Carolyn Merchant, a professor of environmental history, philosophy, and ethics, will join the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, N.J., as a member for the fall 2012 semester. She will be working on the project “Ideas of Nature in the Scientific Revolution,” a study for which she also received an American Council of Learned Societies fellowship this year.
The Institute for Advanced Study is one of the world’s leading centers for theoretical research and intellectual inquiry, and exists to encourage and support fundamental research in the sciences and humanities. It is a private, independent academic institution founded in 1930 by philanthropists Louis Bamberger and his sister Caroline Bamberger Fuld. Past faculty have included Albert Einstein, who remained at the Institute until his death in 1955, and distinguished scientists and scholars such as Kurt Gödel, J. Robert Oppenheimer, Erwin Panofsky, Homer A. Thompson, and Hermann Weyl.
The American Council of Learned Societies Fellowship Program awards fellowships to individual scholars working in the humanities and related social sciences.
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By Karyn Houston, Plant and Microbial Biology
Scientists today deal with daunting volumes of data, and one of the most basic challenges facing researchers is how to organize that information into a usable format that can inspire new scientific insights. Now a nationwide team of university and private industry collaborators, including University of California, Berkeley plant biologist Chelsea Specht, have come up with a way to visually portray data so scientists can see, at a glance, how organisms are related.
It’s called “tree-thinking,” and the team will create a software package that will enable scientists and researchers to analyze data across the tree of life, enabling new evolutionary-based research to emerge that spans a tremendous range of fields, including medicine, public health, agriculture, ecology, and genetics.
Five university researchers will collaborate on the NSF-sponsored project.
The software will be developed with a $2 million grant from the National Science Foundation, shared by Specht and seven other university and private researchers in a unique collaboration to be announced this week. Taking available tools to a new level, the open-source software, called Arbor: Comparative Analysis Workflows for the Tree of Life, will be an intuitive interface based on visual workflows.
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Eric Olliff, who is earning a B.S. in conservation and resource studies and a B.A. in Chinese language and literature, is the University Medalist, the annual award bestowed on Berkeley’s top graduating senior for the last 150 years. The prestigious award comes with a $2,500 prize and the chance to address the campus-wide graduation, Commencement Convocation 2012, on Saturday (May 12) at Edwards Track Stadium.
A 10th-grade trip to Tibet underscored Olliff’s developing interest in foreign language and culture, as well as the outdoors. When he arrived on campus in spring 2008, he already had taken four years of high school Mandarin and decided to major at UC Berkeley in Chinese language and literature.
But after attending CNR’s eight-week Forestry Field Camp in the Sierra Nevada in the summer of ’09, he experienced a shift.
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Six new carved redwood benches, weighing 1,500-2,000 pounds each, made the journey from UC Russell Reservation, a research facility in the hills of Contra Costa County, to their new home adjacent to Mulford Hall today (May 7) to commemorate the 100-year anniversary of the UC Berkeley Forestry Club. The new 10-foot-long benches were carved by current forestry students, fire science associate professor Scott Stephens, and Tom Klatt, the environmental projects manager with the Vice Provost’s office.
The Forestry Club commemorative benches, in place less than a day, are already an appealing resting spot.
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By Sarah Yang, Public Affairs
The competition between farmers and fish for precious water in California is intensifying in wine country, suggests a new study by biologists at the University of California, Berkeley.
The findings, published in the May issue of the journal Transactions of the American Fisheries Society, link higher death rates for threatened juvenile steelhead trout with low water levels in the summer and the amount of vineyard acreage upstream.
Juvenile steelhead trout, shown here in a small stream pool, are hit hard when water levels are low. (Ted Grantham photo)
The researchers found that juvenile steelhead trout are particularly at risk during the dry summer season typical of California's Mediterranean climate. Of the juvenile steelhead trout present in June, on average only 30 percent survived to the late summer. In years with higher rainfall and in watersheds with less vineyard land use, the survival of juvenile trout over the summer was significantly higher.
The researchers pointed out that summer stream flow has been inadequately addressed in salmon and trout conservation efforts. Previous studies have highlighted other limiting factors such as habitat degradation and water quality, but here researchers documented the importance of water quantity for restoring threatened populations.
"Nearly all of California's salmon and trout populations are on the path to extinction and if we're going to bring these fish back to healthy levels, we have to change the way we manage our water," said lead author Theodore Grantham, a recent Ph.D. graduate from UC Berkeley's Department of Environmental Science, Policy and Management (ESPM). "Water withdrawals for agricultural uses can reduce or eliminate the limited amount of habitat available to sustain these cold-water fish through the summer. I don't suggest we get rid of vineyards, but we do need to focus our attention on water management strategies that reduce summer water use. I believe we can protect flows for fish and still have our glass of wine."
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Two types of naturally produced substances—one of them a bear bile acid—reduce the uptake of fat by the liver, opening the door to the development of new treatments for fatty liver disease and type 2 diabetes, according to a new study by researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, published online last week (April 24) in the journal Hepatology.
“Fatty liver disease goes hand in hand with the obesity epidemic and it exacerbates insulin resistance in people with type 2 diabetes,” said Andreas Stahl, professor in the Department of Nutritional Sciences and Toxicology and the senior author on the study. “The discovery that these compounds are effective in slowing or blocking the disease creates new potential prevention and treatment approaches for these obesity-related conditions.”
One in three adults and a growing number of children in developed countries are estimated to suffer from fatty liver disease, according to the widely cited Dallas Heart Study, and it is frequently underdiagnosed. But beyond the potential medical significance of the finding, Stahl said, the study had some fascinating surprises for the research team. The most common bear bile acid, ursodeoxycholic acid (UDCA), was one of only two substances out of more than 30 tested that researchers found to be effective.
Continue reading " Fatty-Liver Disease Discovery Promises New Treatments, Has Cal Researchers Shouting “Go Bears!”" »
When a 20-minute lecture about the economic supply chain goes viral, spawning a stunning 12 million views, a non-profit organization with a slate of multimedia offerings, and a vibrant online community of hundreds of thousands of citizens eager to make the world a better place, one has to wonder: what secret force is behind it?
The Story Of Stuff creator Annie Leonard is quick to tell you that a staff of six full-time people create the magic mixture of cartoons and intelligently and wryly distilled information, but it started with just her deep knowledge and commitment to the issue, and an infectious fire in the belly that jumps through the camera.
Leonard will be on the UC Berkeley campus this Friday, May 4, to give the keynote address for the Department of Environmental Science, Policy, and Management’s (ESPM’s) annual Gradfest event, where graduating Ph.D.’s show off the department’s depth and diversity with spirited mini-talks on their dissertation research, which this year include topics as wide-ranging as biodiversity in Caribbean coral, sudden oak death at Point Reyes National Seashore, and conservation policy in Bottswana.
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