Current News

Biology senior lecturer Christiane Healey has been invited to join the UMass Amherst leadership team in the Bay View Alliance: a network of AAU/leading public research universities in the U.S. and Canada studying culture change and leadership for teaching and learning, particularly in STEM fields.

Join us in congratulating her!

Four individuals in the Katz Lab gave presentations in person at the Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology Annual meeting in Phoenix Arizona.

It's the first national conference any of these lab members have attended since the beginning of the pandemic. Two more members of this lab are presenting in the upcoming virtual component of the meeting.

In the picture are (L to R), Cheyenne Tait (post-doc), Kate Otter (NSB PhD student), Kelsi Watkins (NSB MS student), and Saida Gamidova (Undergraduate Biology major and former Lee-SIP recipient)

One of the public relations challenges faced by evolutionary biology is that most people do not see it being all that relevant to their daily lives. Norman Johnson, an adjunct professor in Biology, recently wrote a book that aims to change this perception. Johnson’s book, Darwin’s Reach: 21st Century Applications of Evolutionary Biology (CRC Press, 2022), explores how the principles and information in evolutionary biology are relevant to numerous pressing concerns. Some of these include: why are humans vulnerable to disease? How can we make our crops less vulnerable to pests and pathogens? Why are most mass produced varieties of tomatoes tasteless? What features influence how well organisms can adapt to current and expected climate change? Darwin’s reach is quite broad; evolutionary biology can be applied to all of these and many other questions.

The book, which comes out at the end of December 2021, is timely. One chapter on virus evolution focuses on SARS-CoV-2, the virus responsible for COVID-19, and includes information about the likely evolutionary origin of the virus and its variants. Another recent topic is the story of how criminal perpetrators of "cold cases" have been identified because they shared DNA information with distant relatives who were in such DNA databases.

This is Norman Johnson's second book. His first, Darwinian Detectives: Revealing the Natural History of Genes and Genomes (Oxford University Press, 2007), examined how biologists can infer the action of selection and other evolutionary processes, through the analysis of DNA sequence information.

Beth Jakob's lab was featured in a Science News Article.

The link to the article is HERE.

Peg Riley, Sonji Johnson-Anderson and Ranjana Lingutlajust had a book published that describes the STEM Ambassador's program created in Biology about 8 years ago. Many of our own student voices are used in the book to help faculty and others understand some of the challenges URM and first generation STEM students face as undergraduates.

The link to the nook is HERE.

Peg Riley was interviewed by David Pakman, and the show is now on YouTube. Their interview occurs at 30 minute into the show, and it focuses on antibiotics, COVID-19, and related health matters.

You can access the interview HERE.

Sarah Pallas has just been appointed as an Associate Editor for the open access journal Frontiers in Neural Circuits.

You can access the journal HERE.

Craig Albertson's lab was recently awarded a 3-year NSF grant to study the evolution and genetic basis of rest-activity patterns in fishes. The project investigates a new hypothesis to explain how a high diversity of similar species can coexist in the same environment, that species partition their habitat temporally via divergence in the circadian timing of activity, day vs night.

Read more HERE.

Kannappan Palaniappan, a professor of electrical engineering and computer science at the University of Missouri, has developed a software tool that could help UMass Biology professor Tobias Baskin give farmers greener thumbs. The tool could help enable farmers develop crop cultivars that are drought resistant, ensuring roots can reach falling water tables, adapt to warmer temperatures and be more resilient to environmental changes.

The video processing tool uses high resolution microscopy imaging to quantify plant root growth at sub-micron scale precision. The biomedical image analysis software is almost fully automated and gives researchers a peek inside the complex processes happening within various zones of a root.

Baskin is using the software to study the impact of temperature on cells within specific zones. The team has been collaborating for more than a decade and recently received a new grant from the National Science Foundation for their work on dynamic zonation in the plant root.

The research could help usher in a second green revolution, allowing farmers and growers to adjust root systems to increase plant yield. The first green revolution, which happened in the 1960s and 1970s, involved selecting for specific properties of plant shoots, specifically breeding lines that grew shorter but stronger without lodging, preventing the large crop losses from fast growing lines that fell over before harvest.

The attached photo is a picture of roots at various temperatures.

Lynn Adler's incoming MS student Justin Roch just had a photo selected for the Entomological Society of America’s 2022 World of Insects Calendar contest