Nathan Phillips, College of Arts & Sciences
Google’s fleet of city-mapping cars are now working to measure urban natural gas leaks…
“It doesn’t take a lot of guesswork to say, ‘There’s a 120 year old pipe running under this street, it’s probably a leaky street.’”
Kevin Outterson, School of Law
The problem of ineffective antibiotics is no longer just theoretical. These days, nearly 50,000 people in the US and Europe die each year as a result of antibimicrobial-resistant infections. To reduce this grim toll, in 2012 the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) began offering the qualified infectious disease product (QIDP) designation, which allows for expedited review and five extra years of market exclusivity for antimicrobials designed to treat serious and life-threatening infections…
“QIDP probably had very little to do with the ten-year history of the antibiotics in development right now. A decade from now, we will have 15–20 products,” he says, “and few will be what we were hoping for.”
Les Kaufman, College of Arts & Sciences
Biologists are directing the evolution of corals to prepare them to fight climate change…
Kevin Outterson, School of Law
It is conceivable that the day may come when a pandemic bacterial strain emerges with resistance to all of the drugs currently available in our medical arsenal. Given this possible threat, a leading UK think tank has released a report calling for a radical new business model to kickstart the development of new antibiotics…
“From society’s perspective, we want antibiotics to be available and used appropriately and from a company’s perspective, they want a credible commitment that when they commit funds to antibiotic research and development, in ten years’ time the money will be there.”
Avrum Spira, School of Medicine
Electronic cigarettes can change gene expression in a similar way to tobacco, according to one of the first studies to investigate the biological effects of the devices…
“They may be safer [than tobacco], but our preliminary studies suggest that they may not be benign.”
Kim Mueser, College of Health & Rehabilitation Sciences: Sargent College
Unravelling the mystery of verbal dysfunction in schizophrenia could yield clues to the nature of the disease…
“When you talk about social skills. 90 per cent of what people are usually talking about are the verbal skills.”
Nature World News
Pamela Templer, College of Arts & Sciences
Tree growth and water system quality may be negatively impacted by milder winters in the coming years, according to a new study. Researchers from Boston University report that less snow cover associated with warmer winters will leave the ground exposed to prolonged freezing conditions, which will have consequences for trees and aquatic ecosystems…
“Most people think that climate change means hot, sweltering summer months, but it affects the winter as well.”
Jeffrey Furman, School of Management
It was born out of the frustration of a graduate student trying to finish her thesis…
“BRCs are suppliers of public goods that are essential to supporting the rate of scientific progress.”
Invasive shrubs better suited to the warming conditions in Concord than native species
For Immediate Release 1/13/14
Contact: Richard Primack, 617-353-2454, cell 857-636-8378, home 617-332-1684 email@example.com
(Boston) – Climate-change studies by Boston University biologists show leaf-out times of trees and shrubs at Walden Pond are an average of 18 days earlier than when Henry David Thoreau made his observations there in the 1850s. However, not all plants respond in the same way, the result of which is that native species eventually may be threatened and lose competitive advantage to more resilient invasive shrubs such as Japanese barberry, according to a study published in the new edition of New Phytologist.
“By comparing historical observations with current experiments, we see that climate change is creating a whole new risk for the native plants in Concord,” said BU Prof. Richard Primack. “Weather in New England is unpredictable, and if plants leaf out early in warm years, they risk having their leaves damaged by a surprise frost. But if plants wait to leaf out until after all chance of frost is lost, they may lose their competitive advantage.”
The study began when Caroline Polgar, a graduate student with Primack, examined Thoreau’s unpublished observations of leaf-out times for common trees and shrubs in Concord in the 1850s, then repeated his observations over the past five springs.
“We started to wonder if all trees and shrubs in Concord are equally responsive to warming temperatures in the spring,” Polgar said. What she found was surprising. “All species — no exceptions — are leafing out earlier now than they did in Thoreau’s time,” she said. “On average, woody plants in Concord leaf out 18 days earlier now.”
In New England, plants have to be cautious about leafing out in the early spring. If they leaf out too early, their young leaves could suffer from subsequent late frost. Since leafing-out requirements are thought to be species-specific, the group designed a lab experiment to test the responsiveness of 50 tree and shrub species in Concord to warming temperatures in the late winter and early spring.
For the past two winters, the researchers traveled to Concord and collected leafless dormant twigs from each species, and placed them in cups of water in their lab. Over the following weeks, they observed how quickly each species was be able produce their leaves in these unseasonably warm lab conditions.
“We found compelling evidence that invasive shrubs, such as Japanese barberry, are ready to leaf out quickly once they are exposed to warm temperatures in the lab even in the middle of winter, whereas native shrubs, like highbush bluberry, and native trees, like red maple, need to go through a longer winter chilling period before they can leaf out — and even then their response is slow,” says Amanda Gallinat, a second-year graduate student and third author of the paper.
The strength of this study, Gallinat said, is the pairing of observations and experiments.
“Our current observations show that plants in Concord today are leafing out earlier than in Thoreau’s time in response to warm temperatures,” she said. “However, the experiments show that as spring weather continues to warm, it will be the invasive shrubs that will be best able to take advantage of the changing conditions.”
The spring growing season is of increasing interest to biologists studying the effects of a warming climate, and in coming decades non-native invasive shrubs are positioned to win the gamble on warming temperature, Primack said. The BU group is adding these findings to a growing list of advancing spring phenomena in Concord and elsewhere in Massachusetts, including flowering dates, butterfly flight times, and migratory bird arrivals.
Founded in 1839, Boston University is an internationally recognized institution of higher education and research. With more than 33,000 students, it is the fourth-largest independent university in the United States. BU consists of 16 schools and colleges, along with a number of multi-disciplinary centers and institutes integral to the University’s research and teaching mission. In 2012, BU joined the Association of American Universities (AAU), a consortium of 62 leading research universities in the United States and Canada.
# # #
The article is published in the New Phytologist: C. Polgar, A. Gallinat, and R.B. Primack. 2014. Drivers of leaf-out phenology and their implications for species invasions: insights from Thoreau’s Concord.
Merav Opher, College of Arts & Sciences
Leaving the Solar System is like leaving any familiar territory without maps — you have no idea what’s coming next, or even what you’ve just journeyed through…
“People are having a really hard time swallowing this scenario.”