Journal Club

Highlighting recently published papers selected by Academy members

Author Archives: Amy McDermott

Study uncovers new privacy worries for direct-to-consumer DNA testing

Genetic testing services let consumers analyze their DNA to learn about their heritage, their relatives, and their risk for certain heritable diseases. But access to such personal data hasn’t been without controversy, stoking privacy fears. A recent study in eLife … Continue reading

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For camouflaged animals, a quick dash is best to avoid detection

A hunting falcon flying over a field might not see a camouflaged rabbit hidden in the grass. But if that rabbit loses its nerve and runs, then the falcon will see its meal. Movement gives away even the best disguises. … Continue reading

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Cooperative defense against disease may have helped insects evolve complex societies

The lifestyles of insects, such as bees and wasps, range from simple solitary arrangements to more recently evolved, highly complex family social structures. One major factor that allowed social complexity to evolve may have been insects’ ability to defend their … Continue reading

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Mediating conflict helps community forestry schemes succeed

Empowering people to manage the forests near their homes is one tool of sustainable development. Widely known as “community forestry,” the notion originated in the 1970s with the dream of fair, equitable, and sustainable forest use. But achieving those aims … Continue reading

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Potentially key gene has big role in natural variation of chloroplast size

Worldwide populations of Arabidopsis thaliana all have the same genes, but they vary in many traits, including the size of their chloroplasts. A recent study in Plant Physiology identified one of the genes, FtsZ2-2, contributing to the natural variation in … Continue reading

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Intensive agriculture changes the soil microbiome

California rice farms dot the Sacramento Valley, converting native swampland into flooded paddies. The farms change California’s landscape both above ground and below it. A recent study shows in detail how rice plants shape the soil microbiome into a distinctive … Continue reading

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Hydrogel uses biology and light to release proteins on demand, advancing hopes for synthetic tissues

A wiggly cylinder of protein, hydrogel, and human cells, about the size of a wristwatch battery, could one day serve as a building block for synthetic tissues. The implications could be big for biological research and even organ transplants, according … Continue reading

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Smarter birds speciate faster

Evolution favors brainier birds. The most crowded branches of the avian tree of life generally hold the most intelligent birds because larger-brained birds split into new species faster than smaller-brained ones, according to recent work published in Evolution. “Being smart … Continue reading

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Unlocking a mystery of seed development promises fatter, oilier oilseeds

The canola cooking oil lining supermarket shelves comes from the seeds of Brassica napus, a weedy-looking plant in the mustard family. Farmers of this crop understandably want varieties that yield big, oily seeds. A recent study in The Plant Cell … Continue reading

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Pollen frozen in a glacier reveals the legacy of human impacts in the heart of the Inca Empire

The Illimani glacier sits between the urban sprawl of La Paz, Bolivia, on one side, and the roads and plantations of the Amazon basin on the other. It was no doubt a very different landscape some 550 years ago, when … Continue reading

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