Why Don’t We Live on a Red Planet? New Research from the Bhattacharya Lab Suggests Answers

Sushi is wrapped in the red algae "Porphyra."

Sushi is wrapped in the red algae “Porphyra.

If you watched the movie, “Star Trek Into Darkness,” you might still remember the weird planet Nibiru that is covered with red plants. As absurd as it may sound, this could have been the situation on Earth. The question then is, “why are most grasses and plants green and not red?”

A recent paper in the Journal of Phycology in which the lead author is Huan Qiu, research associate in the Debashish Bhattacharya lab, provides an intriguing answer. Huan analyzed a comprehensive genome database that included red algae and their sister lineage, the green algae (including land plants). He found that the red algal common ancestor suffered severe losses of important genes and functions.

Huan and the research team suggested that this was likely caused by life in a very stressful environment over a billion years ago that forced the red algal ancestor to shed hundreds of genes to compete with other microbes. This loss likely made them less able to compete with the gene-rich green algae that ultimately conquered land, giving rise to plants. Read more in an article on the Department of Ecology, Evolution and Natural Resources website.

Nutrition Professor Publishes Book on Mediterranean Diet Pioneers, Ancel and Margaret Keys

Joseph Dixon book coverJoseph Dixon, associate professor in the Department of Nutritional Sciences, has self-published a new book, Genius and Partnership: Ancel and Margaret Keys and the Discovery of the Mediterranean Diet.

The book centers on physiologist Ancel Keys and his wife and co-researcher Margaret Keys, a biochemist, as they scour the world for clues to the causes of heart attacks that were killing American men at an alarming rate in the 1950s. Their journey leads to the start of the groundbreaking Seven Countries Study and contributions to the discovery of low-density lipoprotein (LDL). It also led to their writing three New York Times best-selling cookbooks that promoted the health benefits of the Mediterranean Diet. [Read more…]

New Study on the Relationship Between Climate Change and Disease Vectors

L-R: Nina Fefferman, Andrea Egizi and Dina Fonseca.

L-R: Nina Fefferman, Andrea Egizi and Dina Fonseca.

Research findings using an invasive mosquito species and published in a joint paper authored by Andrea Egizi, a graduate of the Rutgers’ ecology and evolution doctoral program, Nina Fefferman, associate professor in the Department of Ecology, Evolution, and Natural Resources and Dina Fonseca, professor in the Department of Entomology, underscore how hard it is to predict  future risk from disease transmission in the face of climate change. Read more at Rutgers Today.

Jim Murphy Elected 2014 Fellow of Crop Science Society of America

Jim Murphy.

Jim Murphy.

Jim Murphy, extension specialist in turfgrass management, was named a Crop Science Society of America (CSSA) Fellow for 2014, the highest recognition bestowed by the society. Murphy and 11 other fellows were recognized by the international science organization at its Nov. 3 annual meeting in Long Beach, CA.

CSSA fellows, who make up just 0.3 percent of the society membership, are elected based on professional achievements and meritorious service, as well as outstanding contributions to agronomy through education, national and international service and research. [Read more…]

Ph.D. Candidate in Ecology and Evolution Earns Competitive EPA STAR Fellowship

Molly MacLeod presenting her research at the Pollinator Conservation Planning Short Course at the Snyder Farm, in Pittstown, NJ, in 2012.

Molly MacLeod presenting her research at the Pollinator Conservation Planning Short Course at the Snyder Farm, in Pittstown, NJ, in 2012.

Molly MacLeod, Ph.D. candidate in ecology and evolution in Prof. Rachael Winfree’s pollination ecology lab, has been awarded a two-year U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Science to Achieve Results (STAR) graduate fellowship.

MacLeod’s research is focused on a four-year field experiment to explore questions about plant-pollinator networks and the restoration of both crop-pollinating and rare bee species.

Approximately 1,500 STAR fellowships have been awarded to students in every state and most territories since the program began in 1995. The EPA STAR graduate fellowship is a highly competitive program that supports master’s and doctoral candidates in environmental studies.

According to its website, “students can pursue degrees in traditionally recognized environmental disciplines as well as other fields such as social anthropology, urban and regional planning, and decision sciences.”  The fellowships have helped to “educate new academic researchers, government scientists, science teachers and environmental engineers.”