News & Announcements

Amy Strauss Awarded Developmental Science Initiative Dissertation Fellowhip

photo of amy strauss

Amy Strauss was awarded a Developmental Science Initiative Dissertation Fellowship in the amount of $10,000 from UMass Amherst's Center for Research on Families, an interdisciplinary research center based in the College of Natural Sciences and the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences. The award funds PhD students who exhibit the potential to make an outstanding contribution to the field of developmental science. 

Amy's research explores vocal learning in male songbirds, a process in which young birds learn to sing by reproducing the songs they hear during a 'sensitive period' early in life. This award will support Amy's work investigating the social and acoustic factors that influence how juvenile songbird brains store and represent auditory memories of tutor songs heard during early development. This process of sensory input storage occurs before vocal production even begins, laying a neural foundation that enables young birds to eventually produce adult song. The developmental process of song learning in birds parallels that of speech learning in humans, so this work will not only provide insight into birdsong developmental pathways, but may have applications in the field of human speech and language pathology. Amy is an OEB PhD candidate in the Podos Lab, and this research is part of a collaboration with the Remage-Healey Lab.

That's Life [Science] grad student blog publishes their 150th post

That's Life Science 150th blog post photo

Graduate students in the UMass IDGP programs created That's Life [Science], an interdisciplinary outreach blog, in 2016. Since then, the group has published 150 articles covering interesting topics across life science fields for the general public. "A Day in the Life of a Bird Nerd" is their 150th article!

Podos and Remage-Healey publish Nature paper on swamp sparrows

A team of researchers including Jeffrey Podos, Biology, and Luke Remage-Healey, Psychological & Brain Sciences, reported in Nature the discovery in the forebrain HVC of sensorimotor “bridge” neurons in swamp sparrows that simultaneously and selectively represent two critical learning-related schemas: the bird’s own song, and the specific tutor model from which that song was copied. Read More: Nature

Podos Elected President of Animal Behavior Society

Biology professor Jeff Podos has been elected the 2017-18 president of the Animal Behavior Society (ABS), the discipline’s principal scientific society in the Western Hemisphere. Read More

Laela Sayigh and team report progress in preventing mass dolphin strandings

OEB faculty member Laela Sayigh is lead investigator on a  team of researchers studying dolphins at Wellfleet Harbor on Cape Cod. This team may have found a way to prevent mass stranding events by listening to dolphin whistles (read more)

LSGRC 7th Annual Life Sciences Graduate Research Symposium, Friday, November 17!

LSGRC 7th Annual Life Sciences Graduate Research Symposium

The 7th annual UMass Life Sciences Graduate Research Symposium will be held on Friday, November 17. The event brings together graduate students from all areas of life sciences research at UMass to present their work in both talks (9:00am - 5:00pm, Life Sciences Laboratories Building, Room S340) and a poster session/lunch (12:30pm - 2:00 pm). This event is open to everyone who wants to learn about the fantastic life sciences work going on at UMass! The schedule for presentations is available on the LSGRC facebook page.

Crosby, Irschick Co-Direct New UMass Center for Evolutionary Materials

From left: A 3D model of a live horned frog captured with Beastcam technology; self-folded and shape-programmed hydrogels; a CAD-based model of a bat skull that can be changed to look like many different species. Images courtesy of the Duncan Irschick, Ryan Hayward and Betsy Dumont laboratories.

Polymer scientist Al Crosby and functional biologist Duncan Irschick, the inventors of the gecko-inspired adhesive, Geckskin, are co-directors of a new, system-wide UMass Center for Evolutionary Materials. It is intended to be a home for researchers from many fields who are interested in pursuing bio-inspired technologies to create new designs and products to benefit people and the environment.

Irschick explains that he and Crosby, inspired by the scientific and intellectual richness of their own collaboration and the success of Geckskin, want to see a center that will “engage people on a deep level of bio-inspiration, not as a buzz word but as a kind of intellectual playground for unstructured creativity. Such centers can be useful to foster collaborations.” Read more

Soil’s Contribution to the Carbon Cycle in a Warming World,  UMass Amherst, collaborative research team identify four-phase pattern in microbes

October 5, 2017

Contact: Janet Lathrop 413/545-0444

AMHERST, Mass. – Microbiologist Kristen DeAngelis and her graduate student Grace Pold at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, with colleagues at Woods Hole Marine Biological Laboratory (MBL) and in New Hampshire, report results in the Oct. 6 issue of Science from their study of warming-related soil carbon cycling changes in a New England hardwood forest.

Over two and a half decades, the team observed periods of substantial soil carbon loss, punctuated by periods of large changes in microbial communities – an episodic rather than steady pattern of warming-related change. DeAngelis and colleagues write, “We found that soil warming results in a four-phase pattern of soil organic matter decay and carbon dioxideflows to the atmosphere, with phases of substantial soil carbon loss alternating with phases of no detectable loss.” (Read more...)

OEB Science Café Videos


OEB Science Cafe continues to go strong, as OEB's signature outreach activity.  Amherst Media has filmed and edited some of our recent café events; the links are posted here:   So check ‘em out, in case you missed them the first time or just want to relive the magic!

Laura Hancock Awarded UMass Graduate School Pre-dissertation Research Grant

Laura Hancock Field Work Photo

Laura Hancock was recently awarded a $995 UMass Graduate School Pre-dissertation Research Grant to help cover travel costs and lodging for her preliminary field work this summer. Laura is planning on working with Leptonycteris yerbabuenae (lesser long-nosed bats) and other bat species in the desert southwest to better understand their foraging behavior and how possible species interactions might alter pollination of native  plants. Laura is a PhD student in the Stinson and Podos labs.