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The objective of this article is not to draw exhaustive conclusions about public perceptions of synthetic biology but to provide readers with an integrated review of the findings from 4 years of quantitative and qualitative research conducted on this subject in the United States. US public perceptions toward synthetic biology are ambivalent. Members of the public show enthusiasm for synthetic biology applications when those applications are developed to address societal, medical, and sustainability needs, whereas engineering biology is seen as a potential concern if this research is done without investigations of its potential risks and long-term implications. Members of the public also support funding for research that leads to applications that actually meet social and sustainability goals. When it comes to oversight, their priorities are to promote transparency and accountability and to ensure a form of tailored governance in which diverse knowledge sources help address the uncertainty surrounding new technologies.
For many marine organisms, especially large whales that cannot be studied in laboratory settings, our ability to obtain basic behavioral and physiological data is limited, because these organisms occupy offshore habitats and spend a majority of their time underwater. A class of multisensor, suction-cup-attached archival tags has revolutionized the study of large baleen whales, particularly with respect to the predatory strategies used by these gigantic bulk filter feeders to exploit abundant oceanic resources. By integrating these data with those from other disciplines, researchers have uncovered a diverse and extraordinary set of underwater behaviors, ranging from acrobatic diving maneuvers to extreme feeding events during which whales engulf volumes of prey-laden water that are much larger than their own body. This research framework not only improves our knowledge of the individual performance and behavior of these keystone predators but also informs our ability to understand the dynamics of complex marine ecosystems.
It is hoped that lignocellulosic sources will provide energy security, offset carbon dioxide enrichment of the atmosphere, and stimulate the development of new economic sectors. However, little is known about the productivity and sustainability of plant cell-wall energy industries. In this study, we used 16 global circulation models to project the global distribution of relative water availability in the coming decades and summarized the available data on the water-use efficiency of tree- and grass-based bioenergy systems. The data on bioenergy water use were extremely limited. Productivity was strongly correlated with water-use efficiency, with C4 grasses having a distinct advantage in this regard. Our analysis of agro climatic drivers of bioenergy productivity suggests that relative water availability will be one of the most important climatic changes to consider in the design of bioenergy systems.
Ideological language is widespread in theoretical biology. Evolutionary game theory has been defended as a worldview and a leap of faith, and sexual selection theory has been criticized for what it posits as basic to biological nature. Views such as these encourage the impression of ideological rifts in the field. I advocate an alternative interpretation, whereby many disagreements between different camps of biologists merely reflect methodological differences. This interpretation provides a more accurate and more optimistic account of the state of play in the field of biology. It also helps account for biologists' tendency to embrace ideological positions.
In the United States, only species listed on state or federal noxious weed lists are regulated. According to our analysis, these regulatory lists poorly represent invasive plants in unmanaged (i.e., nonagricultural) systems. To improve the representation of invasive plants on state regulatory lists, we recommend allocating listing authority to invasive species councils and provide guidance for the science-based reform of noxious weed lists. We also recommend commercial best practices to test for invasiveness prior to intentional introduction of new plant products. Finally, we introduce a negligence liability scheme to discourage the introduction of potential invaders. If adopted, our recommendations could benefit nonagricultural ecosystems and could have positive consequences for bioenergy producers and others in plant industry, who are under scrutiny for promoting potentially invasive species as energy crops. As the bioenergy industry gains momentum, a revised regulatory regime may alleviate the concerns regarding one potential negative consequence of novel plant introduction.
Plant imports by the North American horticultural industry risk the accidental introduction of harmful nonnative species. An annual license fee paid by the industry would reduce this risk while raising funds for research, screening imported species, education, and the eradication of past plant invasions. However, implementing such a fee requires information on how long it takes introduced species to become established and on their spread rates and environmental damages. Implementing such a policy would be challenging in terms of the scientific data required to estimate the correct tax. There is also limited support among stakeholders for an annual fee compared with other policy options to stop invasives. The preferred policy is to screen all newly introduced plants and to ban those species with a high likelihood of becoming a potential invasive. Mandatory implementation of this scheme is preferable to voluntary implementation by the horticultural industry.