Bacterial Genes That Turn Mercury Lethal Mapped Across World

The sleepy fishing village of Minamata, Japan, 1956: and the neighbourhood cats have gone mad. They claw, scratch, and scream, sometimes breaking into convulsions before dropping dead. Then something more serious happens. Physicians are baffled by a 5-year-old girl who has trouble walking and talking. Her suite of symptoms is like nothing the medics have seen before. Two days later, the girl’s sister develops the same symptoms – and other cases quickly follow… Another unexpected discovery is that wastewater treatment plants and bioreactors seem to host bacteria with the genes for methylmercury production. Future studies of gene activation in bacterial communities as a whole may help uncover whether there is significant production of methylmercury at these facilities… Still, the ability to map methylmercury genes is a promising development on its own. The US is one of 15 countries so far to join the Minamata Convention, a UN-brokered agreement which aims to limit methylmercury worldwide – and which is named after the Japanese village where methylmercury research began… "Within that plan, monitoring will be extremely important, because how else will we know we are reaching our goals?" says Tamar Barkay of Rutgers University in New Brunswick, New Jersey.

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Rutgers Hosts 8th Annual Pioneers in Endocrinology Workshop

Guest speakers John E. Nestler and Sally Radovick reported on their own research and discussed the pioneering work of others in the field of Polycystic Ovary Syndrome.

Guest speakers John E. Nestler and Sally Radovick reported on their own research and discussed the pioneering work of others in the field of Polycystic Ovary Syndrome.

“Polycystic Ovary Syndrome: Mechanisms and Concerns” was the theme of the 8th Annual Pioneers in Endocrinology Workshop held at the Cook Student Center on Sept. 16. This annual daylong workshop was sponsored by the Rutgers Endocrine Program; Department of Animal Sciences at the Rutgers School of Environmental and Biological Sciences (SEBS); Rutgers NJAES Cooperative Extension; Rutgers–Robert Wood Johnson Medical School (RWJMS) Division of Endocrinology, Metabolism and Nutrition; and the New Jersey Obesity Group. More than 120 students, postdocs, faculty, and staff attended the event, which comprised morning presentations and an afternoon poster session.

The following individuals welcomed the participants and gave opening remarks: Dipak Sarkar, Endocrine Program Director; Robert Goodman, SEBS Executive Dean; Brian Strom, Chancellor of Rutgers Biomedical and Health Sciences; and Christopher Molloy, Rutgers Senior Vice President for Research and Economic Development. [Read more…]

What the Historic South Carolina Floods Can – And Can’t – Tell Us About Climate Change

In 2013, after some controversy, South Carolina’s Department of Natural Resources released a report on risks the state could face due to climate change. One of those risks? "A predicted result of climate change is the increase in intense storm events causing greater water inputs in shorter periods of time, affecting flood frequency and duration," the report noted… That said, climate scientists debate constantly about how and when to link extreme events to climate change, and the questions involved are anything but simple… Jennifer Francis, a climate scientist at Rutgers University who has argued that the melting of the Arctic is changing the nature of the northern hemisphere jet stream, which shapes weather patterns: Recent heavy rains in the Carolinas over the weekend resulted from a deep, slow-moving front that tapped into a wealth of tropical moisture from the Atlantic Ocean. Sea-surface temperatures across the tropical Atlantic and along the U.S. eastern seaboard have been running well above normal, which provided extra evaporation and energy to fuel the frontal system. The entire weather pattern was slow-moving because of blocking high pressure over the N. Atlantic. Is there a connection to climate change? Very possibly, as heavy precipitation events like this one have increased in frequency, particularly in eastern North America.

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Rutgers Scientists Awarded More Than $300,000 For Bat Disease Research By U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Brooke Maslo banding little brown bats at a maternity colony to examine their survival in the years following the outbreak of White-nose Syndrome.

Brooke Maslo banding little brown bats at a maternity colony to examine their survival in the years following the outbreak of White-nose Syndrome. Photo credit: Mick Valent.

Three Rutgers researchers, assistant professor and extension specialist in wildlife ecology Brooke Maslo, molecular ecologist and assistant professor Malin Pinsky, and epidemiologist and associate professor Nina Fefferman at the School of Environmental and Biological Sciences, received funding of more than $300,000 dollars from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to investigate strategies to fight White-nose Syndrome, a fungal disease in bats.

“We are thrilled to be among the recipients of federal funding to advance our understanding of White-nose Syndrome, which is threatening U.S. bat populations,” Maslo said.

Maslo, along with fellow Department of Ecology, Evolution and Natural Resources faculty members Pinsky and Fefferman, were awarded over $292,000 for the project, “Are bat populations infected with White-nose Syndrome undergoing rapid natural selection?,” which examines the evolutionary potential for bats infected with White-nose Syndrome to tolerate the disease.

The award to the Rutgers scientists is part of a new round of funding worth $2.5 million for research, management and communications projects recently announced by the federal agency in an international and wide-ranging strategy to combat White-nose Syndrome.

Maslo won a second award of more than $21,000 for a demographic analysis of a federally listed bat, in a project titled, “Annual survival of Indiana bats after White-nose Syndrome and its implications for population recovery.” In this project, Maslo will work in partnership with Chris Sanders of Sanders Environmental, Inc., a firm specializing in environmental surveys and solutions for issues that deal with bats and birds. [Read more…]

Sea Level Rise Cause For More Severe and More Frequent Storms

It’s the new trend. The kind of severe storm and flooding that use to hit our region once every 500 years, is now pummeling us every 24… "Prior to the industrial revolution, a storm surge of this size was occurring once in seven generations. Now a storm surge of that size is occurring twice in a generation," said Professor Benjamin Horton, Professor at Rutgers University Department of Marine and Coastal Sciences… Horton and researchers at Princeton, Penn State, Tufts and MIT believe it’s because sea levels are rising. They say the Earth is getting warmer and water temperature is rising along with it… "If we move into the 21 century, particularly with the rates of sea level rise, we are anticipating events such as Hurricane Sandy may be as common as occurring every other decade," said Horton.

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