The lab of professor Eli Dueker published a new study on the microbial composition of fog in Maine and in the Namib Desert. Dr. Dueker and collaborators found that fog particles lift microorganisms off the surface of water, and deposit them inland, increasing the microbial diversity.
The study has made quite a splash in the press; look at these substantive and interesting reviews, one in The Atlantic, and this one on the Atlas Obscura website.
Professor Dueker was also invited for a radio interview at WAMC: you can listen to it here.
Full citation: Dueker, M. E. and S. Evans, R. Logan, and K. C. Weathers (2018). The biology of fog: results from coastal Maine and Namib Desert reveal common drivers of fog microbial composition. Science of the Total Environment 647: 1547-1556.
We are our own zoos, harboring about 39 trillion bacteria symbionts, about as many as our cells. These bacteria, collectively called our microbiome, are indispensable for our health; they fight our infections, process our food, guide our behavior, and protect us from diseases. So, when our bacteria are disrupted so is our health.
The recent research article, written by Bard graduate Dylan Dahan ’15 and professor Gabriel Perron, in collaboration with professors Brooke Jude and Felicia Keesing, used zebrafish as a model to investigate how arsenic poisoning affects fish microbiomes. The researchers found that microbiomes were readily affected, with striking consequences such as loss of bacterial community members and potential increases in antibiotic resistance.
Arsenic poising in contaminated drinking water affects over 60 million people in Bangladesh and West Bengal. This research will inform how contaminated water may be altering peoples microbiomes and thus supports the case for cleaning contaminated water.
Full citation: Dahan, D., Jude, B. A., Lamendella, R., Keesing, F., & Perron, G. G. (2018). Exposure to arsenic alters the microbiome of larval zebrafish. Frontiers in microbiology, 9.
On the photo: Dylan Dahan (class of 2015) presenting his data.
This winter the lab of professor Brooke Jude published nine draft genomes of bacteria endemic to the Hudson Valley watershed. This work is a result of several senior projects performed in the Biology program, and three graduated biology students (Alexandra Bettina, Georgia Doing, and Kelsey O’Brien) are now first authors on three publications!
Bettina, A. M., Doing, G., O’Brien, K., Perron, G. G., & Jude, B. A. (2018). Draft Genome Sequences of Phenotypically Distinct Janthinobacterium sp. Isolates Cultured from the Hudson Valley Watershed. Genome announcements, 6(3), e01426-17.
Doing, G., Perron, G. G., & Jude, B. A. (2018). Draft Genome Sequence of a Violacein-Producing Iodobacter sp. from the Hudson Valley Watershed. Genome announcements, 6(1), e01428-17.
O’Brien, K., Perron, G. G., & Jude, B. A. (2018). Draft Genome Sequence of a Red-Pigmented Janthinobacterium sp. Native to the Hudson Valley Watershed. Genome announcements, 6(1), e01429-17.
In this new paper, Bard professor Elias Dueker and collaborators study microbes that fly in the air, after small droplets of water get lifted from the ocean surface by the coastal wind. They found that depending on the wind speed, different amounts of microbes were picked up, and they were transported different distances into the city. They also described which types of microbes are more likely to get airborne, compared to those found below the water surface.
Citation: Dueker, M. E., O’Mullan, G. D., Martínez, J. M., Juhl, A. R., & Weathers, K. C. (2017). Onshore Wind Speed Modulates Microbial Aerosols along an Urban Waterfront. Atmosphere, 8(11), 215.
Animals caught in ‘ecological traps’ prefer the worst available habitats. This happens when environmental change makes habitats look superficially attractive when they are actually dangerous. Ecological traps are increasingly common, but it remains unclear how susceptible animals are to them. Aquatic flies, for example, can be highly attracted to asphalt because it reflects polarized light the same way that natural water bodies do.
In this study, Bard professor Bruce Robertson and his students exposed seven ecologically similar species of aquatic flies to different levels of polarized light, including abnormally strong polarized light associated with man-made habitats that are dangerous to them. They found that, in every species tested, animals actually preferred levels of polarized light typical of asphalt where their eggs perish, over levels typical of natural ponds. We also found that the degree of their preference depended on whether the cue was closer or more distant from a natural river.
Citation: Robertson, B. A., Keddy-Hector, I. A., Shrestha, S. D., Silverberg, L. Y., Woolner, C. E., Hetterich, I., & Horváth, G. (2018). Susceptibility to ecological traps is similar among closely related taxa but sensitive to spatial isolation. Animal Behaviour, 135, 77-84.
In this paper, Felicia Keesing and her collaborators explore the potential for positive interactions between livestock and wildlife in African savannas. Historically, the prevailing view has been that savanna landscapes should be managed for either livestock or wildlife, but not both. Keesing and her colleagues suggest that under some conditions, both groups — and the humans who share their habitat — could benefit ecologically and economically by sharing land.
Citation: Allan BF, Tallis H, Chaplin‐Kramer R, Huckett S, Kowal VA, Musengezi J, Okanga S, Ostfeld RS, Schieltz J, Warui CM, Wood SA, Keesing F. Can integrating wildlife and livestock enhance ecosystem services in central Kenya?. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment. 2017 Aug 1;15(6):328-35. Full text at Research Gate.
Biology senior Molly McQuillan and professor Arseny Khakhalin coauthored on a neuroscience paper published in the prestigious life sciences journal eLife. The paper presents new research that explains how the developing brain learns to integrate simultaneous sensory cues—sound, touch, and visual—that would be ignored individually.
Read full press-release from Bard
Full citation: Truszkowski, Torrey LS, Oscar A. Carrillo, Julia Bleier, Carolina Ramirez-Vizcarrondo, Molly McQuillan, Christopher P. Truszkowski, Arseny S. Khakhalin, and Carlos D. Aizenman. “A cellular mechanism for inverse effectiveness in multisensory integration.” eLife 6 (2017): e25392.
Why should people protect biodiversity? Researchers from a number of disciplines have proposed ethical, aesthetic, and utilitarian reasons to do so. But recently some researchers have argued that ecosystems that support high diversity pose a danger to human health. They argue that because areas with high biodiversity are likely to support a high diversity of potential human pathogens, these areas should be hotspots for the emergence of infectious diseases.
In this paper, Felicia Keesing and Rick Ostfeld evaluate the evidence for three necessary links that are required by this argument. They found no support for one critical link—that high total diversity of pathogens correlates with high diversity of actual or potential pathogens of humans. This suggests that high biodiversity should not be expected to lead to more infectious diseases of humans. In contrast, there is now substantial evidence that high diversity protects humans against the transmission of many existing diseases.
Citation: Ostfeld, R. S., & Keesing, F. (2017). Is biodiversity bad for your health?. Ecosphere, 8(3).
A paper, recently published by Eli Dueker and co-authors, analyzes migration and exchange of bacteria between sewage, sediment, water, and air. The papers discusses possible implications of this often overlooked exchange of small particles on public health, and on strategies of waste disposal.
Citation: O’Mullan, G. D., Dueker, M. E., & Juhl, A. R. (2017). Challenges to Managing Microbial Fecal Pollution in Coastal Environments: Extra-Enteric Ecology and Microbial Exchange Among Water, Sediment, and Air. Current Pollution Reports, 3(1), 1-16.
For centuries followers of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church have conserved patches of native trees around church buildings as sacred sanctuaries for church communities. Today there are as many as 20 000 church forests in northern Ethiopia’s Amhara Peoples National Regional State – these unique social-ecological systems offer an opportunity to study multiple natural forest patches across a large multipurpose landscape, including in many places where little or no other natural forest remains. This image is a satellite photo of Robit Bata church, located 15 km north of the city of Bahir Dar, and three km upstream of Lake Tana (the largest lake in Ethiopia). The natural forest at Robit Bata church hosts some of the only mature indigenous trees in the local landscape. In her recent paper, Bard professor Cathy Collins and colleagues illustrate how understanding patterns in the tree species composition of church forests requires consideration of the complex interplay between ecological gradients and anthropogenic influences over time. This publication also made a cover page of the January issue of “Ecography” journal.
Citation: Reynolds, T. W., Collins, C. D., Wassie, A., Liang, J., Briggs, W., Lowman, M., … & Adamu, E. (2017). Sacred natural sites as mensurative fragmentation experiments in long‐inhabited multifunctional landscapes. Ecography, 40(1), 144-157.