Bezanilla appears in three iBiology videos

Magdalena Bezanilla appears in three iBiology videos . iBiology's mission is to convey, in the form of open-access free videos, the excitement of modern biology and the process by which scientific discoveries are made. iBiology aims to let you meet the leading scientists in biology, so that you can find out how they think about scientific questions and conduct their research, and can get a sense of their personalities, opinions, and perspectives. Bezanilla’s videos describe the research in her lab. The first video is a more general introduction to one of the major research topics in her lab: (video 1) polarized plant cell growth and the role of the cytoskeleton. The second and third videos dig deeper into two major findings: (video 2) using reverse genetics to functionally dissect an entire gene family, and (video 3) how plant cell division is steered.

Becoming Weeds

Ana Caicedo is an author on a new paper about a new resequencing analysis of weedy rice (Oryza sativa L.) biotypes illuminates distinct evolutionary paths and outcomes of de-domestication and ferality. This largest effort to date in weedy plant genomics gives a better understanding of weediness while also providing a promising source of alleles for rice breeding.

Read more UMass News & Media Relations article

Read more at Nature.com article

Experts Say EU Commission Proposal Would Limit Ability to Protect Public from Endocrine Disruptors

University of Massachusetts Amherst biologist Thomas Zoeller, an internationally recognized expert in the health effects of endocrine-disrupting chemicals, with the Washington, D.C.-based Endocrine Society, this week expressed disappointment in the European Commission’s revised proposal on defining and identifying endocrine-disrupting chemicals, citing unnecessarily narrow criteria for identifying them.

The new move “will make it nearly impossible for regulatory agencies to meet the unrealistically high burden of proof and protect the public from dangerous chemicals,” the society stated. Zoeller adds, “The commission is known to be heavily influenced both by multinational chemical industries and their trade groups, as well as the U.S. State Department, in designing language that would dilute European regulations to be more consistent with those in the U.S.”

Read more UMass News & Media Relations article

Desert Songbirds May Face Expanding Threat of Lethal Dehydration

Alexander Gerson, Biology, is a co-author of a new study of songbird dehydration and survival risk during heat waves in the United States desert Southwest that suggests that some birds are at risk of lethal dehydration and mass die-offs when water is scarce, and the risk is expected to increase as climate change advances. Using physiological data, hourly temperature maps and modeling, Gerson, along with first author Tom Albright at the University of Nevada, Reno, and co-author Blair Wolf at the University of New Mexico, investigated how rates of evaporative water loss varied in five bird species with varied body mass. They mapped potential effects of current and future heat waves on lethal dehydration risk for songbirds in the Southwest and how rapidly this can occur in each species.

Read more at Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Phys.org article

Geneticist Craig Albertson to Study Shaping of Skull and Facial Skeleton

Evolutionary and developmental geneticist Craig Albertson, biology, has received a five-year, $1.76 million National Institutes of Health grant to study the development of the craniofacial skeleton, work he says will address a significant knowledge gap. Albertson explains, “While we know a lot about how the skull and facial skeleton form, we know comparatively very little about how the head is shaped over development.”

Albertson’s lab will first use a combination of micro-CT scanning, 3D reconstructions and genetic mapping in cichlid fish to generate hypotheses about the specific genes that control head shape variation. Cichlids are famous for their remarkable morphological diversity, including craniofacial diversity, and are therefore an excellent model for such studies, he says. Next, he and colleagues will test these genetic hypotheses by manipulating the genomes of zebrafish, what he calls “a powerful experimental model system,” to look for differences in skull shape.

Read more UMass News & Media Relations article