Congratulations to Dr. Tamar Goulet for her new NSF award to study the genetic makeup of coral colonies.
"Corals constitute the core of coral reef ecosystems. In turn, coral reef ecosystems comprise an essential component for many countries, including the U.S., serving as barriers from ocean waves, providing food for the population, and income from the tourist industry. The majority of corals are colonies of creatures living in a cup, coral polyps, that are connected to each other with tissue. The underlying assumption about coral colonies, similar to the approach to cells in humans and other mammals, is that the polyps in a colony arose from a single coral genotype. But, what if a single coral colony was actually composed of multiple coral genotypes, which is referred to as a biological chimera? This study challenges the assumption of the genetic identity of coral colonies."
Biology professors Jason Hoeksema and Peter Zee, along with 19 other co-authors from five countries (including former Biology post-doc Megan Rua and former Biology PhD student Bridget Piculell) recently published a paper in the journal Communications Biology that resulted from a 15-year collaboration. The group was trying to understand why plants sometimes derive big benefits from associating with root-inhabiting mycorrhizal fungi, and sometimes do not (even occasionally suffering parasitism from those fungi). They analyzed results from more than 400 previously published papers and found that much of the answer lies in evolutionary history, with some of the original evolutionary origins of mycorrhizal symbiosis (e.g., in the bean family) leading to much less beneficial relationships with plants compared to others. In addition, evolution has led to specificity in plant benefits, whereby particular groups of plants benefit much more from being paired with particular groups of fungi. These results not only enhance our basic understanding of the variable benefits derived by plants from their relationships with soil microbes like these fungi, but may also aid in choosing which fungi to inoculate on plant roots for forestry, agriculture, horticulture, and restoration purposes. Read more about the history of the group's research collaboration in this blog post by Dr. Hoeksema.
Zanethia was featured in an article about women in science by the USDA. Check out the article, https://srs.fs.usda.gov/women-in-science/zanethia-barnett/
PhD graduate student, Zanethia Barnett, gave a talk at the recent International Association of Astacology (crayfish) conference in Pittsburgh. She won best student oral presentation for her talk:
Detectable Effects of Impoundments on the Genetic Structure of Crayfish (Faxonius spp.) in Alabama 43-Years After Dam Closure
Former Biology honors student, Taylor Patterson, and Dr. Carol Britson are featured in a blog post by Sina Walker. Sina is the Scientific writer and content developer at ADInstruments. Her blog, "Enjoying your Easter Egg? How the type of chocolate you like is linked to your eating behavior..." tells how Taylor's research found that the type of chocolate your prefer is linked to textural attributes and eating behaviors. Check out the blog post here.