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Welcome to the NatSci news page! Check back often to learn about the latest innovations, discoveries and accomplishments of our faculty, staff, students and alumni.

Tree of life of teleost fishes representing the hypothesis of the current study.
February 27, 2023
An international consortium that includes Michigan State University researchers has solved an evolutionary quandary that’s been the subject of debate for five decades. Publishing its results earlier this month in the journal Science, the team’s genomic analyses conclusively resolve which modern fish lineage branched off earliest within the tree of life. The findings shed new light on the evolutionary history of fishes and the understanding of evolutionary processes.
Longleaf pine ecosystems such as the one pictured here near Fayetteville, North Carolina, once stretched from Virginia to Texas and can contain some of the most diverse plant communities in North America.
February 10, 2023
New research from Michigan State University and the University of Wisconsin-Madison shows that, for all the complexities and challenges of ecosystem restoration, simple first steps can still go a long way. The team showed that degraded savanna ecosystems scarred by decades or centuries of human activity can reap lasting benefits from a single seeding of native understory plants. Their research was recently published in the journal Proceedings in the National Academy of the Sciences.
The zebrafish is a freshwater fish belonging to the minnow family. It is an important and widely used vertebrate model organism in scientific research, notable for its regenerative abilities.
January 30, 2023
MSU integrative biologist Julia Ganz will use a two-year, $439,408 grant from the National Institutes of Health to explore the zebrafish’s unique superpower to gain insights that could someday lead to discoveries benefitting people suffering from neurological diseases of digestive system.
By explaining a photosynthetic peculiarity in switchgrass, Michigan State University researchers may have unlocked even more of the plant’s potential.
January 25, 2023
Michigan State University researchers have solved a puzzle that could help switchgrass realize its full potential as a low-cost, sustainable biofuel crop and curb our dependence on fossil fuels. Berkley Walker’s team in the Department of Plant Biology in MSU’s College of Natural Science has revealed why switchgrass stops performing photosynthesis in the middle of the summer — its growing season — limiting how much biofuel it yields. This knowledge, published in the journal Frontiers in Plant Science, is a key piece to overcoming this quirk and getting the most out of switchgrass.
Buidling on earlier research, MSU graduate students Emily Lanier (left) and Abigail Bryson (right) discovered how several genomes of the mint family have evolved and how these chemistries have emerged over the past 60 to 70 million years.
January 23, 2023
MSU synthetic biologist Björn Hamberger and graduate students Emily Lanier and Abigail Bryson have traced the evolution of mint genomes for potential future applications that range from medicines, pesticides and antimicrobials. Their research was published in the journal Nature Communications.
Michigan State University and the National Audubon Society are collaborating to project future impacts to hundreds of bird species, including the American redstart, pictured here.
January 17, 2023
Michigan State University and the National Audubon Society are teaming up to help protect declining bird populations across North America. With $1.3 million from a collaborative National Science Foundation grant, the team—led by MSU integrative biologist Elise Zipkin—will develop statistical models fueled by four massive data sets to evaluate how climate change and land use are affecting hundreds of bird species.
The western United States and mountains, such as those found in Colorado, are home to a large area of refugia for terrestrial biodiversity.
January 12, 2023
When the U.S. government committed last January to conserving 30 percent of the United States’ natural land and water by the year 2030, the decision was embraced by the majority of Americans. Now, Michigan State University ecologists are part of a team that’s sharing data to help inform those choices throughout the United States and beyond. Their research identified North America’s climate change refugia, habitats that will be the most likely to support the persistence of the greatest amount of biodiversity in the face of a changing climate.
A portion of the newly discovered Earth-sized planet TOI-700 e orbits within the habitable zone of its star in this illustration.
January 11, 2023
Working with data from NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite, or TESS, Michigan State University has helped discover an Earth-sized exoplanet — a planet outside of our solar system. This planet, named TOI-700 e, falls within its star’s habitable zone, meaning the newfound planet could be capable of supporting life as we know it. The research team announced the finding Jan. 10 at the American Astronomical Society meeting in Seattle. 
Installation of the rainfall exclusion experiment at the KBS LTER, one of the new treatments added to the experiment in 2021.
January 10, 2023
The W.K. Kellogg Biological Station Long-Term Ecological Research program at Michigan State University was awarded a renewal of their foundational grant, reaffirming the program’s future and status as one of the country’s premier research sites. Continuation funding for the program began on Dec. 1, 2022 and will run through November 2028. MSU animal ecologist Nick Haddad and microbial ecologist Sarah Evans led the grant proposal, “Ecological and social mechanisms of resilience in agroecosystems.” In it, they detail the program’s new focus on climate change and land use change.
An often-studied flowering plant evolved reproductive self-sufficiency, and in the process some parts of the flower are starting to disappear. Michigan State University scientists, led by plant biologist Jeffrey Conner, will use a $1.5 million National Science Foundation grant better understand this trait loss.
January 4, 2023
An often-studied flowering plant evolved reproductive self-sufficiency, and in the process some parts of the flower are starting to disappear. Michigan State University scientists, led by plant biologist Jeffrey Conner, will use a $1.5 million National Science Foundation grant better understand this trait loss.

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