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August 12, 2006, 3:05 PM CT

Atomic Bonsai Kit

Atomic Bonsai Kit
It's always nice to have some plant life around the house or to freshen up your drab cubicle, but let's face it -- many a modern urbanite (or suburbanite, for that matter) lacks a green thumb.

Enter the Atomic Bonsai Kit! A hip, clever, and evergreen alternative to wilting foliage, you simply interlock the cardboard bonsai leaves and branches together -- no scissors or glue (or watering or sunshine!) required. Like its real-life counterpart, the Atomic Bonsai can be pruned into new and unique forms; simply move a few "leaves" from one branch to another, and voilá -- a brand new configuration! Designed by Joji Okazaki.........

Posted by: Erica      Permalink         Source

August 12, 2006, 2:27 PM CT

Blooming Of Amorphophallus Titanum

Blooming Of Amorphophallus Titanum
The titan arum (Amorphophallus titanum) is one of the world's most remarkable plants. Native to tropical forests in Sumatra, it produces a monstrous four- to nine-foot-tall flower head, which releases a monstrous stench of putrefaction at peak bloom (another name for the plant is the corpse flower!). The species rarely flowers in cultivation-the last time one bloomed in New York was 1939. However, Brooklyn Botanic Garden's ten-year-old specimen recently began to flower. It's in peak bloom right now!!

Don't miss this major botanical event! Visit our webpage for daily photo and plant-growth updates, as well as daily weblogs from members of BBG's horticultural staff. A webcam provides an updated image of the titan arum every 60 seconds. On this webpage, you'll also find links to articles on the natural history of the titan arum, the history of BBG's specimen, information about growing and conserving this threatened species, and more.........

Posted by: Erica      Permalink         Source

August 11, 2006, 9:16 PM CT

Drilling Into Fossil Magma Chamber Deep Under the Ocean

Drilling Into Fossil Magma Chamber Deep Under the Ocean
Researchers aboard the research drilling ship JOIDES Resolution have, for the first time, drilled into a fossil magma chamber under intact ocean crust. There, 1.4 kilometers beneath the sea floor, they have recovered samples of gabbro: a hard, black rock that forms when molten magma is trapped beneath Earth's surface and cools slowly.

The scientists, affiliated with the Integrated Ocean Drilling Program (IODP), published their findings on April 20 in Science Express, the online edition of the journal Science.

Eventhough gabbro has been sampled elsewhere in the oceans where faulting and tectonic movements have brought it closer to the seafloor, this is the first time gabbro has been recovered from intact ocean crust.

The borehole into the magma chamber took nearly five months to drill, and mandatory the use of twenty-five hardened steel and tungsten carbide drill bits. Getting there "is a rare opportunity to calibrate geophysical measurements with direct observations of real rocks," said geophysicist Doug Wilson of the University of California at Santa Barbara, lead author on the Science Express paper. "Finding the right place to drill was probably the key to this success".

Wilson and his IODP colleagues observed that place by identifying a region of the Pacific Ocean that formed some 15 million years ago when the East Pacific Rise was spreading at a "superfast" rate of more than 200 millimeters per year, faster than any mid-ocean ridge on Earth today.........

Posted by: Kelly      Permalink         Source

August 10, 2006, 11:49 PM CT

Microbe In The Depths Of Ocean Life

Microbe In The Depths Of Ocean Life
Researchers from MIT and six other institutions are part of a new center for exploring the microbial inhabitants of the sea.

The Center for Microbial Oceanography: Research and Education (C-MORE) will facilitate collaborations among the previously separate disciplines of oceanography, microbiology, ecology and genomics. These new alliances will enable a deeper understanding of the seas, including their potential response to global environmental variability and climate change.

C-MORE, which will receive approximately $19 million from the National Science Foundation over the first five years, is based at the University of Hawaii at Manoa.

Participating institutions in addition to MIT and UH Manoa are the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Oregon State University, the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute, the University of California at Santa Cruz, and the Hawaii Department of Education.

"A central objective of C-MORE will be to increase understanding about how biological diversity detected at the genome level expresses itself at the ecosystem function level, and then to transfer this knowledge to policymakers to assist them in their decision-making process," said MIT Professor Edward DeLong, C-MORE associate director for research.

"Marine microorganisms are invisible to the naked eye, but their presence enables all multicellular life to exist, including human populations," said DeLong, who holds appointments in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering (CEE) and the Biological Engineering Division. "Novel methods in molecular biology combined with satellite- and sea-based remote sensing technologies provide an unprecedented opportunity to study microorganisms across broad spatial scales ranging from genes to entire ocean basins".........

Posted by: Erica      Permalink         Source

August 9, 2006, 11:54 PM CT

Invasive Species Alter Habitat

Invasive Species Alter Habitat Cattails
When researchers study habitats that alien species have invaded, they commonly find predictable patterns. The diversity of native species declines, and changes occur in natural processes such as nutrient cycling, wildfire frequency and the movement of water through the system.

But simply observing such changes doesn't prove that the invaders are responsible.

University of Michigan scientists Emily Farrer and Deborah Goldberg, however, came up with a way to tease out the cause of environmental changes in northern Michigan wetlands where invasive cattails have taken hold. The cattails, they found, alter the environment in ways that hinder native species but benefit the invaders. Farrer and Goldberg will present their results Aug. 9 at a meeting of the Ecological Society of America in Memphis, Tenn.

"When you have an invasion, you typically see three things happening at once: the invasion, the change in environment and the decrease in diversity," said Farrer, a graduate student in Goldberg's laboratory group. "But they're all happening concurrently, so you can't really tell which is causing the other." Other factors may enter in. For example, human activity, such as the use of fertilizers and road salt and the suppression of natural wildfires, also may result in environmental changes that affect species diversity.........

Posted by: Erica      Permalink         Source

August 9, 2006, 10:23 PM CT

Genetic Snooze Button Governs Timing Of Spring Flowers

Genetic Snooze Button Governs Timing Of Spring Flowers
In the long, dark days of winter, gardeners are known to count the days until spring. Now, researchers have learned, some plants do exactly the same thing.

Addressing researchers here today (Aug. 9) at a meeting of the American Society of Plant Biologists, University of Wisconsin-Madison researcher Richard Amasino described studies that have begun to peel back some of the mystery of how plants pace the seasons to bloom at the optimal time of year.

"Flowering at the right time is all about competition," says Amasino, Howard Hughes Medical Institute Professor and UW-Madison professor of biochemistry.

Amasino and colleagues have studied, in particular, the behaviors of biennial plants, which require long periods of exposure to the cold to initiate flowering in the spring. What they have found reveals some of the complex interplay of genes and environment and provides hints that, one day, it may be possible to exert precise control over flowering, a process essential for plant reproduction and fruiting and that has enormous implications for agriculture.

Flowers are the reproductive organs of plants and are responsible for forming seeds and fruit. As their name implies, biennials complete their life cycles in two years, germinating, growing and overwintering the first year. The second year, the plants flower in the spring and die back in the fall.........

Posted by: Erica      Permalink         Source

August 9, 2006, 10:12 PM CT

Arctic Coring Expedition Yield New Clues

Arctic Coring Expedition Yield New Clues Arctic Sea Ice 04/03/01
For the second time in as a number of months, the IODP Arctic Coring Expedition (ACEX) is making news with new analysis of ocean-floor sediments. In the Aug. 10 issue of Nature, an article authored by several of the expedition researchers summarizes their findings: more evidence that the Arctic was extremely warm, uncommonly wet, and ice-free up to the time the last massive amounts of greenhouse gases were released into the Earth's atmosphere - a period calculated to have occurred 55 million years ago, and known as the Paleocene/Eocene thermal maximum, or PETM.

Scientists have long recognized that a massive release of greenhouse gases, probably carbon dioxide or methane, occurred during the PETM. Surface temperatures also rose in a number of places by as much as 15 degrees Fahrenheit in the (relative) geological instant of about 100,000 years.

Arctic sediment samples were largely unavailable until 2004, when ACEX researchers recovered the first deep-ocean sediment samples from beneath the ice-laden waters near the North Pole. ACEX, only the second scientific expedition to be conducted by the Integrated Ocean Drilling Program (established in late 2003), recovered 339 meters of subseafloor sediment samples.

"Building a picture of ancient climatic events is a lot like putting together a jigsaw puzzle, and what ACEX allowed us to do was fill in a blank section of the PETM picture," said Gerald Dickens, a Rice University geochemist and co-author, who conducted the initial, shipboard chemical analyses of all the ACEX core samples.........

Posted by: Kelly      Permalink         Source

August 9, 2006, 7:16 AM CT

Landscapes and human behavior

Landscapes and human behavior
On Arizona State University's (ASU) Polytechnic campus, graduate student families in the cluster of six houses abutting lush lawns and ornamental bushes spend time together talking while their kids play outside. Meanwhile, the families in a nearby cluster of six homes barely know each other. But that may be in part because their homes sit on native Sonoran desert, not nearly as conducive to recreation as the lush microclimate researchers created in the first neighborhood. Social scientists and biophysical ecologists are finding that environmental surroundings may play a significant role in human social interaction, serving either as a social lubricant as in the first case, or as a barrier.

David Casagrande (Western Illinois University) and Scott Yabiku (ASU) and colleagues are part of the Central Arizona-Phoenix long term ecological research project. In 2004 and early 2005, the researchers installed residential landscapes at 24 of about 152 virtually identical housing units in the "North Desert Village" of ASU's campus. The scientists selected five "mini neighborhoods" (groups of six houses) and altered four of them, leaving the fifth as a control with no landscaping. The four landscaping styles were:
  • mesic: shade trees and turf grass, dependent upon flood irrigation for their high water demands

Posted by: Erica      Permalink         Source

August 8, 2006, 0:24 AM CT

Hard Thoughts On Soft Inheritance

Hard Thoughts On Soft Inheritance Eric Richards, Ph.D., WUSTL professor of biology in Arts & Sciences, holding an Arabidopsis plant in the greenhouse.
Organisms, including humans, all inherit DNA from generation to generation, what biologists call hard inheritance, because the nucleotide sequence of DNA is constant and only changes by rare random mutation as it is passed down the generations.

But there also is evidence, particularly in plants, that non-genetic factors modifying the DNA can also be inherited. The modifications of the genetic material take the form of small chemical additions to one of the DNA bases and the alternative packaging of the DNA. These so-called epigenetic modifications are known to be important for turning genes on and off during the course of an organism's life, but their importance in controlling inheritance has been debated. A number of biologists are skeptical of any form of soft inheritance, where the genetic material is not constant, believing that it is only genetic information - DNA -- that can be passed onto generations.

Now Eric Richards, Ph.D., professor of biology at Washington University in St. Louis, writing in the recent issue of Nature Reviews Genetics, analyzes recent and past research in epigenetics and the history of evolution and proposes that epigenetics should be considered a form of soft inheritance, citing examples in both the plant and mammalian kingdoms.........

Posted by: Erica      Permalink         Source

August 7, 2006, 10:06 PM CT

Coral Microbial Ecology

Coral Microbial Ecology
Most people are familiar with tropical coral reefs, located in warm, shallow waters. However, corals also exist hundreds and even thousands of meters below the ocean's surface where it is cold and completely dark. In the last few decades, researchers have discovered and photographed incredible gardens of deep-sea corals off the coasts of North America, Great Britain, Europe, Scandinavia, Australia, and New Zealand. These corals survive without algal symbionts (because there is no light for photosynthesis) and may take a long time to grow.

Thus the potential role of coral-associated microbes is even more interesting. It is possible that the microbes are helping to feed these corals, similar to the chemosynthetic bacterial symbionts that feed hydrothermal-vent worms. The microbial communities of these coldadapted corals are also likely to contain novel organisms, which will not only increase our understanding of microbial diversity but could also be a source of new enzymes or pharmaceuticals.........

Posted by: Kelly      Permalink         Source


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