News & Announcements

National-scale study by UMass ecologists Emily Fusco and Bethany Bradley finds invasive grasses increase wildfire risk

According to a national-scale study by ecologists Emily Fusco (OEB graduate and Environmental Conservation postdoc), Bethany Bradley (Associate Professor, Environmental Conservation) and colleagues at the University of Colorado-Boulder, invasive grasses can double the number of fires. One species, invasive cheatgrass, has a long, well-earned reputation as a firestarter, making wildfires worse and more common. It is now clear that this effect is much more pervasive than a single species, they report. The new analysis finds at least seven other non-native grasses can increase wildfire risk around the country, some doubling or even tripling the likelihood of fires in grass-invaded areas. Read more here. These findings have also received coverage in the New York Times and Boston Globe.

Amazon’s White Bellbirds Set New Record for Loudest Bird Call

Podos_bellbird

Biologist Jeff Podos at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, with Mario Cohn-Haft at the Instituto Nacional de Pesquisas da Amazônia, Brazil, report that they have recorded the loudest bird calls ever documented, made by dove-sized male white bellbirds as part of their mating rituals in the mountains of the northern Amazon. Details are in the latest Current Biology. Read more

Biology and Art: The UMCA launches a collaboration with the Natural History Collections in October

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One of the exciting happenings on the UMass Amherst campus this fall is a seed of something huge to come: an innovative collaboration between the University Museum of Contemporary Art (UMCA) and the Natural History Collections. The pilot project for this partnership, ongoing through 2020/21, is Fielding, a show by guest artist Emily Tareila ’19G (MFA), mounted in pop-up fashion in Morrill Science Center. In a time of global environmental shifts, the methodical catalog of species that natural history collections furnish is a particularly valuable resource. “The collections are the foundation of a lot of biological research, documenting and recording life on earth, for scientists to study in terms of what has happened, and what’s coming,” says Assistant Professor of Biology, Madelaine Bartlett. “We have a legacy of herbarium records that can now be used to track the impact of climate change.” Read More

Sea turtles, drones, and remote islands of Brazil

The National Science Foundation this month announced that Lisa Komoroske, environmental conservation, will co-lead a four-year, $1.4 million, multi-institution grant to study how reproductive behaviors will influence the effects of climate change on green sea turtles (Chelonia mydas).  Her team will spend months in the field at turtle nesting beaches on Fernando de Noronha, a marine reserve and UNESCO World Heritage Site composed of an archipelago of 21 islands about 220 miles off the coast of Brazil. She and collaborators at Florida State and Oregon State universities will also work with the Brazil-based non-profit conservation organization PROJECTO TAMAR on the project. Read More

OEB Students Recognized with Grants and Awards Over the Summer

Congratulations to OEB students on some awesome grants and awards this past summer! Please keep the good news coming. Here are the ones we’ve heard about so far, listed alphabetically by first name:

Alison Fowler has been awarded a 3-year NSF GRFP, and a $15,000 NE SARE Graduate Student Grant to study bumble bee gut microbiomes.

Josh Moyer was awarded Best Poster at the American Elasmobranch Society meeting in Snowbird, Utah over the summer! His poster about sand tiger teeth was the unanimous winner of the competition and according to one conference attendee, “impressed everybody who saw his poster.”

Kadambari Devarajan was a finalist for the Robert May Prize 2018 instituted by the British Ecological Society for her jointly first-authored paper on ViXeN, The Prize is awarded to an early career researcher (<5 years from PhD) who published a paper as first author in Methods in Ecology and Evolution. For more information on ViXeN, you can read her blog post in the journal’s blog: http://methodsblog.com/2019/05/14/vixen/

Luis Aguirre received a NSF GROW fellowship to spend this year collaborating with Dr. Robert Junker in Austria and Germany.

Michelle Jackson was awarded a $2,900 grant this summer from the New England Botanical Club to support her dissertation work.

Congratulations to OEB students on some awesome grants and awards this summer! Please keep the good news coming. Here are the ones we’ve heard about so far, listed alphabetically by first name:

Alison Fowler has been awarded a 3-year NSF GRFP, and a $15,000 NE SARE Graduate Student Grant to study bumble bee gut microbiomes.

Josh Moyer was awarded Best Poster at the American Elasmobranch Society meeting in Snowbird, Utah over the summer! His poster about sand tiger teeth was the unanimous winner of the competition and according to one conference attendee, “impressed everybody who saw his poster.”

Kadambari Devarajan was a finalist for the Robert May Prize 2018 instituted by the British Ecological Society for her jointly first-authored paper on ViXeN, The Prize is awarded to an early career researcher (<5 years from PhD) who published a paper as first author in Methods in Ecology and Evolution. For more information on ViXeN, you can read her blog post in the journal’s blog: http://methodsblog.com/2019/05/14/vixen/

Luis Aguirre received a NSF GROW fellowship to spend this year collaborating with Dr. Robert Junker in Austria and Germany.

Michelle Jackson was awarded a $2,900 grant this summer from the New England Botanical Club to support her dissertation work.

Environment Plays a Role in the Physical Toll on Migrating Birds

A Swainson’s thrush in the wind tunnel at the Advanced Facility for Avian Research at Western University in London, Ontario. Photo courtesy of University of Western Ontario/Brock Fenton.

Ornithology researchers Alexander Gerson and his postdoctoral research associate Derrick Groom at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, with others, compared the short-term effects of resting vs. long duration flight on the rate of lean body mass loss in birds. They found that the total quantity and rate of protein loss was not different in the two conditions, but both were affected by ambient humidity. Read More

OEB Welcomes New Students and Darwin Fellow at Annual BBQ

The OEB Fall Barbeque was held on September 6, hosted by GPD Paige Warren at her home. The OEB community enthusiastically welcomed 8 new students (Kim, Chris, Seanne, Gates, Margaret, Aly, Patrick, and Alex) and our new Darwin Fellow, John Rowan, with good food, good cheer, and the traditional OEB cake. Many thanks to our host and to our student organizers!

Brittany Laginhas wins OEB Teaching Assistant Award

Brittany  Laginhas

Congratulations, Brittany, on receiving the 2018-2019 OEB Teaching Assistant Award!   A significant goal of OEB is to train graduate students to excel in teaching. The annual OEB Teaching Assistant Award was instituted in 1999 at the suggestion of students to recognize excellence in teaching. 

Ana Caicedo and Jacob Barnett's Tomato Research Featured in: Vegetable Growers News

Dr. Ana Caicedo

Professor Ana Caicedo and OEB PhD student Jacob Barnett are studying the evolution of wild tomatoes in an effort to create plants that are disease and pest resistant and also have good flavor and appearance. Their research is being featured in a story published in the "Vegetable Growers News."  Read more

Announcing the Inauguration of the On-Ramp Summer Pre-graduate Program

IDGP On Ramp Students 2019

The Interdepartmental Graduate Programs in the Life Sciences (IDGPs) launched a brand-new On-Ramp program for entering students on August 1st, with 18 soon-to-be PhD students participating. The month-long On-Ramp program is designed to facilitate the transition to graduate school by providing mentoring and professional development opportunities prior to the start of fall classes. Participants have the opportunity to work closely with a faculty member and current graduate students in a laboratory or in the field on research. In addition to hands-on training experience, On-Ramp students participate in lab meetings, journal clubs, and professional development workshops. On-Ramp students are paired with a graduate student peer mentor and join current students for social and programmatic events. There has been enthusiastic support for On-Ramp from all four IDGP graduate programs (MCB, NSB, OEB, and PB). We hope the On-Ramp Summer Research Program becomes a permanent part of the IDGP graduate experience at UMass.
Molecular and Cellular Biology Program
Neuroscience and Behavior Program
Organismic and Evolutionary Biology Program
Plant Biology Program

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