Thursday, December 29, 2011

Derek Lovley Perspective article in Energy & Environmental Science

UMass Amherst researcher Derek Lovley recently had a Perspective article, "Live wires: direct extracellular electron exchange for bioenergy and the bioremediation of energy-related contamination," published in Energy and Environmental Science. He studies the genus Geobacter, microorganisms with the ability to directly transfer electrons outside the cell. This article is an overview of their potential roles in both the sustainable production of energy and the remediation of environmental pollution, as well as raising the idea of applications in "the emerging field of bioelectronics." From the article's Broader context sidebar:
Novel biological processes are a potential source of solutions for the need for new, sustainable energy strategies and the necessity of dealing with the legacy of environmental contamination associated with more traditional energy sources. The genomes of the microbial world encode a vast metabolic potential, which for the most part is poorly understood, but may provide some help for energy needs. This perspective gives a quick primer on the basic principles of direct extracellular electron transfer, a relatively recently discovered form of microbial respiration, and summarizes how continuing developments in the study of this one form of microbial respiration has led to a number of new concepts for bioenergy and the restoration of environments contaminated as the result of energy-related activities.

Friday, December 09, 2011

UMass, state plan world class ocean research lab in Gloucester

Article in the online Boston Globe - and UMass also has a video on YouTube about reopening this research station.

UMass Researcher Herb Hultin used to work at this station; the library sent many articles there before he passed away in 2007.

Congratulations to  Professor Molly Lutcavage  on her success!

Friday, September 23, 2011

Science on Screen @ Amherst Cinema - Jeff Podos on bird song, and Hitchcock's The Birds

Amherst Cinema's newest film series, Science on Screen, will feature a speaker on a science subject and a related film.  First up is UMass biology professor, Jeff Podos, and The Birds by Alfred Hitchcock.  See website for full details.

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

UMass Amherst Cold Spring Orchard - Belchertown

You can also buy fruit at the UMass Orchard in Belchertown, and buying the fruit there will support the orchard's operation.  Right now, they're selling peaches and plums.  Some varieties of apples for which they are most noted should be ready as well (site says "app. August 20").

I have never actually bought fruit there, but I'm hoping to go this autumn.  They are open 7 days, but only from 10-5.

Peach season! How about Nectarines?

Local peaches are ready! I was reminded of this through an email from CISA, Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture, the folks who have the "Local Hero" campaign in the supermarkets.

If you're interested in buying or picking peaches, they list which of their members offer various kinds of produce, and you can enter your zip code to find farms near you.  This list is for peaches.

I actually prefer nectarines; sad to say there are many fewer outlets for this wonderful fruit.

You can also find out what kind of farm it is, whether they use pesticides or not, etc. If you're a localvore, you'll find this site very useful.

Sunday, September 04, 2011

Scientific Journal Article Retraction Rate Growing

On the Media, a public radio show, recently covered the increase in the rate that scientific journal articles are being retracted by interviewing Ivan Oransky. From their description of this interview:
There's often a really interesting story behind a retraction. That's what Ivan Oransky told us. He's a doctor and journalist and founder, along with Adam Marcus, of a blog called Retraction Watch. They monitor scientific journals and investigate why articles were retracted. They uncovered serious ethical breaches at a variety of journals. We asked Oransky to tell us about some of the stories he's covered this year.
Oransky discusses some of the reasons for the increase, including some anecdotes about the papers retracted, and the actions of some authors, editors, and publishers. Because, dismayingly, many retracted papers continue to be cited, he suggests changes in how these papers are marked in the scientific record to reflect the fact that they have been retracted.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Bacterial nanowires conduct like metals - post

UMass Amherst researcher Derek Lovley's work with Geobacter sulfurreducens published in Nature Nanotechnology doi:10.1038/nnano.2011.119.
Derek Lovley and colleagues of the University of Massachusetts at Amherst made their discovery in networks of “bacterial filaments”. These are also known as “microbial nanowires” because they conduct electrons along their length. These are produced naturally by some bacteria and are about 3-5 nm wide and up to tens of micrometres long. The filaments bind bacteria together into clumps called microbial biofilms.
To read the article in Nature Nanotechnology, copy the doi (digital object identifier) above, and paste it into the library's citation linker tool.

Friday, August 05, 2011

Integrity Guidelines Up for Public Review - post in The Scientist

From the online newsletter, The Scientist:
The National Science Foundation (NSF) released a draft summarizing its principles for scientific integrity and outlining new principles which it plans to implement at the end of the year, and has invited the public to chime in. 
The draft is available in the Federal Register online:

It asserts the intention of the NSF to support open and transparent processes in awarding of grants, media policy, and making the results of research available to the public.
From the draft:
SUMMARY: On March 9, 2009, President Obama issued a Memorandum for the Heads of 
Executive Departments and Agencies on Scientific Integrity. Shortly thereafter the Office of 
Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) led an interagency task group to develop an 
implementation strategy, and NSF was represented on the task group. On December 
17, 2010, the OSTP Director issued a Memorandum with implementation guidance (for copies 
of both memoranda, see:
      NSF is fully committed to its efforts to ensure that our processes will advance the goals 
articulated in the Memoranda. This report summarizes NSF practices both current and planned 
to maintain and enhance scientific integrity across our S&E community. The report is 
organized according to the major headings and topics of the December 2010 OSTP Memorandum.

DATES: Comments on the report are welcome before September 6, 2011. 
Comments will be useful in shaping the agency's implementation. Please send comments to All comments received before the close of the comment period will be 
available for public inspection, including any personally identifiable or confidential business 
information that is included. Because they will be made public, comments should not include 
any sensitive information.

Major headings of the draft report:
I. Foundations of Scientific Integrity In Government
II. Public Communications
III. Use of Federal Advisory Committees (FAC)
IV. Professional Development of Government Scientists and Engineers
V. Implementation

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Lessons in discovery and democracy from fellow organisms

If I am reading her right, in "Channeling the Microbiome" a recent article in The Scientist, Sarah Greene suggests that horizontal gene transfer can be seen as an analogy to information sharing among scientists, and other human beings, and that we might learn from our micro-cousins.
An interview with developmental biologist Peter A. Lawrence of Cambridge University, entitled “The Heart of Research is Sick,” was recently published in the UK magazine Lab Times. Lawrence points out that at its core, science must be about the discovery process, which may not be selected for in a highly competitive environment that rewards the most aggressive individuals and tends to diminish the efforts of younger scientists and women.
In NPR (Morning Edition, May 24, 2011) piece on how bees select a site for a new hive  ("Nature's Secret: Why Honey Bees are Better Politicians than Humans") Robert Krulwich reveals a method of persuasion that causes individual bees to investigate the suitability of proposed sites that eventually leads to them picking the best site, essentially by consensus.
Each scout's dance tells the other bees how to fly to the site — this is done by "waggle dancing," a figure dance that gives bees directions. And if a bee really likes the site, she will dance her directions over and over and over, literally hundreds of times. That way, more and more of her sister scouts see the dance, know where to go, and can fly off and check for themselves.

If the site is ho-hum, the second wave of bees will do a ho-hum, say, 10-repetition dance. But if the site is spectacular — high off the ground, narrow opening, facing the right direction, lots of honey storage space inside — then they will give it a spectacular, say, 300-round dance, so more scouts will know where to go. If they like the site, pretty soon everybody is doing the same dance: Let's call it "The Elm Tree" dance.

This is how bees "vote;" they dance themselves into a consensus.
Sounds like fun, and an excellent model. One wonders why the purportedly most intelligent species finds it so difficult to make good decisions.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

"Proteus" - film about Ernst Haeckel's work on radiolarians

Faculty of 1000's newsletter online (The Scientist) featured a documentary by David Lebrun on the life and work of Ernst Haeckel.  As it happens, I had written a post  back in July 2008 about Haeckel's book of drawings of radiolarians (Kunstformen der Natur) available online, which is why I recalled his name. There's a clip of Lebrun's documentary with the article - all animated with Haeckel's images - mind-boggling!