Historic Achievement for Rutgers Oceanographers as First Autonomous Underwater Robot Circumnavigates Ocean Basin

Recovery of the Rutgers "Challenger" glider following its historic circumnavigation of the South Atlantic Ocean.

Recovering the Rutgers “Challenger” glider following its historic circumnavigation of the South Atlantic Ocean.

After a historic circumnavigation of an ocean basin by the Rutgers “Challenger” glider, it was recovered on March 31 by an international team anchored by faculty and student oceanographers from Rutgers, and international partners that include the University of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, University of Sao Paulo, University of Cape Town, and the South African Council for Scientific and Industrial Research.

The 282-day circumnavigation of the southern Atlantic Ocean basin by an autonomous underwater robot was completed in stages by the Rutgers glider, which was first deployed in January 2013 off of Cape Town, South Africa. It was recovered and redeployed off of Ascension Island in November of the same year, and landed in Brazil. Following its recovery off the coast of Ubatuba, Brazil, in May 2014, the glider began its history-making trek back to South Africa, completing another major achievement in modern oceanography. [Read more…]

Beyond Words: Carl Safina, GSNB’82,’87

This wolf, known as 755 and the object of study in Yellowstone National Park, was shattered when humans killed his brother and mate. His new mate was then killed by his jealous daughters, who attracted hostile males that he couldn’t handle. Once a proud alpha male, he was desolate. Photo credit: Alan Oliver

This wolf, known as 755 and the object of study in Yellowstone National Park, was shattered when humans killed his brother and mate. His new mate was then killed by his jealous daughters, who attracted hostile males that he couldn’t handle. Once a proud alpha male, he was desolate.
Photo credit: Alan Oliver

Note: This article first appeared in the Winter 2016 issue of Rutgers Magazine.

Years of studying animals at sea and on land convinced scientist Carl Safina that many creatures in nature think, express emotion and communicate. In his new book, Beyond Words: What Animals Think and Feel (Henry Holt and Company, 2015), Safina GSNB ’82, ’87 couples personal observations of wildlife with the best field research available to create a thought-provoking portrait of the distinct and complex lives of animals.

For the project, Safina, who earned a Ph.D. in ecology from Rutgers, visited elephant herds at Amboseli National Park in Kenya, wolf packs at Yellowstone National Park, and orca pods in the Pacific Northwest. A clear pattern emerged. These animals know who they are, he says. “We have the same imperatives: take care of our babies, find food, try to stay alive.” [Read more…]

China hates GMOs. Problem is, China really needs GMOs

China has a fifth of the world’s people, but only about 7 percent of its arable land. Food security is a national obsession – so it only seemed natural when, earlier this month, state-owned ChemChina announced its bid to buy the pesticide- and seed-producing giant Syngenta, in what is likely to be the biggest acquisition in the country’s history. Technology, the Party seemed to say, and especially genetically modified crops, are the key to a sustainable future. "There was a widespread public fear that, ‘Oh, maybe they’re trying to sneak this through too!’" says Carl Pray, an economist at Rutgers who has researched Chinese attitudes toward GMOs.

Read the entire article at Wired »

Do Pathogens Hold The Key to Understanding the Origin of Eukaryotes?

A new paper in Science, co-authored by evolutionary biologist Debashish Bhattacharya, Department of Ecology, Evolution, and Natural Resources, helps to answer the question.

Debashish Bhattacharya

Debashish Bhattacharya

A major turning point in the history of life on Earth occurred about two billion years ago – the evolution of complex cells, the so-called eukaryotes. This was the foundational lineage that contained the first nucleus, an elaborate internal membrane system, and energy producing organelles referred to as mitochondria that powered the rise of algae, fungi, plants, and ultimately humans. But how did this quantum leap in evolutionary complexity happen?

This question has long been a source of controversy among “deep time” thinkers but has finally been clarified to a great extent, and the story goes as follows. Before eukaryotes, our planet belonged to morphologically simple prokaryotic forms that lacked the nucleus and the mitochondrion. Prokaryotes are divided into two domains of life, bacteria and archaea, which are distinguished by their genetic make-up and the type of membranes that surround their cells. Most scientists now believe that eukaryotes evolved from prokaryotic ancestors in a unique event. The consensus view is that the mitochondrion traces its origin to an alphaproteobacterium that was captured by an archaeal cell. Major questions that remain are how the ancestor of the mitochondrion entered the archaeal cell and how it managed to survive in the well-protected host cell cytoplasm. [Read more…]

Prof. Benjamin Horton Wins European Geosciences Union Award

Prof. Ben Horton teaching a Byrne Seminar, a one-credit course designed to introduce first-year students at Rutgers-New Brunswick to academic life.

Prof. Ben Horton teaching a Byrne Seminar, a one-credit course designed to introduce first-year students at Rutgers-New Brunswick to academic life.

Benjamin Horton, professor in the Department of Marine and Coastal Sciences, was named the winner of the Plinius Medal by the European Geosciences Union (EGU). The award, which honors scientists for their important contributions to the Earth, planetary and space sciences, will be presented at the EGU 2016 General Assembly to be held in Vienna in April.

Horton’s research concerns sea-level change. He aims to understand and integrate the external and internal mechanisms that have determined sea-level changes in the past, and which will shape such changes in the future.

“It’s such a big moment for me,” said Horton. “As an American scientist, to be recognized by the European Geosciences Union is a great honor.” [Read more…]

With China’s GMO Sector in Limbo, Local Seed Firm Targets U.S.

A Chinese biotech seed firm is aiming to launch the country’s first genetically modified corn products overseas on the home turf of the world’s top agricultural companies, as Beijing’s reticence over GMO food keeps the domestic market off limits… The plan by Beijing-based Origin Agritech to test its technology in the United States, which has dominated the sector with GMO giants such as Monsanto, is the latest effort by a Chinese firm to enter the global industry… "The only way they might be able to break into the market is if their technology fees are going to be cheaper than Monsanto," said Carl Pray, professor at Rutgers University’s agricultural, food and resource economics department… Referring to seed firm Beijing Dabeinong Technology Group’s agreement to test its technology in Argentina, Pray said competition was tougher in the United States. "It’s one thing to do this in Argentina, and another to go into the U.S."

Read the entire article at www.nytimes.com »

Technology Comes to the Aid of Famed Kashmiri Apples

Imagine Kashmiri apple with an American twist! Jammu and Kashmir government is starting a trial test of a US patented technology to increase the shelf life of the apples in the non-controlled room temperature environment… Jammu and Kashmir is targeting to transform its Rs.3000 crore apple industry into a whopping Rs.15000 crore business over the next five years by rejuvenating orchards and adopting the high-density plantations… Prof Nazir Mir, a Kashmir-born scientist working in Rutgers University, New Jersey, who has done a pioneering research in 1-MCP, said given the volume of production, this technology is going to be very cost-effective.

Read the entire article at www.dnaindia.com »

Brittany Graf (GSNB ’14) Will Host RUAA Tour of Cuban Natural Medicine Research Facility

Brittany L. Graf

Brittany L. Graf

Now that diplomatic relations have been restored between the United States and Cuba, Rutgers University Alumni Association is planning to explore the mystique of the island nation, with two trips planned for 2016.

Among the many activities on the agenda, travelers will visit Cuba’s natural medicine research facility, managed by Fulbright scholar Brittany Graf GSNB’14 who is working with Cuban natural medicine specialists to explore potentially life-saving botanicals as part of Rutgers-GIBEX. The Global Institute for BioExploration is a global research and development network that promotes ethical, natural product-based pharmacological bioexploration to benefit human health and the environment in developing countries. Rutgers professor Ilya Raskin’s laboratory serves as the headquarters for GIBEX. Read more at Rutgers Magazine.


Students Help SEBS Fulbright Professor Document Changes in Local Fishing Community in Ghana

Augustus Chan (r), Coryanne Mansell and Heidi Hausermann with students from Ghana's University of Mines and Technology in front of the Bui Dam.

Augustus Chan (at left), Coryanne Mansell (standing, fourth on right), Heidi Hausermann (standing, second on right), a student from the University of Chicago, four students from Ghana’s University of Mines and Technology and other locals. They are pictured standing in front of the Bui Dam in Ghana.

Heidi Hausermann, professor in the Department of Human Ecology and recipient of a 2015-2016 Fulbright Scholar Grant for research in Ghana, took two Rutgers University students with her on a field trip to Africa this past summer. The students’ participation was made possible by funding from Rutgers Centers for Global Advancement and International Affairs and the School of Environmental and Biological Science’s (SEBS) Department of Human Ecology, among other sources.

Augustus Chang (Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School ’19) and Coryanne Mansell (SEBS ’15) worked alongside a student from the University of Chicago and four Ghanaian students from the University of Mines and Technology, located in the western region of Ghana. During the two-week trip, the seven students conducted fieldwork to gain an understanding of the effects of the Bui Dam on the local community. The group mainly shared rooms in rural guesthouses for the duration of their stay.

“It was fun to watch the students dive into the project and get to know each other. They are truly an amazing group of people who exceeded my expectations on how well they worked together as individuals,” said Hausermann. [Read more…]

Mark Robson Named Distinguished Service Professor by Rutgers Board of Governors

Mark Robson. Photo: Matt Rainey.

Mark Robson. Photo: Matt Rainey.

Mark Robson, professor and chair of the Department of Plant Biology and Pathology, has been named a Distinguished Service Professor by the Rutgers Board of Governors (BOG). Robson, who was presented with a resolution at the board meeting on Oct. 14 by BOG chair Greg Brown, was recognized for “sustained and exceptional service to the University, to the academic profession, to the state or nation, or to the broader community by a faculty member at the full professorial rank.” Executive Dean Bob Goodman introduced Robson at the meeting.

“I am so proud to be a professor at Rutgers and it is an honor to provide service to our students and the university, but especially serve the community beyond the university,” said Robson, upon getting the award.

Robson thanked Bonnie McCay, distinguished professor emerita of the Department of Human Ecology, for nominating him for this special recognition in a letter to Dean Goodman. “In addition to his university, state, and national service, Mark’s service also includes an impressive global component. He has made significant impacts globally with his NIH and USAID projects,” wrote McCay.

In expressing his gratitude to the BOG and to Dean Goodman for the honor, Robson underscored his strong roots and support at Rutgers that have enabled him to reach into and serve the community, both here and abroad.

“Rutgers has been the path for all my adult life, first teaching me what it is to be a good servant and then allowing me to take that knowledge and share it with places like Aceh, Indonesia, or Rangsit, Thailand or Cuttington, Liberia.” [Read more…]