August  2017
Margaret McFall-Ngai, professor and director of the Pacific Biosciences Research Center, is the only woman at the University of Hawaiʻi who is a member of the National Academy of Sciences. In her inaugural article in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, commemorating her induction into one of the country's most distinguished scientific groups, she and a team of researchers reveal a newly discovered mechanism by which organisms select beneficial microbes and reject harmful ones. Cilia--microscopic hair-like structures on the surface of many animal cells--showed two behaviors: one that concentrates the bacterial partner into the areas where colonization will occur and another that serves to mix chemical signals of the host cell which attract the partnering bacteria.
A new publicly available database will catalog metadata associated with biologic samples, making it easier for researchers to share and reuse genetic data for environmental and ecological analyses. The resource, Genomic Observatories Metadatabase (GeOMe), was developed by researchers at the Hawaiʻi Institute of Marine Biology (HIMB) and eight other museums and research institutions. Until now, researchers lacked the tools to make this information readily available. "Recording and understanding changes to global biodiversity is a collaborative effort that no one can accomplish alone," said Rob Toonen, HIMB professor who helped with the development of GeOMe.
Oceanography professor Ed DeLong and his team recently reported in Nature Microbiology the largest single-site microbiome gene catalog constructed to date. With this, they discovered nutrient limitation is a central driver in the evolution of ocean microbe genomes. Just below the sunlit layer, there was a sharp transition in the microbial communities present. "In surface waters, microbial genomes are much smaller, and their proteins contain less nitrogen--a logical adaptation in this nitrogen-starved environment," said Daniel Mende, post-doctoral researcher in SOEST and lead author. "In deeper waters microbial genomes become much larger, and their proteins contain more nitrogen, in tandem with increasing nitrogen availability with depth."
Courtesy: NOAA
An infusion of $1.3 million in federal funds has been promised to support research on marine species in the Pacific Ocean. U.S. Senator Brian Schatz (D-HI) announced that the money will be awarded by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to the Joint Institute for Marine and Atmospheric Research (JIMAR).The money is targeted for research on marine animals within the Pacific Ocean, including Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument. Schatz' announcement comes on the heels of a decision by the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary Advisory Council to send a letter asking the Trump Administration to maintain the status of the monuments under federal review.
Representatives from islands across the Pacific recently gathered on Guam to develop approaches to increase participation by Pacific Islanders in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields. The U.S. National Science Foundation funded a two-day workshop, Reducing Cultural Barriers to STEM for Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders. "With the very earth and ocean changing around them, the peoples of the Pacific Islands are at the forefront of climate change and thus urgently in need of people from their own cultures trained to recognize and determine ways to cope with climate-change effects," said Michael Hadfield, biology professor emeritus at the Pacific Biosciences Research Center, who led the effort.
With the goal of preserving loko iʻa, or Hawaiian fishponds, 15 UHM faculty and students and more than 30 representatives from 18 traditional Hawaiian fishponds across four Hawaiian islands gathered to share resources. The three-day workshop blended cultural and environmental resilience with contemporary technology and facilitated participants building their own tide gauges. The goals of the workshop, organized by Brian Glazer, associate professor of Oceanography, and KUA's Brenda Asuncion, included: understand fishpond restoration challenges; explore environmental sensor needs and knowledge gaps; and chart a course for developing future collaborations and success stories.
Two volcanologists from the Department of Geology and Geophysics (GG) received two of the top three awards from the International Association of Volcanology and Chemistry of the Earth's Interior (IAVCEI).
Bruce Houghton, the Gordon A. MacDonald Professor of Volcanology and Science Director of the National Disaster Preparedness Training Center at UHM was honored recently with the IAVCEI Thorarinsson Medal, which is awarded only once every four years by the IAVCEI for outstanding contributions to volcanology and is the highest award in international volcanology. "A giant of volcanology, Bruce has tackled 'big' problems in geology with innovative approaches and technologies, and is truly a scientist of outstanding distinction," stated University of Tasmania's Rebecca Carey in her nomination letter. "His research has not only generated a wealth of new scientific understanding, but also critically Thorarinsson-type pioneering advances in long-standing cornerstone volcanologic concepts."
Sébastien Biass, a post-doctoral researcher in the Department of Geology and Geophysics, was honored with the George Walker Medal, given every two years to a young scientist up to seven years after acquiring a doctoral degree. The award recognizes achievements of a recent outstanding graduate in the fields of research encompassed by IAVCEI. As reported in the award citation, Biass was honored for "achievements that are all deeply rooted in field studies and because of his unique appreciation with the importance of statistical and critical treatment of field data within the growing field of numerical modelling... What makes Sébastien unique in his science is his open mind and multidisciplinary approach, his scientific curiosity and enthusiasm and his dedication to going beyond his own limits."
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