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On June 1, AIBS will honor the professional achievements of three globally recognized biologists with the Distinguished Scientist Award, the Outstanding Service Award, and the Education Award. “The impact these individuals have made on biology has changed the trajectory of our science and our society in creative, significant, and enduring ways,” said AIBS President Susan G. Stafford.
The 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil release posed the challenges of two types of spill: a familiar spill characterized by buoyant oil, fouling and killing organisms at the sea surface and eventually grounding on and damaging sensitive shoreline habitats, and a novel deepwater spill involving many unknowns. The subsurface retention of oil as finely dispersed droplets and emulsions, wellhead injection of dispersants, and deepwater retention of plumes of natural gas undergoing rapid microbial degradation were unprecedented and demanded the development of a new model for deepwater well blowouts that includes subsurface consequences. Existing governmental programs and policies had not anticipated this new theater of impacts, which thereby challenged decisionmaking on the spill response, on the assessment of natural resource damages, on the preparation for litigation to achieve compensation for public trust losses, and on restoration. Modification of laws and policies designed to protect and restore ocean resources is needed in order to accommodate oil drilling in the deep sea and other frontiers.
Since 1980, connections have been sought between chronic—especially autoimmune—diseases and possible microbial actions that might promote or suppress immune responses. Here, we propose that the pathogenesis of some chronic diseases is linked to ancestral infections or exposure to noxious agents: Some modern-day diseases reflect the capacity of organisms to “memorize” responses to external signals and transmit them across generations; the resulting information can be subsequently made functional under certain conditions, through stimulation by a relevant secondary influence. The proposal is supported by observations of transgenerational epigenetic inheritance. Therefore, autoimmune hepatitis (AIH) could be a recollection of our ancestors' long-term affliction with viral hepatitis; the original causative agent may not be extant today, but “memory” of the infection has persisted. A similar argument could apply to other chronic diseases. In this article, we discuss evidence supporting this idea, with an emphasis on the exemplar pair of viral hepatitis and AIH, and outline a mechanistic hypothesis.
A convincing body of evidence shows that as it is presently codified, sustainable forest-management (SFM) logging implemented at an industrial scale guarantees commercial and biological depletion of high-value timber species within three harvests in all three major tropical forest regions. The minimum technical standards necessary for approaching ecological sustainability directly contravene the prospects for financial profitability. Therefore, industrial-scale SFM is likely to lead to the degradation and devaluation of primary tropical forests as surely as widespread conventional unmanaged logging does today. Recent studies also show that logging in the tropics, even using SFM techniques, releases significant carbon dioxide and that carbon stocks once stored in logged timber and slash takes decades to rebuild. These results beg for a reevaluation of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change proposals to apply a Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation subsidy for the widespread implementation of SFM logging in tropical forests. However, encouraging models of the successful sustainable management of tropical forests for timber and nontimber products exist at local-community scales.
Biology majors often take introductory biology, chemistry, and physics courses during their first two years of college. The various and sometimes conflicting discourse about and explanations of matter and energy in these courses may contribute to confusion and alternative conceptions (those that differ from scientific consensus) in biology learners. An important area of biology education research—students' alternative conceptions—has produced a lengthy list of alternative conceptions related to students' understanding of matter and energy flow through biological systems through processes such as photosynthesis and cellular respiration. By synthesizing the research literature and conducting interviews of science faculty members, we have identified similarities and differences in matter and energy discourse and teaching in these different science disciplines. This study can help biology instructors recognize and appreciate the ways in which instructors present concepts related to energy and matter in their courses and alter their discourse and teaching practices to promote learning and minimize confusion among their students.
Authors in this journal have recommended a new approach to the conduct of biodiversity science. This data-driven approach requires the organization of large amounts of ecological data, analysis of these data to discover complex patterns, and subsequent development of hypotheses corresponding to detected patterns. This proposed new approach has been contrasted with more-traditional knowledge-based approaches in which investigators deduce consequences of competing hypotheses to be confronted with actual data, providing a basis for discriminating among the hypotheses. We note that one approach is directed at hypothesis generation, whereas the other is also focused on discriminating among competing hypotheses. Here, we argue for the importance of using existing knowledge to the separate issues of (a) hypothesis selection and generation and (b) hypothesis discrimination and testing. In times of limited conservation funding, the relative efficiency of different approaches to learning should be an important consideration in decisions about how to study biodiversity.
Recently, some members of the conservation community have used ecosystem services as a strategy to conserve biodiversity. Others in the community have criticized this strategy as a distraction from the mission of biodiversity conservation. The debate continues, and it remains unclear whether the concerns expressed are significant enough to merit the opposition. Through an exploration of the science of biodiversity and ecosystem services, we find that narrow interpretations of metrics, values, and management drive much of the tension and make the common ground appear small. The size of this common ground depends on the relationship between biodiversity and ecosystem services and how they respond to management interventions. We demonstrate how understanding this response can be used to delimit common ground but highlight the importance of differentiating between objectives and approaches to meeting those objectives in conservation projects.
Resource managers rely on tools to enact ecosystem-based management (EBM) principles and frequently express frustration at the difficulty of use and unreliability of available tools. EBM tool developers lack the consistent, long-term funding needed to develop high-quality tools. Through interviews, we determined several reasons for this funding problem including: (a) most EBM tools are developed by academics rather than software professionals and (b) most tools are offered at no cost. These factors create a double-edged sword for managers who cannot afford high license fees or to waste time with low-quality, unmaintained products. Without a fundamental shift in tool funding and development, many potentially useful tools will remain poorly implemented and underused. Without a significant increase in the number of high-quality EBM tools, governmental mandates to implement EBM will remain unfulfilled. This problem can be addressed if both developers and funders change the ways in which they seek and grant financial support.