Category Archives: Science

New CARTA Series: From Molecules to Societies

The latest series from CARTA explores the development of several important distinctly human characteristics that range from molecules, to metabolism, anatomy, disease, and behavior.

In Episode One, UC San Diego professor Carol Marchetto discusses how a comparative gene expression analysis of human and non-human primates revealed differences in the regulation of a class of transposable elements LINE1 retrotransposons between species; University of Southern California professor Joseph Hacia discusses studies profiling phytanic acid levels in red blood cells obtained from humans and captive non-human primates all on low phytanic acid diets; and Emory University professor James Rilling discusses the difference of arcuate fasciculus between human and non-human primate brains and how the specialization of speech has helped humans evolve.

In Episode Two, Emory University professor Dietrich Stout discusses an evolutionarily motivated definition of technology that highlights three key features: material production, social collaboration, and cultural reproduction; UC San Diego professor Pascal Gagneux discusses how recent comparative genome studies have revealed that this polymorphic system is ancient and shared between humans and non-human primates, this despite the fact that none of the great ape species carries all four ABO blood types; and University of Utah professor James O’Connell discusses food sharing, evaluates one hypothesis that focuses on males acquiring big game meat and marrow to provide for mates and offspring. The other hypothesis surrounds how certain kinds of savanna plant food set up the forager interdependence which propelled all aspects of life history change.

In Episode Three, Arizona State University and University of Utah professor Polly Wiessner addresses intergroup ties between humans, chimpanzees and bonobos and explores some of the possible evolutionary developments that contributed to the human disposition to form mutually supportive external bonds, and then discusses the impact of social ties on coalitionary action; UC San Diego professor Rafael Nuñez discusses the comparative analysis of “quantity” and “number”, and the implications it has for debates about the origins of other human special capacities such as geometry, music, and art; and UC San Diego School of Medicine professor Nissi Varki discusses the incidence of carcinomas, including the rarity of occurrence of common human carcinomas in captive chimpanzees.

Explore these programs on more, visit CARTA: Comparative Anthropogeny: From Molecules to Societies.

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Meet a Mathematician

Ever wonder what a scientist does all day? Do they sit in a lab full of bubbling beakers? Are they locked away in a dark room full of reference books? Science Like Me answers those questions, dispels some myths, and more. Saura Naderi, an engineer with a passion for creativity, talks with scientists across UC San Diego about how they found their way into the world of research. Hear about moments from their childhood that sparked their love of science, how they spend a typical day, and what keeps them motivated to learn more and keep science moving forward.

In a recent episode, Naderi spoke with Alex Cloninger, PhD about his path to becoming a mathematician. His current work is in the area of geometric data analysis. His path towards a career in science was set in motion during a childhood trip to a planetarium with his parents. “That, I think, was the first aha moment. Not necessarily that I wanted to go into math, but that science was neat, and surprising, and that I didn’t understand how something happened, and I just wanted to figure it out.”

Cloninger views math as a skill everyone can master with the right tools. “I hate the phrase of someone not being a math person, because I really see learning math and getting to understand math is really just about practice, and about having people that are there to support you in that practice,” he says. He also disagrees with the idea that math is a solitary endeavor. “I think the most surprising thing is how fun and social research can be, and talking with colleagues can be – and that we all have this kind of common interest, maybe not in math, or in physics, or in a particular question, but in curiosity, right? …One of the things that I had no concept of before getting further into math, and even becoming a professor, was that the curiosity of a question can always be fun.”

To learn more about Cloninger’s research and day-to-day life in academia, watch Science Like Me: Meet a Mathematician. Interested in more scientific journeys? Check out the rest of the Science Like Me series.

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Marine Life Observation on a Changing Planet

Southern California’s coastline spans 840 miles, from the Oregon border to the North all the way South to San Diego. The ocean provides a bounty of essential life-supporting services. Yet, a changing climate and increasing human uses are altering marine ecosystems and their ability to continue to provide this wealth of essential services.

Off the coast of California, we are lucky to have one of the world’s longest-running marine observation programs, the California Cooperative Oceanic Fisheries Investigations (CalCOFI), which has continuously and comprehensively sampled the marine environment off the California coast since 1949 to monitor the indicators and impacts of El Nino and climate change and to support effective marine management.

Join marine ecologist and California Sea Grant extension specialist Erin Satterthwaite as she tells the story of CalCOFI through a series of case studies documenting how CalCOFI has been used to understand and address human and natural impacts on marine life along the California coast.

Watch Research for Resilience on a Changing Planet – The California Cooperative Oceanic Fisheries Investigations.

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Spinal Cord Injury and Stem Cells

Every year, 15,000 – 20,000 Americans sustain a spinal cord injury (SCI). Another 200,000 – 500,000 are living in the chronic stages of SCI every day. Loss of movement and sensation, persistent pain, and depression are common. Could stem cells play a role in finding a cure? Dr. Mark Tuszynski shares his work using neural stem cells to build bridges after an SCI – forming new relays across injury sites in the hopes of restoring limb function and feeling. Bob Yant, who suffered an SCI in 1981, joins Tuszynski to express the need for further research in the field of regenerative medicine and to share his story of living with and SCI.

Watch A Closer Look at…Spinal Cord Injury.

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Observing the Ocean

From beachgoers to surfers to fishermen of all sorts to cargo ships to beachfront communities and municipal wastewater managers, we all need and use information about our local ocean waters. But where does it all come from?

The Southern California Coastal Ocean Observing System (SCCOOS) – part of the national U.S. Integrated Ocean Observing System (IOOS) – works to collect, integrate and deliver coastal and ocean observations in order to improve safety, enhance the economy, and protect the environment. SCCOOS serves a diverse stakeholder community of managers and planners, operational decision-makers, scientists, and the general public.

Join SCCOOS Executive Director Clarissa Anderson as she describes how SCCOOS technology and observational programs provide information critical to decision-making related to climate change, coastal hazards, marine ecosystems, fisheries, water quality, and marine operations.

Watch Research for Resilience on a Changing Planet – Southern California Coastal Ocean Observing System.

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