louis area comes into focus in new biodiversity project

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The St. Louis Wildlife Project is a collaboration between St. Louis College of Pharmacy and the Tyson Research Center at Washington University in St. Louis. The project aims to quantify biodiversity and improve the understanding of wildlife ecology in the greater St. Louis area. Through this project, St. Louis serves as a partner city in the Urban Wildlife Information Network, an initiative based at the Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago that includes partner cities across North America. “Currently, more than half of the global population lives in cities, and this portion is expected to rise,” said Solny Adalsteinsson, staff scientist at Tyson Research Center. “If we are to conserve biodiversity, we need to understand how we can better plan these cities to benefit wildlife and create more sustainable cities,” she said.

Sticky proteins help plants know when — and where — to grow New research uncovers a mechanism that keeps hormone auxin in its place

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“You can have any cue,” said lead researcher Lucia Strader, associate professor of biology in Arts & Sciences and associate director of the Center for Science & Engineering of Living Systems. “Light, temperature, different nutrients … the plant makes auxin in response to all of these things.” What follows as a result of that auxin release can also vary, from stress responses to leaf development to changes in the root system architecture. Those responses are all results of Auxin Response Factors (ARFs), proteins which bind to DNA in a cell’s nucleus to facilitate growth and development in one way, or another.

Rethinking seizures associated with cardiac disease: Fly study suggests neuronal gene malfunction, not oxygen deprivation, is behind long QT seizures

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Research from Washington University in St. Louis finds that mutations of a gene implicated in long QT syndrome in humans may trigger seizures because of their direct effects on certain classes of neurons in the brain — independent from what the genetic mutations do to heart function. The new work from Arts & Sciences was conducted with fruit flies and is published Aug. 8 in PLOS Genetics. “This gene seems to be a key factor in the physiological process that protects neurons from starting to fire uncontrollably in response to a rapid increase in temperature, which could lead to paralysis and death,” said Yehuda Ben-Shahar, associate professor of biology in Arts & Sciences.

Lab Manager Position available in Hengen Lab

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A full-time position that combines the roles of lab manager and surgical technician requiring good communication and organizational skills, and a willingness to learn and implement new techniques. The successful candidate will be able to direct/coordinate lab business independently, and will be expected to design and implement experiments, analyze data, and troubleshoot as needed. The Hengen Lab is a dynamic, fast-paced, and interdisciplinary group. Daily tasks are highly variable, and require the manager to be involved in/aware of many projects, people, and developing directions in the Lab. This position requires extensive communication with individuals outside the lab such as the accounting department, HR, IACUC, and DCM staff, as well as communications with sales reps from companies from which supplies are purchased.

Interning local: Universal experience, valuable skills Undergraduates find meaningful summer work in our own backyard

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Tyson Research Center, Washington University’s environmental research station, is 20 miles west of the Danforth Campus. Past a monitored steel gate and over a mile through the woods, that’s where Kayla Mans, a rising junior majoring in environmental policy in Arts & Sciences, worked this summer to strengthen the science communications skills of St. Louis-area high school students. Mans chose the major because she likes writing and getting involved in environmental issues. She spent her days at Tyson teaching in the Tyson Environmental Research Fellowships (TERF) program, which places high school students as apprentices in university-based environmental biology research.

Community Spotlight: Rachel Penczykowski

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Assistant Professor of Biology Rachel Penczykowski knew from an early age that she enjoyed leading a team of people who would investigate what she is curious about.

Postdoc position available in Strassmann Queller Lab

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Postdoctoral position on amoeba social evolution and/or amoeba–bacteria symbiosis: This position is for research in the Queller-Strassmann group. We focus on the evolution of interactions, especially in the social amoeba Dictyostelium discoideum. This has become a model system for the evolution of cooperation and conflict and the transition to multicellularity. We are also working on its symbiotic bacterial partners sometimes confer a farming advantage but also impose costs.

Haswell and Carlsson receive NSF grant

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Elizabeth S. Haswell, professor of biology, and Anders E. Carlsson, professor of physics, both in Arts & Sciences, received a $954,779 grant from the National Science Foundation for their project titled “Pollen: A model system for computational and experimental study of plant biomechanics at the cellular scale.”

Strange Evolution: the Weird Future of Life on Earth

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Given that our understanding of evolution and genetics is incomplete, and that much will likely depend on chance events, no one can know for sure what future life will look like. Picking the evolutionary winners of the future is like trying to pick winners on the stock market, or forecasting the weather, writes Ward. We have some data for making educated guesses, but also a large degree of uncertainty. “The colours, habits, and shapes of the newly evolved fauna can only be guessed at.” Losos agrees. “At the end of the day,” he says, “the possibilities are so wide and uncertain that it’s really pointless trying to speculate about what life might look like – there are just way too many degrees of freedom. Life could go in so many different ways.”

Science meets the great cat debate-review by Jonathan Losos

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With their shared passion for animals, bird watchers and cat lovers should be allies. Instead, they’re often at each other’s throats. The reason is simple: We love cats—there are more cats in the United States than dogs and a loosely estimated 600 million Felis catus worldwide. The problem is that many cats are outside some or all of the time, killing birds, rodents, insects, and just about every other type of small creature. Plus, outdoor cats can spread human diseases, most notably toxoplasmosis.

‘Antibacterial’ Chemical in Consumer Products Causes More Harm by Making Bacteria Stronger

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Petra Levin, PhD, professor of biology at Washington University in St. Louis, explained how triclosan is very stable and lingers in the body and in the environment for a long time. Levin and Corey Westfall, a postdoctoral scholar in the Levin Lab, are not supporters of the antibacterial consumer push, regardless of the active ingredient. Both say hand washing with plain soap and water does the job, and the same goes for cleaning and wiping things down, encouraging regular soap, cleaning or bleach products- depending on the task. “I think when it comes to anything antibacterial or antimicrobial should be left to doctors mainly,” said Westfall. “We should leave them out of consumer products.” “At least in your day to day life, washing with antibacterial soap does not provide any advantage to cleaning your hands as to really lathering with soap and washing your hands with just plain soap that doesn’t have anything added in it,” said Levin.

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