Blanchard Receives Community Sequencing Program Grant

The Joint Genome Institute of the U.S. Department of Energy recently granted Harvard Forest co-PIs Jeffrey Blanchard (UMass Biology Department), Kristen DeAngelis (UMass), Linda van Diepen (U. of New Hampshire), Serita Frey (U. of New Hampshire), and Jerry Melillo (MBL) a Community Sequencing Program grant. DOE will pay the costs of DNA/RNA library preparation, sequencing, and basic computational processing for 3 terabases of metagenomic (community DNA) and metatranscriptomic (community RNA) data gathered from Harvard Forest soils. Sequencing three terabases (3,000,000,000,000 DNA bases) is roughly equivalent to sequencing 1,000 human and plant genomes, 10,000 ant genomes or 500,000 bacterial genomes. The sequencing and data processing will take 2-3 years.

The project, overseen by researchers with expertise in ecosystem ecology, biogeochemistry, microbial ecology and genomics, aims to characterize the microbial communities from several long-term soil warming experiments at the Forest. The three warming projects, ongoing for 6, 9, and 20 years respectively, correspond to three distinct phases of projected carbon dioxide emissions. The DNA/RNA chronosequence resulting from this award will help researchers understand how climate change affects soil microbial community composition and activity over time.

Microorganisms are difficult to classify using visible morphology. But DNA analysis enables researchers to determine which microbes are present in the soil, while RNA sequencing provides a view of which microbes are actively contributing to ecological processes. A 2012 summer REU group project at the Forest helped to prototype the DNA sequencing analysis for this project.

Press releases:

Harvard Forest.

Department of Energy

Maresca Wins R.R. Bensley Young Investigator Award

Biology Assistant Professor Tom Maresca has been selected by the American Academy of Anatomists (AAA) as the recipient of the 2013 R.R. Bensley Award in Cell Biology. The award, first given in 1979, recognizes a cell biologist who has made a distinguished contribution to the advancement of anatomy through discovery, ingenuity, and publications in the field of cell biology. Past winners include: John Heuser, Elaine Fuchs, Tim Mitchison, and Ron Vale (2012 Lasker Award Winner). Maresca will present the R.R. Bensley Award Lecture in the Young Investigator Award Symposium at the upcoming AAA Annual Meeting in Boston in conjunction with Experimental Biology 2013.

Riley Named Massachusetts Academy of Sciences Fellow

Biology professor Peg Riley (right) is among the new class of Fellows of the Massachusetts Academy of Sciences, elected by her peers to its prestigious community of scientists, engineers, research physicians and others who are deeply concerned about science and science education in the Commonwealth.

Riley, president and founder of MAS, announced the academy’s latest fellows:
UMass alumna and astronaut Catherine Coleman, Irving Epstein of Brandeis University, Robert Dorit of Smith College, Ward Watt of Stanford University, Mandana Sassanfar of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Massachusetts Junior Academy of Sciences, Megan Rokop of the Broad Institute, and James Hamilton and Paul Trunfio of Boston University.

Riley says, “Each year, the Massachusetts Academy of Sciences honors distinguished individuals through its fellowship awards. They join an elite group of professional scientists and science educators who are recognized for extraordinary scientific accomplishments and service to the science community and the public. The academy is thrilled to welcome these stellar individuals to its elite group. They are crucial to the future success of the academy and it is an honor to announce their commitment and involvement.”

Riley’s research interests range from experimental evolution of microbes to developing novel antimicrobials and redefining the microbial species concept.

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Baskin Receives $480,000 NSF Award

Tobias Baskin has received a new, three-year ($480,000) NSF award for a project titled "The nano-mechanics of celluose sythesis". Baskin is the Co-PI on the project, the PI is Lori Golner in Physics. The goal of the project is to use both high resolution imaging of living cells and biochemical analysis of extracts to deepen our understanding of how cellulose, perhaps the most abundant polymer on Earth, is synthesized.

Albertson Talk at Esselon Café 9/10

The Science Café kicks off its Fall series on Monday, September 10th at Esselon Café in Hadley, MA with “How to Build an Organism: a DIY Guide.” Dr. Craig Albertson from UMass will discuss some of his work exploring the design and diversification of the animal body form, proceeding from the genetic blueprint to principles of animal development. The event begins at 5:30pm, with light snacks provided and drinks available for purchase. All Science Café events are free and designed for a public audience.

The Science Café series is organized by graduate students in the Organismic and Evolutionary Biology (OEB) program at UMass. It is supported by the Society for the Study of Evolution, OEB, and the UMass Natural History Collections. We strive to bring engaging conversations about science to broad audiences by hosting Science Café events throughout the year.

For more info on the OEB program, see their website.