In the news / Insect and Microbe Systems

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Dr. Michael D.L. Johnson, UArizona Immunobiology assistant professor and BIO5 member, discusses why he participated in the virtual ‘Black In Microbiology Week’ event this week. Dr. Johnson also shares about his outreach towards connecting Black, Indigenous and other undergraduate students of color to academic mentors.
 
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While many of us have been working from home this summer, several species of insects and plants have been acting out fascinating plays of interactions and mutual interdependence across campus. Dr. Judith Bronstein, UArizona Distinguished Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology and BIO5 member, discusses what we can learn from these mutualistic interactions and how she studies insect dynamics.
 
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The BIO5 Postdoctoral Fellowship provided Jennifer Lising Roxas with a steppingstone to attain a two-year USDA fellowship award that funds her salary, research and travel to professional development opportunities.
 
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A group of astrobiologists, led by UArizona' Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology associate professor and BIO5 member Dr. Betül Kaçar, hope to find clues about how life emerged by tinkering with some of life's oldest components. In a recent paper they reported an unexpected discovery, hinting at an effect that prevents organisms from ever reaching evolutionary perfection
 
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Dr. Judith Brown, UArizona evolutionary ecologist and BIO5 member, shares the importance of the partnership between ants and wildflowers in preserving ecosystems, especially forests that could be disturbed by human activity. This relationship was reported during the annual meeting of the Ecological Society of America, where researchers discussed the seed dispersion that ants complete.
 
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A team of engineers and scientists is developing a solar-powered desalination system to recover water from concentrated waste streams with maximum efficiency. The team is conducting research using the Optical Sciences Center solar testbed.
 
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Nicknamed the “billion-dollar beetle” for its enormous economic costs to growers in the United States each year, the western corn rootworm is one of the most devastating pests farmers face. BIO5 members Drs. Bruce Tabashnik & Yves Carriere share their research on how crop rotation and diversification can help combat the rootworm’s resistance toward certain crops.
 
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Not all viruses infect humans - some, like PhiX174, infect bacteria. The virus, called a bacteriophage because it infects bacteria, is in a unique class of viruses that do not contain a typical structure for the transfer of DNA, or genetic material, into host cells in order to complete reproduction. Using mutagenesis, Dr. Bentley Fane found that a balance of forces between potential energy and an osmotic gradient governs this virus' unique genome delivery strategy.
 
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Scientists are only just starting to scratch the surface of how diverse species of bacteria interact with our unique body chemistries to influence our health. One of those scientists is Dr. Melissa Herbst-Kralovetz, a UArizona COM-Passociate professor and BIO5 member, who leads a team of researchers who are working to better understand how to predict, prevent and treat gynecologic cancers.
 
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The Arizona Board of Regents today confirmed the appointments of five UArizona faculty members, including BIO5 members Drs. Roberta Diaz Brinton and Judith Brown, as Regents Professors. The title of 'Regents Professor' is reserved for full professors whose exceptional achievements merit national and international distinction.
 
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Arizona researchers working on a vaccine for COVID-19 need to test their candidates on a living bodily system...but there's a problem. Mice don't get sick from the new coronavirus. Their solution? Create a mouse that does. Dr. David Besselsen offers his perspective on the design of this unique creature as the university's attending veterinarian and director of animal care.
 
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Dr. Dawn Gouge, a UArizona entomologist and BIO5 member, answers questions about Asian giant hornets or "murder hornets". Many Arizonans have feared that these eerily nicknamed insects will arrive in the state after they were spotted in the Pacific Northwest and brought into the public's attention through a recent New York Times article. Dr. Gouge discusses the toxicity of the Asian giant hornet venom, compares the hornets with the western honey bee, and shares the low likelihood of these insects arriving in Arizona and acclimating to the varying climates within the state.
 
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In Sub-Saharan Africa, red-billed oxpeckers feed on the parasites of rhinos and more than 20 other species of mammal. New research suggests the birds may also serve as sentinels that help rhinos avoid humans—and potentially poachers. The purpose of the oxpeckers’ calls is still being determined, but they help reduce poaching by alerting rhinos to humans’ presence at a greater distance where the accuracy of firearms would be reduced, says Dr. Judith Bronstein University of Arizona EEB professor & BIO5 faculty member.
 
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To address the shortage of health care supplies amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Drs. Win Burleson and Marvin Slepian have been spending much of his time designing ventilators with solely readily available items. One of Dr.

 
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New research led by researchers from the BIO5 Institute’s Center for Insect Science shows that crustaceans such as shrimps, lobsters, and crabs, have more in common with their insect relatives than previously thought when it comes to the structure of their brains. Both insects and crustaceans possess mushroom-shaped brain structures known in insects to be required for learning, memory and possibly negotiating complex, three-dimensional environments.
 
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UArizona College of Medicine - Tucson professor of Cellular and Molecular Medicine and BIO5 member Dr. Donata Vercelli, sat down with the Daily Wildcat to discuss her research, the impact of the microbiome, and how different microbes can affect arthritis and treatment progression. Dr. Vercelli believes that educating the public about microbiomes is important, because microbes have an invasive effect on many things including our immune responses, blood pressure, and moods.
 
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A collaborative study led by researchers are the University of Arizona and Henan Normal University in China, traces acoustic communication across the tree of life of land-living vertebrates. Result of the study revealed that the ability to vocalize goes back hundreds of millions of years, associated with a nocturnal lifestyle and has remained stable. Surprisingly, acoustic communication does not seem to drive the formation of new species across vertebrates.
 
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Ben Yang, a first year doctoral student in the Department of Environmental Science, works in the lab of Dr. Albert Barberan. Originall from China, Ben received his bachelor’s degree of Environmental Biology at the University of Toronto. He is currently investigating how the soil microbial community changes during ecological restoration. He is fascinated by how microbes and plants build their special relationship, and how such relationship benefits both sides.