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News Article | April 13, 2017
Site: www.csmonitor.com

A 'Blue Marble' image of the Earth taken from the VIIRS instrument aboard NASA's most recently launched Earth-observing satellite – Suomi NPP. This composite image uses a number of swaths of the Earth's surface taken on January 4, 2012. —Since the earliest days of space travel, NASA has looked in two directions: out to space and back toward Earth. To a public that only knows NASA as the agency that put men on the moon and rovers on Mars, it may come as a surprise to realize how big a role Earth observations have played in NASA programming, and how much that research has informed the exploration of moons and planets in our solar system and beyond. That connection came into sharp focus on Thursday, when NASA announced the discovery of molecular hydrogen in a plume on Saturn’s moon Enceladus – a discovery that would not have been possible without a robust understanding of environmental systems on Earth. Nearly all planetary science and exoplanet research has its roots in Earth science, and much of that research has been gleaned from NASA’s Earth science mission, says Marcia McNutt, a geoscientist who has headed the United States Geological Survey, the research journal Science, and the National Academy of Science. “Had the agency not been studying Earth as a planet,” she adds, “we would not have gained the proper knowledge and perspective for seeking out the signatures potentially conducive to life on other celestial bodies.” That connection between Earth science and planetary science has many scientists and NASA fans concerned, as President Trump prepares to shift some of the agency’s focus on Earth back toward space. Mr. Trump’s proposed budget includes increased funding for astronaut spacecraft and planetary exploration, but makes explicit cuts as well, eliminating four climate-related satellite missions – a proposal that has sparked much criticism from environmental communities. The budget blueprint also includes increased funding for research into the asteroids, moons, and other planets of our solar system, but even planetary scientists are wary of scaling back Earth monitoring. “Planetary science benefits from this budget – if it stands – but I don't see anybody celebrating,” says Hap McSween, an emeritus professor at the University of Tennessee-Knoxville who has studied meteorites for almost 40 years. He and his colleagues heard about the blueprint at the March Lunar and Planetary Science Conference in Texas. “It was really strange,” Professor McSween says. “Even though this was the place where planetary people come, and you'd think they'd be most focused on 'What does NASA's funding portend for planetary explanation?’ … so many of the questions and comments were, ‘We are distressed [by] the de-emphasis of Earth-based science in NASA,’ ” he recalls. NASA’s Mission to Planet Earth, originally dubbed the Earth Observing System, was initially conceived during the Reagan administration as a component of the International Space Station, but it expanded into a network of free-flying Earth-observing satellites under former President George H. W. Bush that received ongoing funding from Presidents Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama. How did NASA evolve from sending humans into orbit to researching the Earth? It started with the first astronauts, says Ghassem Asrar, whose 20-year career at NASA included serving as deputy administrator for the Science Directorate. “Every time the astronauts went to orbit, they said, ‘It's amazing when we look back!’ ” They shared their unique view of our planet through their photographs. The now iconic Earthrise and Blue Marble images, taken in 1968 and 1972, seized popular attention just as the environmental movement was taking root. “Americans suddenly realized that their actions did impact the health of Earth and that changes are happening on a planetary scale,” says Dr. McNutt. NASA gathers the data that countless other government and private organizations rely on, she says, calling the space agency “a creator of scientific information.” No obvious successor is poised to take over that “creator” role if NASA's Earth observations are curtailed, says McNutt. Most military data is classified, private organizations rarely release data for free, and while many other nations have space programs, “not all foreign nations agree that data collected with public funds belongs in the public domain, as we do in the United States,” she explains. While the administration's proposed budget takes a bite out of several climate change observing satellites, it does leave most of the Earth science program intact. Unlike the proposed budgets for the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Energy, which included cuts of 31 percent and 20 percent respectively, NASA's funding was reduced by only 0.8 percent in the budget “blueprint” released on March 17. (The final budget will be drafted and approved by Congress later this year.) In addition to the mission cuts, the proposed budget eliminates the $115 million Office of Education, which provides resources for K-12 teachers and students and also funds scholarships for undergraduate and graduate students. In addition, every mission includes funds for researchers and their student assistants, so mission cancellations can end grad students' careers abruptly. The renewed emphasis on Europa is a mixed blessing, says Darby Dyar, an astronomy professor at Mount Holyoke College in Massachusetts. “Outer solar system missions have very long time frames. I worry that the pipeline of people who work on missions is going to become pretty leaky as the big missions get farther apart and fewer.” Stability can be in short supply at NASA, as priorities shift and funding follows. Professor Dyar still remembers the upheaval caused by the transition away from lunar research in the early 1980s. “Many planetary scientists had coasted along from the remnants of the Apollo program funding, and public interest and pride in lunar exploration,” she recalls. “With Reagan's election, the pendulum looked like it was swinging away from the moon and toward Mars and Venus.” In some ways, Trump's proposed cancellation of Earth-observing missions is simply another swing of that pendulum. When he signed the NASA authorization bill, one week after releasing the budget blueprint, Trump emphasized an ongoing commitment to astronauts and space science research. His proposed budget leaves in place the vast majority of the Earth-observing satellites, which have borne inestimable rewards for Americans and the rest of humanity, says Asrar, who enjoys quoting the 1958 National Aeronautics and Space Act that created NASA for “the benefit of all mankind.” “Going back to the spirit of the Space Act, if we had not included Earth exploration in NASA's mission since inception, would we have today's weather prediction capabilities? Would we have today's space-based telecommunication technologies? Would we have space-based navigation systems today? Probably not,” he says. “But all of those are exactly in the spirit of the Space Act, of serving not only our nation but the entire globe.”


News Article | April 13, 2017
Site: www.csmonitor.com

A 'Blue Marble' image of the Earth taken from the VIIRS instrument aboard NASA's most recently launched Earth-observing satellite – Suomi NPP. This composite image uses a number of swaths of the Earth's surface taken on January 4, 2012. —Since the earliest days of space travel, NASA has looked in two directions: out to space and back toward Earth. To a public that only knows NASA as the agency that put men on the moon and rovers on Mars, it may come as a surprise to realize how big a role Earth observations have played in NASA programming, and how much that research has informed the exploration of moons and planets in our solar system and beyond. That connection came into sharp focus on Thursday, when NASA announced the discovery of molecular hydrogen in a plume on Saturn’s moon Enceladus – a discovery that would not have been possible without a robust understanding of environmental systems on Earth. Nearly all planetary science and exoplanet research has its roots in Earth science, and much of that research has been gleaned from NASA’s Earth science mission, says Marcia McNutt, a geoscientist who has headed the United States Geological Survey, the research journal Science, and the National Academy of Science. “Had the agency not been studying Earth as a planet,” she adds, “we would not have gained the proper knowledge and perspective for seeking out the signatures potentially conducive to life on other celestial bodies.” That connection between Earth science and planetary science has many scientists and NASA fans concerned, as President Trump prepares to shift some of the agency’s focus on Earth back toward space. Mr. Trump’s proposed budget includes increased funding for astronaut spacecraft and planetary exploration, but makes explicit cuts as well, eliminating four climate-related satellite missions – a proposal that has sparked much criticism from environmental communities. The budget blueprint also includes increased funding for research into the asteroids, moons, and other planets of our solar system, but even planetary scientists are wary of scaling back Earth monitoring. “Planetary science benefits from this budget – if it stands – but I don't see anybody celebrating,” says Hap McSween, an emeritus professor at the University of Tennessee-Knoxville who has studied meteorites for almost 40 years. He and his colleagues heard about the blueprint at the March Lunar and Planetary Science Conference in Texas. “It was really strange,” Professor McSween says. “Even though this was the place where planetary people come, and you'd think they'd be most focused on 'What does NASA's funding portend for planetary explanation?’ … so many of the questions and comments were, ‘We are distressed [by] the de-emphasis of Earth-based science in NASA,’ ” he recalls. NASA’s Mission to Planet Earth, originally dubbed the Earth Observing System, was initially conceived during the Reagan administration as a component of the International Space Station, but it expanded into a network of free-flying Earth-observing satellites under former President George H. W. Bush that received ongoing funding from Presidents Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama. How did NASA evolve from sending humans into orbit to researching the Earth? It started with the first astronauts, says Ghassem Asrar, whose 20-year career at NASA included serving as deputy administrator for the Science Directorate. “Every time the astronauts went to orbit, they said, ‘It's amazing when we look back!’ ” They shared their unique view of our planet through their photographs. The now iconic Earthrise and Blue Marble images, taken in 1968 and 1972, seized popular attention just as the environmental movement was taking root. “Americans suddenly realized that their actions did impact the health of Earth and that changes are happening on a planetary scale,” says Dr. McNutt. NASA gathers the data that countless other government and private organizations rely on, she says, calling the space agency “a creator of scientific information.” No obvious successor is poised to take over that “creator” role if NASA's Earth observations are curtailed, says McNutt. Most military data is classified, private organizations rarely release data for free, and while many other nations have space programs, “not all foreign nations agree that data collected with public funds belongs in the public domain, as we do in the United States,” she explains. While the administration's proposed budget takes a bite out of several climate change observing satellites, it does leave most of the Earth science program intact. Unlike the proposed budgets for the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Energy, which included cuts of 31 percent and 20 percent respectively, NASA's funding was reduced by only 0.8 percent in the budget “blueprint” released on March 17. (The final budget will be drafted and approved by Congress later this year.) In addition to the mission cuts, the proposed budget eliminates the $115 million Office of Education, which provides resources for K-12 teachers and students and also funds scholarships for undergraduate and graduate students. In addition, every mission includes funds for researchers and their student assistants, so mission cancellations can end grad students' careers abruptly. The renewed emphasis on Europa is a mixed blessing, says Darby Dyar, an astronomy professor at Mount Holyoke College in Massachusetts. “Outer solar system missions have very long time frames. I worry that the pipeline of people who work on missions is going to become pretty leaky as the big missions get farther apart and fewer.” Stability can be in short supply at NASA, as priorities shift and funding follows. Professor Dyar still remembers the upheaval caused by the transition away from lunar research in the early 1980s. “Many planetary scientists had coasted along from the remnants of the Apollo program funding, and public interest and pride in lunar exploration,” she recalls. “With Reagan's election, the pendulum looked like it was swinging away from the moon and toward Mars and Venus.” In some ways, Trump's proposed cancellation of Earth-observing missions is simply another swing of that pendulum. When he signed the NASA authorization bill, one week after releasing the budget blueprint, Trump emphasized an ongoing commitment to astronauts and space science research. His proposed budget leaves in place the vast majority of the Earth-observing satellites, which have borne inestimable rewards for Americans and the rest of humanity, says Asrar, who enjoys quoting the 1958 National Aeronautics and Space Act that created NASA for “the benefit of all mankind.” “Going back to the spirit of the Space Act, if we had not included Earth exploration in NASA's mission since inception, would we have today's weather prediction capabilities? Would we have today's space-based telecommunication technologies? Would we have space-based navigation systems today? Probably not,” he says. “But all of those are exactly in the spirit of the Space Act, of serving not only our nation but the entire globe.”


Watanawikkit P.,Kasetsart University | Watanawikkit P.,Ramkhamhaeng University | Tantiwiwat S.,Kasetsart University | Bunn E.,Kasetsart University | And 4 more authors.
Botanical Journal of the Linnean Society | Year: 2012

Cryopreservation is an important tool for the exsitu preservation of endangered plants. In this article, we describe the development of a cryopreservation protocol for orchid protocorms using the terrestrial Australian species Caladenia latifolia. Protocorms of C. latifolia generated asymbiotically each month on Murashige and Skoog (MS) medium containing 10μM N6-benzyladenine (BAP) provided explant sources for cryopreservation. Three size classes of protocorms were used as source explant material [small (S, ≤1mm); medium (M, >1<4mm); large (L, ≥4mm)] in combination with five desiccation treatments, i.e. 0, 0.4, 0.6, 0.8 and 1.0M glycerol. After 2days on desiccation medium, protocorms were treated with two cryoprotectant solutions (PVS2 and PVS4 at 0°C for 15, 20, 25 and 30min) before immersion in liquid nitrogen for 1day. Protocorms were then removed from liquid nitrogen storage, warmed rapidly (in a 40°C waterbath) and placed on three recovery media: half-strength MS with 0.5μM BAP, 0.5μM 6-furfurylaminopurine (kinetin) or 0.5μM 1-phenyl-3-(1,2,3-thiadiazol-5-yl)-urea (TDZ). Protocorms on recovery media were incubated at 25°C under dark conditions and potential protocorm survival was observed at 60 and 90days using a fluorescein diacetate (FDA) test for protocorm viability. Protocorm survival was correlated significantly with explant size. Large cryopreserved protocorms had the highest potential survival rate (>90%) relative to small (<10%) and medium (70-80%) protocorms. Different desiccation media treatments did not affect significantly the survival percentage (74-92%). Similarly, changing the cryoprotectant solution and time of incubation at 0°C did not affect significantly potential protocorm survival (76-96%). Potential protocorm survival on various recovery media was not significantly different among treatments (88-100% survival). The study indicates that the cryopreservation of terrestrial orchid protocorms is technically feasible and provides a new and potentially highly beneficial tool in terrestrial orchid conservation where seed may be limited (because of species rarity), or as a means of storing and later utilizing the large surpluses of protocorms generated in propagation programmes. © 2012 The Linnean Society of London.


News Article | March 17, 2016
Site: phys.org

Data downloaded and analyzed by the New Horizons team indicated the space environment around Pluto and its moons contained only about six dust particles per cubic mile, said CU-Boulder Professor Fran Bagenal, who leads the New Horizons Particles and Plasma Team. "The bottom line is that space is mostly empty," said Bagenal, a faculty member at the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics (LASP). "Any debris created when Pluto's moons were captured or created during impacts has long since been removed by planetary processes." Studying the microscopic dust grains can give researchers clues about how the solar system was formed billions of years ago and how it works today, providing information on planets, moons and comets, said Bagenal. A paper on Pluto's interaction with the space environment is being published in Science March 17. The study was led by Bagenal and involved more than other 20 researchers, including LASP physics Professor Mihaly Horanyi; CU-Boulder doctoral student Marcus Piquette of the Department of Astrophysical and Planetary Sciences; and Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) postdoctoral researcher Jamey Szalay, who received his doctorate in physics from CU-Boulder under Horanyi last year. Launched in 2006, the New Horizons mission was designed to help planetary scientists better understand the icy world at the edge of our solar system, including Pluto and the Kuiper Belt. A vast region thought to span more than a billion miles beyond Neptune's orbit, the Kuiper Belt is believed to harbor at least 70,000 objects more than 60 miles in diameter and contain samples of ancient material created during the solar system's violent formation some 4.5 billion years ago. Horanyi said the SDC logged thousands of dust grain hits over the spacecraft's nine year, 3 billion-mile journey to Pluto while most of other six instruments slept. "Now we are now starting to see seeing a slow but steady increase in the impact rate of larger particles, possibly indicating that we already have entered the inner edge of the Kuiper Belt," said Horanyi, the principal investigator for the SDC. The CU-Boulder dust counter is a thin film resting on a honeycombed aluminum structure the size of a cake pan mounted on the spacecraft's exterior. A small electronic box functions as the instrument's "brain" to assess each individual dust particle that strikes the detector, allowing the students to infer the mass of each particle. A revolving cast of more than 20 CU-Boulder students, primarily undergraduates, worked on designing and building the SDC for New Horizons between 2002 and 2005. Several students and researchers are now assessing data from the flyby. "Our instrument has been soaring through our solar system's dust disk and gathering data since launch," said Szalay, who works at SwRI headquarters in San Antonio. "It's going to be very exciting to get into the Kuiper Belt and see what we find there." New Horizons is traveling at a mind-blowing 750,000 miles a day. Images from closest approach were taken from roughly 7,700 miles above Pluto's surface. The spacecraft, about the size of a baby grand piano, carries six other instruments. The principal investigator of the New Horizons mission is Alan Stern of the SwRI Planetary Science Directorate in Boulder, who received his doctorate from CU-Boulder in 1989. "CU-Boulder is the only place in the world where students could have built an instrument that eventually flew off to another planet," said Bagenal. The next and final target of New Horizons is a 30-mile-in diameter Kuiper Belt object named 2014 MU69, which the spacecraft is expected to pass in January 2019. Bagenal also is a mission scientist for NASA's Juno Mission to Jupiter, launched in 2011 and which will begin orbiting the gas giant's poles in July. Explore further: Student dust counter breaks distance record on New Horizons mission to Pluto More information: "Pluto's interaction with its space environment: Solar wind, energetic Particles, and Dust," DOI: 10.1126/science.aad9045


News Article | November 29, 2016
Site: www.eurekalert.org

One of the world's leading botanical science research institutions, the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, is celebrating 15 years of partnerships aimed at protecting Mexico's biodiversity during this year's Convention on Biological Diversity Conference of the Parties, CBD-COP13, in Cancun from Dec 2-17th. RBG Kew has been in partnerships in Mexico since 2002, principally with the country's largest wild plant seed bank at the Faculty of Higher Studies of Iztacala, part of the Autonomous National University of Mexico (UNAM) and CONABIO (The National Commission for Knowledge and Use of Biodiversity). To date, the collaboration has resulted in 7% of Mexico's flora being safeguarded in the Seed Bank at FESI-UNAM, each with a duplicate collection also held at Kew's Millennium Seed Bank in the UK - the largest off site plant conservation programme in the world. This equates to 986 Mexican plant species duplicated at Kew's MSB. On December 2nd at the Business Forum in Cancun, Kew will sign a new agreement with the Mexican Fund for the Conservation of Nature (FMCN) and HSBC Mexico to support a two year project focussing on arid areas in Baja California which are threatened with habitat loss, climate change and invasive species. Kew's Director of Science, Prof. Kathy Willis, who will be addressing businesses on December 3rd on some of the ways in which they can contribute to global efforts to tackle threats to biodiversity, especially from agriculture, says; "Mexico is the fifth most mega biodiverse country in the world. It is facing pressures on its ecosystems from agriculture, forestry, fisheries and tourism, leading to rapidly changing land use. We're starting to see some very tangible results from the work we have been doing here for over a decade and we're proud that Kew's world class science and expertise is helping to inform some of the big environmental decisions about what to prioritise and where in order to ensure sustainable ecosystems in the future. We are committed to our existing partnerships and are exploring new ones so we can collectively buck the trends and foster greater collective responsibility for the solutions to the biggest challenges facing our planet." Solutions include field identification and collection of the wild relatives of commonly used crops that could hold the key to future food supplies in areas under threat of climate change. Some of these plant species which will be stored in Mexico's seed bank may represent sources of new genetic diversity and will potentially be available for plant breeding experiments, contributing to a wide range of beneficial agronomic and nutritional traits. Kew is also just beginning a four year Tree Project in Mexico that aims to conserve seeds from approximately 300 priority tree species nationally, including endemic, protected and useful plants important for the livelihoods of rural communities. Outputs from this project will also include a database of tree species and a map of tree species 'biodiversity hotspots'. Both will be critical assets when 'modelling' the actual and potential distribution of these important tree species under a changing climate. China Williams, Senior Science Officer, RBG Kew will be participating in the Science Forum in Cancun and on the UK Delegation at the CBD. Kew's Director of External Affairs. David Cope, Director of External Affairs, RBG Kew will be hosting a side event at the CEPA Fair which hopes to foster a lively discussion with representatives from several other botanic gardens about the wider role they play in communicating, educating and raising public awareness of biodiversity. For more information, images or to book an interview with a Kew spokesperson, please contact Ciara O'Sullivan, Head of Media Relations c.osullivan@kew.org and Tel: + 44 7753 10 34 60. In Cancun 30/11 to 5/12 1-2 Dec: 3rd Science for Biodiversity Forum More details China Williams, Senior Science Officer speaking on panel. Available for interview. 3 Dec: 14:15-16:15, 2016 Business and Biodiversity Forum, More details (CBD website). Kathy Willis, Director on Science speaking on Panel. Available for interview. Session G: Agriculture - negative impact of current agricultural practices on ecosystems and biodiversity. Business opportunities and challenges. 5 Dec: 13.15, Experiences in Tourism and Biodiversity. Contact Group 3 Meeting Room at the Universal Building. David Cope, Director of External Affairs is a panellist on this event organised between the British Embassy in Mexico and the Mexican Ministry of Tourism 6 Dec: 15:30, Kew's CEPA Side Event More details Venue: Universal Building (Moon Palace Hotel, Main Floor). Title: 'Gardens of the Anthropocene: How botanic gardens are reconnecting people with plants'. Topic: A panel of experts from botanic gardens and universities across the globe will discuss the role of botanical gardens in communicating, educating and raising public awareness of biodiversity. The Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew is a world famous scientific organisation, internationally respected for its outstanding collections as well as its scientific expertise in plant diversity, conservation and sustainable development in the UK and around the world. In May 2016 Kew released the first ever State of the World's Plants report which will now be an annual report tracking progress and scanning the horizons on issues ranging from useful plants to illegal trade and agreements like the Nagoya Protocol being discussed in Cancun in December.Wakehurst is home to Kew's Millennium Seed Bank, the largest wild plant seed bank in the world. Kew receives approximately just under half of its funding from the UK Government through the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra). The Kew Foundation charity raises much needed funds from individuals, companies and trusts to support Kew's work. For further information visit our website. Professor Kathy Willis, Director of Science, RBG Kew (Cancun, Dec 1-3): Kathy was appointed in November 2013 to lead Kew's Science Directorate, and the development of a new Science Strategy for Kew which enhances its world-leading science and conservation work, strengthens its position as a global resource for plant and fungal knowledge, and promotes plant and fungal-based solutions to current global challenges. Kathy's career began with a degree in Environmental Science from the University of Southampton and was followed by a PhD in from the University of Cambridge. Kathy remained at Cambridge in the Department of Plant Sciences for her early postdoctoral career, obtaining fellowships with Selwyn College, NERC and the Royal Society, before moving to the University of Oxford in 1999 to take up a lectureship in the School of Geography and the Environment. While in this role she established the Oxford Long-term Ecology Laboratory in 2002, and was made Professor of Long-term Ecology in 2008. Kathy became Professor of Biodiversity in the Department of Zoology, University of Oxford in 2010 and maintains this position and an adjunct Professorship in Biology at the University of Bergen.Kathy's research interests focus on the relationship between long-term vegetation dynamics and environmental change, with current projects examining biodiversity baselines and processes responsible for ecosystem thresholds and resilience. Recent work has also focused on the development of technologies to measure and derive economic and ecological values for biodiversity. Julia Willison, Head of Learning and Participation, RBG Kew: Julia Willison has over 20 years' experience of working with botanic gardens around the world, supporting them to develop their education programmes. Julia leads Kew's Learning and Participation Programme which includes the schools programme, visitor learning (families, guides and participation) and Grow Wild, a UK-wide programme inspiring people to transform local spaces with native wild flowers. Her professional interests lie in how we engage people of all ages and backgrounds in understanding the importance of plants in our lives and how our decisions and behaviours impact the sustainability of the planet. Julia is the originator of 'Communities in Nature: Growing the Social Role of Botanic Gardens', an international initiative supporting botanic gardens to work with their local communities on common issues of social and environmental importance and she also co-led INQUIRE, a pan-European project aiming to reinvigorate inquiry-based science education in formal and informal education systems. David Cope, Director of Strategy and External Affairs, RBG Kew: David is responsible for building Kew's external reputation and relationships across all our stakeholders, facilitating changes to strategic plans, and ensuring the effective governance of Kew. David joined Kew after eight years working in a variety of change management, strategy, analysis, performance improvement and policy roles in the UK Government department for the Environment Defra and the Home Office. David trained as a biologist, conducting his PhD and postdoctoral research on the population dynamics and conservation of herbivores. David aims to bring his passion for science and conservation along with his developed knowledge of strategy formulation and implementation and his understanding of the workings of government in order to support Kew in achieving its potential to make an even greater positive impact in the world. China Williams, Senior Science Officer (Science Policy), RBG Kew: China's role focuses on ensuring that Kew staff comply with the Convention on Biological Diversity, the Nagoya Protocol on Access to Genetic Resources, as well as the national laws of our partner countries. This involves supporting Kew staff preparing for overseas collecting trips, developing legal agreements with partners, and making sure that policies in all research areas ensure that we are using material legally. In addition China represents Kew at national and international meetings and work with the UK government so that Kew's breadth of science knowledge is used to guide policy decisions. China has developed and delivers a range of policy training modules for Kew staff, partners, others in the non-commercial research sector and also at the graduate and post graduate level. Alison Purvis, Co-CEO (interim), Kew Foundation: Alison brings years over 15 years of experience in philanthropic, institutional and corporate strategy and International NGO development work to support Kew's mission to unlock why plants mater. The Kew Foundation was named the second fasted growing charity by income in the UK by Cass Business School in February 2016 and Alison has expert knowledge of non-profit fundraising within complex, global and scientific research organisations working in over 100 countries with public, scientific and educational objectives. Alison is a FRSA and holds her BA from St Lawrence University in New York and recently completed the PMNO course at the Harvard Kennedy School. She has resided in London with her husband and son for 15 years.


News Article | February 27, 2017
Site: www.eurekalert.org

Alzheimer's disease, and other neurodegenerative conditions involving abnormal folding of proteins, may help explain the emergence of life -- and how to create it. Researchers at Emory University and Georgia Tech demonstrated this connection in two new papers published by Nature Chemistry: "Design of multi-phase dynamic chemical networks" and "Catalytic diversity in self-propagating peptide assemblies." "In the first paper we showed that you can create tension between a chemical and physical system to give rise to more complex systems. And in the second paper, we showed that these complex systems can have remarkable and unexpected functions," says David Lynn, a systems chemist in Emory's Department of Chemistry who led the research. "The work was inspired by our current understanding of Darwinian selection of protein misfolding in neurodegenerative diseases." The Lynn lab is exploring ways to potentially control and direct the processes of these proteins -- known as prions -- adding to knowledge that might one day help to prevent disease, as well as open new realms of synthetic biology. For the current papers, Emory collaborated with the research group of Martha Grover, a professor in the Georgia Tech School of Chemical & Biomolecular Engineering, to develop molecular models for the processes. "Modeling requires us to formulate our hypotheses in the language of mathematics, and then we use the models to design further experiments to test the hypotheses," Grover says. Darwin's theory of evolution by natural selection is well-established -- organisms adapt over time in response to environmental changes. But theories about how life emerges -- the movement through a pre-Darwinian world to the Darwinian threshold -- remain murkier. The researchers started with single peptides and engineered in the capacity to spontaneously form small proteins, or short polymers. "These protein polymers can fold into a seemingly endless array of forms, and sometimes behave like origami," Lynn explains. "They can stack into assemblies that carry new functions, like prions that move from cell-to-cell, causing disease." This protein misfolding provided the model for how physical changes could carry information with function, a critical component for evolution. To try to kickstart that evolution, the researchers engineered a chemical system of peptides and coupled it to the physical system of protein misfolding. The combination results in a system that generates step-by-step, progressive changes, through self-driven environmental changes. "The folding events, or phase changes, drive the chemistry and the chemistry drives the replication of the protein molecules," Lynn says. "The simple system we designed requires only the initial intervention from us to achieve progressive growth in molecular order. The challenge now becomes the discovery of positive feedback mechanisms that allow the system to continue to grow." The research was funded by the McDonnell Foundation, the National Science Foundation's Materials Science Directorate, Emory University's Alzheimer's Disease Research Center, the National Science Foundation's Center for Chemical Evolution and the Office of Basic Energy Sciences of the U.S. Department of Energy. Additional co-authors of the papers include: Toluople Omosun, Seth Childers, Dibyendu Das and Anil Mehta (Emory Departments of Chemistry and Biology); Ming-Chien Hsieh (Georgia Tech School of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering); and Neil Anthony and Keith Berland (Emory Department of Physics).


News Article | November 23, 2016
Site: phys.org

After a comprehensive review of their current operational status and the likely scientific return from each mission, the SPC decided to extend the operation of six ESA-led missions (Cluster, INTEGRAL, Mars Express, PROBA-2, SOHO and XMM-Newton) from 1 January 2017 to 31 December 2018. The go-ahead was also given to continue ESA's contributions to the operations of three international collaborative missions: the Hubble Space Telescope and the Interface Region Imaging Spectrograph (IRIS), which are both led by NASA, as well as Hinode, which is a Japanese-led mission. Every two years, all missions whose approved operations end within the following four years are subject to review by the advisory structure of the Science Directorate. Extensions are granted to missions that satisfy the established criteria for operational status and science return, subject to the level of financial resources available in the science programme. These extensions are valid for the following four years, subject to a mid-term review and confirmation after two years. For the current cycle, the committee deferred any decision for the period 2019-2020 until after the meeting of the ESA Council at Ministerial Level, which is being held in Lucerne, Switzerland, 1–2 December. Among many decisions to be taken, the ESA Council will decide the longer-term budget of the science programme. Extensions for SOHO, PROBA-2 and Hinode, and the continued contribution to IRIS, will ensure that our Sun is closely observed as it continues to head towards an unusually weak minimum of sunspot and flare activity. Meanwhile, the Cluster quartet will measure the effects of this changing activity nearer to home, as they visit new regions of Earth's magnetosphere and operate simultaneously with other solar-terrestrial missions. Mars Express has been in operation since December 2003 and it continues to study many different aspects of the Red Planet's atmosphere, surface and moons. Its data will complement measurements made by ESA's Trace Gas Orbiter, which arrived at Mars in October 2016. XMM-Newton, the Hubble Space Telescope and INTEGRAL will continue to provide complementary observations of the Universe at many different wavelengths. These will include studies of the Solar System, planets orbiting distant stars, exploding stars, black holes, and the evolution of galaxies and the Universe. Explore further: Europe maintains its presence on the final frontier


News Article | October 26, 2015
Site: phys.org

"This numerical simulation actually reproduces the structure of the inner solar system, with Earth, Venus, and a smaller Mars," said Hal Levison, an Institute scientist at the SwRI Planetary Science Directorate. He is the first author of a new paper published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States (PNAS) Early Edition. The fact that Mars has only 10 percent of the mass of the Earth has been a long-standing puzzle for solar system theorists. In the standard model of planet formation, similarly sized objects accumulate and assimilate through a process called accretion; rocks incorporated other rocks, creating mountains; then mountains merged to form city-size objects, and so on. While typical accretion models generate good analogs to Earth and Venus, they predict that Mars should be of similar-size, or even larger than Earth. Additionally, these models also overestimate the overall mass of the asteroid belt. "Understanding why Mars is smaller than expected has been a major problem that has frustrated our modeling efforts for several decades," said Levison. "Here, we have a solution that arises directly from the planet formation process itself." New calculations by Levison and co-authors Katherine Kretke, Kevin Walsh and Bill Bottke, all of SwRI's Planetary Science Directorate follow the growth and evolution of a system of planets. They demonstrate that the structure of the inner solar system is actually the natural outcome of a new mode of planetary growth known as Viscously Stirred Pebble Accretion (VSPA). With VSPA, dust readily grows to "pebbles"—objects a few inches in diameter—some of which gravitationally collapse to form asteroid-sized objects. Under the right conditions, these primordial asteroids can efficiently feed on the remaining pebbles, as aerodynamic drag pulls pebbles into orbit, where they spiral down and fuse with the growing planetary body. This allows certain asteroids to become planet-sized over relatively short time scales. However, these new models find that not all of the primordial asteroids are equally well-positioned to accrete pebbles and grow. For example, an object the size of Ceres (about 600 miles across), which is the largest asteroid in the asteroid belt, would have grown very quickly near the current location of the Earth. But it would not have been able to grow effectively near the current location of Mars, or beyond, because aerodynamic drag is too weak for pebble capture to occur. "This means that very few pebbles collide with objects near the current location of Mars. That provides a natural explanation for why it is so small," said Kretke. "Similarly, even fewer hit objects in the asteroid belt, keeping its net mass small as well. The only place that growth was efficient was near the current location of Earth and Venus." "This model has huge implications for the history of the asteroid belt," said Bottke. Previous models have predicted that the belt originally contained a couple of Earth-masses' worth of material, meaning that planets began to grow there. The new model predicts that the asteroid belt never contained much mass in bodies like the currently observed asteroids. "This presents the planetary science community with a testable prediction between this model and previous models that can be explored using data from meteorites, remote sensing, and spacecraft missions," said Bottke. This work complements the recent study published in Nature by Levison, Kretke, and Martin Duncan (Queen's University), which demonstrated that pebbles can form the cores of the giant planets and explain the structure of the outer solar system. Combined, the two works present the means to produce the entire solar system from a single, unifying process. "As far as I know, this is the first model to reproduce the structure of the solar system—Earth and Venus, a small Mars, a low-mass asteroid belt, two gas giants, two ice giants (Uranus and Neptune), and a pristine Kuiper Belt," said Levison. The article, "Growing the Terrestrial Planets from the Gradual Accumulation of Sub-meter Sized Objects," is published online by PNAS. Explore further: Primitive asteroids in the main asteroid belt may have formed far from the sun (w/ Video) More information: Growing the terrestrial planets from the gradual accumulation of submeter-sized objects, www.pnas.org/cgi/doi/10.1073/pnas.1513364112


PubMed | Australian National University, University of Western Australia and Science Directorate
Type: Journal Article | Journal: The Journal of experimental biology | Year: 2016

Seasonal acclimatisation of thermal tolerance, evaporative water loss and metabolic rate, along with regulation of the hive environment, are key ways whereby hive-based social insects mediate climatic challenges throughout the year, but the relative importance of these traits remains poorly understood. Here, we examined seasonal variation in metabolic rate and evaporative water loss of worker bees, and seasonal variation of hive temperature and relative humidity (RH), for the stingless bee Austroplebeia essingtoni (Apidae: Meliponini) in arid tropical Australia. Both water loss and metabolic rate were lower in the cooler, dry winter than in the hot, wet summer at most ambient temperatures between 20C and 45C. Contrary to expectation, thermal tolerance thresholds were higher in the winter than in the summer. Hives were cooler in the cooler, dry winter than in the hot, wet summer, linked to an apparent lack of hive thermoregulation. The RH of hives was regulated at approximately 65% in both seasons, which is higher than unoccupied control hives in the dry season, but less than unoccupied control hives in the wet season. Although adaptations to promote water balance appear more important for survival of A. essingtoni than traits related to temperature regulation, their capacity for water conservation is coincident with increased thermal tolerance. For these small, eusocial stingless bees in the arid tropics, where air temperatures are relatively high and stable compared with temperate areas, regulation of hive humidity appears to be of more importance than temperature for maintaining hive health.


Most of the data for the Internet travel on fiber-optic cables, which are made up of bundles of threads that transmit laser light. As the fiber gets longer, however, power is lost due to attenuation. In the late 1980s and early '90s, researchers discovered that they could mitigate this loss by developing inline fiber-optic amplifiers. At the time, lasers operated at a wavelength of 1.3 microns, or 1,300 nanometers (nm). No optical amplifiers were developed, however, that worked well in that region. Researchers were able to develop an amplifier at 1.55 microns, or 1,550 nm, so laser transmission systems were switched to match. At the same time, they discovered that inline optical amplifiers allowed them to amplify many different lasers at one time, a discovery that increased the information carrying capacity of a single optical fiber from 155 megabits a second to more than one terabit a second. While this was a huge increase, it is still a limited amount of information, requiring many cables to transmit. Flash forward 25 years. The Livermore team was working on neodymium-doped optical-fiber lasers, which lase at 1,330 nm (1.33 microns), 1,064 nm (1.064 microns) and 920 nm. The team built a custom optical fiber that suppressed lasing at 1,064 nm and amplified light preferentially at 920 nm. In the course of testing the 920-nm laser, the team observed in the fluorescent spectra that the fiber also showed signs of amplification at 1,400-1,450 nm—a wavelength that never worked previously. Previous fiber amplifiers did not suppress lasing at 1,064 nm and also were observed to suffer from an effect known as excited-state absorption in the 1,330-nm region. This effect actually causes the fiber loss to increase when pump light is applied—the opposite of the desired effect, which is to generate optical gain. The team then redesigned the fiber to suppress laser action at both 1,064 nm and 920 nm. This new fiber, which completely eliminates the potential for lasing at 920 nm or 1,064 nm, can now only provide gain on the 1,330-nm laser transition. Excited-state absorption still precludes amplification at 1,330 nm, but the laser line amplifies light across a large range of wavelengths. The team discovered that from 1,390 nm to 1,460 nm there is significant positive optical gain, and this new fiber generates laser power and optical gain with relatively good efficiency. This discovery opens up the potential for installed optical fibers to operate in a transmission region known as E-band, in addition to the C and L bands where they currently operate—effectively doubling a single optical fiber's information-carrying potential. "The key missing component for operating a telecom network in this wavelength region has been the optical fiber amplifier," said Jay Dawson, deputy program director for DoD Technologies in the NIF and Photon Science Directorate. "What we've done is effectively create something that will look and feel like a conventional erbium fiber amplifier, but in an adjacent wavelength region, doubling the carrying capacity of an optical-fiber amplifier." The amplifiers would potentially allow telecom companies to more heavily leverage their installed base of equipment, requiring less capital investment than new cable—resulting in expanded bandwidth and lower costs to the end user. Installation of new cable is expensive; a service provider must not only purchase new cables, but also undergo the large expense of digging trenches to install the new cable. "By using the fiber we've developed, you could build a set of optical fiber amplifiers that would look virtually identical in technology to the fiber amplifiers that already exist," Dawson said. "Instead of having to lay another expensive cable, you could install these new amplifiers in the same buildings as the current amplifiers, resulting in twice as much bandwidth on the current cables." "To me, that's what is exciting about it," he added. "It's something that no one has previously been able to do, and the potential is there to really make a big difference." "This appeared to be a significant discovery that may solve a problem in the telecommunications industry, which is a large and important market, but more R&D was needed," said Michael Sharer, IPO manager for technology commercialization. "The IDF committee felt that this was an important project to fund from this standpoint." Explore further: Laser produces infrared beams over an unprecedented range of wavelengths

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