Entries categorized "Science"

New metaphors for new understandings of genomes

Parking-signsHow genetic modification is like a modification to the parking code

By Sarah Perrault and Meaghan O’Keefe

The city of Davis — a town of about 67,000 residents in California and the home of the University of California Davis– is considering changing its downtown parking regulations to add parking fees and limit parking hours. Debates about this proposal have been raging in city council meetings, in local news venues, and in social media. The topics of debate, however, are not about the actual proposal, but about effects on people with mobility limitations; about whether there are enough bike racks in downtown Davis; about whether businesses would be harmed by the change; about whether businesses should have to pay for their employees’ parking; about climate change; about traffic jams and traffic signal timing and public transit and more.

On the surface, none of this has anything to do with genes or genetic modification but looked at another way, the similarities are striking. At first glance, the small change to the municipal code is just that — a small change of a few sentences in a 42-chapter document — but the consequences come not from the change itself, but from how that code is used, and from effects on civic life that extend into realms not immediately related to the matter of parking.

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Happy Darwin Day!

Darwin
Why is Darwin so often only shown as an old man with a beard?

By Roberta Millstein

Happy Darwin Day!  It’s been 211 years since Charles Darwin was born.

For your Darwin Day, here is a selection of some of my favorite Darwin quotes, all from On the Origin of Species, First Edition.  I hope you enjoy them!

The beginning of the book:

“WHEN on board H.M.S. 'Beagle,' as naturalist, I was much struck with certain facts in the distribution of the inhabitants of South America, and in the geological relations of the present to the past inhabitants of that continent. These facts seemed to me to throw some light on the origin of species—that mystery of mysteries, as it has been called by one of our greatest philosophers. On my return home, it occurred to me, in 1837, that something might perhaps be made out on this question by patiently accumulating and reflecting on all sorts of facts which could possibly have any bearing on it.”

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UC Temporarily Suspends Glyphosate-based Herbicides

IMG-4152

By Nancy Price

On May 14th, 2019 Janet Napolitano, President of the University of California, sent a remarkable letter to the Chancellors of all UC campuses, the Director of Lawrence Berkeley National Lab, and the CEOs of all  the UC Medical centers announcing the “temporary suspension of the use of glyphosate-based herbicides.”

Napolitano cited “concerns about possible human health and ecological hazards, as well as potential legal and reputational risks associated with this category of herbicides.”

This may be a response to the mounting scientific research linking glyphosate to cancer, or it could just be that the UC system is worried about being named as a defendant in a glyphosate lawsuit like the three Monsanto/Bayer have lost over the last two years. The most recent lawsuit found Bayer responsible for damages of 2 billion dollars.

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Honoring Dr. Thomas Cahill

Cahill programA man whose outstanding science was matched by his humanity

By Roberta Millstein

On Saturday, a packed St. James Catholic Church paid their respects to one of Davis’s most esteemed and well-loved sons, Dr. Thomas Cahill, better known to his friends and family as “Tom.”

Tom’s achievements were many; they are outlined in the obituary in the Davis Enterprise.  What most impresses me about his record was his dedication to doing science that mattered.  Trained as a nuclear astrophysicist, he quickly turned to the issue of air quality in California and was one of the small team that successfully advocated for the lead- and sulfur-free gasoline in the early 1970s.  His work on air quality continued throughout his career, even after his “retirement,” working on ultra-fine aerosols (including their impact on first-responders to the 9/11 World Trade Center attack) and aerosol impacts on global climate.

A few years ago, I was visiting at another university and met another faculty member who worked on air quality.  I asked him if he had heard of Tom Cahill.  The answer?  “Of course, yes!  Tom is the person to talk to about air quality issues.”

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How will – and should – the recent Monsanto Roundup decision affect Davis?

PesticideapplicationA few weeks ago, a jury awarded $289 million in damages to a California school groundskeeper, finding that his cancer was caused by on-the-job exposure to Monsanto’s pesticide Roundup, the main active ingredient of which is glyphosate.  How will this affect Davis?  How should it?

Recall that, in a rather messy and prolonged process, the Davis City Council voted to “phase out” the use of glyphosate.  But where is the City in that process?  Do we even have an IPM specialist to replace Martin Guerena (who stepped down many months ago after being ill-treated by the City), i.e., someone who could oversee this phase out and report on it?  

And does the phase out need to be accelerated?  Or should it occur immediately?

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Women for Water Research swim Trans Tahoe Relay

On Saturday, July 21, I had the opportunity to join five other UC Davis-affiliated women to swim the Trans Tahoe Relay.  The Trans Tahoe Relay serves as a fundraiser for Keep Tahoe Blue, but we also swam to support the  Tahoe Environmental Research Center (TERC) and the Center for Watershed Sciences (CWS).  The day was sunny, the water was cool, clear, and refreshing, the mountains ringing the lake were beautiful.  It was an exhilarating, fun, tiring, and fulfilling day.

Tahoe-overlook
Just to give a sense of size of the lake and its surroundings, here I am with my guard poodles at a Lake Tahoe overlook in August 2014.

The Trans Tahoe Relay is a race that crosses the northern end of Lake Tahoe from east to west at a part of the lake where it is 10 miles wide.  (The lake overall is approximately 22 miles long and 12 miles wide – it’s a very large and deep lake!).  Teams are composed of six swimmers each, with a support boat.  (We owe big thanks to TERC for providing us with a boat and to TERC’s director, Geoff Schladow, for piloting the boat).  The rules are that each swimmer swims for 30 minutes, and then takes turn swimming 10 minutes each, until the 10 miles is completed.  On our team, after our first leg each of us did two 10-minute legs, with two members of the team doing a third 10-minute leg.  So, we didn’t break any speed records, but we were happy with our result anyway!

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Martin Guerena’s Statement: City of Davis Environmental Recognition Award 2018

Martinguerena_headshotcBy Martin Guerena

I would like to thank the citizens of Davis and the Natural Resources Commission for this environmental recognition award. I would also like to thank all the citizen volunteers, some who I worked with, who have participated with the various environmental groups around town and campus. Your work is important and an integral component of the community’s sustainability effort.

I find it ironic that the institution that basically drove me and the former Integrated Pest Management program out, was now sponsoring an award for my efforts.

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