Flowers are common gathering places where pollinators such as bees and butterflies can pick up fungal, bacterial or viral infections that might be as benign as the sniffles or as debilitating as influenza. But “almost nothing is known regarding how pathogens of pollinators are transmitted at flowers,” postdoctoral researcher Scott McArt and Professor Lynn Adler at UMass Amherst microbiology, write. “As major hubs of plant-animal interactions throughout the world, flowers are ideal venues for the transmission of microbes among plants and animals.” In a recent review in Ecology Letters with colleagues at Yale and the University of Texas at Austin, McArt and Adler survey the literature and identify promising areas for future research on how floral traits influence pathogen transmission.
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Thomas Waskiewicz, a 4-H extension educator, says Dennis J. Hukowicz, the police chief in Hadley who died last weekend, was a fellow farmer and had the best interest of the town in mind as he ran the police department. He says Hukowicz was also a strong supporter of 4-H.
UMass Amherst food scientist Hang Xiao recently received a four-year, $491,220 grant to study the biochemical fate of nanoemulsion-based food delivery systems in the gastrointestinal tract, hoping to re-shape them and enhance the absorption of beneficial food components encapsulated in delivery systems. Food biochemists like Xiao believe that if taken up in appropriate amounts and forms, certain food components known as nutraceuticals might benefit human health by providing anti-inflammatory or anti-cancer effects. Nutraceuticals include flavonoids and carotenoids in fruits and vegetables, for example.
Scott Jackson, environmental conservation, has been named Conservationist of the Year by the Massachusetts chapter of the Nature Conservancy. Republican, 1/4/14
UMass Amherst officials are planning to build a solar panel array that would generate 2.4 megawatts of electricity in conjunction with ConEdison Development. The facility would be built on 10 acres the university owns in Hadley. Stephen Herbert, associate dean of agricultural research and outreach at the UMass Amherst Center for Agriculture, is leading the project. It must secure conservation permits in order to proceed.
Richard W. Harper, UMass Amherst environmental conservation, says the recent severe cold weather could be good news for local forests because some insect pests, such as the hemlock wooly adelgid, can’t survive long stretches of intense cold. The populations of such pests will recover over time, however, experts say.
A team of entomologists, including John M. Clark, UMass Amherst veterinary and animal sciences, has found out why the human head louse and the body louse, the same species, differ in their ability to transmit disease to their hosts. They say head lice are smaller and may contain more beneficial bacteria than body lice, which are larger. The larger lice apparently are more likely to get sick from the bacteria and pass it on to a host.
Klaus Nusslein, UMass Amherst microbiologist, is part of a research team that is studying how the conversion of Amazon rainforest to pastureland has significant effect on microorganism communities that play a key role in the region’s ability to serve as a reservoir for greenhouse gas.
Joseph Elkinton, UMass Amherst environmental conservationalist, is leading efforts to find out if winter moths, destructive insects that have defoliated trees in eastern and southeastern Massachusetts, are moving into this region. He says there are more of them being observed, but so far they haven’t been seen in numbers high enough to cause concern. An online survey of the insects is available to track the insects.
Bonefish are among the most elusive and highly prized quarry of recreational anglers in the Florida Keys, the Bahamas and similar tropical habitats around the world. Now a research team including fish ecologist Andy Danylchuk, Environmental Conservation Department, UMass Amherst, has documented rarely seen pre-spawning behavior in bonefish, which should aid future conservation efforts. Habitat degradation and overfishing by uncontrolled netting threaten the bonefish, yet recreational fishing for this group of fishes is worth hundreds of millions of dollars annually, say scientists. Danylchuk and Aaron Adams, director of operations for Bonefish & Tarpon Trust at the Florida Institute of Technology where Adams is also an assistant research professor, are scrambling to identify and protect critical habitats and identify other ways to conserve the fishery. With others, Adams and Danylchuk recently tracked a school of more than 10,000 bonefish as they completed the final stages of spawning migrations in the Bahamas. Adams recently shared results with the Bahamas Ministry of the Environment and conservation collaborators Bahamas National Trust and The Nature Conservancy.