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Geneva, NY, United States

Hobart and William Smith Colleges are located on 195 acres in New York state's Finger Lakes region in Geneva, New York, United States. They trace their origins to Geneva Academy established in 1797. The combined corporation of the two colleges, Hobart College and William Smith College , are also known as The Colleges of the Seneca. Both are liberal arts colleges offering the degrees of Bachelor of Arts, bachelor of science and master of arts in teaching. Wikipedia.

Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: PHYLOGENETIC SYSTEMATICS | Award Amount: 339.10K | Year: 2015

Milkweeds (Asclepias) are common and ecologically important perennial plants of North American grassland and forest ecosystems. They are the only host plants of the monarch butterfly, a species of significant conservation concern. Because milkweed species diversified over a short evolutionary time span, reconstructing their evolutionary relationships is exceedingly difficult and requires examination of a large amount of data on genetic variation and powerful computational techniques. This research will contribute to the development of new methods for more accurately determining evolutionary relationships when many species have been formed in rapid succession. The results will have implications for better understanding the coevolution between milkweeds and monarch butterflies and the evolution of plant defense, as well as provide a robust evolutionary context for understanding the results of other scientific studies using milkweeds as study organisms; e.g., research on plant reproduction and genome evolution. The project will train postdoctoral fellows and graduate student in the latest phylogenetic and bioinformatics methods thereby training the next generation of phylogenetic biologists.

This research will demonstrate the feasibility of solving difficult phylogenetic problems at the species level in plants by employing improvements in next-generation sequencing techniques. The work combines methods for targeted sequencing of hundreds of specific regions of the nuclear genome applied to unusually large within-species sampling. The project applies nuclear gene probes developed directly from Asclepias genome and transcriptome sequences to effectively target 768 genes and substantial amounts of their non-coding flanking regions. Phylogenetically useful off-target sequences, (e.g., complete chloroplast genomes) are also obtained. By sampling 20 individuals per species, the approach will distinguish common causes of gene tree discordance: incomplete lineage sorting and introgression. An analytic workflow will be applied that incorporates simulation of incomplete lineage sorting and a combination of species tree inference methods that are effective even when introgression has occurred. Because current species tree approaches are constrained by a computational tradeoff between the number of loci and number of alleles that can simultaneously analyzed, the project will evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of alternative methods. The large sample of loci will also validate the recognition of species not currently accepted in Asclepias. Undergraduate and graduate student training in genomics, bioinformatics, and phylogenetics will target participants from underrepresented groups. Project outcomes will reach the broader scientific community and the general public through workshops held at scientific meetings, K-12 education modules focused on milkweed ecology and evolution, and demonstration exhibits at a public botanic garden.

Agency: NSF | Branch: Continuing grant | Program: | Phase: PHYSICAL & DYNAMIC METEOROLOGY | Award Amount: 422.74K | Year: 2013

This grant is part of a larger effort centered on the Ontario Winter (OW) Lake-effect Systems (LeS) field project, to be conducted December 2013-January 2014. OWLeS will focus on two complementary lines of research, each tracing to a preferred wind regime, characteristic cross-lake fetch and corresponding distinct mesoscale mode of winter storm organization. Activities led by this sub-group will focus on short-fetch events in which prevailing low-level winds are oriented at large angles relative to Lake Ontarios long axis. These investigators will seek to advance process-oriented understanding of atmospheric boundary-layer circulations over adjacent complex land cover, factors controlling the location and downwind persistence/spatial extent of lake-effect circulations and associated bands of heavy snowfall, as well as those precipitation events associated with smaller bodies of water as are found in the Finger Lakes region. Observational assets to be deployed during OWLeS will include the University of Wyoming King Air instrumented aircraft, the CSWR Doppler on Wheels mobile radars, multiple mobile rawinsounding systems, the Millersville University Profiling System, the UAH Mobile Integrated Profiling System, and a variety of other surface measurement systems. The intellectual merit of this sub-groups activities is centered upon determination of (1) how upwind land-surface and atmospheric factors determine the three-dimensional structure of the short-fetch convective LeS PBL that develop over a relatively-warm, open water surface; (2) how organized, initially convective cloud and precipitation structures under short-fetch conditions persist far downstream over land, long after leaving the buoyancy source (i.e., the ice-free waters of Lake Ontario); and (3) factors controlling the development of, and interactions between, complex atmospheric stratifications embodying a internal planetary boundary layer and residual layers resulting from airmass advection over multiple mesoscale bodies of water and intervening land.

Broader impacts of OWLeS will include improved physical understanding and model-based representations of conditions that impact populations and associated major transportation corridors along the shores of the Great Lakes region, as well as extensive opportunities for enhanced classroom and hands-on field project based educational opportunities for a large number of students who will be actively engaged in field campaign planning, instrument preparation, data collection and analysis. Outreach efforts will extend to K-12 students and college students enrolled at nearby institutes of higher learning.

Agency: NSF | Branch: Continuing grant | Program: | Phase: LIGO RESEARCH SUPPORT | Award Amount: 80.00K | Year: 2016

The detection of gravitational waves on 14 September 2015 was an historic milestone in physics and astronomy. The detection was an important validation for General Relativity in both its confirmation of the existence of gravitational waves and in the accuracy of the predicted waveforms. The event was also a breakthrough in astronomy with the first direct detection of a black hole binary system. The era of gravitational wave astronomy has begun and with it comes increased expectations for more observations at greater sensitivity. The main obstacle to improved sensitivity is thermal noise in LIGOs mirror coatings. LIGO senses gravitational waves using an interferometer, an L-shaped detector with 4 km long arms. Identical light waves are sent from the vertex down orthogonal arms to a mirror. When the reflected beams recombine at the vertex the difference in phase corresponds to the arm length difference that can arise, in part, from gravitational waves. Thus the detection of gravitational waves depends on the precision detection of the surface of the end mirrors. LIGO operates at room temperature or 300 above absolute zero. Therefore the mirrors are relatively hot. That thermal energy is expressed as vibrations at the mirrors resonant frequencies. Those frequencies are much higher than the frequencies at which LIGO is designed to detect gravitational waves. If the mirrors were composed of ideal elastic materials, these vibrations would be ignored and of no concern. Indeed the special glass used for the mirror substrates is a nearly ideal elastic material. However the highly reflective mirror coating applied to the substrate has enough internal friction that it shifts some of the mirrors vibrational energy down to gravitational wave frequencies. That motion masks the gravitational wave signal and is termed mirror coating thermal noise. The goal of this research project is to produce a mirror coating with suffi ciently reduced thermal noise in order to enable a significant increase in LIGOs sensitivity.

This award supports research to reduce coating thermal noise by lowering the dissipation, or mechanical loss, in the coating materials. This dissipation occurs when an oscillation in strain causes a state transition, such as a bond angle rotation, that emits a photon or phonon at de-excitation. This two state model is known as an asymmetric double-well potential. The dissipation is reduced by increasing the energy asymmetry in the states and thus lowering the transition probability. Annealing lowers dissipation by allowing the material to relax into its lowest energy state. It also reduces density fluctuations thereby raising the transition energy. But annealing is limited by low crystallization temperatures. Amorphous coatings are mixtures of high-index metal-oxide dielectrics in which the crystallization temperature is shifted above the effective annealing temperature. Recent advanced in work on amorphous silicon coatings show that the benefits of annealing can be obtained by depositing the coating on a heated substrate. Because the coating surface molecules are less constrained, the substrate temperatures are much less than the bulk annealing temperatures. The group will test this process in amorphous metal-oxide coatings and will investigate whether ion-assisted beam deposition might provide suffi cient energy to the surface layer to effectively anneal the coating without any heating process. Finally, the group will continue work with Stanfords researchers on conductive coatings to combat charging noise.

Agency: NSF | Branch: Continuing grant | Program: | Phase: CROSS-EF ACTIVITIES | Award Amount: 119.30K | Year: 2016

A modernization of the mathematical and statistical tools used to uncover the evolutionary history of life on earth is required to keep pace with the rapid expansion in the availability of genetic data. Moreover, different segments of genetic information can tell conflicting evolutionary histories about a collection of organisms. This project develops mathematical tools for reconstructing the evolutionary history of large collections of organisms, and for constructing a single tree that encapsulates the conflicting stories told by different pieces of the genome. Ten undergraduate students, many recruited from groups underrepresented in STEM fields at this primarily undergraduate institution, will be trained in techniques at the intersection of mathematics, statistics, and biology that are required for the algorithmic developments.

Most methods of super-tree or species tree reconstruction rely on accurately reconstructed gene trees. In practice, however, most inferred gene trees used in these reconstructions do contain errors. By identifying and explicitly accounting for gene tree estimation error, this project will improve algorithms for super-tree and species tree reconstruction. Alternative approaches for which species trees are reconstructed without dependence on the prior estimation of gene trees will also be developed.

Gunn C.,Hobart and William Smith Colleges
Review of Radical Political Economics | Year: 2016

Acequias are a form of commons used to share scarce surface water for agricultural purposes. They have existed in the arid southwestern United States for centuries. In this paper I will argue that acequias are pre-capitalist organizations that convey important lessons for a post-capitalist world. The paper will also discuss La Vega, a grazing commons supported by the Hispanic culture. Both forms of the commons help to sustain low-income households many of whose members do not have regular or full-time wage-labor jobs, and they provide examples of sustainable agriculture in a fragile, high altitude environment. Within the study of political economy, they are an example of political struggles in the arena of material production and reproduction. © 2015, © 2015 Union for Radical Political Economics.

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