Dumont and Colleagues Use New Tool to Analyze Bat Skull Shapes

Using a new approach that combines evolutionary and engineering analyses to identify the targets of natural selection, Biology professor Elizabeth Dumont and mechanical engineer Ian Grosse studied the evolutionary histories of the adaptive radiation of New World leaf-nosed bats based on their dietary niches. The researchers' new tool opens a way of discovering evidence for selection for biomechanical function in very diverse organisms and of reconstructing skull shapes in long-extinct ancestral species.

The UMass news release about the work can be accessed here.

Yi-Fen Lin Discovery Covered by New York Times

OEB graduate student Yi-Fen Lin has demonstrated that hairy-tailed moles seem to swim through the earth using their shovel-like paws which exert a force up to 40 times their body weight. An article and video about Yi-Fen's work recently appeared on the New York Times web site. Congratulations, Yi-Fen.

The New York Times coverage can be accessed here.

Bezanilla Awarded $600,000 NSF Grant

Plant cell biologist Magdalena Bezanilla has received a four-year, $600,000 grant from the National Science Foundation to further her award-winning research on fundamental processes of plant growth, in particular how molecules secreted by cells help to determine their outer shapes and patterns. Using a moss species that provides a simple, fast-growing model plant for which the whole genome is known, Benzanilla and her research team will manipulate the moss model by systematically altering the plants’ DNA blueprint to make minor changes in protein secretion, then evaluate what happens when proteins are altered one at a time.

The paper can be accessed here.

Lynn Adler Receives $1 Million in New Grants

Lynn Adler, with collaborators from Dartmouth College, the USDA, and Kew Gardens has received new grants from NSF and USDA totaling nearly $1 million to study how floral chemical compounds affect bumble bee disease. Together, this research will address the extent to which bumble bees are exposed to floral chemical defenses in wild and agricultural systems, the impacts of such compounds on bumble bee health, the role of such compounds in disease transmission, and implications for managing bee disease in agricultural settings.

Michele Markstein Receives Life Sciences Moment Fund Award

Biology Assistant Professor, Michele Markstein and Tony Ip, Professor in the Program in Medical Sciences at the UMass Worcester Medical School, have received an award from the UMass Life Sciences Moment Fund. The $150,000 award will be shared with Zhong Jiang, Professor of Pathology at UMass Worcester, and Nan Gao, Assistant Professor of Biology at Rutgers University. The team will perform small molecule screens in vivo using the model organism, Drosophila melanogaster, which they have engineered to grow intestinal tumors with human characteristics. Compounds that prevent the growth of these tumors will be tested and characterized in human organoid cultures and clinical samples, to initiate translation of their results from large-scale in vivo screens closer to human clinical applications.