Journal Club

Highlighting recently published papers selected by Academy members

Author Archives: Amy McDermott

Interdisciplinary study brings a humanist perspective to research on land use change

Decades ago, Brazil’s northeastern State of Bahia produced much of the world’s cocoa for chocolate. Most farms grew their cacao trees interspersed with other native trees, in dense agricultural forests. Children played at the forest edges. Today those children are … Continue reading

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Plants sense temperature with help of elegant protein

How plants sense temperature is a longstanding and little-understood question. Researchers have discovered some of the mechanisms involved. A recent study in Nature adds a new mechanism—among the first in which the biophysical behavior of a single protein regulates the … Continue reading

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Inner Workings: Researchers race to develop in-home COVID-19 testing, a potential game-changer

For most people, a COVID-19 test entails a swab up the nose in a doctor’s office or drive-in site. The sample then goes out to a lab. Results come back within a few days to a week—a waiting period that’s … Continue reading

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The hippocampus has brief but critical role in early task learning

How the brain learns new tasks is among the biggest and oldest questions in neuroscience. A recent study in Nature Neuroscience offers a new, potentially key part of the answer: the dorsal hippocampus is involved in the earliest stages of … Continue reading

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Insects, not just wind, offer an ancient mechanism of orchid seed dispersal

On Yakushima Island, at the southern tip of Japan, an orchid employs a very unusual strategy to disperse its seeds. Crickets visit the orchid at night, eat its fruits, and defecate the seeds in the vicinity. The discovery, reported recently … Continue reading

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Deep-sea mussels still show biological rhythms tracking sunlight, tides

Like many land animals, marine organisms follow daily and seasonal clocks—in the water, those clocks are set by the cadence of the sun and the moon. But researchers hadn’t known if deep-sea creatures also exhibit biological rhythms, tucked away in … Continue reading

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People who are likely to dismiss journalism as “fake news” tend to believe the world is predictable

The notion of “fake news” spread like wildfire in the United States after the 2016 election. Recent research in Psychological Science tried to determine what psychological factors drove this concept—generally defined as the suspicion that politically-biased news outlets produce deliberately … Continue reading

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Seasonality shapes coevolution of parasites and hosts

Parasites and their hosts coevolve in an arms race influenced by environmental conditions. Seasonal change, for example, can shape the course of evolution, but precisely how has been something of a mystery. A recent study used lab experiments and mathematical … Continue reading

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Snake venom evolved in fits and spurts

The cocktail of toxins in snake venom experienced constant change with pulses of rapid evolution over the last 60 million years, according to a recent study in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B. Venom, the researchers report, has changed … Continue reading

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Trends in conservation funding track popular narratives about the illegal wildlife trade

Trends in conservation funding are changing, according to a recent study in World Development. “We see a shift toward funding conservation work that’s increasingly about combatting wildlife trafficking,” says coauthor Jared Margulies, a human-environment geographer at the University of Alabama … Continue reading

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Neurons in the hippocampus can make several different maps of the same environment

Nestled deep in the brain, the hippocampus is the seat of spatial cognition. Specialized hippocampal neurons fire in consistent patterns thought to construct mental maps that help us navigate the world—in general, researchers believed there was one map for every … Continue reading

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