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News

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.

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August 5, 2021
A few years ago, Michigan State University quantitative ecologists Sarah Saunders and Elise Zipkin created a new statistical model to understand the threats endangered species face. Now, as federal agencies continue to use those findings, the research has earned this year’s Ecological Forecasting Outstanding Publication Award from the Ecological Society of America (ESA). 
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August 4, 2021
It was the beginning of the COVID pandemic and MSU plant biologist Emily Josephs could not go into her lab to work because of safety restrictions. So, she called up friend and colleague, Regina Baucom, from the University of Michigan, to see if she would be interested in collaborating virtually on an experimental evolution project using Baucom's existing system to study morning glory and Josephs' plant genomics data analysis expertise. The pair wanted to understand if a plant’s environmental response to stress is adaptive, or helpful to the plant. The results of this study were recently published in the journal Evolution Letters.
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July 27, 2021
Researchers led by MSU’s Johannes Pollanen have developed a new device to help future quantum bits, or qubits (pronounced “Q bits”), take flight. Using liquid helium and readily available modern telecommunications technology —based on so-called “surface acoustic wave” devices — the Spartan team has created a new way to precisely manipulate electrons. With this capability, scientists can envision building what are known as trapped-electron quantum computers powered by processors whose quantum bits are free to move — or fly — around. The team showcased its new tech on July 6 in the journal Nature Communications.
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July 26, 2021
Bruce Uhal, MSU professor of physiology, is a leading expert on ACE-2, the main receptor, or docking molecule, for the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID-19 and is responsible for over half a million deaths in the United States. When SARS-CoV-2 began surging in 2020, Uhal joined an international group of scientists from India, Europe and the United States analyzing publicly available sequences of SARS-CoV-2 and ACE-2 to help track the origin and evolution of the virus and to develop targeted COVID-19 therapeutics.
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July 26, 2021
While conducting outstanding research for capstone project honors, four MSU physiology undergraduate students found a blog to share their work sponsored by the American Physiological Society (APS) that focuses on the presence of physiology in everyday life for both scientists and non-scientists. Questions such as, what is physiology? where is physiology? and why does it matter to you? provide a focus for the APS I Spy Physiology Blog: Spotting Physiology in Everyday Life.
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July 21, 2021
MSU Distinguished Professor Kay Holekamp and her students have been observing hyenas as part of The Maasai Mara Hyena Project for over 30 years, following, tagging, sampling blood and feces, and amassing a rich dataset helping to answer questions previously thought impossible outside the lab. In a new study led by former postdoc Zachary Laubach, they found that less maternal care during the infant’s first year of life and less social connectedness once independent of the communal den are associated later in life with higher concentrations of stress hormones and less global DNA methylation. The exciting new study is published in Nature Communications.
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July 19, 2021
MSU ecologists led an international research partnership of professional and volunteer scientists to reveal new insights into what’s driving the already-dwindling population of eastern monarch butterflies even lower. Between 2004 and 2018, changing climate at the monarch’s spring and summer breeding grounds has had the most significant impact on this declining population. In fact, the effects of climate change have been nearly seven times more significant than other contributors, such as habitat loss. The team published its report July 19 in the journal Nature Ecology & Evolution.
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July 15, 2021
For the spotted hyena, a kind of inheritance that has nothing to do with genetics turns out to be extremely important for health and longevity—social networks inherited from their mothers. A new study, published in the journal Science and based on 27 years of observational data from Michigan State University Distinguished Professor Kay Holekamp, expands an established theoretical model of spotted hyena social networking to show how these networks emerge, how long they last and how they affect a hyena’s life trajectory.
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July 13, 2021
Toxoplasma gondii is a single-celled parasite with a singular goal: to infect any warm-blooded animal until it is ingested by a wild or domestic cat. Using the strength of interdisciplinary collaboration, MSU scientists have conducted a first-of-its-kind study into the role of T. gondii in the wild, establishing its definitive presence and influence among free-living hyenas. Their results were recently published in Nature Communications.
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July 13, 2021
We live in a time when it’s never been easier or less expensive to sequence a plant’s complete genome. But knowing all of a plant’s genes is not the same thing as knowing what all those genes do. MSU experts in plant biology and computer science plan to close that gap with the help of artificial intelligence and a new $1.4 million NSF grant. Ultimately, the goal is to help farmers grow crops with genes that give their plants the best chance to withstand threats such as drought and disease.

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