In the news / Insect and Microbe Systems

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For much of the past century, the invasive pink bollworm wreaked havoc in the southwestern United States and northern Mexico. A multifaceted strategy eradicated the pest from cotton-producing areas of the region according to a new study led by Regents professor, UArizona Entomology department head, and BIO5 member, Dr. Bruce Tabashnik. According to the study, the eradication program saved U.S. cotton growers $192 million from 2014 to 2019. Through environmentally friendly approaches, it also helped to reduce insecticides sprayed against all cotton pests by 82% and prevented the application of over a million pounds of insecticides per year in Arizona.
 
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Music, metals and microbes are connected by more than just a leading consonant – for Dr. Michael Johnson, these three subjects harmonize to inspire his creativity and discovery. 

 
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The world’s hottest rainforest is located not in the Amazon or anywhere else you might expect, but inside Biosphere 2, the experimental scientific research facility in the desert outside Tucson, Arizona. A recent study of tropical trees planted there in the early 1990s reported a surprising result: They have withstood temperatures higher than any likely to be experienced by tropical forests this century.
 
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Drs. Laura Meredith and Jana U’Ren pivoted their scheduled field work trip to Alaska to infer the impact of terrestrial carbon loss on climate change.
 
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The NASA Astrobiology Program has selected eight new interdisciplinary research teams to inaugurate its Interdisciplinary Consortia for Astrobiology Research program, including two teams at the University of Arizona. One team led by Dr. Betül Kaçar, Molecular and Cellular Biology assistant professor and BIO5 member, was selected from a pool of more than 40 proposals. The breadth and depth of the research of these teams spans the spectrum of astrobiology research, from cosmic origins to planetary system formation, origins and evolution of life, and the search for life beyond Earth.
 
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Dr. Bruce Tabashnik, head of the Department of Entomology and BIO5 member, has won the Plant-Insect Ecosystems Lifetime Achievement Award in Entomology from the Entomological Society of America. Dr. Tabashnik's research has provided fundamental knowledge about insects for enhancing agricultural sustainability and reducing the use of harmful insecticides.
 
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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.